People are getting more information than they ever have, whether it’s in ink or electronically. People want to read, and they want to read without stumbling. And that’s where the copy editor comes in. The copy editor is the bridge who keeps the writer from tripping up.
You can find most anything online, including a million reasons to believe that most folks these days think clear writing went out with the Lindy Hop. But here – on the Internet! – is proof you don’t have to leave your readers stumbling around like a bunch of drunks in a sack race.
“I’m surprised and delighted that a word I made up in the 1980s to insult British indie rock stars has resurfaced in the context of 21st century US politics and the shitgibbon in the White House,” Quantick told Zimmer. “It’s bizarre and a very odd journey for a very silly word.”
From the irksome Mark E. Smith to a strange-haired delusionist strongman is indeed an odd journey. Let’s hope the Oxford folks are listening.
(By the way, I’m following Zimmer’s practice and dropping the hyphen from “shitgibbon.” As the Canadian Press Stylebook notes, “in North America, the tendency is to drop the hyphen as soon as a new compound becomes familiar.” I say it’s time we all got familiar with this exemplary bit of invective.)
Nietzsche believed that if only a Dostoyevsky had been among the apostles who followed Jesus, someone who understood the environment in which “the scum of society, nervous maladies and ‘childish’ idiocy keep a tryst,” we might have been spared centuries of ovine idiocy.
Shaun the Sheep: Not one to follow the ovine crowd.
Another wonderful archaic word. I have to agree with Michael Quinion‘s theory that this word echoes the sound of the huntsman’s horn. You can just hear Bertie Wooster’s Aunt Dahlia hollering “Tantivy!” as she rides over the fields with the Quorn.
In a memoir of his 1930s Potteries childhood, The Vanished Landscape, historian Paul Johnson describes his father taking him to see the Sytch in Burslem, an immense stretch of ground composed of clay, black water, mud, industrial detritus and ‘fumigerous furnaces belching forth fire, ashes and smoke.’
I have a fondness for words that are obscure and euphonious, but this one takes the gateau. It’s meaning is clear from the context, but it doesn’t show up in a search of the online OED. And Google returns only a handful of hits – most of them either the Paul Johnson quotation above or this one, from the same memoir:
You went down a steep track to get into Tunstall Station, a cavernous place under a bridge, of smoke-stained dingy brick, dark and fumigerous.
Searching Google Books turns up the Johnson memoir and four other books. Before that search I was beginning to suspect Johnson had invented the word; instead, I’ll give him full credit for keeping it alive.
Chapter 7 of this remarkable book contains this marvellous description of the Liverpool slang spoken by the future fab four:
“…something good or great was ‘gear’ and stupid was ‘soft,’ and out of fashion was ‘down the nick’ and when taunting or teasing someone you’d shout ‘Chickaferdy!’; and if someone was spineless they were ‘nesh’; and you said ‘Come ’ead!’ (‘come ahead’ for ‘come on’); and ‘Eh oop!’ had many uses, from ‘hello’ to ‘let’s go,’ and ‘lad’ was ‘la’; and an interesting person was a ‘skin’ – so ‘Eh la!’ and ‘Eh oop, la!’ and ‘ ’E’s a good skin’; and where (though swearing was muted on the street because people got upset if they overheard it) ‘stupid get’ (‘stupid git’) or ‘yer daft get’ were OK … and then you said good-bye to your mates with a wacker’s ‘Tarrah well!’”
(“Wacker” being a word for working-class Liverpool males.)
“Locals in the village of Brugairolles in the foothills of the Pyrenees were so appalled by the immurement, they rose up to rescue the elderly couple, tearing down a wall from the front of the house and ripping open windows and doors that had been nailed shut.”
From the Latin murus, or wall, which shows up in English words like mural.