Verbatim

Articles from Vol. 27, No. 4, Autumn

A Headful of Words
Our heads are stuffed full of words and yet somehow our brains manage to make sensible use of them. It's a curious situation that the poet T. S. Eliot describes as "the intolerable wrestle with words and meanings." Amazingly, up until fairly recently,...
An Appeal to Writers Everywhere
I am sure we are all very concerned about the world shortage of full-stops (or periods, as our American cousins would have it) which has been brought about by the huge increase in writing during the latter part of the twentieth century and the profligate...
Horribile Dictu
A TV listings magazine recently promised a documentary which "takes a look at the lives and innermost thoughts of six young women who regularly commute from England to Aberdeen to work as lap dancers in an adult establishment." I have no idea how many...
Inter Alia
A request has come in for any information about the slang placenames North Cackylacky and South Cackylacky, used for North and South Carolina. Responses may be sent to the Editor. Good news for lovers of dictionaries, words, and especially dialect...
Jumpers and Rounders and Tops, Oh My
The London Underground is full of curious phrases and idioms not normally understood by an outsider. Are there any other jobs where your colleagues are known as Dims and Doms, where four feet aren't four feet at all, and where jumpers are not of the...
Quaint Crimes, Archaic Punishments
Common to humanity worldwide, it would seem, is the desire that bad guys get their just deserts. Theologically this leads to a variety of afterlife states, depending on the community of believers, in which the evil we do in this world is punished in...
The American Spelling Reform Movement
As a gradeschooler, I loved to browse through my mother's library-school textbook of the Dewey Decimal Classification System. Not only did its 1,647 pages seem to provide an extremely detailed and comprehensive outline of the entire scope of human...
The Politically Correct US Supreme Court and the Motherfucking Texas Court of Criminal Appeals: Using Legal Databases to Trace the Origins of Words
I admit I have had some second thoughts as to the appropriateness of the title above. Perhaps I should have called it "The Politically Correct United States Supreme Court and the Cocksucking Texas Court of Criminal Appeals." The meaning of my title...
The Sneeze: More Than Just Ah-Choo and Bless You
In my high school math class, a sneeze and its responses became a form of coded communication. A boy and a girl in the class--let's call them Romeo and Juliet--were very much in love, but the teacher had separated them on account of their constant...
To Curf and Thrash, and Vex and Dash
Although I speak a more or less nonregional variety of British English, expressions from childhood in the country do occasionally well up. I once used the word cuff in a piece of verse, and only postpublication comments that told me the term was not...
Word Sites Online
The World Wide Web is well served by sites that feature the English language, especially its history and its peculiarities of vocabulary. Some of the better known and more popular ones are listed here. Mailing lists A Word a Day <http://www.wordsmith.org/award/subscribe.html>...

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