Verbatim

Articles from Vol. 31, No. 4, Winter

A Car by Any Other Name
Car names can be a never-ending source of amusement. At the most basic level, everyone gets a laugh out of ridiculously unlikely car names like the Daihatsu Naked, Piaggio Ape, Mazda Bongo Brawny, and Renault Kangoo. But even ordinary car names can become...
Anyone for Gerunding?
Alongside the cross-country ski track of a Swiss mountain village where I often go, there extends a wide piste where very fit people on long narrow skis pursue an activity known in French as le skating. Needless to say, like so many -ing words disseminated...
A Scientific Investigation into a Linguistic Matter of Some Importance
If it were possible (which it isn't) to poll all the speakers of English as to their choice for the FUNNIEST word in the language, most words would probably get no votes at all (e.g., the, and, at, to), while others would no doubt garner some; surely...
Biotechnologos: Words of the Life Business
Biotechnology is a land of eldritch miracles: insulin for diabetics by the kilogram, erythropoietin for regeneration of your red blood cells, viral vectors that cure bubble babies, bone marrow transplants for kids with leukemia, and hundreds more. Where...
Book Production Jargon
In the world of high-powered book publishing, glamour and prestige belong to those in the editorial and publicity departments. The production department staffers are the behind-the-scenes people working in the trenches. As the liaisons between the publishing...
Classical Blather: The Wee Folk
Fools Are Everywhere, if we are to believe the title of Beatrice K. Otto's comprehensive study of court jesters. (1) So, it would appear, are the little people, those preternatural homunculi (2) thought to lurk on the periphery of our everyday rational...
Pension Fund Language
"Do you have any deads?" my co-worker asked. "Oh, yes!" I answered, not the least bit startled. "I've got a ton piled up here." City morgue? Monty Python sketch? No, just another day at the office, where this macabre question was commonplace. Our pension...
Pronouns in Thai
As anyone who has tried to learn it will know, Thai is a most deceptive language. At first glance into a Thai textbook, it can appear quite simple, especially if compared to a language like Japanese. The newcomer to Japanese will learn that the verb...
The Un-History of the Undead: From Superstition to Celluloid
Imagine that a vampire knocked on your door--a real, true to life (or death) vampire. You open the door and find a ruddy-faced overweight man with long fingernails, his mouth and left eye open, and dressed in a linen shroud. Not what you expected? Did...
Xmas, Yttrium, and Zwieback: Unusual Initial Pairs in English
Considering myself a bit of a word geek (I actually prefer the term logophile), I was interested to hear from a friend who claimed that, apparently, the only letter of the alphabet that can be followed by any other letter of the alphabet when in word-initial...

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