Monday, May 09, 2005

Link roundup from the weekend

This week's Wordwatch column is more interesting because I've seen "Clerks." It looks at the origin of "berserk," including some (to me) funny references to "berserker." (And now that song will be stuck in my head all day.)

William Safire writes about "go-to" guys and "walk-off" homers.

James Kilpatrick writes about journalists showing off their big vocabs, to funny effect. Consider some of these examples:
Several years ago, the New York Times reviewed a new TV show called "Less Than Perfect." The critic explained: "It marks the first time that a network cast as a nubile lead a relatively unknown actress because she was zaftig, and not despite it."

Would 92 percent of Times' readers know that to be nubile is to be sexually attractive, and that to be zaftig is to be well-rounded, plump? This is probably a poor example, for all readers of the Times have above-average vocabularies.

In the Washington Post, a film critic asked a rhetorical question about "Masked and Anonymous." Is the movie "a biting social satire or a wrenching apocalyptic allegory, a brilliant evocation of Americana or the solipsistic complaint of a disillusioned artist?" Clear enough?

My next-to-favorite columnist is Maureen Dowd of the New York Times. She often tries too hard to hit every phrase out of the park, but rarely talks down to us: "The hawks saw their big chance after 9-11, but they feared it would be hard to sell an eschatological scheme to stomp our Islamic terror." How firmly do you grasp an eschatological scheme?

What about "zhlub"? In New York magazine, a film critic identified a player in the film "Sideways" as "a glum zhlub." In Yiddish, a zhlub is a fellow who is coarse, ill-mannered, clumsy, graceless. Was this word necessary? It pleased the critic. Did it mystify readers? Does it matter?


At 12:32 PM, December 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

zhlub also features in tom wolfe's book "Charlotte Simmons"


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