Cooling my heels

Marsha Alley marshaalley at MSN.COM
Sat Dec 18 04:12:06 UTC 2004

Wonderful story, JL.  Arnold, I wonder what they would have thought had you thrown "careered" at them along with "careen."  I remember a detailed conversation in 11th grade English class about those two.  I don't think in the (dare I say it?) 40 years since then that I've heard a solitary soul use that word.  Excuse me while I go lilt on my chaise, kinda Camille-like, doncha know.  Tra-la..

/hey, it's Friday night....

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  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU<mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>>
  Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM<mailto:wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM>>
  Subject:      Re: Cooling my heels

  Picture it:  a classroom at a large state university, 1984.  The topic: "Fern Hill," by Dylan Thomas.

  Me: "Well, what does 'lilting' mean literally?"

  The 25 Freshmen: (Silence.)

  Me: Literally. Ordinarily. What's somebody doing when they're [sic] lilting?

  The 25 Freshmen: (Puzzlement. Silence.)

  Me: I can't believe this. Hasn't anybody heard of a "lilting tune" or a "lilting melody."

  The 25 Freshmen:  ( Puzzlement. Silence.)

  Me: (Puzzlement. Silence.)

  A Freshman: Isn't that like a really sad tune?

  Me: A sad tune? I don't understand. Why would it be a sad tune?

  A Freshman: Well, like flowers lilt when they die?

  Me: (Silence.)

  The 25 Freshmen:  (Silence.)

  As for "cooling one's heels," fawgeddaboudit!


  "Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU<mailto:zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU>> wrote:
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  Sender: American Dialect Society
  Poster: "Arnold M. Zwicky"
  Subject: Re: Cooling my heels

  On Dec 17, 2004, at 3:04 PM, Marsha Alley wrote:

  > I said this to a customer today and he said he'd never heard it
  > before. Come to think of it, I don't think I've heard anyone else say
  > it since my family died off. Any feedback from all y'all? (Sorry,
  > couldn't resist.)

  google gives several hundred recent hits on "cooling my heels"; i
  didn't try "cool my heels", "cooling his heels", etc. as far as i can
  tell, it's still current.

  i am reminded of an intro linguistics class that my partner jacques
  taught some years ago at ohio state. he used the verb "careen", and
  the class, all of them (about 30), maintained that they'd never heard
  the word and had no idea what it meant. but, but,..., he protested,
  here it is in a front-page story in this morning's Lantern (the OSU
  student newspaper). he read the relevant paragraph, about a dreadful
  road accident on campus, but the students professed to have no idea
  what it meant. the rest of the household (including my daughter, then
  a high-school student) was as baffled by this as jacques was.

  arnold (zwicky at<mailto:zwicky at>)

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