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Words Nov. 17

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Internet etymology:

Somebody passed this on to me. Apparently it’s been going around for a while.

“In the 16th and 17th centuries, everything had to be transported by ship and it was also before commercial fertilizer’s invention, so large shipments of manure were common. It was shipped dry, because in dry form it weighed a lot less than when wet, but once water (at sea) hit it, it not only became heavier, but the process of fermentation began again, of which a by-product is methane gas. As the stuff was stored below decks in bundles, you can see what could (and did) happen.

“Methane began to build up below decks and the first time someone came below at night with a lantern, BOOOOM! Several ships were destroyed in this manner before it was determined just what was happening.

“After that, the bundles of manure were always stamped with the term ‘Ship High In Transit’ on them, which meant for the sailors to stow it high enough off the lower decks so that any water that came into the hold would not touch this volatile cargo and start the production of methane. Thus evolved a four-letter term which has come down through the centuries and is in use to this very day.”

Pretty clever, but this story is itself Shipped High In Transit. The four-letter word in question was derived from an Old English term centuries ago. As we’ve noted before, acronyms (words formed from the initial letters of words in a set phrase) were unknown until the 20th century. The first acronym was recorded during World War I. So — no Port Out Starboard Home. No Constable On Patrol. No With Out Papers. No Ship High In Transit.



“Shortly after 6 a.m., a caller reported that a man was laying in the yard of a house in the 6900 block of West Markham Street, next to a bicycle. Officers discovered Doe’s body lying near a tree in the yard.” Looks like the newspaper changed copy editors in mid-paragraph. The second one got it right. The man/body was lying in the yard.



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