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Words, June 24

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Scott Trotter, a lawyer who's not a fan of lotteries, points out that they seem to have gained respectability in a rather short period of time. A 1979 edition of Black's Law Dictionary says that a lottery is "An unlawful gambling scheme ... by which a person for a consideration is permitted to receive a prize or nothing as may be determined predominantly by chance."

The 2004 edition of Black's defines a lottery as "A method of raising revenues, especially state government revenues, by selling tickets and giving prizes (usually large cash prizes) to those who hold tickets with winning numbers that are drawn at random."

Whether a lottery is "unlawful" depends on what state you're in — the lottery was unlawful in Arkansas until voters legalized it in 2008 — so I can see why that was dropped. But I would have left "gambling" in there somewhere.

The new Associated Press Stylebook says that henceforth AP will use mic as the shortened form of microphone. For many years — probably since the microphone was invented — mike was the standard short form. Mike conveyed the proper pronunciation better than mic. But younger, more literal-minded readers evidently decided that no variation in spelling would be allowed, and those are the people most likely to be reading, and writing, about mics today. (See, mikes is a better plural too.) The current AP usage Web site is changed to website in the new stylebook. But e-mail, with the hyphen, remains as is. Good choices, both.

An elderly friend gave me an item from the AARP magazine about old expressions that are still seen and heard occasionally, but whose origins are unknown to most of the people using them. Such as: "Put through the wringer." When this one shows up now, it's likely to be missing a w. "Carbon copy." My friend says that newspaper reporters once made carbon copies of their stories and gave these to AP. Hard to imagine. "Hung out to dry." Drying has become an indoor sport.

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