Monday, June 28, 2004

My latest Tribune language column:
On the mysterious origins, and sudden emergence, of the phrase "back in the day."
temp link/perm.preview

Here's my mini-corpus, a collection of recent examples, for "back in the day." Here's the history of the Citroen, the car mentioned on CNN.

I looked up heyday in the OED; the oldest definition is "an exclamation denoting frolicsomeness, gaiety, surprise, wonder, etc." It derives it from the ME heyda or hoighdagh; OED's first citation is 1526. Here's an example of heyday's root as an interjection:

1622: Hey-da! what Hans Flutterkin is this? what Dutchman doe's build or frame castles in the aire? -Jonson, Masque Augures

- One e-mailer wondered about one linguist's use of "an historical" in an e-mail statement in my column this week. I checked with Fowler's Modern English Usage, 3rd ed., 1996:

Opinion is divided over the form to use before h-words in which the first syllable is unstressed: the thoroughly modern thing to do is to use "a" (never "an") together with an aspirated h (a habitual, a heroic, a historical, a Homerica, a hypothesis), but not to demur if others use "an" with minimal or nil aspiration given to the following h (an historic, an horrific, etc.) ... At the present time, especially in written English, there is abundant evidence for the use of "an" before habitual, historian, historic(al), horrific, and horrendous, but the choice of form remains open.

- Another e-mailer inquired about the journalistic term lede. My eagle-eyed editor, Lilah Lohr, fields it.

- The NYT on cellphone shouters. (more; China tries to regulate text messaging).

- From the Wash.Post 6/12:
In a move that could have major implications in the doping scandal related to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has begun to argue that the stringent burden of proof standard known as "beyond a reasonable doubt" should no longer apply to track and field drug cases because of recent changes in anti-doping rules, according to a June 1 memorandum The Washington Post has seen. USADA Director of Legal Affairs Travis T. Tygart wrote to the agency's Anti-Doping Review Board that the lesser standard of "comfortable satisfaction of the . . . hearing body" should be adopted in the arbitration of all track and field cases initiated after March 1 of this year regardless of when the alleged violations took place.

- Seen in the NYT's second review of Bill Clinton's book:

"During the silly time when Clinton was pilloried for wanting to debate the meaning of "is," I often wondered why no one pointed out that he was educated by Jesuits, for whom the meaning of "is" is a matter not lightly resolved."

- Recently at LL: "disagree" as a noun and the thing is.

- I think WordSpy is on vacation this week, so you'll have to wait for his writeup on smoothista(LL) and cheesemail:

Cheesemail: "Whenever someone of the non-management staff does something beneficial for the organization, they are thanked/congratulated by the middle management team," writes Marion Germaine, who thinks she might have created this neologism. "This is cc'ed to all of the staff and upper management. We on the staff must reread the same congratulatory message over and over as each middle-manager demands that you take notice that they have noticed the non-management staff. And they're also letting upper management know that they have noticed . . ." G&M

- ties that bind started in a hymn, and is now a political cliche, says GetReligion.

- Did you know Thomas Jefferson wrote it's as a possessive? (LL again)

- Just watched the Simpsons play Scrabble on the Season 1 DVD:

Pull back to reveal that the rest of the family are playing the classic word game. Bart waits impatiently for Marge to make her move, and she does: She places an `H' on the board to spell `HE'. Now it's Homer's turn. He grumbles, ``How can anyone make a word out of these lousy letters!'' Homer's rack contains the letters O-X-I-D-I-Z-E. He decides to play the `D' to spell `DO'. Lisa places an `I' above the `D'...

Lisa: `Id', triple-word score!
Homer: No abbreviations.
Lisa; Not I.D., Dad, `id'. It's a word!
Bart: As in ``This game is stoop-id''.

Lisa reminds Bart that he's supposed to be building his vocabulary for
tomorrow's aptitude test. Marge suggests they check the dictionary, and
Homer is surprised that they have one. It's currently being used to
prop up the couch. Lisa looks up the word and confirms her score.
Now it's Bart's turn.

Bart: Here we go. Kwyjibo. [places his tiles] K-W-Y-J-I-B-O.
Twenty-two points, plus triple-word-score, plus fifty points
for using all my letters. Game's over. I'm outta here. [gets up]
Homer: [grabs Bart with his left hand, holding a banana in his right]
Wait a minute, you little cheater!
You're not going anywhere until you tell me what a kwyjibo is.
Bart: Kwyjibo. Uh... a big, dumb, balding North American ape. With no chin.
Marge: And a short temper.
Homer: I'll show you a big, dumb, balding ape! [leaps for Bart]
Bart: [making his escape] Uh oh. Kwyjibo on the loose!

via SNPP

Some classic episodes: Bart sells his soul, Homer vs. the 18th Amendment, and Moaning Lisa.

Last week's column and inflections

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