The language used by the National Pastime is wonderful and strange (and not all food-related) - there are things you can say in baseball that you wouldn't say anywhere anywhere else.
Captain America: Civil War
is a hit film at the early summer box office, having recently surpassed 1 billion dollars in worldwide ticket sales. The film raises a lot of questions. A basic question can be answered well before that having to do with the language of the title: How can a War be Civil?
Is there a difference between standard green beans
and haricots verts
? A langoustine
and a lobster
? There is, but it's subtle. Until it comes to menu writing, where haricots verts
can make a restaurant patron feel like something exciting and new is going to be served.
Intensive purposes? Slight of hand? Linguist Adam Cooper contemplates phrases whose meanings are in transition as we replace unfamiliar words fossilized with language that sounds more reasonable to our modern ears.
Some years ago, there was a series of stories in a magazine about dates that did not go well. In one of the stories, a woman met her date at a Mexican restaurant. When they ordered dinner, her companion asked for tortillas, but he pronounced the word "dor-dee-yas." Although he did not know it, the hapless gentleman's pronunciation proved to be a shibboleth
that meant there would be no second date, and got me thinking about other encounters we may have with shibboleths in our personal experience.
There's no nice way to put it: as we reach the peak of temperature and humidity levels in much of the northern hemisphere, we all too often find ourselves confronted by things — and yes, people — who smell
. And even if we'd like to turn up our nose, for once let's take a giant whiff. Or at least an etymological one.
Did that headline peak
your interest? Or did it pique it
? I'm waiting with baited
breath for your answer. Or would that be bated
? All of us have a tendency to replace a fossilized word, whose nuances have been lost, with a more standard definition of that word or a different word entirely. Through this process, phrases, like words, can change meaning over time.