Thursday, January 24, 2008

Reader-suggested Words That Should Make a Comeback

Temperance wrote to suggest a word that should make a comeback:


n. a drunkard -- Webster's New World College Dictionary

She came across it on this Netflix page.

Could this be the best word ever? Quite possibly.

I can envision a world where Mel Gibson, before getting into his car on a Malibu Saturday night, would imagine this word used about him in news reports. Then he would call a cab.

Thanks for the suggestion, Temperance.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Fun With Google Searches

uniformed guard - 22,000 hits
uninformed guard - 29 hits

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Words I'm Looking Up (One in an occasional series on words I'm looking up)


There's a word I thought I'd never have the occasion to look up. But I came across this in the L.A. Times this morning:

President Bush sounded a hopeful note Friday when he called for as much as $150
billion in tax rebates to goose the economy back into gear.

I was reminded of watching an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati when I was a kid. I was frustrated because I didn't understand why the audience laughed so hard when Herb said he was going to give Jennifer "her Christmas goose."

So when I encountered the newspaper article, I realized that even my sitcom-based grasp of the word was insufficient. I opened Webster's New World College Dictionary:

(Skipping to the verb definitions): 1. to prod suddenly and playfully in
the backside so as to startle. 2. to feed gasoline to (an engine) in irregular
spurts. 3. to prod, or stir, into action.

Often, I have to force myself to read the news. My attention is all-too-easily lured away by any word or wording I find interesting, any notable punctuation issue, any language issue that I naturally find more interesting than lame attempts to tweak the economy. And that's on a good day. But on days like today, when suddenly I'm swimming in images of the president "goosing" the economy -- well, just don't quiz me on today's headlines.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Words That Should Get a Divorce (One in an occasional series on words whose relationships have grown tired)

nook and cranny

A Google search for cranny shows more than 1.1 million hits. A Google search for cranny minus nook gets just 277,000. If that's not a codependent word relationship, I don't know what is.

Think about that some morning while sipping coffee in your breakfast cranny.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Moments in Copy Editing

Most bathrooms will require additional flush-mount ceiling
lighting in the toilet area ...

I don't think I ever fully appreciated the power of context until now.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Some More Things That Annoy Me

* Getting haircuts

* Walking around in need of a haircut

* SUVs

* SUVs in front of me on the freeway

* SUV drivers who don’t understand why I won’t let them in front of me
(Sorry, I know all this SUV stuff is cliché. But to me, driving an SUV is like bringing a booster seat to the movies. Just it’s worse because at the movies blocking my view only costs me enjoyment of a movie. On the freeway, blocking my view can cost me my life.)

* The myth that the word “one” can never be plural

* Sentences with too many prepositional phrases, subordinate clauses and other crammed-in bits: “As she looked back on her youth in that town outside of Portland on the ocean with all the fish, knowing full well that the man with the mustache which wasn’t well trimmed with decent clippers, she knew her life had been worth living.”

* Having been taught that a comma always goes before “too” even though clearly that’s not how everyone does it

* “A whole nuther”

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Words That Should Get a Divorce (One in an occasional series on words whose relationships have grown tired)

pomp and circumstance

In fact, maybe poor pomp ought to hook up with sundry to start some kind of support group for co-dependent words, or at least aspire to become what the kids these days are calling "power bottoms."

Monday, January 7, 2008

Words I'd Like to See Make a Comeback (One in an occasional series)


n. 1 [Informal] a scamp; rascal 2 a Southern
white who supported the Republicans during the Reconstruction: an opprobrious
term used by Southern Democrats

Friday, January 4, 2008

Fun with the Chicago Manual

According to the Chicago Manual of Style, these are all correct:

Thomas’s situation
Thomas’ sake
the bass's swimming
the bass' sake
politics' meaning
United States’ borders
Jesus’s ideas
Euripides’ ideas
Camus’ novels

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Some Things That Annoy Me

* Croutons made out of raisin bread

* Self-flushing toilets

* People who answer questions with questions, like answering, “May I have your fax number, please?” with “What is your account number?”

* Automated phone systems that make you enter your account number before connecting you to an operator whose first question will be, “What is your account number?”

* Statements punctuated as questions. (“Guess what” is not a question.)

* Questions punctuated as statements. (“Can you believe it” is a question. Technically, you can punctuate it as a statement or an exclamation if that’s how you meant it. But I wish you wouldn’t.)

* Popular wisdom about nutrition – everything from “nuts and avocados are bad for you” to “Subway is good for you.”

*People who think that enjoying overcast or rainy days makes you deep

* Healthcare reporting that criticizes insurance companies for not covering the cost of an $800-a-month prescription without questioning why the hell any prescription costs $800 a month. (Ditto that for one-week hospital stays that cost $30,000.)

* Having to admit that, a week and a half after my last blog entry, I couldn’t come up with a more relevant entry idea than this


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