In the December Vocabula Now Online: Them's Crying Words

James Harbeck jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA
Tue Dec 18 03:50:58 UTC 2007

I'm put in mind of the fellow I know at the University of Calgary who
declared that Calgary wasn't a city because it didn't have a
cathedral, and the definition of a city (in medieval times,
purportedly, which was long enough ago for it to be "original" to
him) was that it had a cathedral.

(Calgary did (and does) have a cathedral, incidentally -- more than
one, in fact, since Catholics aren't the only ones who have them. The
Catholic cathedral in Calgary is the ugliest thing I've ever been in
that called itself a cathedral, but it _is_ the seat (cathedra) of
the bishop...)

I have to say that the habit of thought that seeks out these little
specious trump cards seems to me essentially the same as the one that
takes with such alacrity to spurious acronymic etymologies. It's a
kind of intellectual crack cocaine, innit -- a quick little boost of
superiority from special knowledge about the _real_ story.

James Harbeck.

The American Dialect Society -

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