Verbatim

Articles from Vol. 28, No. 4, Winter

Epistola
I was very pleased to read Mat Coward's exposure of the grotesque mis-use of the word self and to learn that I was not alone in my hatred of it. (XXVIII/2) I cannot improve on his theory that it may originate from the old-fashioned commercial "business...
Epistolae
Indeed this pbysiological response [the sneeze] is "More Than Just Ah-Choo and Bless You." (XXVII/4) In early antiquity, perhaps as far back as Sumerian civilization, many believed a sneeze ejected the sneezer's soul. If ever-lurking evil spirits were...
Ex Cathedra
When I was a girl ill Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the Journal-Sentinel used to carry the syndicated columns of Sidney J. Harris. Every, once in a while (not too often so as not to try his editors' patience) he would run a column he called "Things...
Horribile Dictu
"I've been arachnophobic since I was about 12," a TV actress told an interviewer (who was clearly not triviaphobic). "It doesn't matter if spiders are spindly or hairy, if I see one, I squash it with complete impunity." She didn't say which authority...
Jane's World
Jane Austen the word fancier can't fully be savoured by those who know her only via Merchant-Ivory. Devotees of America's summer pastime should rejoice that she introduced baseball to English literature via Northanger Abbey. Not coined, though;...
Letters Can Be Words
Who is Etaoin Shrdlu? I wondered. It was printed in bold vertical type on a page in my college yearbook. I thought it must be someone's name--it had a vaguely Baltic sound--because I couldn't find it in the dictionary. When I asked people on the...
Rumplestiltskin or Rumpelstiltskin? the Seven Common Misspellings of My Five-Letter Name
Recently I received in the mail a certified copy of the title to my car. My name was spelled one way--Huble--on the title itself, and another way--Hubel--on the envelope in which it came. On the same day, I received financial papers on which my name...
Searching for the First Words
Have you ever wondered, as you studied an artist's rendering of our remote ancestors, what they actually said to each other as they strode across the veldt? If so, you are not alone. Thinking people have speculated about the nature and form of early...
Sententiae Antiquae
Old saws cut clean. (1) Like any tool that has had a lifetime or even multiple generations of use, they seem to fit our mental grasp with just the right weight and balance, and for that reason have the virtue of being memorable even when we forget...
Speak of the Devil: Dangerous Names
Common wisdom (or lack of it) holds that speaking certain words aloud especially names--can be perilous, either to the speaker or to the person or deity or creature named. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, expressions like...
Teacherese
If you were FEPed out of ELD because of decoding with automaticity, should you be concerned? What about if your multiple intelligence requires differentiation or scaffolding with more realia? Confused how to react? These are easily understood phrases--if...
Translators: Know Thy Culture
In The Hours, Virginia Woolf ends her life by walking into the deep waters of the river. She moves with a kind of spent grace, as though letting her mind unleash poisons in the remaining few seconds of her existence. Her husband, Leonard, will be free...
Witty Dutch Neologisms
One of the easiest ways to make a Dutch neologism, apart from pilfering the domineering English language, is to take two old words and stick them together. In Dutch, compounds are a common occurrence, much more so than in English. Whereas the English...
Words in the North and the South
John Rieves and Miss Jennie Crumpton were an elderly couple in Starkville, Mississippi, and they were interesting and admirable people. We loved them both. They were a little frail and so we tilled their garden for them, and they knew we were gardeners,...
Words That Sell
Would you like to discover how advertisers persuade us to buy their products? They don't 'always advertise the product itself, they advertise the advantages of it--and they do so by using some of the most powerful words in the English language. ...
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