Take Our Word For It Issue 141
Nov 14, 2001 23:20 PST
Take Our Word For It Issue 141
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Good evening (or morning, or afternoon, as the case may be)!
**This Week's Issue**
In Spotlight, we discuss some more gems
In Words to the Wise,we bring you the following new words (last week's
were new, too, but we forgot to mention that):
called on the carpet
In Curmudgeons' Corner a guestmudgeon complains about who's whose
In Sez You... we hear from readers about plural vs. collective nouns;
English hidden in a French phrase; and back issues. (It was a light
In Laughing Stock we wonder how one can follow directions if one can't
(Recently reviewed books will be in our book store SOON!)
"Coined by Shakespeare" by Jeffrey McQuain and Stanley Malless (part of
the Merriam Webster "Lighter Side of Language" series)
The authors have done a fine job here. They provide a collection of
words, and a few phrases, first used or coined by Shakespeare, just as
the title suggests. The book is in dictionary format, with entries in
alphabetical order. Not only do the entries provide the meaning of each
word, but they discuss what the word's form was, if it existed at all,
before Shakespeare used it. They also give some etymology of the word.
Additionally, Shakespearean lines in which the word or phrase first
appeared are provided. The authors manage to pack a lot of information
into each entry. Would you be surprised to learn that the word
alligator in its current form owes its existence to Shakespeare? He
used it in Romeo and Juliet, of all places. The word had previously
been lagarto or aligarto, from Spanish el lagarto "the lizard". The
English spelling first took a turn with Shakespeare's alligater. By
1699 alligator had become the accepted spelling.
Word fans and Shakespeare buffs alike will enjoy this lovely little
"Common Phrases and Where They Come From" by John Mordock and Myron
Messrs. Mordock and Korach (those names sound like races from H.G.
Wells' "The Time Machine"!) don't do quite the job that Robert Claiborne
did with "Loose Cannons, Red Herrings, and Other Lost Metaphors",
reviewed last week in this newsletter. They fall into the trap of
popular etymology a bit too often, relying on stock stories for the
derivation of phrases like "mind your p's and q's" and "raining cats and
dogs". Most etymologists agree that there is not enough evidence to pin
one derivation or another on those two phrases, among others, but
Mordock and Korach don't mention that. They do provide some sound
origins for other phrases, however, but how is the regular reader to
discern the accurate from the inaccurate? Additionally, the authors do
not provide any date information regarding the phrases they discuss.
The cover of the book is interesting, however, fancifully depicting what
"raining cats and dogs" might look like.
We encourage you to send us funny clippings or e-mails that you run
across, because if we use yours in Laughing Stock, you will win a $10
gift certificate to Amazon.com! This week's issue of TOWFI contains a
winning entry in Laughing Stock. Thanks to Jeff Lee!
(In an abundance of caution, we're running this section yet again.) Our
tax-exempt charity status determination (whew!) by the IRS has been
delayed. Unfortunately, that means any donations made to us this year
by U.S. citizens are not tax-exempt. If you have made a donation to
TOWFI/TIERE in the last year and would like it refunded because it is
not tax-exempt, please let us know as soon as possible. This delay in
status in no way affects how donations to TIERE will be used (except
those that are refunded, of course!).
We will still be sending donors the TOWFI book mark. We underestimated
the time and man/womanpower involved in preparing them and sending them,
so if you have not yet received yours, please be patient with us. We
plan to get another batch out this weekend.
Until next time,
Take Our Word For It!
Melanie and Mike