Verbatim

Articles from Vol. 29, No. 4, Winter

A Lost Dialect
Anyone old enough to remember nickel candy bars will certainly remember the B movies of those days. One of the most popular genres of the period, and one of my own boyhood favorites, was the jungle adventure, in which an intrepid white man deals summarily...
An Entire Alphabet of Scarlet Letters
Is it preposterous to wonder whether letters of the alphabet have an inherent color? As I conduct ongoing research for the One-Letter Words: A Dictionary, I can't help but ask myself why it is that letters are so often described as having a rosy hue....
Foxen in the Henhice
Recently I undertook an extensive study of American dialects, and a friend told me about a farmer named Eben Pluribus who spoke a most unusual kind of English. So I went to visit Farmer Pluribus, and here is a transcript of our interview: "Mr. Pluribus,...
From Hand to Mouse
'Tis a pity, cried my father one winter's night, after a three hours' painful translation of Slawkenbergius-- ... putting my mother's thread-paper into the book for a mark, as he spoke--that truth, brother Toby, should shut herself up in such impregnable...
Horribile Dictu
The British government recently announced that bullying, at work or at school, is unacceptable. A lot of things seem to be unacceptable to governments throughout the Anglophone world, including terrorism, drug smuggling, street violence, and the abuse...
Let's Ban These Words (and Why)
I recall an episode of the British television comedy series Blackadder, in which the titular character enjoys a joke at the great Dr. Johnson's expense. Edmund Blackadder is taking wry delight in expressing his contrafibularatories now that the doctor...
Like a Hyphen between Troubled Words
If I could be any punctuation mark, I would be a hyphen. Why? Hyphens have more fun. Though there are plenty of ways new words are coined in English--such as blending, borrowing, and clipping--the most common method by far is combining, and there...
Name Choices among the Xhosa of South Africa
Name giving among the Xhosa of South Africa takes on other proportions than in a Euro-Western context. A name is not only a label, identifying and referring to a unique individual, but it also conforms to cultural dictates. This view is strengthened...
Offensive Names
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, central and eastern European Jews were compelled to adopt surnames and pass them on to their children. While most readily obeyed the directive and were allowed to choose their own names and naturally took...
The Language of LSD
The government-sponsored campaign to make us forgo our avoirdupois in favor of grams and kilograms is moving very slowly. When I go into my local supermarket and ask for half-a-pound of cheese or a pound of sausages, no one turns a hair, and the subject...
Vocabulary Acrobatics
The acrobatic capability of English words to change their meaning in accordance with their context poses the temptation to fabricate amusing statements like the following: Most people seem to get enough sleep, but the restless rest rest less. (Here...
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