Enjoy / Celebrate

  This week’s vocabulary words got me thinking that English could stand some joyous calibration of noun and verb. E.g. “Joy to the World” seems rather different from “The beverage you’re about to enjoy is hot.” You don’t get that imbalance with celebration and celebrate, do you. Anyway, to make it sticky, as we say in […]

Scissors!

  Since neither labor nor Providence has brought me – yet, anyway – wealth, on Saturdays I buy a scratch ticket. Along with it I get copy of the Financial Times, just so I’m prepared. Granted, the real estate pages give me the devil’s own time deciding where I’d move, but otherwise I like the weekend […]

Chucklehead

  The other day I realized I didn’t know what civilization was, which ordinarily would not give much pause, for I am resigned to incomprehension regarding humanity, but the thing was I had to teach “civilization” as a vocabulary word. So I looked it up. As ever with the Shorter Oxford, I get easily distracted, […]

Bons Mots

    I’m reading this novel Constellation, about a French plane trip gone wrong, but the damn thing is in French, so I have to keep reaching for the dictionary. I looked up the word estiver and was not helped by learning its definition was “estivate.” So I looked that up in my Oxford dictionary […]

The Brink’s Job

      The Greeks of the sixth century and earlier were intellectual pioneers. It was the first time that they or anybody else began, as one historian has put it, “to think of space, time, man, and the state in any clear and coherent manner.” –David Fromkin, The Way of the World   I […]

Touché

I keep a couple of favorite words in my back pocket – English words with a beautiful sound and a beguiling poetry. Everyone who cares even a little about language surely has their own list. Mine has two words tied for first place: “evening” and “watershed.” There’s a third word I never tire of hearing: […]

Housing Units

House: the Ugandan embassy. Or a dwelling, a place of worship, an inn, a stable, a restaurant, a deliberative assembly, a theater, a business, a lineage, an audience, a celestial division, a college, a brothel, or music that goes oonce-a oonce-a. Or his office:   Have you seen our house? I call it madness.   […]

Ineffable

  Joan Acocella has written one of the more entertaining paragraphs I’ve read lately: Japan, curiously, does not have swear words in the usual sense. You can insult a Japanese person by telling him that he has made a mistake or done something foolish, but the Japanese language does not have any of those blunt-instrument […]