Thursday, August 23, 2007

Number 240
August 23, 2007



Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day:

... the Bible itself ~ both the King James Version and the Revised Standard Version ~ doesn't capitalize he or him in reference to God. Thus, while members of the clergy might capitalize these pronouns in letters to the congregation, other writers should make them lowercase.

Sept./Oct. AARP, “Is There Life After Death?” by Bill Newcott

A copyeditor insisted you should always capitalize Heaven because Heaven is a place, like Poughkeepsie.

Then there’s the story of the old-time publisher/editor of a small town newspaper who told a novice never to capitalize anything but the name of the paper and God, and if in doubt, don’t capitalize god.


A sign in the neighborhood tacked to a tree that says “Wage Peace” had me wondering about the word wage and why we normally only say “wage war”. According to,

Wage \Wage\, v. t. [OE. wagen, OF. wagier, gagier, to pledge, promise, F. gager to wager, lay, bet, fr. LL. wadium a pledge; of Teutonic origin; cf. Goth. wadi a pledge, gawadj[=o]n to pledge, akin to E. wed, G. wette a wager.

So it’s related to wager and wages. To wager is to hazard a bet, and war is a hazard. So is betting on peace. Why wages? Here’s a good example from Spenser:

To adventure, or lay out, for hire or reward; to hire out. [Obs.] "Thou . . . must wage thy works for wealth." ~ Spenser.


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Roman Catholic Bishop Tiny Muskens of the Netherlands suggests that everyone call God “Allah” as a way to “get along with God”. Right. (Note that Tiny is not in quotes; apparently that’s not a nickname. I wonder what Muskens* means?) A spokesman for the Moroccan Mosque in Amsterdam told De Telegraaf, "We didn't ask for this. Now it is as if we have a problem between Muslims and Christians."

*I was making a joke, but guess what says about musk:

Middle English, from Old French musc, from Late Latin muscus, from Greek moskhos, from Persian musk, probably from Sanskrit muskah, testicle; see mus in Indo-European roots.

Although it looks like mosque could come from the same root, the etymology I found doesn’t take that word back to Sanskrit.

Mike Sykes objected to what I wrote last week (“Dhimmitude”) about a Scottish medical society saying that no one can eat at his or her desk during Ramadan if there are any fasting Muslim co-workers:

While I agree that the proposed rule appears to be political correctness taken to absurd lengths, I'm rather less happy with your apparent conclusion that jihadist doctors are representative of all Muslims.

Not all Muslims, but it seems like Muslim PR groups (CAIR in the U.S., MEEM in Glasgow) are pushing sharia law in other ways; that is, the jihad takes different forms.


In “Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged” in Mental Floss (May-June 2007), Greg Barnhisel wrote:

But the wild success of The Fountainhead only whet Rand’s appetite to delve further into Objectivism.

Whet looked wrong to me as the past tense, and gives whetted as the past tense. I’d compare it to petted and vetted. On the other hand, the past tense of let is let, and of set is set, so there’s historical precedence for either whet or whetted as past tense. It’s an ear decision.


Son Foy wrote:

I've heard "mad" used here in Boston since we first came out here. Just yesterday, I was playing volleyball when the mother of the house we were at said, "You guys going to play some mad volleyball?" It could mean a lot, or it could mean intense. In this case, it meant both.

And, today one of my students told me that the current word for “cool” is “beasty”. Example: “Sentence diagramming is beasty!”


Fred bought a handsome walking stick a couple of weeks ago at Lehman’s, an Amish or Mennonite store that specializes in new old-time products. Someone erroneously told him the stick was capped by something called a singletree, but that is actually

...the pivoted horizontal crossbar to which the harness traces of a draft animal are attached and which is in turn attached to a vehicle or an implement. Also called swingletree. Also called regionally whippletree, also whiffletree, a term primarily used in the northeast United States, derived from the older term whippletree, which is used in the Upper Northern states farther to the west. The fact that whiffletree, the newer term, is used in the Northeast, the older dialect area, illustrates the process of linguistic change. Even as the older word whippletree was spreading westward into a new dialect area, it was evolving into something different ~ whiffletree ~ in the area where it originated, as if the older dialect area were somehow trying to keep a step ahead.

(Sorry, I neglected to note my source for this definition.)

Further research, however, showed that the brass head is actually a hame, a knob that can be attached to a singletree or a horse collar for wrapping the traces around.


Ed M. queried:

Speaking of "ly", for years I have questioned the use of the words "secondly and thirdly" ~ they are usually used in speeches by someone earnestly trying to make a point. Neither word is in Webster's. Also, I've noticed that some of the younger generation say, "All of the sudden," and I hear others say, "All of a sudden." Both are a clumsy way to say "suddenly" but one sounds wrong. Any comment?

Yes, always glad to comment. I have used "secondly" etc. on occasion but I'm sort of facetious when I do it. I would avoid it in formal usage. However, Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage says it’s used with some frequency in series after first or in the first place, by Charles Lamb and Samuel Johnson to name two users, so it’s not new. They also have a lengthy entry for firstly, which I will not quote here except to say that Fowler called objections to it harmless pedantry.

On the other hand, I've always heard "all of a sudden" and I think it’s acceptable, but "the sudden" has to be a mishearing. Garner’s Modern American Usage says “all of a sudden” is correct (not all of the sudden). Old examples from also show “on a sudden”:

How art thou lost! how on a sudden lost! ~ Milton.

Mike Sykes also sent this about the –ly adverb, thanks to his access to the OED.

This is an interesting one. The reason noun-ly doesn't sound acceptable as an adverb seems to be that there are two distinct suffixes, call them -ly1 and -ly2. Each has its own entry in the OED

-ly1: appended to ns. and adjs. to form adjs., represents the OE.

-ly2: The form-history of the suffix in Eng. is similar to that of -ly1: in ME. the OE. -líce was normally represented by -l{imac}che (southern), -l{imac}ke (northern),

'Similar' notice, but not quite the same. Ultimately they both go back to the same Germanic root, but they were slightly different all the way from Gothic to Old English.

The entry for -ly2 even has livelily as an example of both.

So nowadays, folks tend to overlook the distinction.

All –lys look alike to me.

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