Barry Popik, whom I have mentioned many times, finally has his own web site, barrypopik. I'll let Barry introduce himself with this paragraph from his web site: He is recognized as an expert on the origins of the terms Big Apple, Windy City, hot dog, and many other food terms, and he is an editor of the forthcoming Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America Double-Tongued Word Wrester records words as they enter and leave the English language.
It focuses upon slang, jargon, and other niche categories which include new, foreign, hybrid, archaic, obsolete, and rare words. Special attention is paid to the lending and borrowing of words between the various Englishes and other languages, even where a word is not a fully naturalized citizen in its new language.
So I gave them some food and water, but when I checked back later they were gone. A few days later, elsewhere in the yard, the orange kitten emerged alone from the underbrush and began following me around, so I took him inside and gave him food, and a day later took him to the vet for a checkup. But there was no sign of the other two, even though I searched over the next few days.
Harry took up residence in my office and gradually lost his shyness, chasing his ball and jumping up and down on my keyboard with glee.
But every few minutes he would stop playing, look around the room and start to cry. He obviously missed his siblings, but there was nothing more we could do. Exactly one week after Harry arrived, we were walking down the road late at night when we heard a crash in the underbrush and the two missing kittens came tumbling out a few feet away, meowing loudly. My guess is that they recognized my voice as being that of The Food Guy. I easily snagged the Siamese-looking one, but the little striped one bolted back into the bushes.
So midnight found me crawling through rusty barbed wire and poison ivy with a flashlight and a plate of Fancy Feast. After a few minutes of discussion, Gus decided to come back to the house as well. And Harry doesn't cry any more. But we now have five cats and two dogs, putting us perilously close to the Eyewitness News threshold of dementia. We still haven't named the little girl kitten, and are open to suggestions sent to [address removed].
Pictures of the little critters can be found here. Kitten's name turns out to be Phoebe. Thanks to the dozens of readers who sent in great and often very creative suggestions. We are keeping them on file, and, should more cats appear, we will give them top consideration.
Phoebe, by the way, looks much less like Roy Cohn now, and much more like a cat in an Edward Gorey drawing. Incidentally, I have now discovered how long it takes for a unique email address posted on these pages to be hit with spam -- three days. And now, on with the show: No more for the monkey. I was recently given a piece or work to sub which contained the phrase "screaming ab-dabs. Please, can you shed some light on the matter?
I'll give it a shot, but I must say that light on this question is difficult to come by. I can tell by your email address that you work for the BBC, and I presume that by "sub" as a verb you mean "sub-editing," what we in the US call "copyediting," checking text for errors, consistency of style, etc.
This column has no copy editor on the premises, which is why our motto has always been "Any typos found are yours to keep. In current usage, "screaming ab-dabs" is roughly equivalent to what we Americans would call "the heebie-jeebies" or "the wimwams," a state of nervous excitement bordering on apoplexy, usually induced by a very unpleasant or stressful situation. We each, of course, have our own personal "ab-dabs" threshold, but being trapped in an elevator with Wayne Newton and Richard Perle would probably do it for me.
According to slang etymologist Eric Partridge in his Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, during World War II "ab-dabs" primarily meant "a tall tale" "Don't give me that old ab-dabs" , as well as "an attack of delirium tremens" which fits with the "heebie-jeebies" meaning. Partridge dates the phrase "screaming ab-dabs" to about My sense is that the song has little to do with the "dessert" meaning of "ab-dabs" which is possibly, as Partridge suggests, simply a modification of the British term "afters," as in "after the main courses" , but it seems plausible that the nonsensical chatter of monkeys in the song was adopted at some point as evocative of delirium tremens or the heebie-jeebies.
Kind of a drag. I am an English as a Second Language teacher. My students are working adults. The other day, one of my students asked the meaning of the word, "draft. How are these words related? Is there a common origin? Reading your question reminded me as those emanating from ESL classes often do of the great Scottish poet Robert Burns line "O wad some Power the giftie gie us, To see oursels as ithers see us!
Learning English as a second language is notoriously tricky, and I'm tempted to apologize for all the ambiguity, but it was like this when I got here. The first thing to note about "draft" is that it is the modern phonetic spelling of "draught," although you'll still see the earlier spelling often used in reference to horses, beer and various other things, especially in Britain.
The senses of "draft" you mention are all derived from the root sense of the word when it appeared in English in the 13th century, "the act of pulling," most likely derived from the prehistoric Germanic verb "dragan," also the source of our modern "drag" and "draw. Draft beer is pulled from kegs, draft horses pull stuff, the military draft "pulls in" civilians, and a draft of drink is pulled from the bottle, as is a dose of medicine.
A draft from a window is "pulled through" the opening, a bank draft is pulled from your account, and a ship's "draft" is the amount of water it displaces a vague sense of "pull". A draft in writing, art or architecture is an early form "pulled" mid-process to indicate the final product. And even the English game of "draughts" known in the U. So it's all the same word, and even that's not the half of it.
The Oxford English Dictionary lists more than 50 definitions of "draught" and "draft. For years I have been wondering what an "olay" is, as in "Oil of Olay," the "mysterious beauty fluid" they used to advertise on radio and TV. My dictionary doesn't even list the word. It's been bothering me for a long time. You and me both. I remember hearing those commercials and wondering what an "olay" was. The cry of a bullfighter who spies wrinkles in the mirror? It seems that there never was any such thing as an "Olay.
What eventually became "Oil of Olay" was developed during World War II by a South African chemist named Graham Gordon Wulff to help military burn victims heal by preventing their skin from becoming dehydrated.
At the end of the war it occurred to Wulff that the burn treatment he had invented might make a dandy beauty cream in the civilian market. He teamed up with a partner named Shaun Adams Lowe, and together they set out to market Wulff's cream.
First, of course, they needed a name, and after some thought came up with "Oil of Ulay. As "Oil of Ulay" sales caught on and the product was exported to Europe and the U.
Today Olay they dropped the "Oil of" a few years ago produces a wide range of beauty products, all without harming a single cute little olay. Rain was, however, imminent. A term we see frequently, usually associated with political speech writers, is "spin-doctor. Well, you've certainly picked the right time to ask this question. The approach of elections in the US always brings out spin doctors by the brigade, professional optimists to be polite who contort logic and reality to put the best possible face on any occurrence or utterance by their clients.
A good example of "spin doctoring" came a while back when President Bush took a tumble from his mountain bike. Of course, anyone who rides a bicycle will sooner or later fall off, no big deal, but a presidential spokesperson immediately explained that the accident was due to the fact that it had been "raining a lot lately" in Crawford, Texas recently and that "the topsoil was loose.
It takes a truly dedicated spin doctor to feel the need to invent weather out of thin air to explain something that didn't need an explanation in the first place.
You suggest that "spin doctor" may be related to "put a good spin on it," and indeed the two phrases do both spring from sports, particularly cricket, billiards and baseball, where imparting a spinning motion to the ball gives the player more control over its trajectory and behavior.
Similarly, since the late s "spin" has been used to mean, as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, "A bias or slant on information, intended to create a favorable impression when it is presented to the public. The "doctor" element of the phrase is almost certainly derived from the verb "to doctor" in the pejorative sense, dating back to the late 18th century, of "to disguise, falsify or tamper with," as found in the phrase "to doctor the books.
What is a "swain" as in "young swain"? A "swain" is a male admirer or suitor. A "swain" brings flowers to your door. A "swain" does not sit in his car honking the horn. The original meaning of "swain," however, had nothing to do with courtship.
A knight's "swain" polished the boss's armor, cared for his horse, and acted as his valet. By the 16th century, however, knights were getting scarce, and "swain" took on the meaning of "farm laborer" or "shepherd.
But at that time country life was widely romanticized, considered a simpler, purer existence, and poets like Robert Greene began to use "swain" in the sense of "gallant lover" in their pastoral fantasies. Five centuries later, we still use "swain" in this sense, but now almost always in a jocular or sarcastic tone implying that the "swain" might not be such a great catch after all, as in "Deborah's swain turned out to be a mousy accountant with a wife in Hoboken. When "bachelor," today meaning "an unmarried man," entered English from the Old French "bacheler" in the 13th century, it meant "apprentice knight.
But since most university "bachelors" were young men, not yet married, by the late 14th century "bachelor" had taken on its modern meaning of "unmarried man. Is the saying "It takes two to tango," or is it "to tangle"? My friends and I are hotly debating this issue with absolutely no evidence.
We find both phrases in an Internet search, along with two different interpretations that unfortunately aren't tied to any particular version of the phrase. That is, some people define the phrase as signifying that it takes two people to successfully undertake some specific task, while others say that it means it takes two people to maintain a fight or disagreement that is, it takes one person to start a fight, but the other could walk away.
With the second interpretation, the term "tangle," meaning a conflict, seems to make more sense. Also, the dance "tango" didn't become popular in the U. And as some have pointed out, it takes two to waltz, foxtrot, or jitterbug, although those phrases lack the satisfying alliteration. The phrase "It takes two to tango" appeared in popular usage in , shortly after the song "Takes Two to Tango," written by Al Hoffman and Dick Manning, and sung by Pearl Bailey, became a hit.
The lyrics are an argument against the single life "You can haunt any house by yourself, Be a man or a mouse by yourself, You can act like a king on a throne, There are lots of things that you can do alone, But it takes Two to tango, two to tango" , but "two to tango" was almost immediately drafted to describe any situation, from international negotiations to bar fights, that required, by definition, two participants.
It's not recorded who first modified "tango" to the equally alliterative "tangle" in the phrase, but in a sense they were taking a step back about years.