"Semitic guess"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Apr 12 20:22:27 UTC 2004

At 9:01 AM -0700 4/11/04, Geoffrey Nunberg wrote:
>I got some help on this one from Chip Tucker, a Victorianist at UVa.
>According to a note in Ian Jack et al.'s 1991 Oxford edition of
>Browning, the phrase evokes "a hypothesis about some difficult point
>in Hebrew, or some other Semitic language," and a note in the Yale
>Poets edition more-or-less concurs -- hence, I suppose, it's a
>conjecture about some obscure philological nicety. Even given
>Browning's demonstrated interest in philology, it sounds a little
>far-fetched, but then so do the explanations of a lot of Browning's
>references -- it's Semitic guesses all the way down.
>Geoff Nunberg
Right.  This one isn't quite as Semitic a guess as the one from
"Pippa Passes" that prompted that immortal entry in Webster's NID2:

twat, n. Some part of a nun's garb.  Erron. Browning.


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