Wednesday, December 29, 2004

This week in my B&C blog:
December news roundup and the best feature stories of 2004. LINK/ARCHIVE
My latest Tribune language column:
A roundup of the words of the year.
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More on "chav" here, on "Google-aire" here, and on the New OAD's additions here. More from Grant Barrett on the life cycle of slang.

• Christmas leftovers: "Twas the Night Before Christmas" in jargon:

Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter "the House") a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to a mouse. A variety of foot apparel, e.g., stocking, socks, etc., had been affixed by and around the chimney in said House in the hope and/or belief that St. Nick a/k/a/ St. Nicholas a/k/a/ Santa Claus (hereinafter "Claus") would arrive at sometime thereafter. continued...

• My wife hadn't heard the word "smart" as a verb until my dad said it this weekend. Turns out the injury connotation preceded the intelligence connotation!

late O.E. smeart "sharp, severe, stinging," related to smeortan (see smart (v.)). Meaning "quick, active, clever" is attested from c.1303, probably from the notion of "cutting" wit, words, etc.; meaning "trim in attire" first attested 1718, "ascending from the kitchen to the drawing-room c.1880." [Weekley] In ref. to devices, "behaving as though guided by intelligence" (e.g. smart bomb) first attested 1972. Smarts "good sense, intelligence," is first recorded 1968. Smart aleck is from 1865, perhaps in allusion to Aleck Hoag, notorious pimp, thief, and confidence man in New York City in early 1840s. Smart cookie is from 1948; smarty-pants first attested 1941. link

and for what it's worth:

1536, "a spark," Scottish, from Gaelic spong "tinder, pith, sponge," from L. spongia (see sponge ). The sense of "courage, pluck, mettle" is first attested 1773. A similar sense evolution took place in cognate Ir. sponnc "sponge, tinder, spark, courage, spunk." Vulgar slang sense of "seminal fluid" is recorded from c.1888. Spunky "courageous, spirited" is recorded from 1786. link

• Geoff Nunberg on gingerly as an adjective (here and here).

• "SportsCenter" on Tuesday morning referred to the blue field of Boise State as the smurf turf, and referred to the new jersey of Vince Carter, who was recently traded to the New Jersey Nets.

• When I heard this Sunday morning, I thought it was some of the lamest political rhetoric I'd heard since the end of the Kerry campaign.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Daschle, 26 years in Washington--what's the most important lesson you learned?

SEN. DASCHLE: I think the most important lesson you learn is that this really is the greatest country in the world, and democracy works. Democracy has all of its flaws but it beats the noise of violence. I think there's just so much we can be proud of, especially this time of the year. We have a lot of challenges out there, Tim, but the most important lesson is that I think this legacy, this democracy, this incredible republic's going to go on for centuries to come.

(And what was Dr. Phil doing on the "Meet the Press"??)

• My review of Bill Walsh's The Elephants of Style will run in the next Verbatim. I discuss the split infinitive; turns out there's a whole Wikipedia entry on that. And I inevitably discuss The Elements of Style; here's Geoff Pullum's rant about that treatise:

Regular readers will be able to name my least favorite book in the
world: it is Strunk & White's The Elements of Style, a horrid little
compendium of unmotivated prejudices (don't use ongoing), arbitrary
stipulations (don't begin a sentence with however), and fatuous advice
("Be clear"), ridiculously out of date in its positions on appropriate
choices among grammatical variants, deeply suspect in its style advice
and grotesquely wrong in most of the grammatical advice it gives.
(Don't make me go on; if you want an hour-long lecture on the demerits
of this beastly little book, that can be arranged.)
Etymology Today from M-W: maladroit\mal-uh-DROYT\
: lacking skill, cleverness, or resourcefulness in handling situations : inept

To understand the origin of "maladroit," you need to put together some French (or at least Middle French and Old French) building blocks. The first is the word "mal," meaning "bad," and the second is the phrase "a droit," meaning "properly." You can parse the phrase even further into the components "a," meaning "to" or "at," and "droit," meaning "right, direct, straight." Middle French speakers put those pieces together as "maladroit" to describe the clumsy among them, and English speakers borrowed the word intact back in the 17th century. Its opposite, of course, is "adroit," which we adopted from the French in the same century.

Previous E.T.
Happy New Year!

"Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let
every new year find you a better [person]." Benjamin Franklin
New Yorker movie review links I want to save: Anthony Lane on Phantom of the Opera, Closer and House of Flying Daggers, Alexander, and The Incredibles; David Denby on The Aviator and Hotel Rwanda and Kinsey. A theater review: Gem of the Ocean.
Numbers I meant to post as Numbers-of-the-Day:

Percent of the nearly $500 million in retail computer sales in May 2003 that was spent on laptops, the first time laptops overtook desktop in sales, according to the market research firm The NPD Group. AP

permanent U.S. military bases in 130 countries, staffed by 253,000 soldiers and civilians. LA Times (2003)

percent of all toys in America that were made in China in 2003. NY Times

percent of Broadway audiences in 2002-03 schedule who were white, an increase for the fourth straight year. NY Times

7.9 billion
dollars allotted to states in 2003 from the tobacco ind settlement, half of which is being used to fill gaps in their budgets other than health care and anti-smoking campaigns, as intended. Wall Street Journal

26.7 million
women age 15-44 who have never given birth, a 10 percent increase since 1990. AP
Thanks to Eric Zorn for the plug. Right back atcha.

Archaeological Dig Uncovers Ancient Race Of Skeleton People x

Boyfriend Keeps Bringing Up Scrabble Victory x

Sole Remaining Lung Filled With Rich, Satisfying Flavor x

Thursday, December 23, 2004

This week in my B&C blog: Rising to the defense of Babar the Elephant. Plus: Brazil being overrun by "motoboys"; the definition of "intuitive ethics"; Western natalists and their many babies; one former fashion model's crusade against shallow ideals of beauty, and more ... LINK/ARCHIVE
My latest Tribune language column:
The Top 10 Books on Language of 2004.
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Here's an example of how trying to avoid splitting an auxiliary from its verb ("will be tainted") sounds really weird. (And what's up with "apparently" in an objective news story?)

"Barry Bonds' legendary career apparently forever will be tainted."

Other questions that come up when you read the papers:

Can renew be intransitive?

"Fighting renews in Fallujah" x

Why the sentence fragments? (Um, I mean, Why are there sentence fragments?)

Danger and drama as Prime Minister sweeps into Iraq x

• Among the church signs spotted at

"Forbidden fruits create many jams"

• In- is Latin; un- is Old English--I think, after looking it up in AHD.

• Just about done with your last-minute Christmas cattle raid? From AHD's WHM:

A spending spree seems a far cry from a cattle raid, yet etymologists have suggested that the word spree comes from the Scots word spreath, "cattle raid." The word spree is first recorded in a poem in Scots dialect in 1804 in the sense of "a lively outing." This sense is closely connected with a sense recorded soon afterward (in 1811), "a drinking bout," while the familiar sense "an overindulgence in an activity," as in a spending spree, is recorded in 1849. Scots and Irish dialects also have a sense "a fight," which may help connect the word and the sense "lively outing" with the Scots word spreath, meaning variously, "booty," "cattle taken as spoils," "a herd of cattle taken in a raid," and "cattle raid." The Scots word comes from Irish and Scottish Gaelic spréidh, "cattle," which in turn ultimately comes from Latin praeda, "booty." This last link reveals both the importance of the Latin language to Gaelic and a connection between cattle and plunder in earlier Irish and Scottish societies.

• Geoff Pullum puts this sentence under a magnifying glass at LL:

"We are world champions at lawmaking," Christine Ockrent, who has anchored the evening news on two channels, run the weekly L'Express, and, as she says, "seen everything," told me a few days after the law was signed.

Sez he:

That's a preposed direct quote ("We are world champions at lawmaking") followed by the rest of a clause headed by the verb tell (Christine Ockrent told me ___). The clause has an additional adjunct at the end a~few days after the law was signed): a preposition phrase headed by after, containing a pre-head measure adjunct noun phrase (a~few days) ...

• I kid you not: a video and study kit called "Sex as God's Gift" in a Christian catalog offers "Reproducible student worksheets."

• I saw an ad for a product and an "accessory." I thought that was what Bill Walsh in Elephants of Style calls a "false singular"--he cites "school supply." But the dictionaries have this as a true singular, in part because of the word's definition as accomplice to a crime.

• Invented adverbs in my inbox recently:

"I'll peruse them more in depthly when I get back."

"Thanks muchly."

One of these writers apologized to me for the unorthodox construction. No need--I'm a descriptivist! If you're communicating the meaning you intend, who cares if it conforms to your stuffy English teacher's liking?

• "Justice oughta be fair." George W. Bush at recent economic summit.

I don't disagree.

• From Erin McKean's MWWW:

Sabaism [SAY-bay-iz-um]
the worship and adoration of the stars. From a Hebrew word meaning 'host'.

• From Richard Wilbur's "Some Words Inside of Words" earlier this year in the Atlantic:

At heart, ambassadors are always sad.
Why? Because world affairs are always bad,
So that they're always having to express
"Regret," and "grave concern," and "deep distress."

The barnacle is found in salty seas,
Clinging to rocks in crusty colonies;
And salt, which chemists call NaCl,
Is found inside the barnacle as well. ...

If a carp is in your carport, go find out
Whether the living room is full of trout
And eels and salamanders, and if there's
A snapping turtle paddling up the stairs.
If that's what's going on, your house (beyond
A doubt) is at the bottom of a pond.

Some snakes are nice to handle, but an asp
Is not the kind to take within your grasp.
That is what Cleopatra did, I fear,
And, as you know, she is no longer here.

Previous column and inflections
Etymology Today from M-W: precatory\PREK-uh-tor-ee\
: expressing a wish

Example sentence:

We here convey our wishes
In this precatory phrase:
May peace and joy be with you
In all the coming days!

[So do I! - NB]

Nowadays, you're most likely to see "precatory" used in legal contexts to distinguish statements that merely express a wish from those that create a legal obligation. For example, if you add a provision to your will asking someone to take care of your pet if you die, that provision is merely precatory. Outside of jurisprudence, you might see references to such things as "precatory dress codes" or "precatory stockholder proposals" — all of which are non-binding. "Precatory" traces to Latin "precari" ("to pray"), and it has always referred to something in the nature of an entreaty or supplication. For example, a precatory hymn is one that beseeches "from sin and sorrow set us free" — versus a laudatory hymn (that is, one giving praise).
Previous E.T.

The Sage Gateshead, a £70m performing arts centre on the banks of the Tyne, opened [recently]. Its three music venues are shrouded by a vast and billowing steel-and-glass roof that resembles either a bank of low-lying cumulus clouds hugging the river, or the gun-blisters of a second world war RAF bomber. Guardian

NY Times

Snapshots show a weighted Ping-Pong ball sinking into dry quicksand. The 4.7-ounce ball disappears in about one-tenth of a second and then expels a narrow jet of sand. ... Traditional deathtrap quicksand is a slurry of sand, water and clay. ... Now Dr. Lohse, a professor of applied physics, and his colleagues at the University of Twente in the Netherlands show that it is possible to vanish into a pile of completely dry sand as well. NY Times


Psychiatrists Treating Phantom Of The Opera Viewers For Post-Melodramatic Stress Disorder x

Area Daughter Belittled Out Of Concern x

44 Suspicious Packages Detonated Under White House Christmas Tree

Op-ed: Where Are Today's Mattress-Sales Visionaries? x

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

This week in my B&C blog:
Part five in a series on the brain and consciousness: deja vu, neurotheology, the neuroscience of architecture, the problem with lie detectors, and more ... LINK/ARCHIVE

More on consciousness. The Economist on supercharging the brain; Sci.American on music and the brain.
My first Sightings language column:
On the problem with the word "solutions" in contemporary Christianity.

Here's M-W on indissoluble:

indissoluble \in-dih-SAHL-yuh-bul\ adjective

: not dissoluble; especially : incapable of being annulled, undone, or broken : permanent

Example sentence:
The contract should have been indissoluble, but the lawyers discovered an obscure clause that made it not so.

Did you know?
"Indissoluble" is a legacy of Latin. The Latin adjective "dissolubilis" gave us "dissoluble" (both meaning "capable of being dissolved"), which first appeared in print in 1534, followed rapidly by the addition of "in-" to make its antonym in 1542. "Dissolubilis" derives from "dissolvere" ("to loosen" or "to dissolve"), which in turn comes from "dis-" ("apart") and "solvere" ("to loosen"). Not surprisingly, "dissolvere" is also the source of "dissolve" and "dissolvable," among other words. Is there an "indissolvable"? Yes and no. It exists, but it is archaic and exceedingly rare. The word most likely to be used for things that cannot be dissolved in a liquid is "insoluble." "Indissoluble" generally refers to abstract entities, such as promises or treaties, that cannot be dissolved.
My latest Tribune language column:
On the coming obsolescence of the word "merry" and the greeting "Merry Christmas."
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I was going to start the story with this clip from Seinfeld (spotted 10/28 at 6:30 CT):

J: Who would go anywhere with Newman?
G: Well, he's merry.
J: He is merry.

Here's a story about a bizarre campaign to save "Merry Christmas."

I wanted going to note that the word has had a lot of spellings, especially between Chaucer and Shakespeare: “myrie,” “murie,” “mery,” and “merrie.” But that's true of most English words that old. Here's an excerpt from the OED.

• "Hanukkah (also spelled Hanukka, Chanukah, Chanukkah), is from Hebrew and means 'consecration, dedication.'" more

• From AHD's Word Histories and Mysteries:

When asked which words in the English language are the most difficult to define precisely, a lexicographer would surely mention funky. Linguist Geneva Smitherman has tried to capture the meaning of this word in Talkin and Testifyin: The Language of Black America, where she explains that funky means "[related to] the blue notes or blue mood created in jazz, blues, and soul music generally, down-to-earth soulfully expressed sounds; by extension [related to] the real nitty-gritty or fundamental essence of life, soul to the max." The first recorded use of funky is in 1784 in a reference to musty, old, moldy cheese. Funky then developed the sense "smelling strong or bad" and could be used to describe body odor. The application of funky to jazz was explained in 1959 by one F. Newton in Jazz Scene: "Critics are on the search for something a little more like the old, original, passion-laden blues: the trade-name which has been suggested for it is 'funky' (literally: 'smelly,' i.e. symbolizing the return from the upper atmosphere to the physical, down-to earth reality)."


Previous column and inflections
Etymology Today from M-W: verbose\ver-BOHSS\
1 : containing more words than necessary : wordy; also : impaired by wordiness
2 : given to wordiness

There's no shortage of words to describe wordiness in English. "Diffuse," "long-winded," "prolix," "redundant," "windy," "repetitive," "loose," "rambling," "digressive," and "circumlocutory" are some that come to mind. Want to express the opposite idea? Try "succinct," "concise," "brief," "short," "summary," "terse," "precise," "compact," "lean," "tight," or "compendious." "Verbose," which falls solidly into the first camp of words, comes from Latin "verbosus," from "verbum," meaning "word." Other descendants of "verbum" include "verb," "adverb," "proverb," "verbal," "verbatim," and "verbicide" (that's the deliberate distortion of the sense of a word).

Previous E.T.
How Andy Rooney would sign on as CBS anchor (according to him):

"Good evening. I'm Andy Rooney -- and don't you forget it. Tonight, news about the end of the world, but first, several commercials for some of the disgusting things that are probably wrong with you. You may want the children to leave the room."

Family Secret Turns Out To Be Boring x

Lawyers Separate Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen In 17-Hour Procedure x

Sports-Related Murder Provides Perfect Local-News Segue x
PHOENIX-The arrest of former Arizona State running back Darius Cantrell in connection with a homicide provided the perfect segue from local news to the sports report on KPHO CBS 5's News At Ten Monday. "Cantrell, who is charged with stabbing his ex-girlfriend 38 times, is being held without bail," anchor Diana Sullivan said. "Speaking of sports, can the Cardinals' coach bail the team out of a third-place finish in the NFC West? Our own Gary Cruz will have the verdict after the break."

Risk Champ Flunks Geography Test x
ALBANY, NY-Alfred Wu, the 13-year-old winner of the 2004 East Coast Risk Championship, flunked his 8th-grade world-geography test, social-studies teacher Jane Laurent reported Monday. "His test paper was filled with names like Kamchatka and Yakutsk, and the Ukraine spread over half of Europe," Laurent said. "And, by his account, the U.S. is made up of only three states: Eastern United States, Western United States, and Alaska." Last week, Wu received an "F" on a paper he wrote about Napoleonic military Stratego.

Op-ed: Desperate Times Call For Desperate Housewives x

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

This week in my B&C blog:
Part two on panhandling. Plus: Why Christians don't care about the Fourth Commandment; the moral messages of public school textbooks; when plagiarism isn't so bad; and more ... LINK/ARCHIVE

Here's the picture for my Places item this week on Mormons in Hawaii.
My latest Tribune language columns:
• On the state of sentence diagramming.
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• On the real origins of Chicago's nickname "the Windy City."
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I've posted additional links and information on the history of "Windy City" here.

I wanted to do a whole piece on "Word Myths" and so-called folk etymologies (or "mythetymologies," as they are called in the second item below), but "Windy City" called for special attention. Here are two relevant clips; the first from an etymology site, the second from Language Log:

- die is cast
This has nothing to do with gambling or dice; instead, it refers to a mold (die) which has been cast (made). Once the mold is made, everything which comes from it, will have the shape of the mold. 'The die is cast' thus states that a pattern has been laid down, and thus subsequent events will conform to the pattern.

- One of the great lessons for me as a participant in ADS-L over the years has been the discovery of just how little even the experts know about the history of idiomatic and formulaic expressions, and how tremendously difficult these investigations are. We can speculate, and produce suggestive citations, but just an enormous amount of history is hazy, and some of it is probably unknowable. Even worse, things that "lots of people know" are just false; go back and look at the die is cast above. Mythetymologies abound. link

• I'd heard the song several times before (67 times alone on NBC's coverage of the Olympics), but it didn't hit me until I was watching Josh Groban's LA concert on PBS Sunday: He sings, "You raise me up to more than I can be." Isn't that impossible? (I know that "more than I had previously been" is not as lyrical, but still ... )

• "She said she would go [fly to St. Louis] later in the day," my wife reported. "What day?" I asked. She meant, "she said later in the day that she would go next week."

• From my church newsletter: "The room opened up the day I was talking to the social worker about moving her because of her verbally abusive roommate. So we were able to advocate for her priority." I've been hearing this a lot lately. The verb "advocate" is transitive (M-W: "to plead in favor of"), but the problem is that the noun can be used this way: "I was an advocate for her priority." (For that matter, I'm not sure about "for her priority" as opposed to "to make her a priority."
But I am glad the room switch worked out!)

LL on thesaurusizing quote attributions. "We caught them on the wrong day," Reese understated. (Reminds me of the classic line: "Shut up," he explained.

From AHD:

Among the many discoveries of Captain James Cook was a linguistic one, the term taboo. In a journal entry from 1777, Cook says this word "has a very comprehensive meaning; but, in general, signifies that a thing is forbidden . . . When any thing is forbidden to be eat [sic], or made use of, they say, that it is taboo." Cook was in the Friendly Islands (now Tonga) at the time, so even though similar words occur in other Polynesian languages, the form taboo from Tongan tabu is the one we have borrowed. The Tongans used tabu as an adjective. Cook, besides borrowing the word into English, also made it into a noun referring to the prohibition itself and a verb meaning "to make someone or something taboo." From its origins in Polynesia the word taboo has traveled as widely as Cook himself and is now used throughout the English-speaking world.

The word frank, "straightforward, open," which originally meant "free, not a serf," goes back to the Late Latin word of Germanic origin, Francus, "Frank." The Franks were a West Germanic people that conquered Gaul in the fifth and sixth centuries A.D., and their name is still used today to designate the new lands they occupied, France. As the dominant group in the newly conquered territory, only the Franks possessed full freedom; eventually, their tribal name described their fortunate social and political status. The idea of political freedom originally conveyed by the English word frank was later extended to include freedom of expression as well. And while most of us pay postage on every letter we send, members of Congress and other high-ranking government officials have franking privileges - that is, their postage is free. The word franchise is related to frank; it comes from the same Latin word through Old French franc. Originally, franchise meant "the social status of a freeman" or "the sovereignty of a political entity (such as a city or the Church)," along with all the rights and privileges that went with this status. The various nature of these rights explains the multiple senses in which the word franchise is commonly used today. The current political sense of the word, "the right to vote in public elections," emerged in the eighteenth century. Another specialized use of the term, "the right to engage in certain commercial activities," is frequent today, as many fast food restaurants and retail stores operate on a franchise granted by the parent corporation.

• P.J. O'Rourke's boilerplate post-election editorial in the Atlantic. It's hilarious, but deceptive in appearing easy to write. You have to think through what the cliches would be and then strike the right words (I'm assuming).

The people have spoken, choosing to [blank] the course of American [blank]. We see from the [blank] size of the electoral margin that the people have spoken [blank]ively. It is up to you, [blank] [blank], to navigate these [blank] but [blank] waters with [blank]fullness. Remember, the voters, though often [blank]istic and sometimes [blank]ious, are ever un-[blank] in their [blank]ism.
A President's [blank] term in office is the measure of his mettle. Only then does a chief executive have the [blank] to [blank] without undue partisan [blank]. Therefore this is the time to re-[blank] our commitment in Iraq, re-[blank] our international alliances, and re-[blank] the threat of [blank], [blank], [blank], [blank], [blank], and [blank]. ...

[To the victor]It will be your job to balance [blank] and [blank], giving full weight to [blank], while never losing sight of [blank]. There is no other way to provide America with the [blank] it so [blank]ly requires.
Although we [blank]ed your candidacy, we believe that, even as your [blank]s, we have the duty to [blank] you when necessary. This is the American [blank]. Likewise it is the American [blank] to seek a leader who will [blank] when the storm of [blank] requires a [blank] hand on the [blank]. As you so [blank]ly said in your victory speech, "America is [blank]." We could not agree more.

Previous column and inflections
Etymology Today from M-W: uncouth\un-KOOTH\
1 : strange or clumsy in shape or appearance : outlandish
2 : lacking in polish and grace : rugged
3 : awkward and uncultivated in appearance, manner, or behavior : rude

"Uncouth" comes from the Old English "unc?th," which joins the prefix "un-" with "c?th," meaning "familiar, known." How did a word that meant "unfamiliar" come to mean "outlandish," "rugged," or "rude"? Some examples from literature illustrate that the transition happened quite naturally. In Captain Singleton, Daniel Defoe refers to "a strange noise more uncouth than any they had ever heard." In William Shakespeare's As You Like It, Orlando tells Adam, "If this uncouth forest yield anything savage, I will either be food for it or bring it for food to thee." In Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod Crane fears "to look over his shoulder, lest he should behold some uncouth being tramping close behind him!" So, that which is unfamiliar is often perceived as strange, wild, or unpleasant. Meanings such as "outlandish," "rugged," or "rude" naturally follow.

Previous E.T.


World's Scientists Admit They Just Don't Like Mice x

Wal-Mart Announces Massive Rollback On Employee Wages x

Op-ed: What This Town Needs Is A Child In A Well x

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

This week in my B&C blog:
November news and book review roundup. LINK/ARCHIVE

My latest B&C Corner:
A report from the National Communication Association convention here in Chicago.
Christmas treeMy latest Tribune language column has been postponed to accommodate an illustration; it's actually a longer feature on the controversial history of the name "Windy City." It should run either Friday or next Tuesday; stay tuned.

[The blog was looking a little blah, so I put up this pic as a way to say Happy December! more pics/animation]

Meanwhile, here's a brief I submitted, that didn't run, on haymaker:

Several reports of last week's Pacers-Pistons brawl made the participating pugilists sound like farmers, describing the punches exchanged by players and fans as "haymakers." Over half the results for "haymaker" on a Lexis-Nexis search of the past week refer either to the melee in Detroit or the South Carolina-Clemson football brawl the next day.

What's hay got to do with it? The Online Etymology Dictionary says "haymaker" was probably coined for the punch's "imitation of the wide swinging stroke of a scythe" (which was used to cut hay). According to the Dictionary of American Slang, published in 1967, it originated in boxing. The earliest available citation comes from the National Police Gazette in 1906, posted at "One of those ... fellows is going to get the 'haymaker' over on your jaw."

While you don't want to find yourself on the business end of a farm implement, you have less to fear from the analogous punch. Gilbert Odd's 1983 "Encyclopedia of Boxing" defines "haymaker" as "a swinging punch, ususally a right (left for a southpaw), which is inaccurately directed: a wild delivery that comes a long way and is usually used in desperation. It should be easy to avoid."

[Sources note that the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang has
"haymaker" in the sense of "a hard swinging blow" dated back to 1902.]

From the OED:

1. A man or woman employed in making hay; esp. one engaged in
lifting, tossing, and spreading the hay after it is mown.

14.. Voc. in Wr.-Wülcker 582/36 Fenissa, a heymakere. 1528 MS. Acc.
St. John's Hosp., Canterb., For mete & drynk for the hay makers. 1590
GREENE Never too late (1600) 103 A womans smile is as good to a Louer,
as a sunshine day to a haymaker. 1770 WESLEY Jrnl. 28 July, A shower
brought all the haymakers home. 1853 LYTTON My Novel I. iii, For the
refreshment of the thirsty haymakers.

• Tis the season: DTTW on door buster

n. a discounted item of limited quantity intended to bring customers into a store; a sale of such items; a loss-leader. Also attrib. Categories:
Advertising. Business. English.

Also see ESPN The Magazine on the roots of "boxing ring."

LL on venti and other verbal concoctions of Starbucks:

[T]he Starbucksian marketeer who came up with the name was probably thinking of the Italian for "twenty". Or "winds", take your pick. Of course, the Italians would use the metric system, and 20 fluid ounces in metric is approximately 591.476 cc, but I don't think that cinque nove uno virgola quattro sette sei is going to make it as a product name. I guess you could round up and call it seicento.

• Ever notice how better can be ambiguous? I asked my wife how she was feeling, and she said, "I'm better." "All better?" I asked? No, but better, she had to explain. It made me realize better is idiomatic here; it really should be "best." After all, you wouldn't say "all stronger."

Update: It gets even crazier. An ad says, "With Nexium, you don't just feel better, you are better. And better is better."

• My sister gave me this notepad for my birthday a couple months ago, just took a picture of it with my new phonecam:

• I also asked my sister, a college student in Ontario, about this excerpt of native Canadian by Geoff Pullum:

"Cripes! Grade thirteen! Here's a loonie -- buy yourself a Coffee Crisp, eh?"

The approved translation is as follows.

"Man, the SAT's! Here's eighty-four cents — buy yourself a Snickers, OK?"

Lisa says: "That was entertaining. I would like to point out that I have never ever
heard the expression "Cripes" in Ontario (or anywhere else). Also, grade
thirteen and OAC's are not equivalent to SAT's. SAT's are tests, OAC's are
classes. They are more like AP courses."

• This adjective and noun phrase in the opening of this Slate's review isn't sitting right with me: "National Treasure, another Nic Cage-starring movie from blow-'em-up producer Jerry Bruckheimer..."

That may make sense--I'm not sure--but I think it's too awkward to be worth it. But I like "blow-'em-up producer." It's as good as the first phrase is bad.

• More from DTWW:

yard sale
n. in skiing or other snow-based sports, a fall or spill; a wipeout. [Perhaps from the appearance of "sporting goods spread out all over the
yard."] Categories: English. Slang. Sports. x

n. mainstream or guiding culture. [German leit 'leading (adj.); leader' +
kultur 'culture'] Categories: Germany. German. x

• I was moved to look up the etymologies of berserk (or beserk, as I thought it was spelled) and hubbub (or hubub, as I thought it was spelled)

Etymology: Old Norse berserkr, from bjorn bear + serkr shirt
1 : an ancient Scandinavian warrior frenzied in battle and held to be invulnerable
2 : one whose actions are recklessly defiant

Etymology: perhaps of Irish origin; akin to Scottish Gaelic ub ub, interj. of contempt

• Etymologies can be deceiving. For example, when I read that feign came from the Latin "fingere," the verb for "shape" (since "feign" means to "fashion an impression or shape an image," as M-W says; figure, effigy, fiction, and figment are cognates), I assumed that this is where finger comes from, too, since we use fingers to give things shape. But it's just a coincidence. From OnEtDc:

O.E. fingor, from P.Gmc. *fingraz (cf. O.S. fingar, O.N. fingr, Du. vinger, Ger. Finger, Goth. figgrs), with no cognates outside Gmc.; perhaps connected with PIE *pengke, the root meaning "five."

From M-W:
feign \FAYN\ verb
1 : to give a false appearance of : induce as a false impression
2 : to assert as if true : pretend

"Feign" is all about faking it, but that hasn't always been so. In one of its earliest senses, "feign" meant "to fashion, form, or shape." That meaning is true to the term's Latin ancestor: the verb "fingere," which also means "to shape." The current senses of "feign" still retain the essence of the Latin source, since to feign something, such as surprise or an illness, requires one to fashion an impression or shape an image. Several other English words that trace to the same ancestor refer to things that are shaped with either the hands, as in "figure" and "effigy," or the imagination, as in "fiction" and "figment."

• I also wondered if ever was a cognate of aver and very. Nope. At least not at the level of Latin; maybe P.I.E. OnEtDc again:

O.E. æfre, no cognates in any other Gmc. language; perhaps a contraction of a in feore, lit. "ever in life" (the expression a to fore is common in O.E. writings).

c.1380, from O.Fr. averer "verify," from V.L. *adverare "make true, prove to be true," from L. ad- "to" + verus "true"

c.1275, verray "true, real, genuine," later "actual, sheer" (c.1390), from Anglo-Fr. verrai, O.Fr. verai "true," from V.L. *veracus, from L. verax (gen. veracis) "truthful," from verus "true," from PIE *weros- (cf. O.E. wær "a compact," Ger. wahr "true"). Meaning "greatly, extremely" is first recorded 1448. Used as a pure intensive since M.E.

• From Michael Wittmer's new book on heaven and worldview (hey, that was my idea!)

Metaphysics ... entered our vocabulary by a fluke of history. The great philosopher Aristotle once gave a series of lectures on the nature of reality. Since these lectures on reality appeared on the shelf after his lectures on physics, one of his students began calling this branch of philosophy "metaphysics," meta being the Greek word for "after." Thus the term "metaphysics" simply means the study of reality.

Previous column and inflections
Etymology Today from M-W: arduous\AHR-juh-wus\
1 a : hard to accomplish or achieve : difficult *b: marked by great labor or effort : strenuous
2 : hard to climb : steep

"To forgive is the most arduous pitch human nature can arrive at." When Richard Steele published that line in The Guardian in 1709, he was using "arduous" in what was apparently a fairly new way for English writers in his day: to imply that something was steep or lofty as well as difficult. Steele's use is one of the earliest documented in English for that meaning, but he didn't commit it to paper until almost 200 years after the first uses of the word in its "hard to accomplish" sense. Although the "difficult" sense is older, the "steep" sense is very true to the word's origins; "arduous" derives from the Latin "arduus," which means "high" or "steep."

Previous E.T.
And I thought life's big questions were supposed to be hard; all you have to do is click here for "33 Amazing Laws of Success and Prosperity" ...

... or bone up on your Encyclopedia Britannica, like this guy did.
What Is This World Coming To deparment:

Paralypian accused of cheating

New Social Security Plan Allows Workers To Put Portion Of Earnings On Favorite Team x

Office-Newsletter Editor Refuses To Back Down x

Childhood Friend Stops Writing After Two E-mails x