Verbatim

Articles from Vol. 31, No. 1, Spring

Cuckoo for Crack
I was watching the NBA playoffs the other night (OK, every night) and my ears perked up when studio commentator Charles Barkley referred to the TNT network's crack team as a team on crack. Barkley's joke got me thinking about the influence of crack on...
ENIAC, HAL, and Deep Thought: Computer Names
It is a truth universally acknowledged that computers-real and fictional--need names. These names can be foreboding or friendly, and sometimes funny. For the last several decades, computer names have played off each other in sometimes surprising ways....
Linguistic Larceny: It's Ausgezeichnet
If you were seated at dinner one fine Sunday, feeling no great reluctance to shock your great-aunt Bertha, and you began the phrase, "Please pass the ...", and you were allowed to express "meatballs" in any language at all, which would you choose? Weighing...
Modern Language: Why Chicken Rectums Are More Relevant Than You Think
A while back, while researching a story I was writing on Caribbean cockfighting, I emailed Martinique's head librarian, Niquette, whom I had met a year earlier in a Fort-de-France restaurant when, overhearing me order in my best French what I believed...
On the -Go
An earlier Classical Blather column examined some words which rhyme with June. (1) In this issue we'll tackle another set, those ending in -go. And a rich set it is, both in quantity and in etymological diversity: whereas just about any English word-final...
Phlegmatic Scholarship: Ahem! A Cross-Cultural Study of the Signifying Throat-Clear
Phlegmatic Scholarship Justa Little-H|rss, Ph.D. Dilettante University Press There's clearing one's throat, and there's clearing one's throat. In mid-winter cold season, we all learn to tune out the repetitive rasps of our families, friends, and colleagues...
Pluralia Tantum or E Pluribus Unum: Three Adventures with the Plural
The First Adventure: "The Mood of the Tales Are Gloomy" Few things in English grammar are trickier than the use of the plural, which shows that even a language with practically no endings is hard to speak. White Nights is a sentimental story by...
Qat in Yemen
I first came to Yemen nearly two years ago as bahlasa, that is, 'one who arrives from another country without any luggage.' That afternoon as I was fretting and complaining over my lost luggage a friend tossed me a small plastic bag filled with qat leaves...
Speaking Plain Yorkshire
In the largest county in the United Kingdom, known locally as God's Own Country, you will find a diversity of accents, environments, economies, and cultures. All these elements are linked by a use of language which reflects a character that is straight-talking,...
The First Use of a Word; How Can You Find It? A Piffling Little Case Study
Several recent books have described in riveting detail how the great dictionaries were put together. (1) In the case of the OED there were two main groups involved. The first was composed of scholars who wanted to have a record of the language; they...
User-Friendly Turkish
Do you find Turkish an enigmatic, incomprehensible language to read or listen to? Are you lost for words if you've ever endeavoured to utter something in it? Then this foray will show Turkish is not as alien as it looks, nor should it sound all Chinese...