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Sherlock Holmes and English
Posted: 10 March 2013 02:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 196 ]
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OP Tipping - 10 March 2013 05:10 AM




I wonder when it petered out.

Is this usage of “peter” fairly common pun fodder in Underpondia Antepondia?

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[ Edited: 11 March 2013 05:41 AM by sobiest ]
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Posted: 10 March 2013 03:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 197 ]
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Is this usage of “peter” fairly common pun fodder

Pun fodder? No.

in Underpondia?

(I prefer the term Antepondia.)

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Posted: 16 March 2013 06:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 198 ]
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In The Adventure of The Golden Pince-Nez

“cocoanut”

A spelling that is now quite obsolete, I think.

“love-gages”

Love tokens

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Posted: 16 March 2013 09:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 199 ]
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In The Adventure of The Abbey Grange

“beeswing”

A crusty deposit found in some aged fortified wines.

“I believe you are a man of your word, and a white man, and I’ll tell you the whole story.”

Oh dear.

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Posted: 16 March 2013 09:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 200 ]
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In The Adventure of the Second Stain

“drugget”

A specific kind of heavy woollen rug.

“What occurred during that time has not yet transpired...”

I am used to “transpire” meaning “happen”, but here it means “come to light, come to be known”.

“freakish”

I was a little surprised to see this word, here meaning “bizarre, out of the ordinary”. I would have taken this sense of “freakish” to be younger than 1903 (which was when the story was written), but apparently it was quite well established by that time.

“in Queer Street”

In difficulty.

Doyle italicizes “alibi”, perhaps indicating that this Latin word was not quite considered part of English proper at that time.

And that’s all he wrote!

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Posted: 17 March 2013 12:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 201 ]
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a white man

I have to report that in my childhood and youth (I was born in 1956) it was still quite commonplace in Britain to say to someone who had manifested generosity, reliability or support, ‘ Thanks old chap, you’re a white man!’ This was certainly a hangover from colonialism, which among averagely sensitive people died out quite quickly when Britain acquired a substantial non-white people population; but it wouldn’t surprise me if a few old dinosaurs and white supremacists, for different reasons, were still using it.

Drugget was a type of coarse material used either as an carpeting underlay, or on its own to carpet low-status parts of a house such as attic stairs, or as a protective cover for good carpets. It was quite normal in 18th- and 19th-century bourgeois homes to cover up one’s dining-room and drawing-room carpets with drugget when only the family were using the rooms, and only reveal them in all their glory when ‘company’ were expected. It’s done to this day in stately homes open to the public - when English Heritage and the National Trust open the state rooms to the public they lay a drugget over the lovely antique Persian carpets for the visitors to walk on.

I am used to “transpire” meaning “happen”, but here it means “come to light, come to be known”.

That was the original figurative sense: Dr Johnson defined it as ‘To escape from secrecy to notice’. It’s certainly the only one I use.

The sense ‘occur, happen, take place’ is sternly labelled by the OED as a ‘misuse’, glossed as ‘evidently arising from misunderstanding such a sentence as ‘What had transpired during his absence he did not know’.‘ But it also reveals that the word has been ‘misused’ in that sense for almost as long - their first citation for it is Abigail Adams writing to her husband in 1775: ‘There is nothing new transpired since I wrote you last.’

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Posted: 17 March 2013 03:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 202 ]
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OP Tipping - 16 March 2013 09:53 PM

In The Adventure of the Second Stain

“in Queer Street”

In difficulty.

OED

slang (orig. Brit.) an imaginary street where people in difficulties (esp. financial ones) are supposed to reside; (hence) the fact of being in a difficult position, in trouble, etc.

1811 Lexicon Balatronicum, Queer Street, wrong, improper, contrary to one’s wish. It is queer street, a cant phrase, to signify that it is wrong or different to our wish.
1821 P. Egan Real Life in London I. xi. 186 Limping Billy was also evidently in queer-street.

New to me. i’d like to use it in this sense, but it would hit the ears hard now-a-days. Though the last citation in the OED is 2003!

2003 Timaru (N.Z.) Herald (Nexis) 12 Apr. 6 If you are suddenly faced with increased costs and a third knocked off your income, you are stranded in queer street.

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Posted: 17 March 2013 03:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 203 ]
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OP Tipping - 16 March 2013 06:08 AM

In The Adventure of The Golden Pince-Nez

“cocoanut"

A spelling that is now quite obsolete, I think.

According to Google Ngrams the transition from mostly spelling it cocoanut to mostly spelling it coconut occurred around 1920 ± 3dB.

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Posted: 17 March 2013 04:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 204 ]
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The Marx Brothers’ The Cocoanuts, their first feature film, was made in 1929.

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Posted: 17 March 2013 05:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 205 ]
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1920 ± 3dB.

dB?

I am familiar with that only as an abbreviation for decibels, which is clearly not what is meant here.

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Posted: 17 March 2013 06:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 206 ]
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I have to report that in my childhood and youth (I was born in 1956) it was still quite commonplace in Britain to say to someone who had manifested generosity, reliability or support, ‘ Thanks old chap, you’re a white man!’

The US equivalent was “Mighty white of you,” which was still to be heard when I was growing up in the ‘50s.

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Posted: 17 March 2013 07:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 207 ]
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1920 ± 3dB.

dB?

I am familiar with that only as an abbreviation for decibels, which is clearly not what is meant here.

Although decibels are primarily (especially in popular usage) considered a unit of sound volume, they are more widely used in electrical engineering as a measure of signal strength of any sort*, and since the bel is a logarithmic unit (one bel increase being a factor of 10 increase in power), 3 decibels corresponds to a factor of 10^0.3, or approximately 2.  Thus ±3 dB is widely and somewhat facetiously used among the technorati to indicate a rough guess: literally it means “give or take a factor of two” although often, as in this example, the range of uncertainty is actually much smaller.

*Strictly speaking, since the bel is a ratio of two measurements, it has no units, and can be applied to anything that can be expressed as a ratio of measurements.

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Posted: 17 March 2013 07:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 208 ]
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The US equivalent was “Mighty white of you,” which was still to be heard when I was growing up in the ‘50s.

It was still common when I was growing up in the 70s.

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Posted: 17 March 2013 08:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 209 ]
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I see.

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Posted: 17 March 2013 12:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 210 ]
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Dr. Techie - 17 March 2013 07:49 AM

1920 ± 3dB.

dB?

I am familiar with that only as an abbreviation for decibels, which is clearly not what is meant here.

Although decibels are primarily (especially in popular usage) considered a unit of sound volume, they are more widely used in electrical engineering as a measure of signal strength of any sort*, and since the bel is a logarithmic unit (one bel increase being a factor of 10 increase in power), 3 decibels corresponds to a factor of 10^0.3, or approximately 2.  Thus ±3 dB is widely and somewhat facetiously used among the technorati to indicate a rough guess: literally it means “give or take a factor of two” although often, as in this example, the range of uncertainty is actually much smaller.

*Strictly speaking, since the bel is a ratio of two measurements, it has no units, and can be applied to anything that can be expressed as a ratio of measurements.

Dr. T nails it.

In American English the crossover point was 1923.  It wasn’t a sudden changeover.  The Marx Brothers movie was titled conservatively.

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