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Words, Aug. 14



 “Lost cat in N.J. tips scales at 44 pounds … ‘She's built like a quarterback,' said Flicka Tharist, a shelter volunteer and current foster owner of the kitty.”

I'll bet Flicka is not a serious football fan. A quarterback may be the star player on the team, but he's seldom the largest. A true football enthusiast might have said the cat was built like a fullback or a linebacker, but with a cat the size of this one, the best comparison probably would be to an offensive tackle — or “o-lineman,” as the sportscasters now say.


“That town has seen some wonderful restaurants go by the wayside in the last 10 or so years. Tommy's was a personal favorite of mine — I jones for their onion rings right now.” The verb jones is not in my old Random House but it is in the Merriam-Webster online. It's slang for “to have a strong desire or craving for something: He was jonesing for a drink.” It's been around since 1974, M-W says. My Random House isn't that old, but slang words are often slow to make it into the dictionaries.

I wonder if Tommy's had a cat.


“So now we have The New Yorker magazine giving us a cover that parodies all these insane rumors about the Obamas — that he's Muslim and that she is an Angela Davis-looking, Afro-ed black militant.” Ernst Schrader of Eureka Springs writes:

“Afro-ed reads out like college jargon: phys-ed, art-ed, home-ec, ed-psych etc. My own instant, unsolicited interpretation was ‘black studies.' Merely dropping the hyphen (Afroed) hides the base word Afro, and could cause the puzzled reader to imagine the presence of some slangy Germanism. To avoid this may be what prompted the columnist to insert the hyphen in the first place, but a better solution is an apostrophe: Afro'd black militant. Americans use the apostrophe lavishly where it does not belong; little chance that it would puzzle here, particularly because thousands of poets have used an apostrophe to prevent an e of ed from suggesting a separate syllable.”   

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