Discoveries and Inquiries

March 25, 2007

Despite being temporarily deserted by my travelling companion, this trip to New York has so far been one of my finest New York city experiences. Furry-Paws and St. Op Snitchin’ not only put me up when ibiteyoureyes decided that his girlfriend made for better company than his redheaded bedfellow, they took me and the Old Man out for two nights on the town best described as the Columbia undergraduate reality tour, complete with drinking on the steps, sherbert punch, and Wonderful Delicious Roti Roll. I can only say cheers.

But the best part of my journey was my trip to the Strand and my two terrific discoveries. The first is a copy of Follett’s Modern American Usage. The book is filled with gems such as this one: describing the common malpropration of the proverb “to eat one’s cake and have it too,” into, “to have one’s cake and eat it too,” Follett wrote, “It is of course no trick at all to eat the cake that you have.” Quite the zing. Though the book has obvious use value, the book is more interesting to me as object. My copy previously belonged to the Penthouse Magazine Letters Department, and the title page indicates that the book is a 1966 first edition. I wonder if this means that Penthouse magazine switched to Follett’s style guide in 1969 when they began selling the magazine in America. If so, what did they use before? Were they Fowler users? Were there substantive differences in language use after the change? I am clearly left with no choice but to read the first 5-10 years of Penthouse Magazine in the hopes of spotting when this switch occurred, and what were the major changes. Lo the foibles of the aspiring lexicographer!

The second great find was an inscribed copy of my grandfather’s book. The book was given by my grandfather to the publisher of the Forward, Israel Breslow. Unfortunately, I can not read most of his handwriting, and I do not know what else he wrote. I hope that one or more of our aspiring Yiddishist readers will be able to help me make sense of his marks. Btw, from the little I can read, I can tell that my grandfather did not naturally speak modern standard Yiddish, even though his published Yiddish essays are written in the lingua franca. Only at the Strand.