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Skosh and soda, mud in your eye ...



Stanley Johnson's interest was piqued by a newspaper's use of the word "scoch" in referring to a unit of measurement.

"I know that it means 'a small amount,' " Johnson writes, "but I don't know that I've ever seen the word in print. 'Scoch' doesn't look right. I would have guessed 'scoche' or maybe even 'scauche,' because I'm sure if it's really a word, it's probably some debased French thing."

It's not French, debased or upstanding, although it rhymes with gauche. Skosh is a slang term for "a bit, a little." It was derived from the Japanese sukoshi, but it may have come to America by way of Korea. One source suggests that the Japanese word was adapted into pidgin Korean as "skoshi," and that American servicemen who'd been stationed in Korea brought the word to America as skosh. Paul Dickson's "War Slang" says the term came into its own in this country "in an ad for blue jeans that featured 'a skosh more room' for the postadolescent customer."

"Still, the two most rightward judges on the 11th Circuit ... gave the foes of the law what they needed, a victory of some sort, even a pyrrhic one."

Stuart Jay Silverman of Hot Springs writes: "Apparently, Spell Check and the editors both missed the error in [Name Withheld]'s Aug. 17 column. The p in 'Pyrrhic' should always be capitalized."

A couple of specialized uses of pyrrhic don't require a capital, but Mr. Sherman is correct that the Pyrrhic of Pyrrhic victory is always capitalized, being derived from the name of the Greek general Pyrrhus, who said after a costly victory over the Romans that one more such and he would be undone.

It's a poor workman that blames his tools. I'm fairly sure that [Name Withheld] will eventually come forward, admit his mistake in public, and stop trying to blame Spell Check and editors. If he's reading this, a round for the house would not be out of order.

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