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Words Nov. 11

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Euphemism of the week: “Citing the early results, Greenberg said he would use the coming term to crack down on unnecessary spending by the quorum court. ‘I’m going to do my best to be a spokesman for ethics and values,’ he said. ‘I’m willing to be the frog in the punch bowl.’ ” Frogs, we could tolerate. Speaking of euphemisms, Robert Kuttner writes on faith-based in The American Prospect magazine: “The treacly phrase ‘faith-based’ was coined by the right as a warm and fuzzy euphemism to camouflage the effort to enlist the state in the army of God. It diverts attention from the real debate about the proper nexus between government and religion … [S]ome on the religious left see those on the religious right as sometime allies in a shared struggle to resist creeping secularism. But there’s an iron law of religious zealotry: Breach the church-state wall and a zealot whose beliefs are more dogmatic and dangerous than yours will seize the opening.” Scots and soda, mud in your eye … Larry Onstott writes, “I have been wondering about the usage of Scots vs. Scotch. Which is correct?” According to Random House: “The natives of Scotland refer to themselves as Scots or, in the singular, Scot, Scotsman, or Scotswoman. The related adjectives are Scottish or, less commonly, Scots. Scotch as a noun or adjective is objected to except when used of whisky and in established phrases like Scotch egg and Scotch pine. In the United States, Scotch is often used where the Scots themselves, or some Americans of Scottish descent, would prefer Scottish or Scots. The term Scotch-Irish is standard for persons of Scottish descent in Northern Ireland or of mixed Scottish and Irish descent, especially in the United States.” n Scots love freedom, especially under their kilts, but the scot in scot-free (“completely free from harm, punishment or obligation”) has nothing to do with Scotland. Scot is an old word for “payment” or “charge.” We never use it anymore except in scot-free.

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