Friday, March 6, 2015

What came first?

(This article is a version of my March Lexpert article)

What came first, the colour or the fruit?


Howard Richler

Dedicated longtime readers of the Lexpert Words column will no doubt remember that in April 2011 I explained that, lexicographically,at least, there is no debate that the egg preceded the chicken. It arrived in the English langauge in the 9th century whereas chicken only made its debut a century later. Today I will address the equally weighty conundrum of whether the colour orange or the fruit orange deserves first honours.

I posed this question to 15 friends where 80% ( 12 out of 15) believed that the colour came before the fruit and several people based their answer on the colour term being used more often than the fruit one. Although the colour orange is quite common in our vocabulary, this commonality is somewhat recent. In their 1969 book Basic Color Terms , authors Brent Beslin and Paul Kay show how virtually all languages possess a colour sequence that begins with words for black and white ( or light and dark colours), then continues to red, then green and yellow, then blue, then brown and eventually to gray, orange, pink, and purple.

Whereas the earliest citation of orange the fruit is from the beginning of the 15th century, the colour orange only appears more than a hundred years later. Actually, there was no word for the colour orange in Old English and a castle decorator would have had to say geolu-read, “yellow-red” to describe a throne that was orange-coloured.

The orange has enjoyed an exotic etymological odyssey over the millennia. Around 2500 years ago, the orange made a trip to India from southern China. A Sanskrit medical text describes the narangah, valued for its curative powers. It was a bitter orange, often now referred to as a Seville orange, and the word probably derives from one of the Dravidian languages of southern India, such as Malayalam or Tamil, where the term naru meant “fragrant.” Its journey, however, had just on its first leg because from India it travelled to Persia where it was rendered as narang and to Arabia where it was called naranj. In the Middle Ages, Muslim merchants brought this bitter type of orange to Sicily and before long it was available throughout Europe. The sweet variety (sometimes called a China orange) that we associate with this fruit reached Europe fifty years later when Portuguese sailors imported it from India. Sweet oranges were considered a luxury and until the middle of the 19th century a delight enjoyed by mostly the aristocracy.

The Arabic word naranj was swallowed, in some cases, almost whole in several European languages, e.g., Byzantine Greek nerantzion, Italian narancia and Spanish naranja. But the first letter “n” is often changed or removed entirely as in the Portuguese , the Italian arancio, arancia or the late Latin aurantium. The loss of of “n” may have occurred in a linguistic process called rebracketing that gave us English words uncle from nuncle and apron from napron. When preceded by an indefinite article such as a or an in English, or une or uno in Romance languages, the “n” can disappear. The opposite process can also occur; an “n” can be added to a word that didn't originally have one. For example, a “newt” was originally in Middle English rendered as “an eute” and a “nickname) was an “eke name.” The Latin aurantium referenced before was probably also influenced by the word aurum, “gold” since the fruit had a golden colour.

Although we see a progression towards the spelling of “orange” in both English and French, this form of the word is due to a coincidence. In the south of France, there once was a Roman city named Arausio. In Provençal, a dialect of the Romance language Occitan, the name of the city morphed into Aurenja which was becominag a centre of the orange trade and Aurenja was nearly identical to the Provençal,fruit word auranja. From here it was a small step to orenge and finally orange for both the city and the fruit.

And orange (or should I say Orange) was not finished with its frequent travelling. In the 16th century Philibert de Chalon of Orange was awarded a good chunk of the Netherlands by Emperor Charles V. When he died, his title passed to his German nephew, William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, who established the Dutch Republic and the House of Orange. As William organized Protestants in Holland to struggle against Catholic Spain for independence, both the name and the colour became associated with the Netherlands.

In a couple of generations, however, orangeness would travel once again. William's grandson William III became King of England in the late 17th century. Because he defended the Protestant population of Ireland, the Protestants there became known as the Orangemen in his honour.

Incidentally, an orange’ s colour has nothing to do with its ripeness. Oranges turn orange only as a result of cold weather, which breaks down a membrane protecting their green chlorophyll.

Howard's book Word Play: Arranged & Deranged Wit will be published in 2015.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

How Chinese flavours English

(Published originally in Lexpert under the title All the Ch'a in China)

How Chinese flavours our language


Howard Richler

This year, February 19th marks the first day of the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival or the Lunar New Year. Chinese civilization dates back at least 4,000 years and is the source of many of the world's greatest inventions including paper, printing, and the compass, not to mention china (porcelain) itself.

However, if you were to ask people to name an English word that derives from Chinese, the responses would probably remind you of a Chinese restaurant take-out order and would likely include chow mein, chop suey, and won ton. The first word in this grouping to make it into the OED is chop suey, an adaptation of the Cantonese shap sui, “mixed bits” which entered in English in 1888. Actually, the “chop” in chopsticks, also has a Chinese origin, but here the meaning is “quick.” The word chopsticks is a corruption of k’wâi-tsze, “the quick and nimble ones.”

Missing from the above is perhaps the greatest gustatory Chinese delight. Whereas Arabic brought us intoxicating beverages such as alcohol and coffee, Chinese can take credit for the mildly inebriating libation tea. British slang for a cup of tea is “cuppa char,” “char” being a corruption of cha, which derives from the Mandarin ch’a. This reflects the first OED rendering in 1598 with the spelling “chaa”; its first mention in Europe is as “cha” in Portugal in 1559. Under the name te, or thee, it was imported by the Dutch from Java, where it had been brought by Chinese merchants from the province of Amoy. It was introduced in France in 1635, Russia in 1638 and England by 1655. Tea was first sold publicly in England at Garway’s Coffee House in London ; in 1660, Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary, “I did send for a cup of tee (a China drink) of which I never had drank before.”

Chinese has been nourishing us with food words for centuries. “Tofu” joins our lexicon in 1880. The word is rendered in Chinese as dòufu; dòu meaning “beans” and fu meaning “rotten.” Tofu is made from a soybean extract and the word “soy” (or soya) is a 17th century Chinese extract. It comes from the word shi-yu; shi in Chinese meaning “salted beans” and yu meansing“oil.” Joining our language around the same time is ginseng, a plant whose root is credited with medicinal properties. Its Chinese name jen shen, literally means “man root,” a reference to the root's forked shape, which is said to resemble a man.

The word “ketchup” flavours our language early in the 18th century and is generally seen as deriving from the Malay kechap. But this word itself comes from the word kê-tsiap in the Chinese Amoy dialect, where it refers to “pickled fish-brine or sauce.” The original condiment that Dutch traders imported from Asia appears to be a fish sauce or a sauce made from special mushrooms salted for preservation. A 1711 OED citation states, “Soy comes in tubs from Japan and the best ketchup from Tonquin, yet good of both sorts are made and sold very cheap in China.” The English added a “t” to the Malay word, changed the “a” to a “u” and started making ketchup themselves, using ingredients like mushrooms,walnuts, cucumbers, and oysters. It wasn’t until American seamen added tomatoes from Mexico or the Spanish West Indies that the quintessential tomato ketchup was born.

Of course, Chinese contributions to English transcend our palates. The rhyming words “tycoon” and “typhoon,” for example, are both of Chinese vintage. Tycoon ultimately comes from the Chinese words ta, “great,” and kiun, “prince.” It was rendered in Japanese as taikun,“great lord,” and was the title by which the shogun would be described to foreigners. Typhoon comes from the words ta,big,” and feng, “wind.”

The word “kowtow” in English bears a taint of obsequiousness but its origin in Chinese doesn’t connote an act of servility. It comes from the words k’o, “knock” and t’ou, “the head” and derives from the Chinese custom of touching the ground with the forehead as an expression of extreme respect. The word “gung-ho” comes from the words kung, “work” and ho, “together.” It was adopted in World War II by US Marines under the command of General Evans Carlson. The Nov 8, 1942 New York Times reported that “borrowing an idea from China, Carlson frequently has what he calls kung-hou meetings…problems are threshed out and orders explained.” Probably owing to the practice of some Marines in showing the same enthusiasm in picayune matters such as white glove inspections, the term gung-ho acquired a connotation of overzealousness.

As late as the 1990s, another word of Chinese pedigree became popular : feng shui, which refers to the relationship of people to the environment in which they live, and in particular their dwelling or workplace. Surprisingly, the word dates back in English to 1797 where we find it referenced in the Encycolpaedia Brittanica. You will not, however, find an old citation for the word taikonaut, thus proving that our lexicon is still being enriched by Chinese. It found a home this millennium in the OED to refer to a Chinese astronaut; taikong meaning “outer space.”

Howard's book Wordplay: Arranged & Deranged Wit will be published in 2015.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Unsanctioning Sanction


Howard Richler

In Crazy English, Richard Lederer points out the many anomalies of the English language such as greyhounds not necessarily being grey, and fireflies being beetles not flies. However, this book is probably best known for this quip: “In what other language do people drive in a parkway and park on a driveway?”

Some months ago here in my Lexpert column I dealt with the seemingly contradictory usage of the non-literal sense of “literally,”; this is but one example of many words that can have contradictory meanings. For example, “cleave” can mean adhere or separate; “dust,” add fine particles or remove them; “oversight,” monitor or fail to oversee; “ravel,” entangle or disentangle; and “with,” alongside or against.

Sometimes, we can explain how particular words evolved contradictory senses. With the word “fast” we start off with the sense of “immovable” or “firm, as in “standing fast.” From this meaning we developed the concept of “running fast,” and hence the “rapid” sense of the word. Similarly, “fine” originally denoted something “slender,” and this led to a sense of “highly finished,” which in turn led to a sense of “beautiful.” In situations where large growth is desirable,such as, a “fine head of hair,” the word “fine” can be seen as “large,” even though the word started its life as “slender.”

Words that possess contradictory meanings are sometimes called contronyms “Contronym” is now being researched for inclusion in the OED; it does, however, appear in Oxford Dictionaries Online its first citation being in 1962. An alternate designation for this type of word is Janus-faced; the term coming from the Roman god Janus whose name derives from the Latin ianua, “entrance gate.” Janus was the god of doorways and gateways and as they can be passed in and out, his face looked in opposite directions.

As mentioned in my “literally” article, the context in which the seemingly contradictory word is used should clarify the intended meaning. The word “sanction,” however, drives many to distraction due to its uncertain meaning. Complicating matters further, “sanction” does double duty as a noun and a verb where different rules apply. Its first usage was as a noun in the 16th century when it referred to a law or decree and in particular an ecclesiastical decree that if violated resulted in a penalty. In the late 18th century we see sanction used as a verb with the sense of to confirm or to permit in an authoritative manner.

According to linguist Ben Zimmer, the word has headed in opposite directions – “One relating to legal or ethical rules, and one relating to penalties against infringing such rules. Since the 18th century, the verb formed from 'sanction' has generally accorded with the positive sense as when Thomas Jefferson wrote in his autobiography of preserving 'the very words of the established law, wherever their meaning has been sanctioned by judicial decisions.' ”

As a noun, the dominant sense of “sanction” is economic or military action taken by a government or governments against another country; e.g.,“USA and Canada imposed sanctions on Russia.” Confusingly, however, it can mean the opposite, e.g.,“USA and Britain seek UN sanction against Iraq.” Interestingly, definition 2a in the OED states “Law: The specific penalty enacted in order to enforce obedience to a law”; however definition 2b states “Extended to include the provisions of reward for obedience.”

As I mention in my book How Happy Became Homosexual, the meaning of words is in constant flux and by the mid-20th century the “penalize” sense of the verb sanction arose and its use has recently started to become the dominant one. This probably developed because the usage of the “reward” sense of the noun became rarer. For example, in 2010 Bloomberg News reported that “{US congressman}Rangel would be the first lawmaker sanctioned by the full House since..” Just this past May a Los Angeles Times headline read “Donald Sterling Sanctioned” and a Business Insider one declared “Obama Just Sanctioned The Scariest Man on Earth,”(Russian oil tycoon) Igor Sechin. Often the sense of the verb isn't apparent from the headline. For example, the Jerusalem Post in 2011 stated that “Normal China-Iran business ties shouldn't be sanctioned.” Only by reading the full article, however, does it become apparent that the author is saying that business ties shouldn't be penalized. I particularly enjoyed this headline that appeared in Slate in January 2013: “Is There Anything Left To Sanction in North Korea?” Only North Korea's egregious reputation makes it clear that the author came to bury Kim Jong-un not to praise him.

My advice to the careful writer is to avoid the verbal use of the word “sanction” by itself if there is any possibility of the meaning being misconstrued. Comprehension can be enhanced by specifying “issue (or levy) sanctions against” or disapproval and “give sanction to” for approval. As a noun,because the negative sense of the word is dominant, I would avoid sentences such as “USA and Britain sought UN sanction against Russia” and replace “sanction” with a word such as “authorization.”

Howard next book Word Play: Arranged & Deranged Wit will be published in 2015.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Facebook word quizzes-#851-900


851-What do these words have in common? indented-posted-cable

852-Discern the convergent words: a)less-passion-cup b)be-shoe-tree c)be-twist-cotton

853-Name a 2 word palindromic phrase that refers to a lackluster versifier

854-Discern the convergent words: a)alive-banana-oil b)fish-gourd-cola c)white-cut-singing

855-What do these words have in common? redactor-tendon-compadr

856-Discern the convergent words: a)private-wash-public b)egg-shot-pumpkin c)bump-iron-pump

857-Name a 2 word palindromic phrase that refers dirt of an Islamic ruler

858-Discern the convergent words: a)oat-dish-died b)ring-sear-woman c)age-breath-pepper

859-What do these words have in common? region-obvious-demotion

860--Discern the convergent words: a)avocado-drop-led b)black-pie-bomb c)top-leaf-skin

861-Which word doesnt belong in this grouping? perpetuity-proprietor-personality-repertoire

862--Discern the convergent words: a)fore-garden-grass b)elope-acid-peas c)pot-corner-hawk

863-What do these words have in common? berserk-bidet-peculiar-tragedy

864-Discern the convergent words: a)jerked-complaint-eater b)floss-cane-walk-sugar c)on-corn-bad

865-aside from having 7 letters ,What do these words have in common? charity-gravity-visitor

866--Discern the convergent words: a)glass-ballet-house b)trick-red-top c)bra-suicide-rein

867-What do these words & phrases have in common? adder-auger- humble pie-newt

868-Discern the convergent words: a)farthing-wife-fin b)boy-sour-money c)pie-per-away

869-Which word doesn't belong in this grouping? d condom-crap-hooker-maverick

870-Discern the convergent words: a)lake-lick-old b)favor-house-powder c)days-potato-bar

871-Aside from starting with s what do these words and expressions have in common? stumblingblock-(stranger in a strangeland-stiff-necked)

872-Discern the convergent words: a)breast-talk-cold b)bus-red-tractor c)superb-magazine-night

873-Hidden within the word amulet we find a mule and inside crate, a rat. Name an animal that can be found inside another animal. crate emu

874-Discern the convergent words: a)toe-salon-brush b)woods-flas-room c)egg-tax-bob

875-What do these words have in common? pal-chav-shiv-drag(cross dressing sense)

876- Discern the convergent words:a)lounge-maker-maternity b)blouse-girl-jumper c)robin-baby-wink

877-What do these words have in common? car-fort-divers

878-Discern the convergent words: a)met-sugar-bed b)palm-press-tea c)mushroom-Spanish-western

879-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that refers to lackadaisical hooters

880-Discern the convergent words: a)colony-eager-skin b)coast-net-screen c)black-lake-sea-

881-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that refers to alienate nco estrange sergeant

882-Discern the convergent words: a)-some-paste-eye b) blue-less-awn c)wipe-ail-hard

883-What do these words have in common? entity-pantry -squad

884-Discern the convergent words: a)round-tax-square b)golden-liver-muscle c)libel-sausage-first

885-Name a 2 word anagrrammatic phrase that refers to a govt comprised of political exiles

886-Discern the convergent words: a)no-off-by b)warts-heaven-tie c)sea-mad-leg

887-What do these words have in common? canter-derive-realm

888-Discern the convergent words: a)fruit-mobile-on b)saw-feed-thief c)nut-spider-around

889-What do these words have in common? deified-Islam-deicide

890-Discern the convergent words: a)old-dough-water b)ears-hole-stew c)root-soup-stick

891-What do these words have in common? designed-conversion-muting

892-Discern the convergent words:a)colony-eager-tail b)circus-bane-flicker c)almondine-lake-speckled

893-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that refers to a monarchist with no friends

894-Discern the convergent words: a)thrash-colored-whipped b)vanilla-walk-wedding c)can-juice-rotten

895-What do these words have in common? brave- forge- knish

896-Discern the convergent words: a)pearl-up-wheat b)cliff-devour-famil c)bull-men-legs

897-Name a 2 word anagrrammatic phrase that means circles restobar

898-Discern the convergent words: a)hook-hole-pin b)medal-fish-gang c)programming-annoy-led

899-What do these words have in common? arcade-bust-escort-frigate-umbrella

900-Discern the convergent words: a)cracker-club-jerk b)tea-almond-dog c)practitioner-con-in

Friday, November 21, 2014

Importance of Definitions in the Legal Arena

(This article appeared originally in the Dec Lexpert with the title A Fruit By Any Other Name)

What's in a definition? Maybe a tariff rate or your freedom

Howard Richler

Whereas all agree that a rose is a flower, it is not as clear what we should call a tomato.


Tomato: A round vegetable with bright-red, occasionally yellow, skin and pulpy seedy flesh. It grows like fruit on climbing plants and is widely eaten cooked or raw.(Encarta World English Dictionary)

Tomato: The glossy fleshy fruit of a solanaceous plant, a native of tropical America, now cultivated as a garden vegetable in temperate as well as tropical lands. (OED)

Lest you think that deciding whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable is a matter that would only trouble pedants like me, I can assure you that it has been an issue that has troubled some of the greatest legal minds.

Take this 1883 situation: the US Congress passed a tariff act that placed a 10% import duty on vegetables but no tariff on fruits. So when the produce-importing Nix family brought in tomatoes from the West Indies, they were hit with a 10% duty on the basis of the import being one of vegetables.

Needless to say the Nixes were not amused, and botanically they had a solid basis for being disgruntled as tomatoes are the freshly ripened ovaries of a plant, i.e ;, the fruit thereof. However, legally speaking, matters weren't as cut and dried, and a six-year legal battle ensued with arguments being presented before the Supreme Court in 1893. As a result, both defense and prosecution cited myriad dictionary definitions that supported their position. The defense even cited definitions for cucumbers, eggplant, pepper and squash to bolster their argument.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that tomatoes were vegetables. While admitting that biologically a tomato was a fruit, Justice Horace Gray stated that tomatoes were served “at dinner in, with, or after the soup, fish or meats which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not, like fruits, generically, as dessert.”

And if you think this case rested on nit-picking produce definitions, fast forward to the 21st century for an even more casuistic case. To wit, eagle-eyed lawyers for a company that imported Marvel character action figures noticed that dolls were subject to a 12% tariff rate whereas toys were taxed at 6.8%. Dolls were distinguished from toys by “representing only human beings and parts and accesories thereof.”* Because the said action figures were classified as dolls at the higher tariff rate, Marvel Comics subsidiary Toy Biz argued before the US Court of International Trade that their action figures, such as X-Men, represented “non-human creatures” and hence qualified for the lower duty rate. In 2003,the US Court of International Trade ruled in favour of Toy Biz declaring that mutants such as Spider-Man were “non-human.”

This ruling, however, did not sit well with fans who felt that their action heroes and villains were being objectified. Brian Wilkinson, editor of the online site X-Fan, found Marvel's position untenable and summed up the disgust of aficionados in this vituperative post: “This is almost unthinkable. Marvel's superheroes are supposed to be as human as you or I. They live in New York.They have families and go to work. And now they're no longer human!” In a statement, Marvel Comics responded to this and other jeremiads with adroit sophistry: “Our heoes are living breathing human beings – but humans who have extraordinary abilities. A decision that the X-Men figures indeed do have 'non-human' characteristics further proves our characters have special, out-of-this-world powers.”

*The Harmonized Tariff Schedule has since been changed and dolls and toys are now classified in the same category.

In these cases the definitions of words such as “fruit,” “vegetable” and “human” only impinged on tariff rates, but the meaning ascribed to words also looms large when criminal offenses are involved. I take you back to 1926 when William McBoyle was convicted and sentenced for an alleged violation of the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act. The vehicle in question was a stolen airplane that McBoyle had an aviator transport from Illinois to Oklahoma. McBoyle's counsel contended that the word “vehicle” included only conveyances that travel on the ground and hence the stolen airplane was not a vehicle but really was a ship and under the doctrine of ejusdem generis, “any other self-propelled vehicle,” could not be construed as a ground-based vehicle. Webster's definition of vehicle was cited: “That in or on which any person or thing is or may be carried. Esp. on land, as a coach, wagon, car, bicycle, etc.” Germane to this case was the fact that when the statute was passed in 1919, airplanes were not specified therein.

Here is part of the ruling rendered by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, in 1931:

Although it is not likely that a criminal will..consider the text of the law before he murders or steals, it is reasonable that a fair warning should be given to the world in a language that the common world will understand. When a rule.. is laid down in words that evoke in the common mind only the picture of vehicles moving on land, the statute should not be extended to aircraft simply because it may seem to us that a similar policy applies, or the speculation that if the legislature had thought of it, very likely broader words would have been used.

Judgment reversed.”

Richler's latest book Arranged & Deranged Wit will be published in 2015.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Pleonasm-Excerpted from the book Arranged & Deranged Wit to be published in 2015

We are totally surrounded (on all sides) by redundancies.


Howard Richler

I first became aware of a penchant for political verbal diarrhea back in 1993. CBC journalist Hana Gartner was interviewing then Prime Minister of Canada Jean Chrétien who asserted that he was respected by most Quebecers, and that it was only the “intellectual intelligentsia” who disparaged him.

Chrétien was following in the flowing tradition exemplified by fellow politicians. President Calvin Coolidge once opined that “When large numbers of men are unable to find work, unemployment results.” The man who provided impeachment insurance for George Herbert Bush, former Vice President Dan Quayle, said in a 1988 speech, “I got through a number of things in the area of defense, like showing the importance of cruise missiles and getting them more accurate so that we can have precise precision.” In 2012, Brian Pallister, leader of tbe Progressive Conservative party in Manitoba, expressed his hope that “Everyone will enjoy themselves this holiday season, even you infidel atheists.”

These are some of the more egregious examples of redundant language but yea, we are not drowning in a bog of unnecessary words, but in a veritable swampland. Why can't things be merely null, why do they have to be void as well? If I look in every nook, must I explore every cranny? Must I desist when I cease, abet when I aid, choose when I pick and rave when I rant? Can't I just cease, aid, pick and rant? When we talk about “complete anihilation,” “frozen tundra,” “close proximity,” and a “woman pregnant with child,” I ponder, what are the alternatives?

Have you ever seen a young geezer, a cold water heater, a non-tuna fish, a non-living survivor, or a non-lazy bum? I've smelled, with my own nose, different bouquets but the only type I've ever seen, with my own eyes, is the flowery variety.

Am I paranoid, or is there some secret of time only I can't intuit? Samuel Goldwyn said, “I never make predictions, especially about the future” and the hoi polloi are constantly referring to “future plans,” and “advance warning.” This implies there are alternatives like past plans and a past future.The past is equally beguiling. Why do we specify “past experience” and “never before”? Aren't all experiences “past”? Why does “before” have to be added to “never”? Is there a hidden quantum dimension called the “never after” waiting to be unearthed by string theory? I worry when someone tells me the “honest truth,” or gives me a “garden salad” to eat, or something “100 per cent pure” to drink. Does that mean that if they only tell me the truth or ply me with a mere salad or a beverage that's only 99.99 per cent pure that I'm in “serious danger”? Do I overaxaggerate? Please R.S.V.P so I can overcome my state of uneasy anxiety.

Mercifully, it takes but a single word to describe verbal redundancy. The term is “pleonasm” defined by the OED as “the use of more words in a sentence than are necessary to express the meaning.” It derived from the Latin pleonasmus which, in turn,

came from the Greek pleonasmos (more-ness). Antony's line in Julius Caesar, “the most unkindest cut of all,” is an example of a pleonasm done for effect, as is the biblical “I am that I am.” In any case, after what happened to Lot's wife, Moses was probably

squeamish about accusing the Burning Bush of redundancy.

Most pleonasms, however, are not so stylish and only denote poor form. “Could you repeat that again?” is an example of a commonly used pleonasm. A redundancy can be avoided by just saying either,“Could you repeat that?” Don't say “each and every” and “at this point in time” when “every” and “at this time” suffice, nor say “she is a woman who” when “she is” will do, or use “if and when” when only “if” is required.

Perhaps I'm just an unprogressive conservative who pines for the halcyon days when you didn’t need to qualify that a gift was free, a victim innocent, a record new, and scholarship academic. In the past, one didn't have to specify strictly private or natural grass. Then again, some pleonasms like “cash money” and “disposable garbage” have evolved into possible states of non-redundancy. Some might say that in the past “heterosexual sex” was pleonastic. Unfortunately, a former pleonasm,“healthy tan,” has mutated into an oxymoronic state in our ozone-depleted world.

So, who is to blame? As I live and breathe, I think I can pinpoint the party responsible for our modern orgy of redundancy. To paraphrase Zola, J'accuse Raid Bug Repellant. They unveiled the slogan “Raid kills bugs dead” in 1966. To keep pace with

this linguistic overkill, other advertisements stressed products that were “new innovations,” and “very unique.” McDonald's isn't content to sell billions of hamburgers but “billions and billions.” and Soft Soap Body Wash doesn’t merely make you “clean,” you become “more than just clean.” And don't think the pleonastic process only flows towards aggrandizement. Isn't a dot miniscule enough? Must we endure microdots?

N.B. (Making a duplicate copy in any shape or form without my express, intended permission, and authorization is totally and utterly allowed, and indeed more preferable than alternative options.)

Excerpted from Howard's upcoming book Arranged & Deranged Wit.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Facebook Word Puzzles-801-850


801-Name word of at least 11 letters where all the letters only appear in the first half of the alphabet.

802-Discern the convergent words: a)mock-wing-feed apple-chart-crust old-trade-cabinet

803-What do these words have in common? peony-paean-panic

804-Discern the convergent words: a)good-gun-cow b)dis-movement-irritable c)white-down-baby

805-What do these words have in common? though-caked-badly

806-Discern the convergent words: a)story-of-star b)ere-do-stalag c)bet-gun-on

807-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that refers to stickier sultanates

808-Discern the convergent words: a)walker-hawk-blue b)bar-Indian-eat- b)she-cheese-milk

809-Name a 2 word palindromic phrase that refers to a superintendent selector

810-Discern the convergent words: a)ball-water-winter b)fat-garden-soup c)golden-red-sugar

811-What do these words have in common? pedigree-helicopter-halcyon-alcatraz

812-Discern the convergent words: a)fish-raw-tooth b)pie-face-soda c)salad-shell-stand

813-What do these words have in common ? vindaloo-grouper-marmalade

814-Discern the convergent words: a)ire-halt-irate b)basket-skin-spiny c)clothes-brass-shoe

815-Name a 2 word palindromic phrase that refers to a sharp editorial turn at a newspaper

816-Discern the convergent words: a)up-ball-nut b)apple-potato-rice c)lemon-racket-winter

817-What do these words have in common? trace-counting-stile-fried-cowed

818-Discern the convergent words: a)fountain-long-shower b)river-street-water c)rest-under-speed

819-What do these words have in common? bunk(nonsense sense ) -sherry -cantaloupe

820-Discern the convergent words: a)French-high-tar b)sandwich-head-white c)bone-deep-sprain

821-Name a 2 word palindromic phrase that refers to an early week go-getter

822-Discern the convergent words: a)panty-rubber-water b)tory-bicycle-boxer c)green-pea-rain

823-What do these words have in common? emirate-neater-host

824-Discern the convergent words: a)can-great-copy b)dirt-pile-star c)pot-cat-corner

825-What do these words have in common? pander-mentor-hector

826-Discern the convergent words: a)tail-tale-cold b)flicker-pit-bane c)ride-show-work

827-Name a 2 word palindromic phrase that refers to a place where you might find a collection of slimy creatures

828-Discern the convergent words: a)flour-flower-a b)lemon-racket-winter c)eater-head-patch

829-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that refers to a nice unexpected bonus given to a customer

830-Discern the convergent words: a)blouse-girl-shvitzer b)sun-ad-age c)eye-has-hop

831-What do these words have in common? jerky(the food)-lagniappe-puma

832-Discern the convergent words: a)soap-tea-tin- b)blond-fields-pink c)bone-red-schmaltz

833-What do these words have in common? fat-aura-buck

834-Discern the convergent words: a)aAlanta-ford-peregrine b)catcher-town-she c)rink-bag-catcher

835-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that refers to pure deceivers

836-Discern the convergent words: a)out-bypass-lining b)winter-leg-free c)line-wax-atoll

837-What do these words have in common? celebrity-garbage-robust

838-Discern the convergent words: a)bled-part-bling b)jay-winter-black c)ant-navy-elephant

839- Which word doesn't belong in this grouping? posh-radar-snafu-Hamas

840-Discern the convergent words: a)sky-spree-wood b)skin-snow-spot c)clay-dropping-hole

841- Name a 2 word palindromic phrase that means too late to turn back now

842--Discern the convergent words a)dog-land-over b)save-down-value c)eye-bruised-kid

843--Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that could refer to Evian in the Emirates (one of the words is an initialism)

844-Discern the convergent words a)in-sex-pat c)pea-game-as c)do-comeback-dies

845- Name a 2 word palindromic phrase that could be a directive to shell the Mafia

846--Discern the convergent words a)a-on-be b)dropping-lock-moose c)monitor-sweet-failure

847-What do these words have in common? skosh-futon-tycoon

848--Discern the convergent words a)coal-ring-scorch b)soap-plunged-love c)dragon-green-lounge

849- What do these words have in common? narcs-clement-scrape

850--Discern the convergent words a)middle-sing-eye b)china-ham-bare c)hare-tree-hind