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|Good Words||Vocabula for the First Time||Robert Hartwell Fiske, Editor and Publisher|
by Richard Lederer
Some people are bird watchers. I watch word-botchers. Over the years I've cobbled together five anthologies of fluffs and flubs, goofs and gaffes, blunders, boo-boos, botches, boners, and bloopers. They're the fuel that runs the motor of my career as a fly-by-the-roof-of-the-mouth, word-struck, word-besotted, word-bethumped language guy.
I adhere firmly to the Blooper Snooper's Code of Ethics that the collector takes what he or she finds and contrives nothing. My specimens are all genuine, certified, and unretouched. No way could I concoct the vivid headline "Grandmother of eight makes hole in one." No way could I improve the receptionist's voice-mail advice "Please leave a message. The doctors are out of the office or else on the phone and me, too." No way could I manufacture the sign in an Acapulco restaurant: "The manager has personally passed all the water served here." No way could I come close to matching the students who wrote, "The equator is an imaginary lion that runs around the world forever" and "In 1957, Eugene O'Neill won a Pullet Surprise." These masterpieces of mangled messages are far funnier than anything I could fabricate from whole cloth, even with a lunatic fringe. More ...
by Richard Carter
In this essay, I reflect on one of Dorothy Parker's love poems, "The Small Hours":1
No more my little song comes back;
comparing it favorably with Sappho's lovely poem of the deep night's longing for an absent lover:
The moon's set,
and comparing both of these unfavorably to Andrew Hudgins's counterfeit of a poem, "The Funeral Service,"2 where he rejects the natural silence of a son's grief at his father's death with a disorderly account of the way his particular poetic brilliance trumps a son's feelings:
... It felt surrealMore ...
by Robert Hartwell Fiske
On August 23, 2007, The Wall Street Journal published What Did U $@y? Online Language Finds Its Voice, an article in which I was quoted.
Soon afterward, lexicographer Grant Barrett whose specialty is slang and "new usages" (though he was interviewed for the WSJ piece, his words were not used) wrote, rather bitterly, on his blog:
Robert Hartwell Fiske isn't a linguist. He's a self-involved curmudgeon that's not a compliment, but a criticism of his intellectual limitations who is the go-to guy for the same kind of dismissive claptrap you'll hear from anybody who's speaking on language outside their area of expertise.
In response to this, I commented, also on Barrett's blog: More ...
by Philip Yaffe
Recommending that you stop writing press releases and start writing news releases is not a play on words. It is sound advice.
In common parlance, "press release" and "news release" mean the same thing. However, the terminology people use often betrays a fundamental difference in how they put this information together and how well it is accepted by the media. More ...
Specialty DictionaryGlossary of Phobias
by Fredd Culbertson
Ablutophobia Fear of washing or bathing.
Acarophobia Fear of itching or of the insects that cause itching.
Acerophobia Fear of sourness.
Achluophobia Fear of darkness.
Acousticophobia Fear of noise.
Acrophobia Fear of heights.
Aerophobia Fear of drafts, air swallowing, or airbourne noxious substances.
Aeroacrophobia Fear of open high places.
Aeronausiphobia Fear of vomiting secondary to airsickness.
Agateophobia Fear of insanity. More ...
Vocabula RevisitedThe Analysis of Meaning
by Barbara Ann Kipfer
Definitions are dictionaries' descriptions of meaning. Writing dictionary definitions depends on research and human judgments; each item presents a new set of problems. Definers must choose from a multiplicity of available methods in carrying out their duties as describers of the language. A person analyzing language divides meaning into senses and then writes definitions. This is done, usually, by looking at the citation (quotation) slips, and dividing the slips into separate meanings. The methodology from that point involves analysis and synthesis of lexical material.
There are two basic methods of ordering definitions within an entry historically or by frequency of use. The way your dictionary orders the entries can alter your understanding of the book, making it sometimes discouraging to look for what you need if you do not understand that order. These first editorial decisions are the focus of this essay. More ...
A PoemFor H.D.T.
by Keith Gogan
A PoemDeluxe Starter Kit
by Eileen Hennessy
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The Elder StatesmanIn the Classroom of the Gods
by Clark Elder Morrow
The characters of ancient Greek mythology are still after 2500 years helping us absorb great spiritual truths. I say this because I, for one, find myself making ongoing psychological discoveries in the playground of myth discoveries that seem to shed a good deal of light on many human fundamentals. I will give you an example. There appears to be a difference between the desire we feel for something in our presence or possession, and the desire we feel for what is distant. You may yearn with equal strength in both cases, but the quality or nature of the wanting varies subtly between the two. The way I feel in the presence of the woman I lust after will be different from when she is away, when I am merely thinking of her and not observing her. Plato, in the Cratylus, explained the gods Pothos (yearning) and Himeros (longing) by saying that the former was an embodiment of the desire for what is distant, and the latter the yearning for what is present.
These gods help explain, for me, what was once an apparent contradiction between two adages: "distance makes the heart grow fonder" and "appetite grows with the food it feeds upon." Both saws are right, of course: you can grow in your desire for crème brulee while eating it, and that desire can increase while remembering the flavor of it afterwards. Pothos will flutter above you, scattering on your head his own brand of divine sparkles, while you reminisce; Himeros will touch your heart with his peculiar magic as you wolf down the delectable mélange. Both of these provocative deities are the offspring of simple Attraction Between Two Things, which was known to the early Greeks as Eros. Even in ancient times, growing sophistication meant growing specialization. More ...
Bethumped with WordsFrog! The Origin of a Racist Insult
by Bill Casselman
Americans, Canadians, and Brits all use the racist insult frog to disparage a citizen of France or a French-Canadian. What is the origin of this abusive term?
The insult is of British provenance.
About one dozen explanations of frog exist, most of them glutinous with the specious stickum of folk etymology, that is, bad guesses by semiliterate "experts," the sort of twit who wishes to pontificate while knowing full well that he or she knows nothing of the term's history and so is free to make it up. More ...
Harrison's CornerIt's Out There
by Carey Harrison
Out there. This is a phrase not familiar to me, in its current usage, until fairly recently (and for me, "fairly recently" could span twenty years or so). When I first took up my current teaching position, some fifteen years ago, I was intrigued to hear my colleagues say of me, He's out there! and to me, directly, You're out there! I wasn't quite sure what they meant I'm still less than entirely sure nor was I sure whether it was a compliment or not. I'm still not certain about that either. Then again, perhaps they themselves weren't entirely certain on that score since the term gets used with an interesting combination of admiration and mockery. He's out there he's fearless and extravagant? Or a little loopy, not to say out of control? The daring young man on the flying trapeze, or the show-off doomed eventually to fall off the wire? He's out there but where exactly? On public view, everyone's fall guy? To say so means that you, the speaker, have taken the safe institutional position. You are not out there, you're discreet, making no waves, flying under the radar. It's an institutional byword, with its cocktail of praise and disparagement. Every department needs someone who's out there, just as every class needs a class clown. By contrast, all solo performers, all artists, all sportspeople, are surely out there. Where else could they be? When I heard it used about me, it reminded me of nothing except perhaps that traditional baseball standby, outta here. (I was raised here in the United States, dear reader, despite my British birth and British locutions, acquired during the exactly 50 percent of my life spent there.) This is another phrase with two opposed implications, positive and negative. The ball may be "outta here" for a home run, or a protesting player or manager may be "outta here," tossed out of the game. More ...
The Common ReaderThe Chatterlings in Wordland
by Kevin Mims
If you are interested in exploring the differences between words whose meanings are nearly similar, your most eloquent guide might be Crabb's English Synonymes, a classic reference book about which Clark Morrow published a fine essay in the February 2006 issue of The Vocabula Review. Other helpful guides include Adrian Room's The Penguin Dictionary of Confusibles, Harry Shaw's Dictionary of Problem Words and Expressions, Peter Melzer's The Thinker's Thesaurus, S. I. Hayakawa's Choose the Right Word, the Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus, or just about any language book with the word "usage" in its title: Harper's Dictionary of Contemporary Usage, Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, A Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage by Bergen and Cornelia Evans, and so forth. If, however, you would like to interest a child in what distinguishes a word from its near synonyms, you might want to visit a rare bookstore and look for a copy of Michael Lipman's The Chatterlings in Wordland, originally published in 1928 and revised in 1935. More ...
Let's see, we have logophiles, linguaphiles, verbivores, wordos, wordaholics, logolepts, sesquipedalians, etymologists all lovers of words. But what do you call someone interested in the letters that make up the words? An alphabetaphile? An alphabetivore? An abecedarian? More ...
I felt a Funeral, in my Brain
I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
Free in VocabulaGotcha 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 VocabulaVocabula Poll
"My bad." My what a clever and concise way of expressing regret or sorrow or acknowledging having made a mistake. More ...
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