Monday, August 21, 2006

Who? What? Well, I'll Be Darned

Janice Roadway went to the college where I was an adjunct prof. We didn't think anything about it one way or the other until this cute little thing mentioned that her uncle owned a trucking company. All these years, I thought Roadway Express was just a real neat name for an outfit that, well, used roads. Not so, said Janice; it was a family name.

Joseph Pilates, I just learned, was the founder of the Pilates exercise program. I sort of wondered what it meant or came from; possibly a Greek word or something. Now I know, courtesy of an infomercial that came on after a late-night Sunday program.

The back-up beeper, something very normal these days, had an inventor. I had never really thought about its gestation but, yes, someone had to think it up. It wasn't something they found in the woods one day and said, "Hey, this would be neat to put on the back of a truck." The inventor died in Orient, Long Island, a few years ago. I remember that because my grandfather came from there, as did all my ancestors on his side back to, maybe, 1639.

Someone asked a noted online lexicographical source, "World Wide Words," the origin of Blue Plate Special that staple of American diners. "Never heard of it," the column's conductor said, then added, "but I've found that it's a common thing in the USA." Common, indeed; it's the cheap special of the day and, apparently, native to this country.

Defile: Can you defile in a defile? Yes, but you're using two entirely different words that never had the slightest connection with each other. When you defile (Old English "fylan") something, that's one matter; when you go through a defile (French "defiler"), that's quite another matter. So, yes, you can indeed fylan in a defiler, but just don't let anyone catch you doing it.


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