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Words, March 27

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We mentioned recently that newspapers have trouble with “alleged.” So do lawyers, it turns out. A defamation lawsuit filed in Pulaski Circuit Court says that the defendants “have continued to accuse falsely Plaintiff of alleged racism.” To accuse someone of having been accused of racism is not much of an accusation. What the plaintiff means to say is that the defendants have accused him of “racism,” not “alleged racism.” Will the case turn on this point? If somebody wins a big judgment, will I get a share? Why not?

Following an office discussion, we wrote about baseball terms on March 20. One that came up in the office discussion but failed to make the column was “keystone sack” — what is it, and why is it called that. (Be advised that this is a term used by baseball writers. I doubt that a baseball player ever referred to the keystone sack.)

What it is, is a synonym for second base. Dickson's New Baseball Dictionary addresses the etymology. “It is often claimed that the term is a play on the fact that many important, or ‘key,' defensive plays involve second base. Hy Turkin (Baseball Almanac, 1955) posits a minority opinion: ‘Viewed from the plate, second base seems to be middle of the arch formed by the basepaths. In architecture, a keystone is the tapering stone at the crown of an arch.' Since these two explanations are complementary, they may both have been a factor in the creation of the term.”

I know all about baseball, little about auto racing. I had only a vague idea of who Richard Petty is, or was, when I stumbled across Richard Petty Syndrome. A web site about on-line jargon says that Richard Petty Syndrome is “The overuse of buttons and banners from sponsors and partners on a Web site. Refers to the logo-festooned jumpsuits of auto racers.” The term first appeared in 1999, according to the web site.

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