Sunday, October 30, 2005

Quote brings animation to the inanimate

Quotable phrase: "I could talk the ears off of a wooden Indian."
Citation: Weblog
ripped by RB Ripley, from October 24, 2005
Usage: Third paragraph, last line and a half: ‘describing himself, Earle's been quoted, "I could talk the ears off of a wooden Indian.")’ [color font mine]
Comment 1: An interesting turn of phrase.

Comment 2: I apologize if including this phrase offends anyone, especially our Native American cousins. The image portrayed here is not disparaging of Native Americans but rather is reflective of making the inanimate become animated -- immovable ears drop off. What might be disparaging to Native Americans is the "wooden Indian" itself.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Discovery: geek slang for "real world"

Word discovery: Meatspace (also meat space and meat-space)
The Blog Herald, Forbes does cover story hatchet job on blogging, Oct. 27, 2005.
Usage: Last paragraph, “Take a look around the blogosphere for yourself and you will find real humans - good, bad and ugly. What do you know? It’s just like in the meatspace (real world).” [color font mine]
Meaning: Physical world rather than the
virtual world or cyberspace.
Comments: Originates from
geek1b slang, which often is as imaginative as the virtual worlds they enjoy inhabiting.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Discovery: a word meaning a secret scheme or plot

Word discovery: cabal
Citation:Former Powell Aide Says Bush Policy Is Run by 'Cabal'” by Brian Knowlton, The New York Times online, October 21, 2005
Usage: First paragraph: former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Lawrence Wilkerson, saying that "foreign policy had been usurped by a ‘Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal,’" [link and color font mine]
Meaning: “a secret scheme or plot”, American Heritage Online Dictionary.
Comments: a word used a lot lately to describe the influence of neocons in general, and Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in particular, in the George W. Bush Administration.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Discovery: a word describing the combining of two things

Word discovery: conflated
A War on Wilson?” by Matthew Cooper et. al., Time (magazine) online
Usage: Ninth paragraph, first sentence: “Wilson says that the Administration conflated the prior report of the American ambassador to Niger with his own.” [link and color font mine]
Meaning: "to bring together" or "to combine",
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.
Comments: In this news story, which is about a
White House (United States) effort to taint the image of former diplomat Joseph Wilson, this word takes on a sinister meaning.

Monday, October 17, 2005

"Fever Pitch" pitches Ted Williams' freezer metaphor

Quotable phrase: …roll over in his freezer…
Citation: Fever Pitch, 2005 movie starring Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon.
Usage: Rabid Red Sox fans at a Boston bar discussing Boston Red Sox being down three games for three in World Series against New York Yankees. They see three star Sox players at a table eating copious amounts of food and one of the characters says, “Ted Williams would roll over in his freezer if he saw this.” [link and color font mine][also see official Ted Williams website][freezer reference]
Comment: A great reworking of “roll over in his grave” cliché to fit baseball metaphor.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Discovery: A phrase to describe a delayed repartee

Word discovery:esprit d’escalier” or “wit of the staircase”
The Wit of the Staircase”, weblog intro
Usage: From the French phrase 'esprit d'escalier,' literally, it means 'the wit of the staircase' [color font mine]
Meaning: As explained in the weblog intro: “…usually refers to the perfect witty response you think up after the conversation or argument is ended.”
Comments: This actually has a name?
Notes: I haven’t been able to confirm that it is an idiom of French. Do you know? I looked up “esprit d’escalier” and didn’t find a direct translation via the program I used. However, I did verify that “wit” or “humor” are among the meanings for
esprit and “staircase” is one of the meanings for escalier. (Usage example: rampe d’escalier means bannister.)

Also, from the title: repartee

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

New feature: Word discoveries, adding to my vocabulary

Word discovery: fungible
Debunking Financial Urban Myths”, AOL Personal Finance, Myth No. 5, second paragraph, third sentence.
Usage: “…gasoline is what's known as a fungible commodity…” [color font mine]

Meaning: adjective, “of goods or commodities; freely exchangeable for or replaceable by another of like nature or kind in the satisfaction of an obligation” from OneLook Dictionary Search.
Comment: I'm not sure how often I would use this word, but it's interesting to know. I have written and edited for business for 25 years, and this is the first time I have seen this word. Have you seen it before?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Embracing your inner somethings

Quotable phrase: "...embrace their inner Manhattans..."
The new Sohos” by Les Christie, CNN/Money, introductory blurb.
Usage: “Western U.S. cities, once bastions of low rise construction and single-family homes, are beginning to embrace their inner Manhattans …” [color font mine]
Recasts cliché: embrace your inner self

Thoughts: I like it. It's a rephrasing of a cliché, which means the reference is familiar but the use is unique.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The ethics of ethical controversies

Questionable phrase: ethical controversies
For GOP, election anxiety mounts” by Charles Babington and Chris Cillizza, The Washington Post (via, fourth paragraph, second sentence.
Usage: “With an unpopular war in Iraq, ethical controversies shadowing top Republicans in the House and Senate, and President Bush suffering the lowest approval ratings of his presidency…” [color font and links mine]
Recommendation: ethics controversies
Rationale: as currently used, “ethical” modifies controversies. The controversies they talk about are neither ethical nor unethical. Using “ethics” instead, it becomes a compound noun with controversies as the primary noun modified by "ethics". The controversies they mention do involve ethics.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Two from Saturday’s The New York Times

Ever hear of the “razor blade” business model?
It describes a marketing approach “named from the marketing innovation of King C. Gillette, who in the early years of the last century sold razors for a low price but made all his money on the high-margin* disposable razor blades.”

*margin: see point 6 in the American Heritage Dictionary

The New York Times is tying the concept into the digital photo printing business practices of Hewlett-Packard and Canon, who sell photo printer hardware inexpensively but make their money on the repeat expensive purchases of paper and ink (accessories) that go into the printers.

See “
Why Do-It-Yourself Photo Printing Doesn't Add Up” by Damon Darlin in the Saturday, October 8, 2005, issue of The New York Times.

What’s new with the flu?
Are you reading or writing about the new Avian Flu pandemic the world is expecting in the near future? With the way government leaders and journalists are throwing around the concepts behind it, how much does the world really understand about the problem?

Here, via The New York Times article in Saturday’s (October 8, 2005) article, “
Bush Plan Shows U.S. Is Not Ready for Deadly Flu” by Gardiner Harris, is a listing of information that may help you sort it out.:

● Use of “epidemic” vs. “pandemic” see articles on “

● Use of term “Virus” see articles on “Viruses

● Use of term “Flu” see articles on “influenza

Friday, October 07, 2005

Words that could begin – or stop – a career

If you are about to write a résumé – or if you have one already, but you need to update it – pay attention to some advice on Watch the words you use, many with commonplace use in the past may be dangerous to use now.

These are words like "ambitious," "competitive," "experienced," and "knowledgeable."

For the complete list of résumé no-no words, read “
25 Words That Can Hurt Your Résumé” by Laura Morsch at, under Articles & Advice.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

"Up-level" might make you up-chuck

Questionable word: up-level (used as a verb)
Citation: Crisis Manager e-newsletter of 10.04.06 (by subscription), Crisis Manager University, fifth article: “Guest Editorial Re Katrina Predictions” by Rick Reed of California.
Usage: First paragraph after Editor’s Note, “…I also believe that we must up-level the discussion from emergency managers to those who decide on how much “insurance” they want to buy…” [color font mine]
Recommendation: Avoid it.
Rationale: It doesn't show up in any of the online dictionaries I consulted (Merriam-Webster, Cambridge Dictionary, Oxford English Dictionary, Wiktionary) nor my hardbound copy of the American Heritage Dictionary. I'm not even clear what it means, although from the usage I suspect it means "go up a level" or "take it up a notch." This is obviously a word the author made up, which is dangerous, especially for a consultant, who needs to demonstrate knowledge and skill.

Research Tip: A great one-stop word resource (dictionary) is, which includes links to dozens of dictionaries, in lots of languages.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Going for a “chick flick” tonight? Consult a dictionary first.

All right word fans, what do “brain freeze,” “chick flick,” “hospitalist,” “otology,” and “amuse-bouche” all have in common? They’re among the 18 new word entries in the latest printed edition of the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. They join the roughly 17 million other words that the dictionary publisher monitors, a few of which make it into their amalgum of words of the American language.

New words take about 10 years to get into the dictionary. Some are more urgent to get in that others, like “SARS,” which stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. This
acronym began attracting attention two years ago as a health hazard, but is of such consequence to American readers that the publishers decided to add it this year. The last update to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary in print was in 2003.

These new words haven’t begun to show up in the
Merriam-Webster online dictionary, however.

Read the
original article, which includes an interactive look at the 18 new words.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

A voice in the third trimester?

Quotable phrase: “his voice pregnant with emotion”
Citation:Friend, in deed” by Lisa Black, Chicago Tribune online, Oct. 1, 2005
Usage: Page 2, second to last paragraph, talking about Tim Wambach who had run a 600 mile journey raising awareness about Cerebral Palsy: "Tim ran really for all the people who can't run, for all the people who have a struggle, who have a block," said Denis Berkson, his voice pregnant with emotion as he addressed the crowd. [color font mine]
Recommendation: Leave as is.
Rationale: Nicely expresses a voice heavy or loaded with feeling, also perhaps burdened but expectant for the future.