Issue 184, page 4

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From Wayne Resnick:

The "pin drop" was Sprint, and not MCI. 

Thanks, Wayne.  We wonder exactly how effective that ad campaign was if we couldn't remember the campaigner correctly!  Of course, that could simply be a reflection upon our bad memories, too.

Jacuzzi is a registered trademark and should always be spelled with an upper case J. While it may have first crept into the language in a general sense in 1966, you can bet that their intellectual property attorney also started his uphill battle to preserve our language (read: prevent dilution of trademark) that same year.

For pragmatic reasons, use of this term in a generic sense can be confusing. A spa salesman must be able to figure out if I really want to buy a Jacuzzi, and it doesn't seem very eloquent to call it a Jacuzzi jacuzzi.

P.S. My spell checker didn't want me to send this without correcting my last use of Jacuzzi.

All of our American dictionaries suggestion that the initial letter be capitalized, but the OED says that jacuzzi is also acceptable.  So much for international intellectual property!

From Morgiana P. Halley, Ph.D.:

As a child, I was given a mnemonic for this word [separate]. It was that there was "a rat" in the middle of the word. It has certainly worked for me and should for others.

That's a good one, though that probably won't help for those who misspell it as "seperate".

From Steve Parkes:

I was interested to read your piece on arse/ass today. Naturally, I looked the word up many years ago in my misspent youth, along with all the other naughty words I could think of (there a quite a few, aren't there?). One that puzzled me for a long time was the cockney arriss (I spell it phonetically here). Coming from a place where they still speak with the accent of Chaucer and Shakespeare, it's not always obvious what Londoners and other southerners are saying. My little brother Mycroft, a.k.a. Neil, finally came up with the explanation: it's a kind of two-tiered rhyming slang.

Arriss = Aristotle, which rhymes with bottle = bottle and glass, which rhymes with arse, if you speak with the right accent.

But I always have trouble keeping a straight face in Hamlet when Polonius gets stabbed in the arras: ouch!

By the way, thanks to Richard Hershberger for his clarification [last issue]. I'm not well up on non-British heraldry. In fact, I'm no expert in any field, but I've learned the value of speaking and writing as though I know what I'm talking about!

Mike always loved hearing aristotle [or abbreviations thereof] for arse when he lived in London and, like you, winced at the fate of Polonius.  Thanks, Steve!

From Henry Peacock:

It would perhaps be more correct to say that English English speakers are usually non-rhotic.  Most Scots accents are indeed rhotic.

Good point!  Some English English speakers are also rhotic!

From Birger Drake:

A comment to what you say in Issue 183, p.1. You write that "Natural languages develop with scant regard to logic and consistency .... ". I agree, but I feel the example is not relevant.

If wet originally meant "year", isn't it logical and consistent to extend the meaning in two directions:

1) ONE year (veal), and
2) yearS (veteran) ?

That might make sense if veal were a year old, but isn't. It's often eaten before it's even a month old.  Perhaps if we thought of veal as "one year or less" that would work.

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From Eric Zajac:

[Regarding your discussion of the Spanish paraguas versus parasol in last week's Curmudgeons' Corner, f]or a little elucidation, all these are compound words, made from a verb, in this case, parar (in the 3rd person singular para = it stops or wards off) and a plural noun (plural in most cases). 

Paraguas (stops or wards off [the] water[s]/rain), and similarly, paracaídas (parachute = stops [the] fall[s]), parabrisas (windshield/screen = wards off [the] breeze[s]/wind) and parachoques (bumper = wards off [the] shock[s]/hit[s]) are all related to the construction that befalls parasol (Sp. parasol = wards off [the] sun [no plural, obviously]). Likewise, guarda means to guard from or ward off, as in guardabarros (mud flap = wards off [the] mud). So while paraguas is related to parasol, the teacher was incorrect is explaining that this para- means "for."

All the Romance languages use this construction in similar fashions for the most part.

Eric was kind enough to supply examples from many Romance languages, but we have had to excise them in the interest of brevity.  And he is correct regarding paraguas.  Thanks, Eric!  Stephanos, who is pursuing a doctorate in Spanish, wrote with similar information.  Thanks, Stephanos!

From Howard Spindel:

I enjoyed the latest TOWFI discussion of the veteran/veterinarian. Toward the end of the discussion, you mention a bellwether (a sheep with a bell around its neck that led a flock to slaughter), and you surmise that a bellwether stock arose out of confusion between wether and weather-vane.

Considering the state of my stock portfolio, I think it quite possible that a bellwether stock is a stock that leads a flock of investors to slaughter, and no confusion with weather-vane need be postulated. (Instead of "flock of investors", should that be "fleece of investors"? Murder of investors?)

Whether or not one has weathered the market, bellwether stocks have certainly inveterated us all. 


From Ray Adams:

Thought you might be interested in this line from a Times article (May 19, 2003), I hear America Smirking:

“Smirk. Was the word invented in 1959, or did it just bloom into popular consciousness to describe the tone of the Rock Hudson-Doris Day comedy Pillow Talk?”

And, of course, I immediately went to your site to find out if smirk was indeed invented in 1959. But unfortunately it has not been given consideration as yet. Might you enlighten us? I can’t imagine that it was invented, certainly not so late as 1959. I’d suspect that Richard Corliss, the article’s author, simply didn’t do his homework and liked the sound of the word. In fact, isn’t it almost onomatopoetic? Smirk. Smirk, smirk, smirk! Perhaps we can humble such a word by knowing of its origins. 

Actually, it is an Old English word!  It was used by King Alfred in his translation of Boethius in [circa] 888!  It seems to have originated in Old English, with no cognates in any of the other Germanic languages.  Initially it was simply the Old English for "to smile".  It later took on the meaning "to simper".

From Pat O'Neal:

I enjoyed reading your collection of new words for 2003 and would like to add one more:

Execuglide: when you move around your office without actually getting out of your chair, by propelling with the legs ;).


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

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Last Updated 05/24/03 02:00 PM