Magazine article Communication World

The Archaeopteryx Flaps Back into Your Life

Magazine article Communication World

The Archaeopteryx Flaps Back into Your Life

Article excerpt

Glabella means "the smooth area between the eyebrows just above the nose." Use discretion, though; it would be chancy at best to greet a young woman with "Girl, I dig your glabella."

"A dinosaur bird that lived 147 million years ago had a brain similar to a modern eagle or parrot and was equipped to fly, scientists said yesterday."

That was the lead in a Reuters story that appeared last August. Paronomasia being one of my weaknesses, I prefer "dinosoar," but the real flaw lies in the absence of possession. My rewrite goes so: "... had a brain similar to a modern eagle's or parrot's [brain].... " The creature's imposing name (archaeopteryx) notwithstanding, however, fossils suggest it was about the size of a blue jay.

The closing paragraph of a recent Boston Globe editorial declared, "Now it's time for [Harvard University President Lawrence[ Summers to step off of his tongue and modernize the debate."

Globe editorial page editor Renee Loth might holler, "Get me rewrite!" Whoever first cracks open the Associated Press Stylebook will discover the entry for off of: "The of is unnecessary: He fell off the bed. Not: He fell off of the bed." And whoever first said "You can always tell a Harvard man, but you can't tell him much" should give Summers Loth's phone number.

William Safire's "On Language" column in The New York Times, 19 December 2004, brought up an unusual definition for a common expression. In an earlier article, Satire had used the expression "strait and narrow," thus setting off a debate among copy editors and other linguists. Shouldn't it have been straight? Strait does indeed mean "narrow," of course, and the modern spelling, Satire confirmed, is straight. But, he explained, "when used in the phrase with 'narrow,' the phrase's meaning is 'a morally upright, ethically unwavering and law-abiding way of life, sometimes derogated as merely "conventional."'"

The joy of lex(icons)

While poking through American Heritage IV, I saw a photo of a smiling young woman captioned "glabella." It was not her name--no cap--so I looked left and learned another exceptionally cool word. It means--and you've got one, in all likelihood "the smooth area between the eyebrows just above the nose. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.