Rafael Nunez says that after hearing the expression "What in tarnation?" in both Northern California and the Texas Panhandle, "I did some informal research and came up with this: 'What in tarnation?' is a corruption of, or is derived from, the expression 'What in darnation?' which itself is derived from 'What in damnation?'. What do you think?"
I yield to no man in the informality of my research — mine's practically barefoot — so it might have been expected that when Mr. Nunez and I loosened our neckties, we'd arrive at pretty much the same conclusion. Darnation is indeed a word conceived in a time when people were given to euphemism, substituting darn for damn and heck for hell. Then darnation got hooked up with 'tarnal, a dialectal form of eternal. So, tarnation is at bottom eternal damnation, which sounds rough. No wonder they liked euphemisms.
"Uber leftist columnist Art Decko's recent babbling attempting to equate union labor tantrums to the power of the Tea Party would be laughable if not so ludicrous."
And you could make fun of it too, if it weren't so ridiculous.
I'm interested in that uber, as well. The word is all over these days — usually with an umlaut, but we don't do unlauts at the Times. It's personal.
According to Merriam-Webster Online, uber is German for "over, beyond, super." In English, it means "being a superlative example of its kind or class (ubernerd)" and "to an extreme or excessive degree (ubercool)."
Anglophones' embrace of uber suggests they've gotten over that "Deutschland uber alles" unpleasantness of some years back.
Zoe and Boe:
A recent mention of our reclusive junior senator prompted a letter from Homer DeBrave. "John Boozman says the o's in his last name rhyme with go and not with boo, too, woo et al. Can you think of another word or name with double o's that is pronounced the way Boozman says his name is pronounced?" I couldn't, until I saw a report that the film actress Zooey Deschanel uses a long-o sound for her name.