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Words Dec. 9


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In the Columbia Journalism Review, Richard Morgan furnishes a guide to the euphemistic language of newspaperspeak. Some examples: Abuse: torture Urban: black Reform: change Centrist: inoffensive Controversial: not centrist Mob: lots of nonwhites Throng: lots of whites Trend: three examples Anecdotal evidence: not even three examples A colleague asks, “Is it bald-faced lie or bold-faced lie?” Bald-faced lie is the traditional phrase, bald-faced meaning the same as bare-faced — “shameless, impudent, audacious.” But there’s also an adjective bold-faced: “impudent, brazen.” So if a person wanted to say bold-faced lie, he could probably get by with it. George Russell writes that while growing up in the Ozarks, “I often heard the phrase ‘pee turkey’ or maybe ‘pea turkey.’ It was used as a comment when someone left after a vigorous conversation that had not gone the departee’s way, as in ‘He left without saying pee turkey.’ Another use was when someone left without the host’s knowledge, again ‘He left without saying pee turkey.’ The other usage and by far the most prevalent was as an oath when something went wrong, such as when my grandfather split a board he was nailing, he would say ‘Pee turkey on that,’ or just plain ‘Well, pee turkey.’ I have researched a few historical-type periodicals and read some of Vance Randolph’s publications, but have not been able to find the correct spelling, the derivation or any real mention.” I couldn’t do much better, although I did find a listing for pea-turkey, with and without a hyphen, in the Dictionary of American Regional English. DARE says the expression is “chiefly Southern” and means “Not to say (or hear) a single word,” or “Not to know the simplest thing; be absolutely ignorant.” He don’t know pea turkey. There’s nothing about the origin, though. Wake Forest basketball coach Skip Prosser: “Their offense was exponentially better than our defense, hence the score of the game.” Exponentially? Hence? If the coaches at Wake talk this way, what do the English professors sound like?


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