April 4, 2009 |
Do you know any of these phrases: "think of England," "a gun in your pocket," "go nuclear," "rough and tumble," "knock-down, drag-out" or "at the drop of a hat"? Do you know what it means to "go to the mattresses"? It's no skin off my nose if you don't. There's no doubt that great American cliches are, well, cliches. Whether we speak in street slang or have a broad, beautiful vocabulary, we all use little bits of language that come from another time and place. However you like to talk, it can be funny and fun to discover the origins of classic phrases and what popularized them.
January 27, 1999 |
In 1998, it was the N-word. Will 1999 be the year of the F-word? "Fruit." "Fag." "Fairy." According to Merriam-Webster's thesaurus, they're all other words for "homosexual." When the list appeared in America Online's version of the thesaurus earlier this month--along with related words and synonyms such as "uranian" and "queer," among others--gay rights leaders weren't the only ones who gasped in horror.
October 17, 1999 |
Imagine a world in which "hello" cannot be found in your trusty dictionary. That was the case before the last turn of the century, when the word made its official debut in 1898's Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. And that, said John Morse, publisher of the first Merriam-Webster edition of the 21st century--finished, but not yet released--came only after a word war between two great inventors who owned telephone companies: Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell.
September 11, 1992 |
Party on! Or, as they say here in France, Megateuf! The movie version of "Wayne's World," playing off its success on television's "Saturday Night Live," has been a huge hit at home in the United States. But months ago, when Paramount Pictures executives and their international marketing specialists pondered how to take the film overseas, they knew they faced problems. Few films in history have been more idiomatically American than this comedy about two weird (in France they say Zarb!
December 5, 1999 |
For the end of the 1900s--not the millennium (which ends Dec. 31, 2000), as so many people continue to get wrong--this could be an excellent time for all of us to mourn the loss of Things We Never Hear Anymore. The 1900s are fading fast. And with them, we say a fond farewell to words we no longer use, phrases that are more or less passe, products we no longer buy, even names of human beings that may be becoming extinct. (For example, the name "Myrtle."
August 21, 1998 |
As golf's popularity rises, the demographics of the sport are drastically changing. This is especially evident in the language of the game. An infusion of younger players has introduced slang into the stodgy vernacular of golf. To help talk your way around the course, here's a guide to hip links lingo that will make it easier to sound like you know what you're talking about: The Big Tour--The PGA Tour. Also known as the Big Boys' Tour. Professional golfers can play mini-tours.
April 4, 1996 |
"Daughters? Daughters are cool!" These are the exact words I overheard in a kaffeeklatsch conversation the other morning. They were exclaimed by an ear-pierced guy who appeared to be in his late 40s, to a lady friend who had just revealed that she is the mother of three girls. To her credit, the lady seemed confused by the remark. Daughters are cool. Right, kind of like Smashing Pumpkins, and "ER" and snowboarding. They're fun! Having, and presumably rearing, daughters is a cool thing.
July 23, 2006 |
IN the early morning hours most weekends, finding hyphy isn't difficult, it's just a matter of knowing what to look for. Pull off Interstate 580 near the San Leandro line and head south toward the San Francisco Bay. Along a nearly deserted stretch of Foothill Boulevard you'll find them: scorched black curlicues marking the street every hundred yards or so for nearly 10 miles.
January 20, 1993 |
Listen up. If you're not a narb (square) or an abb (abnormal), you'll want to speak the King's (oops, Monarch's) English in a politically correct, bias-free, po-mo (postmodern) way. You will not call your pooch a pet but an animal companion. You will not call Whoopi Goldberg an actress; she's an actor. You will not say master bedroom, master key, mastermind or master anything--these are sexist concepts.