John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
We like it vulgar
Rummaging about in it, I was able to point my son, J.P., the cook, to the entry on cupboard love: “Pretended love to the cook, or any other person, for the sake of a meal.” Now he is alerted to the hazard.
I also came across fice: “A small windy escape backwards [a playful euphemism for fart], more obvious to the nose than ears; frequently by old ladies charged on their lap-dogs.” Blaming the dog thus has a venerable pedigree.
Fice is also a slang word I recall from my childhood in Kentucky, for a small, inconsequential or irritating mongrel dog. The Oxford English Dictionary says that the word derives from fist (pronounced with a long i), for breaking wind. (Cf. feisty.)
The book also describes a useful technique for derailing bores, kittle pitchering: “A jocular method of hobbling or bothering a troublesome teller of long stories; this is done by contradicting some very immaterial circumstance at the beginning of the narration, the objections to which being settled, others are immediately started to some new particular of like consequence; thus impeding, or rather not suffering him to enter into, the main story. Kittle pitchering is often practised in confederacy, one relieving the other, by which the design is rendered less obvious.”
I will now be alert to this strategy.
And to this one: scraping. “A mode of expressing dislike to a person, or sermon, practised at Oxford by the students, in scraping their feet against the ground during the preachment. ...”
And to that one.