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  Issue 145, page 4

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From Rich Bowen:

I grew up in Kenya, where there is a large Indian community, and a lot of hot food, which we call 'pilli pilli' or 'piri piri', depending on ethnic origin. I had long wondered the origin of this term, and I can see that it is a mutation of pippali. Thanks for this insight.

We would hesitate to say that the Kenyan terms are corrupted forms of pippali without some further evidence, but it is an interesting thought.

From Richard Pardoe:

I read with interest your explanation for gee for "go" (in answer to the question about haw and gee on Page 2.) While reading this, I wondered if gee (for "go") was also the source for giddy-up, another expression telling a horse to go.

Giddy up is simply a corruption of get up.

From David de Jongh:

A propos Words to the Wise in issue 144, you may recall W.S. Gilbert's (Very Model of a Modern) Major General's difficulty in finding a rhyme for "strategy", but finally assuring us that "you'll say a better Major General has never sat a gee".

Of course!  

From Andy Lutsch:

Love your site (still).. had some two cents to add (and in Euros, that would be????).

Page two - haw and gee - don't forget Gilbert and Sullivan's Major General (Pirates): "They'll say a better Major General has never sat-a-GEE... (i.e. 'sat on a horse')"

Page three - etc. - actually had a student ask why it isn't spelled "E-C-T" since it's short for eccetera, after all!

Page four - supposedly - a few years ago, I started to hear "supposably" so often I looked it up to be certain *I* wasn't in error all these years!

Keep up the great work.. I continue to spread your "gospel" around the teacher's lounge.

From Lee Murrah:

The rant about "and etcetera" reminds me of "ATM machine". People don't realize they are saying "automatic teller machine machine".

And don't forget PIN number, which translates to "personal identification number number"!  Another reader mentions one more example...

From Debby Briggs:

What really drives me crazy is the prolific use of "HIV virus," "PIN number," and "ATM machine" not only in speech, but in print! I don't understand editors who don't automatically spell out acronyms in their heads as they review text.

From Ken Williams:

In reference to your Curmudgeon's Corner about "and etc.", I was reminded of the waitress who asked me if I wanted my roast beef sandwich "with au jus"


From Joseph Byrd:

I sympathize with my fellow curmudgeons regarding misunderstood clichés, but often I find that the mishearing of the intended words adds charm to a boring phrase. Your own citation, "It's a doggy-dog world," is such an example. It sets the mind a-tingle, and evokes imagery quite the opposite of the source, filled with shaggy, slobbery, smelly love. 

Here is something I received in a note from one of my students, enthusing about the course just completed: 

"You are one and a million!" 

And so I am. But who would have guessed it before?  I say, Yes! Send innocent youth into the hoary caves of phraseology, and mine those clichés while we may. 

Haha!  Yet another one for our collection.  Thanks, Joseph.

From Brad Daniels:

Some "incorrect" phrases in common usage actually arise from correctly repeating a phrase learned from someone else who had it wrong (who in turn may have gotten the same incorrect usage from someone else.) The phrase "all intensive purposes" is widely used in the African American community (at least in the region where my wife grew up). She learned the phrase from others, and it wasn't until she was an adult that she encountered the original "all intents and purposes" phrase. The latter phrase made much more sense, but up until then, she simply (and quite reasonably) assumed that "all intensive purposes" was one of the many English clichés that just doesn't make much sense when analyzed.

 Similarly, the word "perpetrated" is often used in place of "perpetuated" by many in the African American community. Apparently, some time in the last 50 years or so, an influential speaker misread one as the other, and the phrase "perpetrate a myth" has since become a standard part of political discourse in the African American community. Systematic misuse has a way of becoming standard usage over time. I wonder when this alternate usage of "perpetrate" will become codified as legitimate. 

I think you need to start an "anti-curmudgeon's corner"...

We actually do hear from the anti-curmudgeon contingent quite regularly.  We agree with you that you give examples of how language evolves.  However, where's the fun in that?  Curmudgeons must have something to complain about!

From Angus McPherr:

Oh, my, did you hit a nerve with "exetra". That one drives me up the wall! Expecially when I hear a realator say it. It bothers me so much that sometimes on my way to work at the nucular power plant, I get disorientated (and sometimes disorienated) and I get lost. Could be the radiation, I guess.  Hope you're in agreeance with me on these irritants.

We agree that all of those are incorrect except disorientated, which is correct in British English.

From Peter Greene:

What rubs me is seeing ect. instead of etc. as the abbreviation. And pronounced as "ex cedra."

From Robert M. Pazol:

I did, indeed find the derivation of the word golf. The following was published some time ago, and I thought I'd share it with you for your own evaluation.

In Scotland, a new game was invented. It was entitled Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden.... and thus the word GOLF entered into the English language.

I you'd find this interesting of not, at least, mildly entertaining.

Entertaining, certainly!  As our regular readers (including you, apparently!) know, rare are the words that derive from acronyms, especially before the 20th century.  Read our previous discussion of golf.


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Last Updated 01/19/02 04:46 PM