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Words Aug. 18

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A New York Times article about recording companies paying radio stations to play the companies’ records, a practice known as payola, prompted an e-mail from Paul Mahfouz. He notes that payola is most often associated with a scandal involving rock and roll disc jockeys of the late ’50s, but he thinks he remembers an earlier scandal involving record companies paying to have their records placed in jukeboxes. “My question is two-part: Was there a jukebox scandal in which the word payola arose before the radio scandal? Where did the -ola suffix come from?” Evidently something fishy was going on well before the rock and roll era. Payola dates from the late ’30s, according to the dictionary, which defines it as “A secret or private payment in return for the promotion of a product, service, etc., through the abuse of one’s position, influence or facilities.” As for -ola, Random House defines it first, rather sniffily, as “A formative of no precise significance found in a variety of commercial coinages (Crayola; granola; victrola) and jocular variations of words (crapola),” and secondly as “a suffix extracted from payola, used in coinages that have the general sense ‘bribery, especially covert payments to an entertainment figure in return for promoting a product, making an appearance, etc.’ (playola, plugola).” “WASHINGTON — Senator Mark Pryor said he is looking forward to his trip to Northwest Arkansas, where he will participate in several discussions geared toward economic development, including Arkansas’s first statewide nanosummit.” To be held on the head of a pin. Touchy crops: “184.7 ACRE farm with 140 in row crop. Rice and cotton all 100% irritable. Good duck and deer hunting. For more info. call ***-**** ” “I’ve objected to the use of the term ‘war on terrorism’ before because one — if you call it a war, then you think of people in uniform as being the solution. And it’s more than terrorism … The long-term problem is as much diplomatic, as much economic — in fact, more diplomatic, more economic, more political than it is military.” — Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

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