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Words, Feb. 4.



?I'll be Franz and you be Earnest:

“With a proposed health-care bill that might have been designed by Frank Kafka in collaboration with Rube Goldberg, it's taken a lot of arm-twisting, creative accounting, and nifty little deals to move it along.”

Tom Fularee seeks the meaning of the expression “who shot John.”

“I know it doesn't have anything to do with Kennedy or Lennon,” he writes. “It's been around longer than that.”
My first guess was that the phrase had to do with strong drink, or getting drunk. Like a substantial number of my guesses, this was incorrect. Turns out, I was thinking of “who hit John” and a variation, “who struck John,” both of which can be heard in old John Ford Westerns: “Give me a glass of that who hit John, pilgrim.” An on-line dictionary of Western slang says that “who hit John” does indeed refer to intoxicating beverages.

“Who shot John” is harder to pin down, but contributors to Wiktionary had a go. “It can mean ‘Don't give me a rambling explanation,' ” one wrote. “A father might say to his child ‘Tell me what happened and leave out the who shot John.' ”
But there seemed some agreement that “who shot John” can also refer to a disheveled appearance. “When I heard ‘Girl, you look like who shot John,' I knew I looked a mess.”

The American Dialect Society has named tweet “the top word of 2009,” and Google — the verb, not the noun — “the top word of the past decade.” I'm not sure what “top” means in this context, but there you are. I've personally had little truck with tweet.

A United States senator testified on behalf of a nominee for a federal judgeship: “Two words come to mind. First, integrity. He has it, an over-abundance of it.”
Sounds over-qualified to be a judge, but he might make a good newspaper reporter.

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