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Swashday

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"Mary Torious — businessman and widow of N.O. Torious Trucking Line's founder — moved 38 spots higher on the list released Monday."

Michael Klossner writes, "It's OK with me when an actress calls herself an 'actor', but when a woman is called a 'businessman' I'm annoyed. Because of the 'man'."

I accept some words ending in "-man" as being suitable for either men or women — chairman, jury foreman, etc. With chairman, we're more concerned with the fact that the person is the presiding officer than we are with the person's sex. In any event, the asexual chair seems to be replacing both chairman and chairwoman, just as former waiters and waitresses are becoming servers. But the sexual distinction between businesswoman and businessman seems too stark to be ignored, like the distinction between widow and widower. It just doesn't sound right — quoting my favorite rule — to call a businessman a businesswoman, or vice versa. (In the example provided by Klossner, I'll bet it was the newspaper, not Ms. Torious, that chose to use businessman.)

"The release date for the fifth movie in the swashbuckling series starring Johnny Depp was removed from Disney's distribution schedule earlier this month." ...

"Mailer had thrilled to the romances of Rafael Sabatini, the immortal author of Captain Blood. That swashbuckling influence stayed with him forever." ...

Success With Words explains that a swashbuckler "is so named not because he buckles a swash but because he swashes a buckler. The original swashbuckler was an Elizabethan type, a swearing, brawling, hard-drinking braggart, armed and looking for mayhem. To swash was to make a clashing noise with a sword, and the buckler was a small round shield or guard used to ward off sword blows. The word swashbuckler thus means 'one who clashes sword on buckler'; this could refer either to actual fighting or to clashing one's sword on one's own buckler to make a noise."

Swashbuckle is unrelated to turnbuckle, a device holding ropes together in the corner of a wrestling ring. In the Golden Age of television wrestling — and maybe still today — a villainous wrestler would slam his good-guy opponent's head into the turnbuckle. Frequently. But the bad guy would get his comeuppance in the end.

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