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Run, rarebit

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A food columnist's reference to "Welsh rarebit" did not go down well with Stanley Johnson, who notes that the original term was "Welsh rabbit," an English coinage poking fun at the Welsh. (There's no rabbit in Welsh rabbit.) "Class snobbery," Johnson calls it. "Welsh rarebit" was created later, possibly to sooth sore Welsh feelings. Johnson continues: "What, I wonder, should be made of the other names for the dish, such as Scotch gamecock and Oxford hare. The dish is basically toasted cheese, and has been around as long as there has been bread and cheese. ... I'm sure you can think of other examples of adjectives of origin used pejoratively. In my youth, in Nebraska, we called the act of slowing and rolling through a red light a 'Texas stop.' " I remember being deeply shocked when I read that beans had sometimes been referred to as "Arkansas strawberries." I've since seen the names of other states used for the same purpose – "Tennessee strawberries," etc. Doesn't help.

The verb grind – meaning roughly persevere – has become popular in sports journalism. I see that it has a different past tense than the regular grind. "RAYS 4, ORIOLES 3 Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce homered and [pitcher] David Price grinded through five challenging innings to win his fourth consecutive decision ..." Perhaps the writer feared that "David Price ground through five challenging innings" would lead to confusion with grounded. A batter who hits a ground ball to a fielder who then throws the batter out is said to have grounded out. (This should have accompanied last week's item about flied out, but I didn't see it in time.)

"Johnson hasn't contested his detainment until trial." A reader says, "On Wiktionary it looks as if detainment is a simple synonym of detention. Why use it?" Why indeed? Maybe it's the same people who use the longer and uglier abolishment instead of abolition. (I feel compelled to admit that, ugly or not, both detainment and abolishment are recognized by Random House.)

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