Friday, July 22, 2016

Putting on the Dog


Danielle Arens asked about the phrase, “putting on the dog.” It means to dress fashionably and somewhat formally in order to impress your audience. There is no unanimous opinion as to its origin.

One patently ridiculous explanation (although popular with tour guides) says that when the family dog died in pre-colonial times, its skin underwent a tanning process, and the leather was used to make shoes or gloves. So you were literally putting on the dog when you dressed up.

Another explanation says that it may refer to the prevalence of lap dogs carried around by fashionable women in the period right after the American Civil War. You’d have to equate carrying with putting on in that case.

An appealing explanation points to students at Yale in the late 1870s. In-house slang used the word dog to refer to the uncomfortable stiff collars that men wore on formal occasions. They were being compared to dog collars.

An aside: I mentioned tour guides and bogus stories above. A few years ago, my wife and I toured the White House. Our tour guide told us that 19th century presidential wives and their friends would use a beeswax compound to hide smallpox scars and other blemishes. The downside was that when they sat close to a blazing fireplace while playing cards, the beeswax would begin to melt. If they caught another woman looking at them, they would say, “mind your own beeswax.” When I confronted the guide at the end of the tour and pointed out that this was utter nonsense, he smiled and said, “I know, sir, but the tourists love it.”



Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.





Thursday, June 30, 2016

Cuffed in the Buff


Marge from Suttons Bay cited a story in the Record-Eagle that spoke of an intoxicated  woman who was “cuffed in the buff.” That sounds like something out of Dr. Seuss.

She was found hiding naked behind a tree in Leelanau County before being led away in handcuffs. Her creative excuse was that she was about to go swimming.

Buff in this instance means bare skin, and it refers to buffalo hide, which, after a certain kind of processing, has a dull, whitish-yellow color.
·      Buff once meant a blow, and to stand buff meant not to flinch.
·      Buff also means muscled and well-toned.
·      To buff a surface is to polish it.
·      Buff also meant a fan or an enthusiast who used to follow firemen at work. Volunteer firefighters in New York in the early 1800s wore buff overcoats.

Cuff is also an interesting word. It came from a Middle English term that meant a mitten.

·      Cuff is part of a shirt sleeve or a glove that encircles the wrist.
·      A hemmed trouser leg is called a cuff.
·      The inflatable band used in measuring blood pressure is also a cuff.
·      To cuff someone is to slap that person. It also means to apply handcuffs (Cuff ‘em, Danno! )
·      To speak off the cuff means without preparation. Put it on the cuff means give the item to me on credit.
·      It is also an anatomical structure shaped like a cuff, as a rotator cuff.

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.





Tuesday, June 21, 2016

French fried vs. French fry


Roger Funkhauser wrote to me at wordmall@aol.com and asked. “Is it more proper to use ‘ice tea’ instead of ‘iced tea’ or doesn’t it make a difference?"

It should definitely be iced tea. It has to be the past participle form. Ice tea would be made from ice. Iced tea is tea that has been iced. The past participle form emphasizes something that has been _______. That said, since d and t are dentals (formed by touching the tongue against the back of the teeth), elision quite naturally takes place, so it sounds like ice tea. The mistake has been compounded by the popular rapper Ice-T, formerly known as Tracy Lauren Marrow.

Here are some other misspelled past participle forms:

MISTAKE                       SHOULD BE

shell peas                          shelled peas
ice beer                             iced beer
an occupy seat                 an occupied seat
husk corn                          husked corn
mask man                         masked man
french fry potatoes            french fried potatoes
checker past                     checkered past
unleash dog                      unleashed dog
block punt                         blocked punt
broke faucet                      broken faucet

froze food                         frozen food


Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.




Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Scale


Bill from Merritt, Michigan, mused on the word scale, which can encompass diverse meanings from relative size to the covering on a fish to a musical progression. As with many words having multiple meanings, though the spelling is identical, the origins may have absolutely nothing in common. Here’s how the Oxford English Dictionary covers the word.

scale-1  [ON skál bowl]
·      a drinking bowl
·      an apparatus for weighing things

scale-2  [Ger. skaljā shell]
·      small thin membranous or horny outgrowths on the skin of many fish and reptiles
·      a husk that may be peeled off or detached in flakes
·      the tartar that collects on teeth
·      a symbol of physical or moral blindness  (Acts ix.18)
·      the hard deposit that forms in vessels used to boil water

scale-3  [L. scala ladder]
·      a ladder, especially one used to scale a wall in battle
·      a graduated series of sounds into which an octave is divided
·      a progression of steps measuring from lowest to highest
·      a graduated table (e.g., a salary scale)
·      relative or proportionate size

Obsolete meanings included
·      a hut
·      a squadron or battalion
·      the amount of timber standing or in cut logs
·      a seaport town


Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.




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