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Matter of fact

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N.M. Norton writes:

"In today's Times [July 25] we find that a federal court ruling in Ohio 'deals directly with a fact circumstance identical to Arkansas ... ' Leaving aside the fact that whatever that thing was it wasn't identical to Arkansas (I reckon an apostrophe got dropped) what jarred me was 'fact circumstance.'

"Now, a circumstance can modify a fact. In fact, that happens all the time and is part of how we lawyers make a living. But fact does not modify circumstance. You can have circumstances of almost infinite variety, but I'll be damned if you can have a fact circumstance.

"It's like something Charlie Portis may have had Ray Midge say in 'Dog of the South,' which if intentional is high praise. But I don't suspect it was."

That Dan McGrew was shot is a fact. There may been extenuating circumstances.

"On Thursday, his spokesman Caroline Rabbit said Cotton was out of pocket." Michael Klossner says that according to Wiktionary.org, out of pocket means out of funds. He thought it odd that a spokesman for U.S. Rep. and senatorial candidate Tom Cotton would say the Cotton camp was broke, especially since Cotton is backed by some of the richest people in America. The rest of the country will go broke before Tom Cotton does.

Random House too says that out of pocket means "necessitating a cash payment" or "without funds or assets." But I think I've heard it used the way Cotton's spokesman apparently used it, to mean "he's unavailable." Urban Dictionary says I probably have heard it that way, but I shouldn't have:

"Somehow over the past half year or so, 'out of pocket' has become a new business catchphrase meaning 'unreachable, out of communication,' which is incorrect." But if enough people say it often enough, it'll become correct. Considering the resources of Candidate Cotton's billionaire patrons, we'll probably be hearing more about him being in-pocket than out-of-pocket.

Klossner also wonders if a female mouthpiece is a spokesman or a spokeswoman. The Associated Press says either is acceptable, but not spokesperson.

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