Saturday, May 20, 2006

Just What Did You Mean?

Over at National Review Online, there's an article up by a seasoned old word-advocate who would definitely endorse the VRP if he was aware that it existed. The piece, which deals with the immense connotations that "a single word" can take on in the right setting (in this case, legal), is a great read. Here's an excerpt to get you started:
Some years ago I was a defendant in a lawsuit brought by a creepy fascistic outfit (they are now out of business), and the question before the jury was whether I and the magazine I edited were racist. The attorney had one weapon to use in making his point, namely that we had published an editorial about Adam Clayton Powell Jr. when he made a terminally wrong move in his defense against federal prosecutors. The editorial we published was titled, "The Jig Is Up for Adam Clayton Powell Jr.?" On the witness stand I argued that the word "jig" could be used other than as animadversion. The feverish lawyer grabbed a book from his table and slammed it down on the arm of my chair. "Have you ever heard of a dictionary?" he asked scornfully, as if he had put the smoking gun in my lap. I examined the American Heritage College Dictionary and said yes, I was familiar with it. "In fact," I was able to say, opening the book, "I wrote the introduction to this edition." That was the high moment of my forensic life. And, of course, the dictionary establishes that the word “jig” can be used harmlessly.

Any guesses as to who this vocab-master is? (Hint: he is not equally loved by all political parties...) Nevertheless, you'll want to read the whole (brief) article: Just What Did You Mean?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Words, Words, Words

I usually blog at Semicolon, but I thought I'd write an occasional post here about words and my love of them. Start with a meme; go out with a bang. The initiator of this erudite blog very kindly allowed me to post here, so I borrowed (and edited) this word meme from Stefanie at So Many Books. To be on the safe side.

Words that always look misspelled to me:
obscene, obsession, skiing, Qatar, judgment, acquiesce, grieve, posttest

Words I enjoy saying:
misanthropic, anthropomorphic, surreptitious, melancholy, parmesan, lackadaisical

Words I enjoy hearing:
thank you, I love you, yes m'am.

Abbreviations I dislike:
lbs. (lubs?), ms. (miz?).

Proper nouns I enjoy:
Dime Box, Texas
Bilbo Baggins
Lake Wobegon
General Shalishkavili
Ramona Quimby

Words I associate with happiness:
children, chocolate, celebration, flowers, autumn

Words I always misspell:
obcession, judgement, innoculate, preemptory.

Words I enjoy spelling correctly, every time:
miscellaneous, embarrass, Philippians, Deuteronomy, congratulations

Words that, though I love their meaning, I'm too embarrassed to say out loud:
Any big long words that I'm afraid people will think pretentious.

Words I can never remember the meaning of no matter how many times I look them up:
biennial, mauve, cerulean.

Words that sound like what they mean:
lugubrious, grotesque, bilious, loathe, wheeze, brusque

Words that sound like something other than what they mean:
pulchritude, corporeal, minuend, benignant, cryogenics

I'll try to do something a little more original next time, but at least all you logophiliacs can get an introduction to some of my favorite words. Join in if you'd like.