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  Issue 157, page 4

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From Steve Parkes:

"The French simply do not play cricket" (TOWFI #156) Indeed, they do not!

P.S. I know brevity is the soul of wit, but I suppose I'll have to spoil everything by pointing out for readers not familiar with the British metaphor that we say "it's not cricket" of something that's not sporting, or that is decidedly "not on". And the French and the English have been happily insulting one another since 1066: it's one of our great international traditions. And they do play rugby, so they can't be *that* bad!


From Donna Richardson:

I'm sure I have read (but where? WHERE?) that boxty (the word) is derived from the box grater used to grate the potatoes (from which the boxty itself is derived). A box grater is that familiar metal contraption with four different sized holes on its four sides. I make no claim for the accuracy of this etymology, only that I read it some years ago (I believe in an article which included recipes for boxty and other potato dishes).  Thanks again for your always informative and entertaining 'zine. 

Sounds like somebody (whoever wrote what you read) was guessing at boxty's etymology!  Guessing a word's etymology, as our regular readers know, is fun but that's about it, unless you're making an educated guess!

From Lewis Garnett:

My SoCal friends say their articalization of road numbers is simple convenience, like contractions or acronyms. Just too many roads to do otherwise.  I guess if I was living on a fault line time bomb, I'd speak quickly, too.

Hmmm.  Well, in Texas we say "Take 635 to Marsh Lane".  That's even shorter than "Take the 635 to Marsh Lane", which one simply doesn't hear in Texas (except possibly from SoCal transplants).  Though there's no obvious explanation for the SoCal (and elsewhere) convention, we like the suggestion that it's a holdover from the days when all the freeways there had non-number names (the Ventura Highway, etc.).

From Joshua:

"The 5" is also used in western Washington State, and I always figured that "the" was used to pay homage to the fact that Interstate 5 is the jugular of the west coast. This is because I have never heard anyone say "the 90" referring to the other important Interstate in the area. People also say "I-5", but "the 5" sounds a bit more like slang, allowing those who use it to forget that they are office workers or hot-tub salesmen and instead imagine that they are members of a wily street gang. Thank you for your educational site. 

Could there be a large enclave of former SoCal folks in Washington?

From Roger Whitehead:

 Another stimulating issue, thanks. I admire the way you two keep up the quality.  A couple of thoughts stirred by this issue: 

> reckless and wreck

You are possibly oversimplifying matters with your "Normans = Norsemen" equation. It seems more likely to be "Normans = North men (cognate with Norsemen)". You might regard that as a quibble but I think the difference is significant.

We didn't intend to suggest that the word Norman derived directly from Norsemen; only that the Normans were Norsemen.

> Old English

You rightly describe Middle English as a creole. It might be useful to your readers to point out where a creole differs from a pidgin.  Pidgins arise where two groups of people without a common language have to communicate with each other. They are a simplification and reduction of one or both. Sometimes a pidgin takes its words from one language and its structure from the other. Old English became pidginized as a result of the Viking invasions and the Norman conquest.  If a pidgin becomes the mother tongue of a group of people it then becomes a creole, as in Middle English. Afrikaans is another creole. 

Very good, thanks, Roger!

From Jim Schuler:

As much as I dislike the use of tasked and conferenced (in) (as Guestmudgeon J. Jacobik laments [Issue 156]) , my most despised noun turned verb is impact. How will this impact that? Will so-and-so be impacted? Enough already! The only two things that can be impacted are teeth and bowels. So unless you're a dentist or gastroenterologist, please stop using impact as a verb. Sheesh!

BTW, where I work, we have two other irritating words which are used as if they imparted the wisdom of the universe upon the listener. One is cross-walk, which is somewhat akin to our previous transitioning to a new methodology. Yuck! The other is push-back, which simply means "feedback". Except push-back sounds much more aggressive and thus it's been blessed by the high and mighty of the organization. 

The adminisphere (as Scott Adams of Dilbert fame calls it) is prolific when it comes to badly inventing new words!

From Jack Worlton:

While the KJV [King James Version of the Bible] was not written in Old English, its vocabulary is primarily of Old English derivation. The question is: what fraction of the words in the KJV are from Old English? Somewhere in my notes is a figure and source that says this number is in excess of 90 percent. Perhaps your readers can provide the source and the precise percentage.

We haven't seen those statistics ourselves.  We can tell you that about 50% of all modern English words derive from Germanic roots.  Readers?

From Risha Jorgensen:

I ran across a particular website that I thought you might find interesting. The Jargon File ( claims to be "a comprehensive compendium of hacker slang", and, in addition to a large lexicon, features essays on the history and construction of the slang.  Thanks for an always intriguing website.

Thanks, Risha!


Or read last week's issue to see what all of these people are talking about!

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Last Updated 06/22/02 09:35 PM