words resemble fish

Mark A Mandel mam at THEWORLD.COM
Fri May 24 02:04:36 UTC 2002

On Thu, 23 May 2002, Arnold Zwicky wrote:

#from Terry Pratchett, The Truth (HarperCollins, 2000), p. 73;
#the following is an asterisked footnote to the occurrence of the
#words "fracas" and "rumpus" in the speech of the character
#William de Worde, editor of a newspaper:
# Words resemble fish in that some specialized ones can survive
# only in a kind of reef, where their curious shapes and usages
# are protected from the hurly-burly of the open sea.  "Rumpus"
# and "fracas" are found only in certain newspapers (in much the
# same way that "beverages" are only found in certain menus).
# They are never used in normal conversation.
#[i can't help pointing out the surprising verb agreement in
#'"beverages" are' (as if the word "beverages" were being used
#rather than mentioned), and the switch from "found only" to
#"only found" (copyeditor's correct to natural vernacular) in
#a single sentence.]

I think what's going on with "'beverages'" is scare quotes or something
very similar, with the speaker maybe putting a sarcastic hoity-toity
accent on the word.

-- Mark A. Mandel
   Linguist at Large

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