下载福彩一定牛彩票The Word Detective http://ctyn182.cn Semper Ubi Sub Ubi Wed, 13 May 2020 06:00:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.1 下载福彩一定牛彩票The Word Detective http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/september-october-2015-issue/ http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/september-october-2015-issue/#comments Sun, 04 Oct 2015 21:46:06 +0000 http://ctyn182.cn/?p=11237 semper ubi sub ubi

readme:

As observant readers will have noticed, this issue of TWD spans two months, rather than the usual one (although the most recent issue was also a two-monther, and a bit late to boot, as is this one). I apologize for the delay, but my MS has made my vision very unreliable lately, making getting anything done quite difficult. On a good day, my visual field resembles an old analog TV with bad reception: constant visual “noise” and fluctuating sharpness. On a bad day it’s all that plus flashing lights at the edges and big

Continue reading September-October 2015 Issue

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semper ubi sub ubi

readme:

上海彩票秒速赛车as observant readers will have noticed, this issue of twd spans two months, rather than the usual one (although the most recent issue was also a two-monther, and a bit late to boot, as is this one). i apologize for the delay, but my ms has made my vision very unreliable lately, making getting anything done quite difficult. on a good day, my visual field resembles an old analog tv with bad reception: constant visual “noise” and fluctuating sharpness. on a bad day it’s all that plus flashing lights at the edges and big patches of fog or (my fave) total blackness drifting across my field of view. my eye-hand coordination has also decreased to the point where i make constant typos even with my new two-finger hunt-and-peck.

To be honest, I might very well stop writing these columns if we weren’t so dependent on the small income from donations and subscriptions. Nah, I kid. Sort of.

onward. the easiest way for me to read something, oddly enough, is to take off my glasses (i am very myopic) and hold the material about four inches from my eyes. this does not work well with computers, but it’s great with my little old simple nook reader, especially if i’m lying in bed. the nook also makes it easy to read very long books that would test the strength of my wrists (which isn’t great) in even paperback editions.

So lately I’ve been reading by Joshua Cohen, which is a ginormous (580 pages) novel about a writer, also named Joshua Cohen, who is ghostwriting the autobiography of a tech billionaire, also named Joshua Cohen (who is clearly modeled on Steve Jobs, though this Cohen has developed something very like Google). The name thing is the least consequential part of the book (and the Cohen-Jobs figure is, thankfully, referred to as “the Principal” throughout).

reviewers seem , especially by the long mid-section consisting of transcripts of cohen’s interviews with the principal about the origins and development of the company and the technology (“algys,” i.e., algorithms) behind it. enough of them are puzzled by such terms as “” to make me wonder if they find some of the tech jargon (and principal’s neologisms, such as “cur” for “curious”) off-putting and annoying. but there’s this thing called google for that, and the middle section actually does a good job of filling out the jobs/principal figure as a weirdo wunderkind naif swept along by both the implacable world of venture capital and the moronic inferno of the internet.

parts of this are very funny, including pages of cohen’s manuscript complete with large blocks of struck-through text punctuated by the author’s all-caps-swearing frustrated rages. there’s a very sharp bit about a ludicrously pointless (but entirely plausible) home backup server concocted and marketed to take advantage of the y2k panic, and the brilliant but doomed engineer named moe, from goa, who is forced by the vcs to debase his talents by supervising its development. it’s also a nice touch that the climactic scene of the book takes place at the frankfurt book fair and involves a thug apparently inspired by julian assange. and what’s not to like in a book that sends a clueless sorta-steve-jobs into a backroom poker game to fleece (under the guidance of moe) keanu reeves and ben affleck?

Cohen (the non-fictional one) has been compared to Pynchon, and The Book of Numbers did remind me of Gravity’s Rainbow in its form as a bizarre and confounding odyssey, but it’s far better than Pynchon’s own stab at exploring the internet in 2013, Bleeding Edge上海彩票秒速赛车, which was a painfully prolonged damp squib reeking of geezer.

上海彩票秒速赛车elsewhere in culture news, we finally caught up with the first season of , an odd but fascinating series that somehow landed on the usa cable network. i think it’s a great show, but that may be in part because it makes jokes about and denigrates as the desktop environment of choice for homicidal losers. i hate kde almost as much as i hate eggplant. ugh. anyway, the catch to this show is that it’s hard to be sure that what you see is actually happening (elliot, the protagonist and first-person narrator, tends to hallucinate), but it’s a fun ride.

also very good (actually very, very good) is , a british/us series that ran recently on amc. you can catch up with the first season on google, itunes, yadda yadda.

上海彩票秒速赛车so there’s that. our internet still does not, and probably never will, operate in a credible fashion. (for several hours this morning we were running at a blinding 5 b/s. that’s five bits per second, kids. slower than having your computer turned off.)

As always, and as I mentioned above, we are dependent on the kindness of readers, so please donate or subscribe if you can. And now, on with the show….

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下载福彩一定牛彩票The Word Detective http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/hackneyed/ http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/hackneyed/#comments Sun, 04 Oct 2015 21:43:55 +0000 http://ctyn182.cn/?p=11214 so go to the source and ask the horse.

上海彩票秒速赛车dear word detective: i recently made the mistake of reading a review of a tv show i watch every week, in which the reviewer mocked the show for what he called its “hackneyed” characters and plots. i inferred that what he meant by “hackneyed” was “lame,” which my show is absolutely not, but what exactly does “hackneyed” mean and where did it come from? — dan gordon, la.

“My show”? Awesome, dude. You are a True Viewer, not some channel-hopping dilettante. I, too, watch and love things the reviewers mock. Unfortunately,

Continue reading Hackneyed

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So go to the source and ask the horse.

上海彩票秒速赛车dear word detective: i recently made the mistake of reading a review of a tv show i watch every week, in which the reviewer mocked the show for what he called its “hackneyed” characters and plots. i inferred that what he meant by “hackneyed” was “lame,” which my show is absolutely not, but what exactly does “hackneyed” mean and where did it come from? — dan gordon, la.

上海彩票秒速赛车“my show”? awesome, dude. you are a true viewer, not some channel-hopping dilettante. i, too, watch and love things the reviewers mock. unfortunately, most of “my shows” get canceled in mid-season, which really isn’t fair. most recently, i was happily watching “allegiance” on nbc, a show about a polymath cia analyst who discovers that his parents (and sister!) are evil russkie spies. it was an addictive (albeit deeply silly) show, but nbc pulled the plug after just five episodes. you can watch the rest of the season online, but it’s really not the same.

上海彩票秒速赛车“hackneyed” today is most often used to mean “commonplace, overused, trite, banal, or cliched” (“most commentary on political web sites consists of hackneyed rants delivered to the bored faithful”), simply “tired or worn out” (“bob’s boss was growing weary of his hackneyed excuses”), or “weary and cynical” (“many of the reporters at city hall were hackneyed veterans who barely raised an eyebrow at the mayor’s resignation”).

上海彩票秒速赛车the initial meaning of “hackneyed” when it first appeared in english in 1767 was, however, simply “for hire,” and thereby hangs a tale or, more precisely, a horse’s tail. today london contains a borough called hackney, a bustling urban neighborhood. but back in the 14th century, hackney was a separate village surrounded by pastures ideal for grazing horses. the horses bred in hackney were perfect for riding (called “ambling” horses as opposed to “work” or “war” horses), and the villagers developed a successful business renting them out. so successful was their rent-a-horse business, in fact, that soon any horse for hire became known as a “hackney,” and the term gradually spread throughout western europe.

上海彩票秒速赛车from meaning “a horse for hire,” the term “hackney” eventually came to mean just about anything “for hire,” and low-wage servants and prostitutes were also known as “hackneys” in the 16th century. but the most important development in the word was the rise of the “hackney coach,” a horse-drawn coach that could be hired by anyone who could pay. these hackneys eventually evolved into the classic black london cab still known as a “hackney.” and that, folks, is why taxicab drivers in new york city are called “hackies” and their cabs are called “hacks.”

by the mid-18th century, “hackneyed” had acquired both its “boring, common” and “weary, jaded” senses, most likely drawn from, respectively, the ubiquity of “hackney coaches” and the worn-out state of overworked carriage horses. the sense of “hackney” meaning simply “for hire,” plus a touch of “trite, banal,” gave us the “hack” writer who churns out uninspired prose (“hack work”), especially a journalist who habitually recycles hackneyed “conventional wisdom.”

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下载福彩一定牛彩票The Word Detective http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/slough-of-despond/ http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/slough-of-despond/#comments Sun, 04 Oct 2015 21:43:52 +0000 http://ctyn182.cn/?p=11212 the worst part was that the pigs seemed to find it amusing.

dear word detective: i recently happened to encounter a former coworker of mine waiting for a bus, and i asked him how he’d been doing. he responded that he had been in “a slough of despond” for a month or two after he lost his job, but is now working again and feeling better. it would have been awkward to ask him what “slough of despond” means, but i gather it has something to do with depression. what say you? — cliff s.

Funny you should ask.

Continue reading Slough of despond

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 The worst part was that the pigs seemed to find it amusing.

dear word detective: i recently happened to encounter a former coworker of mine waiting for a bus, and i asked him how he’d been doing. he responded that he had been in “a slough of despond” for a month or two after he lost his job, but is now working again and feeling better. it would have been awkward to ask him what “slough of despond” means, but i gather it has something to do with depression. what say you? — cliff s.

funny you should ask. just the other night i was taking an evening stroll down our rural road when i noticed one of the local honor students driving his daddy’s giant pickup truck directly at me. i stepped off the side of the road, lost my footing, and landed, face down, in a damp drainage ditch. directly downhill from a pig pen. a real pig pen, with real pigs. i’m writing this, incidentally, in the shower, where i’ve been since that night. i may come out in a week or two.

this sad tale is relevant to your question because christian, the protagonist in john bunyan’s 1678 allegorical epic “pilgrim’s progress,” endures a similar mishap (sans the pickup truck, of course). in christian’s case, the locale is a fetid bog known as the slough of despond, into which he stumbles, and then sinks and becomes trapped, weighed down as he is by the several hundred pounds of his sins he’s carrying in a rucksack. it’s a long story, but he’s rescued by a dude named help and it all turns out ok in the end. the great thing about pilgrim’s progress is that it’s easy to keep the characters straight because they all have names (obstinate, pliable, help, evangelist, etc.) that describe their character or function in the story.

上海彩票秒速赛车the slough of despond in bunyan’s tale is a metaphor, of course, and bunyan depicted the slough as the repository of humanity’s sins and moral failures (“… the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run”). but many subsequent writers, from emily bronte to somerset maugham to john steinbeck, have used “slough of despond” to mean either a prolonged state of extreme depression or a material state of dire poverty and suffering.

the oxford english dictionary (oed) defines “slough” (which rhymes with “cow”) as “a piece of soft, miry, or muddy ground; especially a place or hole in a road or way filled with wet mud or mire and impassable by heavy vehicles, horses, etc.” a mudhole, in other words. the oed draws a blank on the origin of the word, but suggest it may be rooted in the scots word “slunk,” which means the same thing and is of equally obscure origin. this “slough,” by the way, is unrelated to the verb “slough,” pronounced “sluff” and meaning “to throw off or shed like dead skin” or simply “get rid of,” which comes from germanic roots meaning “peel.”

to “despond,” of course, means to lose heart, lose confidence, become without hope and “despondent.” it comes from the latin “despondere” (“de,” away, plus “spondere,” to promise), and originally meant “to surrender, yield,” (i.e., “promise away”), but the sense today is of “giving up hope.” thus a “despondent” person is seriously stuck in the mud and can only hope that helpful “help” dude is on the way.

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下载福彩一定牛彩票The Word Detective http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/swell/ http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/swell/#comments Sun, 04 Oct 2015 21:43:51 +0000 http://ctyn182.cn/?p=11218 golly.

dear word detective: what is the origin of “swell” as in “that cat lover is a swell guy”? — anne.

swell guy, indeed. try “that cat lover is a royal sucker.” in addition to the pack now infesting our house, we now have two or three who regularly show up on our front porch looking for a handout.

The use of “swell” in your example, as an adjective meaning “pleasant, kind, generous,” is actually a fairly recent development of the word and first appeared in print in the 1920s. “Swell” as an interjection meaning something from “excellent” to just

Continue reading Swell

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Golly.

dear word detective: what is the origin of “swell” as in “that cat lover is a swell guy”? — anne.

swell guy, indeed. try “that cat lover is a royal sucker.” in addition to the pack now infesting our house, we now have two or three who regularly show up on our front porch looking for a handout.

上海彩票秒速赛车the use of “swell” in your example, as an adjective meaning “pleasant, kind, generous,” is actually a fairly recent development of the word and first appeared in print in the 1920s. “swell” as an interjection meaning something from “excellent” to just “that’s fine” is even more recent, first found in the 1930s (“‘swell,’ said mabel, placing the document in her vanity-bag.” p.g. wodehouse, luck of the bodkins, 1935).

our english word “swell” is, of course, much older, first appearing in old english, from germanic roots, as the verb “swellan,” meaning “to grow or make larger.” (fun fact: the past participle of “swellan” in old english was “swollen,” which we still use as the past participle of “swell,” as in “swollen ankles.”) in general, our english “swell” has stuck fairly close to the original meaning of “grow larger” as elaborated in the oxford english dictionary definition of the verb: “to become larger in bulk, increase in size (by pressure from within, as by absorption of moisture, or of material in the process of growth, by inflation with air or gas, etc.); to become distended or filled out; especially to undergo abnormal or morbid increase of size … as the result of infection or injury.”

上海彩票秒速赛车as a noun, “swell” has meant, in general, an increase in size, elevation (as a hill), or volume or intensity (as in music). long rolling waves in the sea are called “swells” (and, if they’re very deep and powerful, as from a big storm, they are known as “groundswells,” a term now used to mean powerful changes in public opinion). figuratively, “swell” was used in the 18th century to mean “arrogant or pretentious behavior” (“the softness of foppery, the swell of insolence, the liveliness of levity.” 1751), and a bit later “swell” became more positive slang for a stylishly-dressed gentleman. from there “swell” took on the meaning of “a distinguished person; one who is good at something.”

this gave us, in the early 19th century, the use of “swell” as an adjective meaning “stylish, first-rate, distinguished” (“why are we not to interfere with politics as much as the swell ladies in london?” b. disraeli, 1845), a sense which was, over time, weakened to the point that “swell” came to mean simply “ok, fine, nice, pleasant” (“we’re eating at the lake; we could have a swell time.” arthur miller, 1947).

“swell” in this diluted sense is now largely a us usage, and, this being the age of cynicism, it’s rarely used except in an ironic or sarcastic sense (“you left your wallet at home? swell.”), which is too bad. there’s an uncomplicated charm to “swell” used sincerely.

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下载福彩一定牛彩票The Word Detective http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/attorney-at-law/ http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/attorney-at-law/#comments Sun, 04 Oct 2015 21:43:43 +0000 http://ctyn182.cn/?p=11220 he’s over there, taking a deposition from a groundhog.

上海彩票秒速赛车dear word detective: i have long wondered what the word “attorney” actually means. it seems to be used interchangeably with the word “lawyer,” but why do we specify “attorney at law”? is there such a thing as “attorney at medicine” or “attorney at accounting” or “attorney at landscaping”? what is the precise meaning of the word? — christopher valdez.

“Attorney at Landscaping” would be awesome. Actually, I’d settle for an “Attorney at Lawn,” some hotshot in a bespoke suit to mow the three acres we laughingly call a lawn. Spilling gasoline

Continue reading Attorney at law

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He’s over there, taking a deposition from a groundhog.

上海彩票秒速赛车dear word detective: i have long wondered what the word “attorney” actually means. it seems to be used interchangeably with the word “lawyer,” but why do we specify “attorney at law”? is there such a thing as “attorney at medicine” or “attorney at accounting” or “attorney at landscaping”? what is the precise meaning of the word? — christopher valdez.

“attorney at landscaping” would be awesome. actually, i’d settle for an “attorney at lawn,” some hotshot in a bespoke suit to mow the three acres we laughingly call a lawn. spilling gasoline on his wingtips, smearing 10w-30 on his hermes tie. pro bono, of course.

上海彩票秒速赛车it’s true that “attorney” and “lawyer” are generally considered synonyms here in the us (although lawyers almost universally seem to prefer being called “attorneys”). but ’twas not always so.

上海彩票秒速赛车“attorney” is derived from the verb “attorn,” meaning generally “to turn over to another person, to delegate, to transfer,” with the object of the verb being anything from real property or a contractual obligation to intangible items such as one’s allegiance to a country or ruler, an important point in feudal law (“the gascoignes … had sent into england, to shew causes why they should not atturne to the duke.” 1611). “attorn” comes from the old french “atourner” (“a” in this case meaning “to,” plus “tourner,” to turn), and first appeared in english in the early 13th century.

“attorney” appeared in english about a century later, with the initial meaning of simply “delegated agent or deputy.” this broad sense is now obsolete, and was replaced by “private attorney” or “attorney in fact,” meaning a person authorized (by a written “power of attorney”) to make decisions, invest money, sue people, bid on ebay and other important tasks on behalf of another person. the designated “attorney in fact” in such cases does not need to be a lawyer (someone trained and certified in knowledge of the law).

上海彩票秒速赛车counterposed to the “private attorney” was the “public attorney,” or “attorney at law,” a qualified and recognized (usually by a bar association or other legal authority) agent capable of representing clients in judicial proceedings. in the us, attorneys are just attorneys, whether drawing up deeds or defending miscreants in court, but in britain “attorneys” were responsible for soliciting clients and developing cases that would actually be presented by “barristers” in court, which brings us to an interesting story. apparently attorneys managed to amass such a bad reputation very early on that “attorney” became synonymous with “knave” (“vile attornies, now an useless race.” alexander pope, 1733) and “swindler” (“johnson observed, that ‘he did not care to speak ill of any man behind his back, but he believed the gentleman was an attorney.'” j. boswell, life of samuel johnson, 1791). it eventually got so bad that, by an act of parliament in 1873, “attorney” as a title was abolished in britain and the term was merged with “solicitor,” previously reserved for those who prepared cases for the civil chancery court.

上海彩票秒速赛车so, as to your question, you could use a grant of power of attorney to designate another person to do just about anything for you, from making your medical decisions to deciding where to plant shrubs. if you paid that person enough, they’d probably even agree to wear a t-shirt reading “attorney at landscaping,” and the more i think about that, the more i like it.

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下载福彩一定牛彩票The Word Detective http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/stitch-up/ http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/stitch-up/#comments Sun, 04 Oct 2015 21:43:09 +0000 http://ctyn182.cn/?p=11216 i wuz framed,

dear word detective: there is a british expression for “setting someone up” to take the blame for some offense, which is “stitching them up.” i read your explanation for “grassing up” someone, which is the equivalent of snitching. but “stitching” is more like “framing” someone. i look forward to learning the origin(s) of this expression. — scott jones, austin, texas (really from philadelphia).

Ah, Philadelphia. I’ve only been there a couple of times, but it made quite an impression. My primary takeaway, as the biz folk say, was that many of your hometown’s motorists have serious perceptual

Continue reading Stitch-up

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I wuz framed,

dear word detective: there is a british expression for “setting someone up” to take the blame for some offense, which is “stitching them up.” i read your explanation for “grassing up” someone, which is the equivalent of snitching. but “stitching” is more like “framing” someone. i look forward to learning the origin(s) of this expression. — scott jones, austin, texas (really from philadelphia).

ah, philadelphia. i’ve only been there a couple of times, but it made quite an impression. my primary takeaway, as the biz folk say, was that many of your hometown’s motorists have serious perceptual impairments. some of them seemed to be trying to drive sideways.

上海彩票秒速赛车i suppose, being the responsible sort, that i should recap my explanation of “grassing,” that british colloquialism for “snitching,” specifically acting as an informer for the police. while one might imagine a connection to the very old expression “snake in the grass” (meaning “a sly betrayer”), this “grass” is actually short for “grasshopper,” rhyming slang for “copper” (i.e., a cop), and “grassing” means working for (or actually being) the police. (rhyming slang, common among the working classes of britain and australia, uses a system of rhymes to disguise the words actually meant.)

to “stitch” originally meant “to stab or pierce,” based on the noun “stitch,” which developed from the same germanic roots that gave us “stick.” a “stitch” could be a wound (as from being poked with something sharp), a sharp pain in the side, a fit of laughing (e.g., “in stitches,” probably from the pain of prolonged laughing) or each loop left by a threaded needle as it passes through fabric, etc. “to stitch,” similarly, means “to fasten together with stitches,” as in making clothes from fabric or shoes from leather, or closing a wound by using surgical stitching. the phrase “to stitch up,” first appearing in the late 16th century, initially meant “to put together by sewing,” with the implication that the work is done in a hurry. subsequent senses also carried overtones of emergency repair work or a “rush job,” as well as of restricting, restraining or closing off something (“i am sure he would rather have stitch’d up his lips, or bit off his tongue, than have spoken a word…” 1712).

the oxford english dictionary (oed) defines “stitch-up” in the sense you mention as “an act of manipulating a situation in order to reach a desired outcome, especially by dishonorable or dishonest means, such as abuse of a position of power or influence; a conspiracy or plot, especially to incriminate a person on false evidence.” in common use since at least 1980, “stitch-up” (it’s usually hyphenated) is a bit broader than a “frame-up,” which is usually purely a question of false evidence and/or malicious prosecution. a “stitch-up” can also be a corrupt arrangement that thwarts justice but isn’t necessarily illegal (“[he] accused the government of a ‘cynical stitch-up with bp management’ over the job losses and asset sales.” 1989).

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下载福彩一定牛彩票The Word Detective http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/heard-it-through-the-grapevine/ http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/heard-it-through-the-grapevine/#comments Sun, 04 Oct 2015 21:42:58 +0000 http://ctyn182.cn/?p=11228 上海彩票秒速赛车something to talk about.

dear word detective: my question is the origin of the phrase “heard it through the grapevine.” i’ve seen several different answers and would like to hear it from the source, meaning you. — jack o’hea.

the source? me? no, grasshopper. i am merely a conduit for the wisdom of the world, and if i sometimes see further than others, it’s because i stand on the shoulders of giants and block their view.

I’m sure that by now most of us have the Marvin Gaye version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” his 1968 Motown hit,

Continue reading Heard it through the grapevine

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Something to talk about.

dear word detective: my question is the origin of the phrase “heard it through the grapevine.” i’ve seen several different answers and would like to hear it from the source, meaning you. — jack o’hea.

the source? me? no, grasshopper. i am merely a conduit for the wisdom of the world, and if i sometimes see further than others, it’s because i stand on the shoulders of giants and block their view.

i’m sure that by now most of us have the marvin gaye version of “i heard it through the grapevine,” his 1968 motown hit, running through our heads, especially the dum dum dum dum dumdumdumdum intro. (personally, i’m partial to the platters’ “workin’ my way back to you, babe,” but whatever.) the relevance of that song to us is that it perfectly illustrates the meaning of the title; the singer hears that his girlfriend is planning to leave him, not from her own lips, but from rumors (“it took me by surprise i must say/when i found out yesterday/don’t you know that i heard it through the grapevine/not much longer would you be mine”).

上海彩票秒速赛车in a literal sense, a “grapevine” is, of course, the twisting, ropy vine on which grapes grow. the metaphorical “grapevine” by which news and rumors grow and propagate first appeared in popular speech in the mid-1800s during the us civil war. “grapevine” in this sense is actually a shortening of the original term “grapevine telegraph,” a sardonic nod to the actual electric telegraph, which was then becoming established across the us as an important means of communication. with the coming of the civil war also came the rupturing of conventional communications channels, and the “grapevine telegraph,” especially among slaves in the south, became an important source of information to residents of the area (as well as intelligence of military importance to the union forces). as booker t. washington noted in his book “up from slavery” (1901), “they kept themselves informed of events by what was called the ‘grape-vine telegraph.'”

of course, since information passed on the “grapevine” was of dubious provenance when it began its journey and often modified or mangled en route (much as in the old child’s game “telephone”), to call a bit of news “grapevine” was often to cast doubt on its veracity (“i’ll bet you a day’s ration of hardtack that it’s only ‘nother o’ those grapevines” 1887). but the utility of the “grapevine telegraph” during the war made it a enduring slang term for “information passed from an inside source,” at least a few steps above a mere rumor and quite possibly “the real deal.”

上海彩票秒速赛车the “grapevine” is more important than ever in today’s internet-driven kardashian-obsessed media landscape. now any old schmuck with wi-fi can can ruin a career (often their own) or spawn a dubious social movement with a single tweet. but the old word-of-mouth grapevine had one big advantage: for people to pass along a rumor, they had to find it at least vaguely plausible. today, “hillary is a shape-shifting lizard from another dimension” gets 14,000 retweets. that’s progress of a very curious kind.

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下载福彩一定牛彩票The Word Detective http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/daily-grind/ http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/daily-grind/#comments Sun, 04 Oct 2015 21:42:39 +0000 http://ctyn182.cn/?p=11226 grounds for revolt.

dear word detective: i was wondering whether you could investigate the origin of the phrase “the daily grind.” i was watching a program called “secrets of the castle” in which people in france are recreating a medieval castle. in reference to setting up a water-powered mill to grind flour, one of the english presenters said “this is the end of the daily grind.” is this correct — that “daily grind” means the chore of grinding grain by hand each day to make bread? — sarah, australia.

Hey, that sounds like my kind of show. I’ve always been

Continue reading Daily grind

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Grounds for revolt.

dear word detective:  i was wondering whether you could investigate the origin of the phrase “the daily grind.” i was watching a program called “secrets of the castle” in which people in france are recreating a medieval castle. in reference to setting up a water-powered mill to grind flour, one of the english presenters said “this is the end of the daily grind.” is this correct — that “daily grind” means the chore of grinding grain by hand each day to make bread? — sarah, australia.

hey, that sounds like my kind of show. i’ve always been fascinated by the middle ages, and i’ve even gotten estimates for a moat around our house. way too expensive, it turns out. but since our neighbors refuse to wear the nice burlap smocks i made for them, i’ve put my project on hold for the moment anyway. you just can’t get good serfs anymore. oh well, more mead for me, varlets.

meanwhile, back at “the daily grind” on that tv show, i’d take that as a bit of a pun rather than a serious explanation of the origin of the term. in the beginning, there was the verb “to grind,” which comes from the old english “grindan,” meaning “to crush into small pieces, to rub together, to reduce to small particles or powder.” one of the main senses of “to grind” early on was, of course, “to make grain into flour in a mill by crushing between two hard surfaces.” but by the early 17th century it was also being used figuratively to mean “to oppress, to wear down” (“laws grind the poor, and rich men rule the law.” 1764).

上海彩票秒速赛车“grind” as a noun followed the same evolutionary path, and by the mid-19th century it was being used metaphorically to describe a dull and difficult task, especially a highly repetitive one (“weary of the eternal work, of the everlasting grind, of the whirl of london life.” 1866). thus it wasn’t until 1853 (long after feudalism) that the first use of “daily grind” appeared in print meaning, as the oxford english dictionary defines it, “a daily routine of work or activity, especially as considered to be dull or tiresomely repetitious; the usual day’s work or routine, regarded as unremitting and laborious” (“he took refuge in bookshops at lunchtime and wrote long into the night when he was released from his daily grind.” 1983).

上海彩票秒速赛车by the way, mills, millers and the things they grind have played an important role in human society, and language, pretty much since day one. here’s a link to a fascinating piece by lexicographer and etymologist michael quinion of world wide words () on his visit to a historic california mill and the words derived from or associated with milling.

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下载福彩一定牛彩票The Word Detective http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/customs/ http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/customs/#comments Sun, 04 Oct 2015 21:42:15 +0000 http://ctyn182.cn/?p=11230 上海彩票秒速赛车i have no idea how that cat got in there.

dear word detective: returning recently from a family holiday in canada, my daughter asked, anent the man in the booth to whom i was obliged to report the quantity of whisky i had aboard, “why is it called ‘customs’?” i checked oxford online, which says, tersely, that the word arises from a customary payment to a ruler when goods enter his realm. seems like there might be a bit more to it than that? — leslie weatherhead.

Have you noticed that nothing is simple anymore? I pasted your question into

Continue reading Customs

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I have no idea how that cat got in there.

dear word detective: returning recently from a family holiday in canada, my daughter asked, anent the man in the booth to whom i was obliged to report the quantity of whisky i had aboard, “why is it called ‘customs’?” i checked oxford online, which says, tersely, that the word arises from a customary payment to a ruler when goods enter his realm. seems like there might be a bit more to it than that? — leslie weatherhead.

have you noticed that nothing is simple anymore? i pasted your question into libreoffice (word for people who hate word) and it immediately didn’t like your spelling “whisky,” preferring “whiskey.” the oxford english dictionary (oed) notes that “in modern trade usage, scotch ‘whisky’ and irish ‘whiskey’ are thus distinguished in spelling; ‘whisky’ is the usual spelling in britain and ‘whiskey’ that in the u.s.,” but that entry dates back to 1924, so there’s that. wikipedia declares that “the spelling ‘whiskey’ is common in ireland and the united states while ‘whisky’ is used in every other whisky producing country in the world.” whatever, i guess.

for the benefit of the uninitiated, “anent” means “about” or “regarding,” and comes from the old english “on efen,” meaning “alongside” or “face to face.”

上海彩票秒速赛车when “custom” first appeared in english around 1200, it meant “the common or usual practice or behavior; habit, fashion” (“it is a custom, more honored in the breach, than in the observance.” shakespeare, hamlet, 1603). english adopted “custom” from the old french “costume” (“custom, practice, style of dress”), which was formed on the latin “consuescere,” meaning “to become accustomed.” a “customer” (first appearing around1480) was originally someone who habitually shopped in a given store, etc. “customer” eventually took on the informal meaning of “person one has to deal with,” giving us the “ugly customers” of noir crime films.

fun fact: as you might have guessed from that reference to the old french word “costume,” our modern “custom” and “costume” are, spelling aside, actually the same word. “costume,” with its original meaning of “fashion of a given time” (eventually the more modern “appropriate dress for an occasion”), was imported into english quite a bit later (more than five centuries, in fact) than “custom,” and came to us from italian rather than french.

meanwhile, back at “custom,” by the mid-14th centuries the “customary” (i.e., regular, established) rents paid by feudal tenants to their lords were known as “custom.” commodities imported to or exported from the dominion of the king or similar authority were also subject to standardized “custom” taxes or levies, and eventually the part of the civil service in britain that levied those duties became known as “the customs.” the term “customs” in the “search your luggage” sense has since come to be used, obviously, all over the world.

上海彩票秒速赛车incidentally, “custom” as an adjective meaning “specially made or modified to order is a fairly recent (1830) us invention. the british synonym (now less commonly heard) is “bespoke,” from “bespoken” (ordered or commissioned to be made).

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下载福彩一定牛彩票The Word Detective http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/puny/ http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/puny/#comments Sun, 04 Oct 2015 21:42:12 +0000 http://ctyn182.cn/?p=11234 i prefer the term “compact.”

dear word detective: how do you spell a word that means “very small,” that starts with a “p,” and sounds like “puenee,” or “punie,” or “pwewnee”…? whatever that word is, i would love to know the correct spelling and its derivation. — sylvia.

Good question. I’m gonna go ahead and assume that this mystery word is driving you nuts. It can be very difficult to identify a word you’ve heard but never read, especially since so many English spellings are, shall we say, counter-intuitive (“Wednesday,” “Colonel” and “Island,” just for starters). A good thesaurus can

Continue reading Puny

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I prefer the term “compact.”

dear word detective:  how do you spell a word that means “very small,” that starts with a “p,” and sounds like “puenee,” or “punie,” or “pwewnee”…? whatever that word is, i would love to know the correct spelling and its derivation. — sylvia.

good question. i’m gonna go ahead and assume that this mystery word is driving you nuts. it can be very difficult to identify a word you’ve heard but never read, especially since so many english spellings are, shall we say, counter-intuitive (“wednesday,” “colonel” and “island,” just for starters). a good thesaurus can help in many cases; just look up the meaning (“very small”) or similar words (“tiny”) and chances are that the culprit will be sitting there in the list of synonyms,  looking guilty.

but now, to actually answer your question, the word you’re probably thinking of is “puny,” an adjective meaning (to quote the oxford english dictionary) “inferior in size, quality, or amount; insignificant; weak; diminutive, tiny.” it’s a great word because it’s almost always used in a derogatory sense (“your puny earth weapons are no match for me, for i am dwayne, lord of the galaxy.”). in modern usage, something “puny” is not merely small, but ridiculously inadequate (“one puny hamburger all day for a growing child?”) or inappropriately small or feeble for a given activity (“why would you want to watch a big-screen action movie on some puny ipad?”).

上海彩票秒速赛车“puny” first appeared in english in the 16th century, adapted from the old french “puisne” (a compound formed from “puis,” later, plus “né,” born) meaning “younger, born later.” (that “né,” incidentally, is the masculine form of “née,” which is sometimes used to indicate the “birth name” of married women, e.g., “jackie kennedy, née bouvier”). “puisne” itself, pronounced the same as “puny,” was used in english for several centuries, but survives today only in legal terminology.

上海彩票秒速赛车“puny” has undergone some interesting changes over the years. it first appeared as a noun, meaning “a recently admitted student to a school or university,” and from there took on the more general sense of “a less-experienced person; a novice.” not surprisingly, the word also was used to mean “a subordinate; a person of no significance.”

上海彩票秒速赛车the adjective form of “puny,” appearing in the late 16th century, originally meant simply  “junior or younger,” but soon took on its modern meaning of “inferior in size, quality, or amount; insignificant; weak, etc.”, almost always served up with a heaping helping of contempt (“some puny scribbler invidiously attempted to found upon it a charge of inconsistency.” boswell, the life of samuel johnson, 1791). of course, it helps that the word itself begins with a “pew” sound, long used as an expression of disgust or contempt (“pew! what an ungratefulness and unwontness the man is grown unto!” 1941).

上海彩票秒速赛车if there’s a kinder, gentler use of “puny” out there, it’s to be found in the southern us, where “puny” can mean simply “in poor health; sickly” (“i found your dear aunt catherine in a very puny state, not entirely confined, but obliged to rest herself on the bed more or less every day.” 1838).

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下载福彩一定牛彩票The Word Detective http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/break-a-leg-again/ http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/break-a-leg-again/#comments Sun, 04 Oct 2015 21:42:11 +0000 http://ctyn182.cn/?p=11224 merde to spare.

Dear Word Detective: You’ve addressed the phrase “break a leg” before. But lately, I’ve seen an image being shared quite a lot on social media which explains the phrase as follows: “This theatrical expression originated in the Music Hall/Vaudeville days around the 1800’s [sic]. Producers would have on stand-by as many different acts as possible to fill the bill. It was not viable to pay every act, so if they didn’t actually appear on stage, or get to break the visual plane of the leg line (wing masking), they received no fee. ‘Break a leg’ became a

Continue reading Break a leg, again.

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Merde to spare.

上海彩票秒速赛车dear word detective: you’ve addressed the phrase “break a leg” before. but lately, i’ve seen an image being shared quite a lot on social media which explains the phrase as follows: “this theatrical expression originated in the music hall/vaudeville days around the 1800’s [sic]. producers would have on stand-by as many different acts as possible to fill the bill. it was not viable to pay every act, so if they didn’t actually appear on stage, or get to break the visual plane of the leg line (wing masking), they received no fee. ‘break a leg’ became a good luck wish that you would be paid for a performance.” this explanation makes more sense than the theory that performers used to break the wooden legs of the stage at the end of a successful performance (which theory you’ve debunked in a previous column) but it still strikes me a specious. it fails to address the german aviators in world war i who wished each other a “broken neck and a broken leg,” or french dancers who wish each other “merde!” before going onstage. it fails to address the fact that, as you’ve pointed out before, the phrase “break a leg” doesn’t appear in print until 1957. and it fails to recognize that most human cultures through history have boasted strange customs based on the reverse psychology of not wanting to jinx things — and that these sorts of traditions aren’t limited to the performing arts. can you address “break a leg” again and put this new pseudo-historical explanation to rest? — john keogh

you’ve done a good job of summarizing the current state of play on “break a leg” in your question, and i must admit that i hadn’t heard the “wing mask” sense of “leg” theory in connection with the phrase. that use of “leg” to mean a long, thin drape on either side of the stage is definitely authentic theater terminology, but that doesn’t, of course, make it the source of the phrase.

it’s very difficult to prove a negative (i.e., that any particular story about “break a leg” isn’t true), but it is possible to make a judgment on what is most likely. in this case, we have an utterly unattested, unverified story that probably rests on nothing more than the coincidence of a bit of stage furnishings being called “legs.” on the other we have a field (the theater) which has always been rife with superstitions (e.g., the prohibition against saying the name of “the scottish play” (macbeth) in the backstage “green room”). there is also the ancient fear of tempting fate by wishing someone good luck, as evidenced in the traditions of many cultures for thousands of years. and finally we have the very similar phrase “hals- und beinbruch” (“leg and neck break”) from a completely unrelated field (aviation during world war i). (as a side note, although “break a leg” didn’t appear in print until the 1950s, anecdotal evidence indicates it was popular in the theater in the early years of the 20th century.)

上海彩票秒速赛车put that all together and i think we can say that “break a leg” is clearly a form of a very old tactic of wishing someone embarking on a chancy mission “good luck” by seeming to curse them with “bad” luck so as to confuse the demons, deities, etc., in charge. in this case we could justifiably make an “argument from continuity” that if a ritual appears to be highly similar to a family of rituals practiced throughout human history, what we’ve found is simply a variation of that long-established ritual.

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下载福彩一定牛彩票The Word Detective http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/guyed/ http://ctyn182.cn/2015/10/guyed/#comments Sun, 04 Oct 2015 21:42:09 +0000 http://ctyn182.cn/?p=11232 grandpa, what’s a “train”?

上海彩票秒速赛车dear word detective: recently, the kingston trio song “to morrow” popped into my head (if a man of your discerning tastes hasn’t heard it, you really must). in it the narrator speaks of being “guyed” in the sense of being fooled or chivvied, the most current equivalent meaning i would imagine would be “messed with.” any idea as to the origin of the expression? — fred.

OK, I listened to “To Morrow” on YouTube. It’s interesting and clever, in a folk-songy way, though it has way too many banjos for my taste (i.e., one). It’s about

Continue reading Guyed

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Grandpa, what’s a “train”?

dear word detective: recently, the kingston trio song “to morrow” popped into my head (if a man of your discerning tastes hasn’t heard it, you really must). in it the narrator speaks of being “guyed” in the sense of being fooled or chivvied, the most current equivalent meaning i would imagine would be “messed with.” any idea as to the origin of the expression? — fred.

ok, i listened to “to morrow” on youtube. it’s interesting and clever, in a folk-songy way, though it has way too many banjos for my taste (i.e., one). it’s about a man who wants to take a train “to morrow” (a town in ohio) today and to return “tomorrow.” the song itself is his dialogue with the ticket-seller, which takes the form of an extended misunderstanding similar to the classic abbot and costello “who’s on first” routine.

the lyrics to the song i found on the internet read “so i went down to the station for my ticket and applied for tips regarding morrow not expecting to beguiled.” since “beguiled” is an adjective, it doesn’t fit grammatically, so that’s probably a bad transcription. but the phrase could be either “be guiled” (the antiquated verb “guile” meaning “deceive,” as in “beguiled”) or “be guyed.” after listening to the song a few times, it really sounds like “be guyed,” which also scans and rhymes better with “applied.”

assuming that “be guyed” is correct, we’re dealing with the verb “to guy,” which comes from the noun “guy,” which originally meant an effigy of guy fawkes traditionally burned in britain on november 5 every year. (guy fawkes, you may remember, was involved in the unsuccessful gunpowder plot to blow up parliament in 1605.) over the centuries the sense of “effigy” in “guy” broadened to mean “any grotesque character,” and then simply “a person,” as in “what do you guys want for dinner?”

上海彩票秒速赛车the verb “to guy” originally meant to parade around with an effigy of fawkes on the fifth of november, but by the mid-19th century “guy” was also used to mean “to mock or ridicule.” “to guy” was originally theater slang meaning to overplay one’s part for laughs or to sabotage another actor’s performance (“with all this at stake, some wanton actor deliberately ‘guys’ his part and overturns the patient care of his comrade.” 1890). that would certainly satisfy my definition of “mess with.” this use of “guy” is considered antiquated, but the song itself was copyrighted in 1898, so that still fits.

上海彩票秒速赛车incidentally your use of the fine word “chivvy,” meaning “to harass or worry,” may puzzle some readers, as it’s well-known in britain but fairly rarely seen in the us. it’s actually a form of the verb “to chevy,” meaning “to chase,” which comes in turn from the noun “chevy,” originally a cry used as an exhortation when hunting with hounds (“when you are ready, i am … with a hey ho chivey, and likewise with a hark forward, hark forward, tantivy.” dickens, our mutual friend, 1865). “tantivy,” by the way, is another very old (1700s) english word meaning “to ride full tilt” (probably imitating the sound of a galloping horse’s hooves). it’s also the nickname of a character (oliver mucker-maffick) in thomas pynchon’s novel “gravity’s rainbow.”

上海彩票秒速赛车the “chevy” comes from “chevy chase,” meaning “a running pursuit,” possibly from a famous old song (“the ballad of chevy chase”) describing a 14th century hunt on the scotland/english border that turned into a battle. “chevy chase” is named in the song as the location of the fracas, but the actual place was probably named “cheviot chase.” several places in the us are named “chevy chase,” the most notable being in maryland. the “comedic actor” chevy chase is actually named cornelius; “chevy” was a childhood nickname his grandmother thought cute.

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