two word choices

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Sun Mar 27 18:31:37 UTC 2005

two word choices that caught my eye recently.  the first is certainly
the word the writer had in mind, and it's comprehensible in context,
but the usage is new to me.  the second is a malaprop, i think, though
at the moment i can't call up the right word for the context; malaprops
tend to do that to you.

1.  from Brendan Lemon's "Letter from the Editor" in the April 2005
issue of Out magazine, p. 23:

I wear a basic shirt-and-jeans combo every day and probably couldn't
tell you where the T-shirt or trousers came from.  My hookups are a
different matter: I know the precise provenance of my wristwear or
running shoes and why I'm rockin' them this week but not last.

[this is "hookups" 'wardrobe accessories', perhaps an extension from
"hookups" 'electronic add-ons, accessories', i.e. things you hook up to
the basic system.  googling supplies various other uses of the noun
"hookups" or "hook-ups", including a use for 'branded clothing or
accessories', i.e. such items with a team or company name or logo,
which connects the item (hooks it  up) to the organization.  all these
uses involve plurals with category ('kind' or 'type') interpretations,
like "clothes" 'clothing'.  a singular use -- "I wear a different
hookup every day" -- strikes me as interpretable but odd]

2.  from Erik Reece's "Death of a Mountain" in the April 2005 issue of
Harper's Magazine, p. 59:

The investigators wanted to cite Martin County Coal for eight
violations, including willful negligence.  Thompson and Dave Lauriski,
MSHA's new assistant secretary, whittled that down to two menial

[this is "menial" 'inconsequential, petty', not anything to do with
servants or servitude.  perhaps a blending of "minor" with
"venial"/"trivial"?  or just a malaprop for "minor" -- a fancy,
technical-sounding substitute for it?]

arnold (zwicky at

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