Vintage Salad: A Word for our Sponsors

September 6, 2007

One of the reasons it’s been so hard to return to regular blogging is that I’m not entirely sure what I’m supposed to be blogging about. When I restarted YS last December after a long layoff, I tried to turn myself into a word blogger, reasoning that people (unlike les singes) need words, and probably like a few of them. The results were mixed (and often not updated), but overall it was fun. As the year went on, I started blogging words less and less, focusing more on my interpretations of “society.” But with writers block staring me in the face, I think it’s time to jump in and run an old fashioned word of the day, and like many, nay–the best!–of the word of the day columns, I’ll end up looking at multiple words in a quite untimely fashion.

Back in June the OED released a number of new words, which, in addition to a few great entries (sabermetrics and sabermetrician), include more than a fair number of clunckers. First is the bizarre addition of “to-do, adj”. Derived from “do, v” use 33, to-do means “Designating a (notional) list of tasks requiring attention or completion, often organized in order of priority. Also: relating to such a list.” As an adjective, “to-do” is a bit too limited for my tastes, but it’s wide usage more than justifies its inclusion. Hopefully the entree of “to-do, adj” will lead people to bring back the now obsolete “to-do,v” meaning, “To put asunder, divide, separate.” And, yes, it appears that the “to” was a conjugated part of the verb. Just check out this great quote from the 10th century: “Hi todydon heora mu{edh} on{asg}ean me.” Ah, the majesty of the unchanging English language.

The other great new entry is “stop gap, v” which has both a transitive form (To fill, fix, or attend to using a stopgap) and an intransitive form (To act as or use a stopgap; to fill a post or meet a need temporarily). I’m not sure I’m truly ready for a world where people say things like “I was living in Manhattan, stopgapping at a public-relations firm,” but in general I’m supportive of verb forms of nouns, so I’ll just have to quit stopgapping and make do (was that right?).

But today’s belated word of the day is “holiday.”Despite what Wired magazine might have to say, “Holiday” is most certainly not derived from “Doc” Holliday, the famed gunslinger taking a day off from killing. Just as you’d suspect, the word comes from “holy day” and regional pronunciations. But there are still few holiday related nuggets out there. For example, the word shares a root with “hallow” and “halibut”, so named because it was a fish frequently eaten on holy days. There’s also the great phrase, “to speak holiday.” Now obsolete, the phrase meant, “to use choice language, different from everyday life.” This is a lot like the episode of Seinfeld where George and Jerry grow facial hair in lieu of taking a real vacation. As it turns out, the English language is fully supportive of that decision.

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2 Responses to “Vintage Salad: A Word for our Sponsors”

  1. Annie Says:

    On the topic of word blogging: I watched “the 25 annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” last night, and found it delightful. Also a very interesting mix of words. Like Syzygy. And Catterjunes. For all of them (humerous) definitions were provided. It was really a great time, as well as showing the actual difficulty of spelling bees.

  2. JT Says:

    I want to violate your naughty-zone.


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