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Words, Dec. 16

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n "Police Sgt. Pat Downe said the department wouldn't release information about what was or wasn't found because investigators didn't want people tromping through the searched areas."

A reader says the English teachers of her youth didn't sanction tromp. "Is it acceptable now?"

It's fully acceptable to the on-line Merriam-Webster, which says that tromp is a verb meaning to step hard on and to beat up. My old unabridged Random House is a little more restrictive, but not much. RH labels tromp "informal," but most writing these days qualifies as informal, including newspaper writing, which is where our example appeared.

Tromp came from tramp, just as, a bit earlier in the 19th century, stomp came from stamp. Stomp is now regarded as standard by just about everybody, I think.

n How many of them will gild their loins?

"Republicans newly elected to Congress already are feeling the heat to put their convictions where many of their mouths and campaign ads have been. The question is how many of them will gird their jaws, step to the forefront and say thanks but no thanks to the cushy, government-provided health insurance plan come January."

n Limber Leon:

Roger Williamson saw this on the sports page. "Sanders jumped across the prone Leon, who was on his back, during the scramble." One who is prone is lying on his stomach. To be on one's back is to be supine.

n Jake Timmins of Little Rock writes "Isn't it time to retire the fashionable words icon, iconic and faux? Say for about six years?" At least. They're badly in need of rest. Closure might require euthanasia. "Dr. William Petit, the husband and father of the victims, said the verdict [a death sentence for the murderer] was not about revenge. ... He also said it wouldn't bring closure, saying whoever came up with the concept was 'an imbecile.' "

That was the same guy who came up with multitasking, a pretentious name for "careless, inattentive."

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