in the water = 'exerting a significant but mysterious influence'

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Aug 31 21:36:45 UTC 2010

Everyone must be familiar with the wisecrack, "It must be something in the
water," used humorously to explain surprising or peculiar behavior.

Well, possibly not everyone. Earlier today CNN ran a story about a
schoolteacher who's had extraordinary success educating inner-city and
previously unenthusiastic pupils.

According to the journalist, the teacher builds on one success at a time:
"He asks himself, 'What's in the water? Why does this work?'"  Thus the
phrase, to some, is no longer a joke.
Just got through reading an article by an assistant professor of English,
published not long ago in a refereed journal of literature, in which he
referred two or three times to "the hydrogen bomb that ended World War
II." On the other hand, he was up on all his tendentious puns and French
theories of misrepresentation, and the article wasn't *about* World War II

I don't try to find this stuff. It finds me.


"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society -

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