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Words, Jan. 18


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"Cecil Newton put Auburn through enough agita over the past two months. The least he could have done was spared them more on Monday night."

Agita? Sounds like somebody was aiming for agitation and forgot the last half of it.

Agita is not a word I'm familiar with, nor is it in my old Random House Unabridged. It is in the on-line Merriam-Webster, however. The noun agita is defined as "a feeling of agitation or anxiety," and its first known use was in 1982. M-W says it's derived from the Italian acido, "literally heartburn, acid."

"A police report said officers stopped Crossbun at W. Short 17th and Moss streets, and found a loaded revolver in his pocket. While being arrested, police reported that Crossbun said, '[I] took care of the bitch.' "

Why were the police arrested? The other guy sounds like the dangerous one.

A good rule to remember is that a qualifying phrase at the beginning of a sentence generally applies only to the subject of the sentence. In the example above, the subject is "police."

Dangling modifiers are not new, though they seem to be more common than ever. Success With Words quotes a passage from "Giant" by Edna Ferber (1952): "With a neck-cracking jerk the car leaped forward. Never a timorous woman, their speed now seemed to her to be maniacal." Speed was never a timorous woman, for sure, nor any other kind.

Is fascist acceptable?

" 'We've been all called liars, racists and radical right and teabaggers. And the last thing they called us was dinosaurs. You can call me all these names if you want to, but just don't call me a socialist.' "

Wait loss:

"The burgers have a light spicing to them, not too harsh but pleasant and beer-worthy. They do take a little time to cook, though — you're looking at an eight minutes weight on average before it comes to the table."


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