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Sandie shapes chicer sheik site; Y2K's AHD4 a Gold-Anvil winner. (Wood On Words).

Atripartite e-mail from Sandie Osborne, who is senior proposal manager at the Oceanic Institute in Waimanalo, Hawaii, presents these noteworthy items:

The alternative weekly newspaper reviewed the nearby college radio station's web site, describing it as a "surprisingly sheik site." No help from the spell checker on this properly formed though inappropriate word that should have been spelt chic. (Relevant here is a line from the 9/12 Wall Street Journal in which staff reporter Ten Agins quotes a fashion maven as saying of a new sleeveless black wool shift, "What could be chicer than that?" All proper desk dictionaries show adverb chicly and noun chicness, but only brand-new American Heritage 4 displays awkward adjectives chicer and chicest. Now, might one address Bob Mackie as "Your royal Chicness"?)

Osborne's second solecism comes out of the same barn. The 1999 annual report of the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory allows a new executive to declare, "I have... taken over the reigns...." The spell checker stands mute yet again; like a doting parent, it loves both needed reins and dead-wrong reigns...judging neither.

The third gaffe appeared in the Honolulu Advertiser obit on a well-known lifeguard who "was credited with developing a strict training regiment for lifeguards." Our correspondent chimes in, "Even the Baywatch Hawaii team isn't THAT military. Spell checker? Copy editor? That would be regimen."

My thanks to Sandie and to think-tank editor Kathleen Much, Stanford, Calif., who e-mailed the following news: "Spied in Publishers Weekly, 10/2/2000, p. 26: Seattle author Paisley Rekdal's upcoming book of poetry, 'A Crash of Rhinos,' was mistakenly introduced as 'A Crash of Winos' at Powell's City of Books' Celebration of Authors." We may have the makings of a new collective noun here....

* Two lexical events of high interest to business writers preface our segue into 2001. "Merriam-Webster's 10th Collegiate Dictionary" and the "M-W Collegiate Thesaurus" now reside uncut in one CD-ROM with 21 search options and instant access into the user's hard drive. The investment of US$24.95 buys 215,000 definitions plus more than 340,000 synonyms and antonyms and hundreds of audio pronunciations. The useful date-of-first-use feature is included.

"The New American Heritage Dictionary" (4th edition) now includes 4,000 full-color illustrations to augment its 200,000 definitions. Ten thousand new words appear: domain name, work fare, wuss, false-memory syndrome, reverse mortgage, in-your-face, zine, among these. New biographical entries include Yo-Yo Ma, Oprah, William Henry Gates, and Patsy Cline. Hundreds of Word Histories -- hex and ditto are but two -- expand meanings across the book's 2000+ pages.

A strong new player is the series of notes called Our Living Language, which illustrate how social factors such as age, ethnicity, and social class influence the way certain speakers use and shape the language. For instance, the editors call downsize "a recent example of a euphemism that found broad acceptance in the language and is not particularly thought of as a deceptive attempt to smooth over the pain of large-scale firings. But the search for less harmful terms goes on and on." The note also discusses terms like reengineered, right sized, nonessential, and jobs that are "no longer going forward." The Note makes reference to "human resources and public relations," pointing out that these terms are "euphemisms themselves."

The Houghton Mifflin lexicon bears the year 2000 copyright date. To buy the 8 1/2" x 11" x 2 1/2" hardcover version bring US$60.00 with you; bundling the CD-ROM with it will cost $74.95; the disk alone goes for $24.95.

* An item attributed to the New York Post on October 23 commented on the number of people "trying to wrangle an invite to Hugh Hefner's Halloween party at the Playboy Mansion...."

Wrangle -- with its main meaning "to quarrel noisily or angrily; bicker" -- lacks the finer-tuned force of wangle: "1. To make, achieve, or get by contrivance: wangled a job for which she had no training. 2. To manipulate or juggle, especially fraudulently." These views of the words are from Y2K's AHD4.

PRWEEK of October 2, reporting on the fuss about the Dr. Laura tele-talk show, said her "publicists have attempted to douse water on the flames...." Getting close counts only with horseshoes and hand grenades: One would douse the flames by dashing water on them.

* Here is a pretty turn of word I read in an ad paid for by Karats and Facets, Inc., a Miami-based maker of jewelry: "We buy gems directly from abroad and smith the gold in our own workshops...." They smith the gold. Cool. Also brave, because verb smith, which shows up only in anvil-weight dictionaries, means to fashion by forging, i.e., heating and hammering on an anvil. But this short and lyrical leap from the smithy's to the mall is merely delightful, and I'll assay the coinage at 24K.

Alden Wood, APR, lecturer on editorial procedures at Simmons College, Boston, Mass., writes and lectures on language usage. He is a retired insurance industry vice president of advertising and public relations.
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Author:Wood, Alden
Publication:Communication World
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2000
Words:838
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