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Words May 12

by and

“Gut-busting” seems to be the adjective of choice these days for movie comedies, or alleged comedies. “Gut-bustingly funny,” says a newspaper ad for “Kung Fu Hustle.” Right next to it, an ad for “King’s Ransom” claims that the movie is “A gut-busting and sidesplitting comedy.” Both gut-busting and sidesplitting, eh? Sounds messy. I haven’t seen either movie, but I know a cinephile who walked out on both, gut intact. One man’s gut-busting is another man’s stomach-turning, I suppose. The caption on a newspaper photograph of two people in a boat said, “Catherine Rideout, an ornithologist, and Garrick Dugger, both with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, troll along the Cache River, searching the trees Friday for an ivory-billed woodpecker.” Trolling is not a term that applies to just any boat that is moving slowly. Trolling is a kind of fishing, in which the line is trailed behind a slow-moving boat. The people in this photograph are cruising down the river (though not on a Sunday afternoon, as the old song had it). They do not appear to be trolling. Incidentally, does anybody have a good recipe for ivory-billed woodpecker? I’ve lost mine. A reader e-mails: “I came across the phrase ‘Dutch courage’ in a magazine article yesterday. I’d heard it before but I don’t know what it means.” I hope she’s not Dutch. Dutch courage is courage that comes from a bottle — false courage, induced by the consumption of alcoholic beverages. This is one of many terms coined by the English around the 17th century to belittle national rivals. A Dutch treat is no treat at all; the invited guest must pay his or her own way. To take French leave is to go AWOL, to desert. Just the sort of behavior you’d expect from a Frog. “Raul Ibanez hit a run-scoring single with two outs in the 12th to give visiting Seattle a victory over visiting Cleveland.” Who got to bat last?

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