Verbatim

Articles from Vol. 30, No. 3, Autumn

Checking In/checking Out: Hotel Slang of the 1950s
Every once in a while, I stumble across an out-of-the-way book that contains not only colorful stories but also colorful slang terms not included in the usual slang reference works. One recent discovery was a 1957 Pyramid paperback--I Was a House Detective,...
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Classical Blather: (S)wordplay
It is a safe bet that whoever first said that the pen was mightier than the sword was a writer, not a gladiator. The fact remains that swords have been slashing, skewering and hacking their way through history for five millennia and more, and doing...
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Conan the Grammarian
Call me Conan the Grammarian: Undangler of Participles, Destroyer of Gratuitous Apostrophes, Protector of Pronoun Case. I know that I am not alone in this reaction. Riding this planet are millions of us for whom atrocious violations of standard usage...
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Don't Kid the Goldfish: A Linguistic Portrait of My Mother
"Now, now, don't kid the goldfish!" my mother used to say while wagging an admonishing finger. I would hear this as a little girl trying to fast-talk my way out of trouble. If I got too argumentative or annoying, she might issue the directive "Go butter...
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Horribile Dictu
No one ever enjoys bad wine, have you noticed that? A statement of the obvious, I suppose, and yet it can't be that obvious, because otherwise why would "good" and "wine" have become conjoined concepts? Several obituaries of Wire Duisenberg, "the father...
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How to Hug
As I grew up, my father told me stories when he considered them appropriate for my age. A while back, when I was around ten and into reading, he said there had been a boy, just getting interested in girls, who one day happily brought home from the...
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Hunting the Wayzgoose
When I was growing up, my family did not consider it cheating to page through the dictionary while playing Scrabble, searching for unknown words that might match one's letters (though it was considered unsporting for some reason to look at the cover...
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In Chaucer's Time ...: The Liberating Joy of Do-It-Yourself Etymologies
I used to look words up in a good dictionary whenever I was curious about their origins. Time and again, what I found was that words that looked like they were related were in fact completely unrelated, while other words which to the naked eye seemed...
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Language Felonies
Quotidian. Kinetic. Pungent. Contrary to popular belief, the words above are not gibberish or insults. I did not invent them for my evil conceit; neither did I unearth them from the ruins of an extinct civilization. Indeed the offenders are proud--if...
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The Passing Game: The Joys and Challenges of Fooling Native Speakers
In Yentl, Barbara Streisand passed as a man to study the Torah. In Tootsie, Dustin Hoffman passed as a woman to get a job. In Victor Victoria, Julie Andrews passed as a man passing as a woman. Eddie Murphy passed as white in a comedy skit. John Howard...
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Ulsterisms for Everyday Use
Every culture messes around with its "mother tongue" with happy results, and none more so than Ulster. We use more colourful speech, make subtle changes, define our regional identity, and claim it by continuing to employ the traditional phraseology....
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