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Words, Jan. 8



Hugh N. Crye writes:

“An acquaintance of mine addresses me as ‘old bean.' What does he mean by this? Should I hit him?”

The answer to the second and more important question is “No, definitely not.” The beanster is merely being friendly; he intends no offense.

As to the literal meaning of old bean, it has none, according to The Word Detective, who knows about these things.

“ ‘Old bean' is a classic British familiar form of address, roughly equivalent to an American's greeting of ‘buddy,' ‘pal,' ‘friend,' or, at least lately, ‘dude.' It doesn't actually mean anything … ”

According to TWD, old bean was a common form of address in the U.S. too, in the 1920's, but is now considered obsolete in this country and regarded as a quintessential Britishism.

Bob Lancaster writes:

“I've noticed that Barack Obama uses the word ‘enormous' a lot – enough for it to have become a distraction. And he uses ‘enormity' in the sense of something very large instead of something very wicked. I understand that's more an improper usage than an incorrect one, but it's rare in someone who's as attentive to language as he seems to be. I guess it has to do with his being an orator first, and enormity just having a finer sound to it somehow than enormousness. He might do well to switch off occasionally to ‘immensity,' which I think sounds even better.”


The nightstick is mightier than the pen:

“Dear Arkansas Trooper Supporters:

“Are office has moved into the Arkansas State Police Association's building. Are new address is Arkansas Trooper Magazine 5702 Dreher Lane Ste. 2 Little Rock, Ar. 72209  Are telephone numbers will remain the same.”

Ellen Tutt, who submitted this item, says “There really isn't any hope for English in this country, is there?” English in this country had better keep its nose clean, that's for sure. Unless it wants to take a little trip downtown.


Karen Leverett asks, “Why do they call them escalators when half of them go down?” It's technical. 

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