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Words, Dec. 4



Maybe we need a misusage vaccine:

Ed Barham, public information officer for the state Health Department, turns peevish when he hears people talking about “stomach flu.”

“There is no such thing as stomach flu,” he says. “People say they had diarrhea, they were throwing up all night — that's not flu. It's a stomach virus. Flu is a disease of the upper respiratory system — you cough, you sneeze, you sniffle, you hurt all over.”


Mind in the guttar:

“The anti-Christ one-world government has sunk to the lowest guttural level as never before.” — Tony Alamo news release.

Not to kick him while he's down (although it's said that when somebody's down is when you can get your best kicks in), but Tony Alamo is relying on a nonexistent word to make his point here. The leader of a small, weird, allegedly dangerous religious group presumably meant to say that prosecutors in the anti-Christ, one-world government were using gutter tactics (very base) against him.

It might be convenient to have an adjective like gutteral, but we don't. The closest thing is the pedestrian gutter-like. It's no wonder Alamo sought something punchier.

He can't use guttural this way, though. It's already taken for another purpose. Guttural speech is speech that's “harsh, earthy.” The Nazi characters in the old World War II movies all had a guttural way of speaking, even when they were speaking English. It didn't save them when Robert Taylor showed up.


Bail harder:

Merriam-Webster, the dictionary publisher, has called bailout the 2008 word of the year, for rather obvious reasons. We've heard a lot about bailouts recently, and I imagine we'll hear a lot more. Vet (“to appraise, evaluate”) finished second on Merriam-Webster's list. I disagree with an Associated Press article that said “Interest in ‘vet' spiked in June as presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke about the team he had assembled to ‘vet' possible running mates.” Interest in vet spiked when John McCain chose Sarah Palin to be his running mate. The question of “Who vetted Sarah and how did they vet her?” became just about the biggest issue of the presidential campaign.      


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