Columns » Words




A Kentucky Derby winner deserves respect:

“The chestnut son of Smart Strike scored his spectacular come-from-behind victory in the Preakness and will not be facing Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense after that colt’s owner and trainer, Jim Tafel and Karl Nafzger respectfully, opted not to enter into the Belmont Stakes.”

 J. W. Roge writes: “I have noticed that people here in Little Rock, lawyers included, say ‘suh-peeny’ for the word ‘subpoena.’ Shouldn’t that be ‘suh-peenah’?”

It should, and I’ve tried to get the bar association to do something about this. But the president says they’re too busy suing, and anyway there’s an old rule in the law game, “It’s not whether you know pronunciation, it’s whether you know the judge.”

 “It looked like he ramshackled the apartment. The furniture was all torn up. It looked like he threw a fit.”

First time I’ve seen ramshackle used as a verb. Random House and the spellchecker don’t recognize it either, but that doesn’t mean they won’t, eventually. I doubt that the person quoted in the article is the first to use the word that way.

The adjective means “loosely made or held together; rickety; shaky: a ramshackle house.” It has nothing to do with shackling a ram — although an unshackled ram could do considerable damage to an apartment, I imagine — but is related to ransack (“to search through to commit robbery: plunder”).

 “Jerry Falwell, pastor, founder of the Moral Majority and Liberty University and kingpin for making the Religious Right a political force in American politics, died May 15.”

I tend to think of kingpin as having an unsavory connotation, since it’s so often used in regard to criminals — drug kingpin, etc. — but really it doesn’t. Merriam-Webster says that a kingpin is “the chief person in a group or undertaking.” It’s similar to kingfish — “an undisputed master in an area or group.” Huey Long, the dynamic governor of and senator from Louisiana in the 1920s and ’30s, was known as the kingfish. So was a fictional character on the old Amos and Andy radio show.

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Add a comment