Simanaitis Says

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Category Archives: I Usta be an Editor Y’Know

ETYMOLOGY: CAITIFF, VARLET PART 2

YESTERDAY WAS CAITIFF’S day; today, varlet exhibits the same sort of linguistic switcheroo: What originally had an innocent meaning evolved into a word rather less complimentary. Varlet. Varlet’s original meaning … Continue reading

July 15, 2019 · Leave a comment

ETYMOLOGY: CAITIFF, VARLET PART 1

CAITIFFS! VARLETS! WHAT rare but appropriate words describing too many politicians these days. Merriam-Webster lists “caitiff” as an adjective meaning “cowardly, despicable.” It defines the noun ”varlet” as “attendant, menial; … Continue reading

July 14, 2019 · Leave a comment

COMMUNICATION CADENCE

EACH LANGUAGE has a cadence. English, for example, has its noble example of classic iambic pentameter—five beats to a line, unstressed syllables followed by stressed ones. Consider Marlowe’s line from … Continue reading

July 9, 2019 · 1 Comment

WITH JOE MILLER, THE JOKE’S ON MOTTLEY

JOE MILLER, 18th-Century English Theatre tragedian, is remembered today. John Mottley, a contemporary of Miller, ends up as a false etymological hint. My inspiration for these tidbits arose from “The … Continue reading

June 26, 2019 · Leave a comment

SMALL LATIN, LESS GREEK… BUT CHURCHILL HAD A POINT TOO

Hi ENGLISH PLAYWRIGHT Ben Jonson wrote that his late colleague William Shakespeare had “smalle Latine, and lesse Greeke.” Well, come to think of it, me too. I was never encouraged … Continue reading

June 10, 2019 · 2 Comments

WELCOMING NEW (AND OLD) WORDS TO THE OED

I MUST confess that our family Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, 1971, is appearing smaller and smaller each month. The OED’s official website has cited “New Words in … Continue reading

March 22, 2019 · Leave a comment

WHAT’S THAT IN OLD ENGLISH? PART 2

YESTERDAY IN “What’s That in Old English Part 1,” we concluded with edhwierfe!, the Old English verb “to return” in its imperative singular case. Given that you have returned, today … Continue reading

March 6, 2019 · Leave a comment