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August 2010, Vol. 12, No. 8 There are now   2922   people reading TVR. ISSN 1542-7080

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"Strunk vs. White: An Analysis of Authorship"
by David Russinoff
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Good Words   Calendar Vocabula for the First Time Robert Hartwell Fiske, Editor and Publisher

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 In the August 2010 Vocabula

by Lee Dembart

Advertisement Click to order The Gregg Reference Manual The Gregg Reference Manual
by William A. Sabin
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A fairly recent addition to our language is the standalone modifier "back in the day," meaning, at least, sometime in the past. Does it mean any more than that? If so, what? And how long in the past does something have to be to qualify as "back in the day"?

I hear this expression all the time, and a random Lexis search of several months in the year 2000 — ten years ago — also found plenty of examples. But a random search of several months in 1990 — twenty years ago — found none, though there were a lot of sentences containing the phrase, "Back in the days when . . ." as in, "Back in the days when ladies wore gloves in public." The difference between "back in the days when" and simply "when" was that the "back in the days" part conveyed a sense of once upon a time; in other words, long ago.

As to the more recent "back in the day," the Urban Dictionary ( defines it as, "Referring to a time period previous to the present, usually recalled with a somewhat blissful vision," and it gives this example, "Back in the day, I remember those good times we used to have hanging out at Lyon's." More ... 

by Larry Lefkowitz

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by Amalia E. Gnanadesikan
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A myriad of supposed influences upon Shakespeare's oeuvre have been proffered by the critics, too many and too varied to be cited here. Only their being wholly mistaken unites them. The preeminent influence, hitherto overlooked, was the gastronomic.

Let us begin with the name Shakespeare, of which the suffix is uniformly considered to refer to "spear" (the weapon) when, in fact, "spear" derives from "spare" and "shakespare" actually refers to the Elizabethan custom of eating spareribs held aloft and shaking the meat vigorously in order to permit the juice to trickle manfully into the mouth — somewhat akin to the more contemporary Spanish manner of wineskin squirting into this orifice, though, of course, the gravy entered the aforementioned opening with considerably less force. (The reader is referred to my "Fluids, Viscous and Not So in Elizabethan England," Colloidal Digest.) Support for this argument may be found in the Elizabethan practice of eating spareribs hot, which accounts for the character Hotspur in Henry IV, originally "hotspare," not "hotspur," since a spit was alternatively referred to in Elizabethan times as a "spur." Evidence as to which form predominated seems evenly divided. (See my "Hotspur or Viand," Soupconian England.) More ... 

Nature to be commanded must be obeyed. — Francis Bacon

I think that Bluebeard has been given a raw deal. Even assuming that the events in his case occurred just as reported by the Grimms — and we know how easy it is for editors and transcribers to shade and skew narratives to the advantage of whichever side they favor — it is clear that the tale is not, as most readers think, a simple one of evil husband and innocent victimized wife. To begin with, the "maiden" who becomes Bluebeard's wife enters the marriage with rather worldly motives. Her father, openly mercenary, persuades her — rather easily, it appears — to marry this rich, bearded stranger, despite her fear of his "blue beard," whatever dark and shadowy terror that appendage stands for. But she, knowing from the outset that this match is a dangerous one, arranges for her brothers to listen for distress signals from her, and be prepared to dash to her rescue at a moment's notice — hardly the preparations to be expected of a young and radiantly happy bride.

All seems well with the newly married couple for a while. Bluebeard's wife — also known as the "queen," since her husband now seems to be a "king" — has her every wish fulfilled, and would be quite content, except for her continued fear of her husband's blue beard. But then he has to leave her for a while, and gives her the complete freedom of their castle, except for one special room, which he forbids her to enter on pain of death. Clearly he is testing her, since he gives her the golden key that will unlock the forbidden room; equally clearly, she agrees to be tested, since she accepts the key from him. And she promises him that she will not enter the forbidden room. More ... 

The Vocabula Well-Written Writing Contest

In my introduction to a spelling textbook that I am writing, I argue against the belief that spelling instruction is less important now because of computer spell-checkers. Spell-checkers are useful tools, but they are not foolproof. As we all know, incorrect words will easily slip through as long as they are in the dictionary. Overreliance on these programs not only results in mistakes, but also makes spelling harder to learn and retain. How many words do we type regularly but never learn because we know our spell-checkers will find and correct our misspellings?

Writing the introduction was frustrating because I was struggling to believe that no one would seriously argue against the need to learn proper spelling. I took a break and turned on Face the Nation only to hear Bob Schieffer reading a letter to the editor of the Washington Post that complained about the National Spelling Bee and the time and attention still given to teaching spelling in schools. The letter writer believed that spelling is no longer necessary to learn because of computers and that time once used to teach spelling could be used to teach children to think analytically about how to solve world problems. More ... 

1. Using a comma to separate a subject from its verb.

• The reason evasion is a choice, is that I'm able to ask myself what my own beliefs and values are. DELETE the comma.

• The fact that she whispered the last repetition and reduced it to speed, suggests that this final rendition of the word was oriented inwardly. DELETE the comma.

• Whether either collection of letters should enjoy as exalted a place in the Academy as it does, is not our topic today. DELETE the comma.

• The tension between autonomy and interaction that characterizes the organization of language, bears a dynamic potential that deserves further consideration in the study of the development of grammars. DELETE the comma.

Even though several words may compose the subject and precede the verb, or come between the subject and the verb, no comma should separate the subject from the verb. More ... 

Specialty Dictionary
Back to Top  Glossary of Wine Terms

Acetaldehyde — A distinctive, desirable component of Fino sherry caused by aging under flor.

Acidity — Natural acids (citric, malic, lactic, or tartaric) that occur in fruit. In wine, tartaric acid provides tartness.

Aerate — To add oxygen to wine during the winemaking process or while decanting a wine.

Aftertaste — Flavors and odors that linger in the mouth after wine is swallowed.

Aging — Holding wines for a period of time in barrels, tanks, or bottles to affect the character of the finished wine.

Albariza — The white, chalky soil that characterizes Spain's Jerez de la Frontera sherry region. Albariza soil is considered the finest soil for producing Fino sherry. More ... 

Vocabula Revisited
Back to Top  The Like Virus
by David Grambs

And like I'm, like, really grossed out, like ...

The L-word. A kind of weightless backpack word that's more and more giving us humpbacked spoken English, the lite like has been airily clogging American sentences for years now. The war against the usage — well, it wasn't much of a war, alas — has been lost for some time, and we language-conscious losers are all trying to learn to live with the new, disjunctive babble.

Still, I believe the phenomenon is worth standing back from and taking a look at, as opposed to shrugging or winking at its growth. What does the new, gratuitous use of like really represent in our language, functionally and lexically? What do the purportedly authoritative dictionaries tell us? And, as I ask myself every time I hear it, what price is literate, listenable English paying for its increasing currency? More ... 

by Clark Elder Morrow

Many times writers will ask themselves about the limits of verbal expression. We wonder how far we, as scribblers, can go in describing the purely pictorial. Writers have no trouble depicting the simplest images or actions: I read in one of Andy Warhol's Diaries how a spider crawled up a wall behind a water cooler, so that it loomed large and eerie behind the glass. It was a concise and compelling little "sketch." But what about something larger — some magnitudinous vision you see in a series of vast oil paintings? How describe that in words? Well, I am going to indulge in a purely linguistic exercise. I am going to try to put the inexpressible quality of a very subtle artist into words. The artist is John Constable (1776–1837). And the exercise seems even more daunting when I consider that my favorite painter's most salient characteristic is also his most elusive. More ... 

Bethumped with Words
Back to Top  Chode/Chod: A Newish Dirty Word
by Bill Casselman

Chode or chod is a neovulgarism, although it appears to have resurfaced big-time in North America, after being first planted in the rich loam of English sometime in the nineteenth century across the pond in Great Britain. Nowadays there are two separate forms of the word: chode is American; chod is British. The ch of check begins both forms. The American chode rhymes with the word toad. The British chod is pronounced with the od of odd. But let us begin with its semantics.

Chode or chod means:

1. A short, fat penis that is wider than it is long.

2. A vulgar synonym for the perineum, the area between the scrotum or vagina and the anus.

3. A derogatory term used to insult males in sentences like "Check his chode, like, with a magnifying glass." or "Rode that chode? Nothing happening, right?"

More ... 

Harrison's Corner
Back to Top  Shakespeare Farewell, Once More
by Carey Harrison

Forty years ago (my God, is it forty?) I wrote a play entitled Shakespeare Farewell, whose stage premiere at the Stables Theatre in Manchester — this is England's Manchester, then still a leaden city pockmarked with wartime bombed sites, a far cry from its gaudy reincarnation in the decades to come — won me a full-page review-cum-interview in the Times Saturday Review. I was then the Stables Theatre's youthful resident dramatist, youthful and yet already a reactionary in full cry: my prophetic play was about the removal of Shakespeare from the syllabus at an imaginary university, and the reaction to this development, mirrored in a drunken all-night campus party, of students and faculty. Prophetic it may have been, but its reactionary stance, bemoaning the dumbing down of British culture, placed me right in the path of the onrushing locomotive of radical theater. Within three years, I was a dead letter as a dramatist, and apart from a production here or there, in Britain and in farflung parts of the world, it wasn't until two years ago that my theatrical star revived. (And now, having written four new plays and seen three of them staged, I find myself the artistic director of a brand-new theater company. "Thus the whirligig of time," as Feste says in the last act of Twelfth Night, "brings in his revenges.") And what happened in that far-off Britain of my youth? It's not that the '70s tide of new radical dramatists, carrying all before it, applauded the dumbing down of culture that I had bemoaned in Shakespeare Farewell. They simply saw culture as a sideshow on the road to revolution, an irrelevance to the class struggle. What kind of a dandified idler, bourgeois and effete, would fight for Shakespeare when better working wages needed to be fought for? A political lefty myself, I was amply content to accept this judgment, and took my literary tent elsewhere, to what might have seemed a wilderness to some, but not to me, who found a far greater fulfilment on the solitary and increasingly empty plains of the British novel than I ever had in the noisy, narcissistic world of theater. More ... 

Summer Edition

In June, July, and August, The Vocabula Review will be published as summer editions; that is, we will publish Features and Columnists essays but few, if any, of the Departments (Disagreeable English, Clues to Concise Writing, etc.).

More Good Summer Reading

On June 10, 2009, at exactly 10:22 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time, the Global Language Monitor (GLM) announced that the English language had just crossed the 1,000,000 word threshold. For a wordaholic, that's like having your own package store stocked with a million bottles of wordahol. However, instead of a package store, imagine a mega-word store where every word is a book; where each word's dictionary definition is hard bound, with the word title on the front cover and spine. These imaginary word books, or wooks, are wall to wall and floor to ceiling in this imaginary store. Although only 1/4-inch thick, these million single-page hardback wooks require nearly 4 miles of shelves. It's a dream store.

Word shoppers are lured in with a window display exhibiting a selection of this year's newest words in an inviting array of wooks with these titles: Staycation, Unfriend, Tweetup, Jeggins, Paywalls, Freemiums, Bossnapping, and many other 2010 neologisms that have been added to dictionaries. More ... 


This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home. More ... 

Free in Vocabula
Back to Top  Gotcha GrammarTM

Here are quotations from well-known, and less well-known, people, all of whom have used words ungrammatically or unstylistically. These are unnotable quotes, a collection of solecisms. More ... 

Free in Vocabula
Back to Top  Vocabula Poll

"My bad." My what a clever and concise way of expressing regret or sorrow or acknowledging having made a mistake. More ... 

Free in Vocabula
Back to Top  Newly Coined Words

Have you recently coined a word? If so, tell us what it is and we may add it to our list of Newly Coined Words. For your neologism to qualify, it must be useful and not found on Google before we list it here. More ... 



Clark Elder Morrow: The Elder Statesman — Constable and the Limits of Expression

Bill Casselman: Bethumped with Words — Chode/Chod: A Newish Dirty Word

Carey Harrison: Harrison's Corner — Shakespeare Farewell, Once More


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