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'Moll' a welcome site in headlines



"Bulger's Moll a Loyal Cohort ... From an early age, Catherine Elizabeth Greig knew the life of a moll."

It's good to see a moll in the headlines again. They used to be plentiful, but now they're scarce as ivory-billed woodpeckers. And newspaper headlines are duller because of it. "Trade pacts clear House GOP hurdle"? Ho-hum.

A moll, sometimes referred to as a gun moll or a gangster's moll, is "a female companion of a criminal." I think it's understood that the moll and the criminal are not married, so it would be technically incorrect to refer to Mrs. Madoff as a moll, or Mrs. Blagojevich. Moll dates from the early 20th century. The origin is unclear.

In the old days, you'd sometimes find a moll in the company of a yegg, but the yeggs have diminished in number too. A yegg is a safecracker. Modern criminals don't bother with creeping in at night and stealthily, skillfully opening a safe. They walk in with guns in broad daylight and make someone else open the safe. Unpleasant sorts; no wonder they can't get a moll.

"The murders of St. Petersburg, Fla., police officer David Crawford and Norfolk, Va., officer Victor Decker were celebrated in guttural language by one of the racist blogs in the National Black Foot Soldiers Network." Guttural is an adjective, but it's not an adjectival form of gutter. Note the u instead of e.

Guttural has to do with sound ("harsh, throaty") not substance. The blogger in question used obscene language.

"Is the plural rights of way or right of ways? I checked one dictionary, which says either is acceptable."

The first one I checked said the same thing. But there's no such pussyfooting for Garner's Modern American Usage, which lists a number of compound nouns and hyphenated terms that "make their plurals by adding –s to the main word," among them brothers-in-law, courts-martial, holes in one and rights-of-way. (Garner uses hyphens with right-of-way. Random House doesn't.)

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