laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Nov 29 16:12:33 UTC 2003
>From: Bapopik at AOL.COM
>Sent: November 28, 2003 8:22 PM
>To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
>Subject: "Y'all" in today's New York Times; "Jazz" in today's NY Sun
> While at the TIMES site, check out William Safire's "On Language" column
>in Sunday's magazine:
> Paul Ignatius of The Washington Post, who writes a serious column about
>foreign affairs, departed from his usual style this month to
>Prince Charles in a recent photo as ''wearing a carnation, carrying a furled
>umbrella and looking particularly like a twit.''
> He concluded his critical commentary about ''poor Prince Charles'' by
>noting unforgivingly that ''he blew off one of the world's most
>for fellow upper-class twit Camilla Parker-Bowles.''
> The word is not familiar to most Americans and is sometimes misused.
>("Twit" is not familiar to most Americans? Was I the only person to watch
>MONTY PYTHON in the 1970s?--ed.)
I'd have to agree that it's not familiar to most Americans, which is
consistent with the fact that many Americans are indeed familiar with
it, whether from the Monty Python shows and movies or other sources.
For me, "silly twit" is the standard collocation, and that first
depiction of Prince Charles with carnation and furled umbrella does
indeed sound like a clip-art icon from those old Python sequences.
_Twit_ is evidently a deverbal noun, with the first OED cite (in the
relevant meaning) only as old as 1936, although there's an apparently
related sense that goes back to 1719. I'm not sure I see the logic
of the separation between the OED's senses (2a vs. 2b) on this one.
I was also wondering what kind of "misuse" Safire had in mind, but
then my Times got hurled up onto my driveway and now I see it's from
a reference to a Virginia sportswriter noting that Washington
defensive end and all-time sacks leader Bruce Smith was "in a twit"
over the fact that he wasn't in the starting lineup. I agree with
Safire that it was almost certainly a snit the writer was thinking of
Smith as being in, but perhaps there's some influence from "atwitter"
here as well.
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