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Words, Jan. 24


Barefaced and butt naked:

“The rhetoric he offers when discussing his economic policy is a boldfaced lie.”

Kelley Bass asks, “It's bald-faced, right?” It's both, and it could be barefaced too. Bald-faced and its alter ego barefaced meant “without concealment; with the face uncovered” when they entered the language around the 16th century. Barefaced is slightly older, according to Random House. Over the years, the words got stretched to mean “brazen, audacious.” But bold-faced was coming to mean about the same thing at about the same time. By the 20th century, though, bold-faced was being used mainly to refer to a kind of type. Now it's making a comeback in the old “brazen” sense. (The dictionary doesn't explain why bald-faced and bold-faced are hyphenated, and barefaced is not.)

Bald-faced and bold-faced aside, Kelley has a point when he talks about increasingly careless usage. “I see moderately literate folks mistakenly use ‘loose' instead of ‘lose,' and ‘lead' as the past tense of ‘lead,' ” he says. “Odd and disconcerting.” Yes. It seems hardly anybody uses led anymore. And a whole lot of people use butt naked in place of the original buck naked.

Plurals running amuck, still:

Tymoshenko and Yushchenko have a history of tensions.” But first, they had a history of indifferences.

Hi-yo, Silvers:

From an article about the St. Louis Cardinals' third baseman being traded to another team -

“The last three years, Rolen has missed 176 games. Most Cardinals wanted La Russa [the team's manager] back for a 13th season, and Rolen was one of the lone dissenters.” Among the leaders, I'd imagine. I'm told there's a movie in which a rock band is called “The Lone Rangers.”

A reader claims he's heard “go and bring” on television. “I was taught to say ‘go and take, come and bring,' ” he writes. He was taught correctly. What he heard on television was probably the Fox News commentators. They don't know whether they're coming or going.

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