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Words Dec. 8

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In baseball, the expression tools of ignorance refers to the catcher’s equipment: face mask, chest protector, shin guards, helmet (a fairly recent addition), mitt. The term suggests that catching is a grueling, painful job that a smart player would try to avoid. There are different stories about its origin. This one, first recorded in 1939, is quoted in The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary:

“The ballplayers love phrases that are pungent and redolent with meaning. Thus, Bill Dickey, Yankee catcher, coined a phrase that was greeted with whoops of joy and at once included in the language. Brooding over the fate that made him a catcher on a blazing July day, Bill spoke of the catcher’s armor as ‘the tools of ignorance.’ ”

Bill Dickey was a Hall of Famer from Kensett. The new Arkansas Travelers baseball park under construction in North Little Rock, Dickey-Stephens Park, is named for Bill Dickey; his catcher brother, Skeets, and the financier brothers Witt and Jack Stephens.



“Nelson, who said he will make a final judgment later, will meet with Roberts today. Leahy said he will vote against Roberts if the judge seems likely to pursue an ‘activist’ philosophy.”

An activist is usually “an especially active, vigorous advocate of a cause, especially a political cause.” In judicial politics today, the term activist judge has taken on a somewhat different meaning, with both political parties disdaining “activist judges.” But it’s not how active a judge is that makes him an activist, it’s which side he’s active on. Activist judge now means “Any judge who’s likely to rule the way I don’t want him to rule, or not to rule the way I do want him to rule.”



“ ‘This department is shaken that one of its officers could participate in such inexcusable behavior,’ the chief said in a statement included with his report. ‘Although we are extremely fortunate that this element within our agency has been weeded out, nothing can substantiate the actions taken by Officer Krupke nor negate the offense.’ ”

Substantiate doesn’t fit here. The chief surely meant legitimize, or something similar.


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