Verbatim

Articles from Vol. 30, No. 2, Summer

Affiant Saith Further Nought
Dictionaries mark certain entries and senses with labels showing usage limitations for the word. Subject labels, such as computers for the most recent sense of mouse, indicate a subject-specific or technical use of a word or sense. Another type of...
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A Word or Two in Spanglish
Using a Spanish-English dictionary the other day, I had a most unsettling experience. I even forget the word I was searching, because what I found left me momentarily in a state of bemusement. My eye traveling down a page discovered the following sequence...
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Brain Injury and Language
Have you ever had a word on the tip of your tongue, impossible to recall but so close that you knew what letter it started with? Have you ever had a nightmare in which your house was on fire but when you tried to warn your spouse, all that came out...
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Classical Blather: Words of Power
Readers of a certain age may experience a certain queasy frisson on reading the title of this column, recalling Dr. Wilfred Funk's Six Weeks to Words of Power, (1) one of several cheerfully dogged vocabulary-drill books much in vogue in the post-Sputnik,...
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Falsest of Friends
You remember that hot day in 1974 when you were in the Cairns area of Queensland, Australia, and you were chatting matily in Mbaram to an Aborigine named Arthur Bennett? The language was something of a novelty to you, as it was even to Arthur, who'd...
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Fan Words
Fan fiction, fanfic or simply fics, are stories written by fans of TV shows, movies, book series, comic books, and other media. Even boy bands like N*Sync have their own, sometimes very elaborate, fan-generated literary corpus. Members of these fandoms...
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High-Scoring scrabble[TM] Strings Seeking Definition
If you begin a Scrabble game with the tiles BEEIQUZ, you can score 124 points with BEZIQUE. Holding the tiles AHINGWZ with a B suitably placed between two red squares, you can score 374 points with WHIZBANG, provided both red squares are covered--a...
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Horribile Dictu
"Not to use a well-worn cliche," said a radio commentator as Bangladesh's cricketers caused the sporting surprise of the decade by beating Australia's, "but it's a funny old game." Is there a name for this technique, by which a speaker seeks to absolve...
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Ode to a Clodhopper
Humorous coinages of bird names, in the vein of double-breasted weevil-eater and the like, may come a poor second to real ones, if Christine E. Jackson's British Names of Birds of 1968 is anything to go by. The basis of her book is an older work,...
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One, Two, Three
Members of the National Puzzlers' League (NPL)--a group so dedicated to words that we once had a fierce debate over whether to issue membership cards just so we could call ourselves card-carrying members--are used to being dismissed as "word nerds"...
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Sex and the Single Noun
Maurice Grevisse, a Belgian, is the French person's Fowler. (1) In the chapter of Le Bon Usage devoted to nouns, Grevisse addresses the gender issue, referring first to natural gender (male beings are given the masculine gender, female beings the feminine)...
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The Corporatization of Verbal Communication Processes
My interest in corporate English started in 1984 (the year, not the book). I was a new recruit in a large multinational corporation in England, and the human resources department had just announced the company's latest motivational slogan: "Standing...
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The Simpsons: Embiggening Our Language with Cromulent Words
At this point, saying The Simpsons is an institution s a little like saying the Smithsonian is an institution. Matt Groening's animated comedy has come light years and millions of doughnuts from its place as filler on the Tracy Ullman Show: it's the...
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