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On toothcombs, fatal deaths and airs apparent



Don't you dare use one of those cheap toothcombs:

"No doubt Brooks was on her guard: a source told the Daily Mail that she had ordered two 'very senior' Sun journalists 'to go through every line on every page with a fine toothcomb.' "

There's a lighter sentence if the stabbing death is nonfatal:

Christian Harrison throws an item from the July 6 Arkansas Times back in our face: "Marie Ashford, a 2005 parolee who was arrested in the fatal stabbing death of her boyfriend in North Little Rock recently, ... "

Fatal stabbing would be OK, Harrison writes, and so would stabbing death, but fatal stabbing death is excessive.

They wanted fresh air:

"The Hapsburg Ultimatum was a document sent to Serbia from Austro-Hungary giving them terms to accept to prevent war, after a Serbian Terrorist Organization shot and killed the air to the throne of Austro-Hungary."

Stanley Johnson writes concerning our recent discussion of the vanishing clockwise.

"There is a good old alternative to clockwise that hopefully will not go away anytime soon. Sunwise refers to the apparent direction of motion across the sky of the sun and moon and other stars." Sunwise is in the Random House all right, and, as Johnson points out, so is an alternative to counterclockwise: Widdershins (also withershins). The word has nothing to do with the limbs of women whose husbands are deceased. Instead, it's a "chiefly Scottish" adverb that means "In a direction contrary to the natural one, especially contrary to the apparent course of the sun or counterclockwise: considered as unlucky or causing disaster."

Dorothy Sayers knew widdershins, and everything else needed to write great murder mysteries. In "The Nine Tailors," she wrote "He turned to his right, knowing that it is unlucky to walk about a church widdershins, ..." and in "Clouds of Witness," "True, O King, and as this isn't a church, there's no harm in going round it widdershins."

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