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In Next Month's TVR



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Darren Crovitz

Darren Crovitz

Not long ago, in conversation with a colleague, the topic of nicknames came up. We reflected briefly on the people we knew who had them, and what they might represent.

"Well, we'll have to think of one for you," I proposed.

"No. No way," said my friend, whose name is Suzy. "Besides, I already have a nickname."

"You do? What is it?"

"Suzy."

Thus began a heated discussion of what exactly constitutes a solid, credible nickname, and what forces must come together to create one. I maintained that "Suzy" was not a nickname at all (at least not for her) but a diminutive of Susan ... and it was her chosen professional name, no less. She refused to accept this argument, but did offer a counterproposal.


David Isaacson

David Isaacson

I am intrigued by two relatively new uses for the word like in American English. I think there must be a logical relationship between these new and older meanings of the word. We still hear lots of people say they like something, meaning that something pleases them. We also still recognize this word as a way of making comparisons between similar things. But in the last few years many young people have acquired the habit of saying "like" as a filler word between other words, where the word seems to have no denotative meaning at all, but seems to serve about the same function as "uh." Although the new Encarta Dictionary recognizes this meaning, and describes it as "used especially in conversation as a filler or for emphasis," it also labels the word "nonstandard." An example would be "And then she was, like, out of it." The other new and still rather nonstandard use of "like" is dubbed a "quotative" by some linguists. In this use, also noted by Encarta, like "introduces direct speech" and is "used informally to introduce what somebody says." An example would be "And then she is like 'I'm not into partying tonight,' So I was like, 'So ... Maybe we can chill out here.'"


Mark Hochhauser

Mark Hochhauser

I don't expect legislators to write like Ernest Hemingway. My Ph.D. (in psychology) doesn't help when I see phrases like "sensitive personally identifiable information" and "nonsensitive personally identifiable information" in Senator Fritz Hollings's proposed online privacy legislation, or "nonpublic personal public information" in several privacy notices mailed last year. This writing style is incomprehensible when I couldn't tell if the last phrase has a real meaning, is a typographical error, is logically inconsistent, or something else entirely. I thought it had to be a typographical error, but since it showed up in several privacy notices, perhaps it was intentional. I have no idea what it means.


Richard Lederer

Richard Lederer

Stuffed bears were popular before Theodore Roosevelt came along, but no one called them teddy bears. Not until November, 1902, when the president went on a bear hunt in Smedes, Mississippi.



The November issue of The Vocabula Review is due online November 17.


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