Verbatim

Articles from Vol. 28, No. 2, Summer

Diction Slips
The problem arose when I corrected the paper of a student I'll call A--for Argument. "Why did you change that word?" asked A, pointing to a sentence on the first page. "And what does 'dict.' mean?" "It means your diction is off." I read the offending...
For That Which We Have Received. (Ex Cathedra)
One of the best parts of editing a small, specialized (not to say quirky,) magazine is reading the submissions to it. One of the worst parts of editing a small, unusual (not to say eccentric) magazine is reading the submissions to it. Lately as...
God-Damns
Grose's Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785) is not ony a source of scatology, as shown in VERBATIM (XXVII/2). His inventory, of religious slang has something to offend just about everyone and provides a bean feast for historians and philologists....
Going but Not Quite Gone
If someone gives you short shrift in a new-fangled way it probably puts you on your mettle because you don't want to eat humble pie or be hoist with your own petard. These are common, easily understood expressions--but what about shrift, newfangled,...
Horribile Dictu
"Cheaper Elsewhere!" says the cover of a computer supplies catalogue I received the other day. "Phone Us FIRST! Before YOU Buy!" Is the merchant boasting that his prices aren't competitive--or is this further evidence of the creeping extinction of...
No Trivial Matter
For some years now there has been an alarming trend that has apparently gone unnoticed by our nation's leaders. Maybe we Americans have become jaded to the many cries for conservation and guardianship of the legacy and burden that we are going to pass...
Pants on Fire. (Classical Blather)
Though some vices and virtues seem culture-specific, in that a frailty that one society may view with indifference may be considered a serious failing in another, most of humanity would probably agree that telling lies is wrong--and that most people...
Product Names
Today we are faced with countless products competing for shelf space in our supermarkets. Not only that, for every product, there are dozens of different brands, each with its own range of goods to tempt the confused customer. Manufacturers try to...
Seinfeldisms
It has become a cliche to say that the TV sitcom Seinfeld was "a show about nothing." But to anyone who loves words and appreciates good (and even bad) word play, Seinfeld was really a show about language. The absurd situations, the sight gags, and...
Such a Fine Pot of Curry: South Asian Influences on the English Lexicon
Although we often celebrate the ease--some would even say predaciousness--with which the English language adds new words to its lexicon, it is with far less frequency that we celebrate and acknowledge many of the non-Western languages that have played...
The Case for Small Words
When you speak and write, there is no law that says you have to use big words. Short words are as good its long ones, and short, old words--like sun and grass and home--are best of all. A lot of small words, more than you might think, can meet your...

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