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( Are you sure you don’t mean the ground floor? )
( Reading about the Riot Act )
( I’ll get around to it… eventually. )
For all that James Nicoll's joke is true—English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary—there are still so many concepts we don't have words for in English. Sometimes these are locally influenced, such as distinct terms for snow in Inuktitut or for sweet potatoes in Hawaiian, but other times there are new ways of looking at life that other languages bring to the fore by naming them. ( How many of these words do you want to kidnap? )
( On with the post )
Just look at those words! Aren't they wonderful? And as readers who consume a wide variety of literature, we recognize them, don't we? Of course we do!
A more difficult question is "Do we know exactly what they mean?" For my part, I'm not ashamed to say "not exactly, no."
These sorts of words are what author Seth Stevenson calls "bubble vocabulary." In his 2014 Slate article Shibboleth. Casuistry. Recondite., he takes a look at these words at the very edges of our vocabularies and suggests some strategies for attempting to employ them.( Wrestling with bubbles … )
Anticipation, sang Carly Simon: It's keeping me waiting.
Today's Say What? features a pair of sayings that go well with Simon's famous song. We'll explore them with the help of Gansey III's crew from Maggie Stiefvater's Young Adult series, the Raven Cycle.( We can't wait! )
( Who gives a hoot about moot? )
( Do appositives always need punctuation? )
Unlike some other usage questions, there is only one right answer here. ( I'll illustrate with the Avengers. )
Let’s find out the answer with a little help from the characters of ( Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. )
( Reach for the candle but don’t grasp the flame. )
( I shudder to think of closing the shutters. )