Verbatim

Articles from Vol. 32, No. 1, Spring

Are Prepositions Necessary? John Horne Tooke and the Origins of Words
What do the words we use really mean? The eighteenth-century Englishman John Horne Tooke believed the best way to get at a word's essential meaning was to trace it back to its original source. He devoted a fat two-volume book to the subject--Epea Pteroenta...
Read preview Overview
Beadlemania
In Words and Ways of American English (1952), Thomas Pyles described four features of standard spoken British English that perhaps led Americans to call it 'clipped' or 'crisp'. The first of these was the "pronunciation of t between vowels (as in water,...
Read preview Overview
Bits and Pieces
America these days is a land of vast sizes and quantities, from Big Macs to Hummers. No one seems to write much anymore about misers and their language of cheese-paring smallness. Imagine my delight, therefore, upon hearing a woman the other day declare,...
Read preview Overview
Hanky-Panky, Hugger-Mugger, and Other Reduplicative Rhyming Compounds
The English language contains hundreds of reduplicative rhyming compounds--words like hanky-panky and hugger-mugger. Typically, each half of a reduplicative rhyming compound is meaningless on its own or has a meaning distinct from the meaning of the...
Read preview Overview
Ha'penny Hurls and Chittering Bites: Talking Glaswegian
For a small country, Scotland is linguistically complex. Three languages are spoken there: two, English and Scots Gaelic, are officially recognized. But the third language, Scots, is a private tongue. Scots resides in the crevices of houses and lives...
Read preview Overview
Horribile Dictu
I've just read a reference in a newspaper to a man who "sadly passed away when the airship R101 went down in 1930." Oh, now, look--I know we're not allowed to say "died" any more, because it makes it sound as if something bad has happened, but the idea...
Read preview Overview
I Sold My Writing for a Song
For many years I was a "professional contester," a pejorative term for a person who enters contests "for a living," such as it is. For example: for two months that "living" consisted of my winning a dog dish, a toy squirrel and a live turtle, but, ah!...
Read preview Overview
Learning Modern Turkish
We called it the Grammar Wall. It started with a single piece of paper taped to the center of the wall in the study. Written in green magic marker, the basic suffixes of simple present tense were held up for passing scrutiny and a sort of constant review...
Read preview Overview
Never Say 'Death'
There was a time, long ago, when the language of morticians was bracingly direct, dealing with such messy realities as death, bodies, survivors and so on. Then, in the mid-20th-century, funeral market analysts in the United States realized that by eliminating...
Read preview Overview
Speak of the Devil!
Although we may be tempted to lose heart because we appear to live in an age of increasing religious polarization and sectarian hostility, it is reassuring to recall that at bottom Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share some core beliefs, one of them...
Read preview Overview
The Power in the Punch of Welsh Valleys English
The pre-war, pre-union mining communities of south Wales were so downtrodden by the wealthy, educated classes that their descendants still seem suspicious of a 'posh' (received) English accent, as I have found on marrying into one such family. Yet I...
Read preview Overview
The Saloon-Bar Pundit: The Bane of the Philologist's Life
How I hate him! He's always there, year in and year out! The man who pontificates on everything, but favours etymology above all else. He confidently stands there in the saloon bar and tells you that the French word for a restaurant for serving fairly...
Read preview Overview