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Mittster Charisma

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"Mitt Romney Glittered at Minnesota Rally"

When I saw the headline, I thought the candidate must have been at the top of his game in Minnesota, showing off the charm and wit that have caused The Onion to declare "Mittomania is sweeping the nation."

But no. It turned out someone at the rally had thrown glittery confetti on him, and not in a friendly fashion. I'd never seen glitter used this way. Neither has the on-line Merriam-Webster, which says the verb glitter means "to shine by reflection with many small flashes of brilliant light"; "to shine with strong emotion," and "to be brilliantly attractive, lavish or spectacular."

However, M-W does list for the noun glitter, "small glittering objects used for ornamentation." Nouns sometimes get verbed, like it or not. A recent newspaper item mentioned a man who was arrested at the airport after he forced his way through "an alarmed door." If the door was spooked, what were the passengers like? In this case, the door was not itself frightened, it was equipped with an alarm.

"Equally he resisted a movement inspired by the Evangelicals to enforce the suppression of the slave trade more rigorously. 'It is impossible,' he remarked, 'not to feel and to expect that religion, morality, law, eloquence, cruisers, will all be ineffectual when opposed to a profit of a cent per cent and more.' "

A cent per cent is another usage new to me, and to most Americans, I suspect. But it's found in British English, where it means "100 percent." The passage I quoted was from a book by a British author, published in 1940. Modest research suggests that cent per cent is uncommon even in Britain today, but is still used in India and Pakistan, once under British rule.

An on-line commentator explains: "The meaning of 'per cent' is 'per 100,' the 'cent' part meaning '100.' Thus, a direct but incorrect translation of '100 per 100' would be 'cent per cent,' but native speakers of American English never use 'cent' to mean '100.' In the USA, 'cent' is used most commonly and almost exclusively to mean 'penny,' the smallest denomination of coinage, meaning 1/100th of a dollar."

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