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We all know what a varmint is, thanks to Yosemite Sam (and others). It's an annoying animal (or person), the fauna equivalent of a weed. It's something (or someone) who takes your nice, tidy set-up, your lovely garden or lawn or your livestock, and makes a mess of it. Before you had a good environment; now you have a nasty varmint.  Continue reading...
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We welcome back James Harbeck for another installment of his "Word Tasting Notes." Here he considers "a word for people who look at things with the arch eyebrows and droopy eyelids of cool superiority," supercilious.  Continue reading...
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Ready for a ghost story? In the latest installment of his "Word Tasting Notes," James Harbeck has a ghost story about the word ghost.

This word has a ghost in it, a little guest in the host: a letter h, symbol of a soft breath, here seen but not heard — like many a spectre.  Continue reading...
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Oh, to be svelte. To be as light as felt, a suave fellow or a lass as light as a velleity, not swelling like Elvis but sweltering hot: no thicker than the drop of sweat that falls down your brow at the sight or the plucked eyebrows of a stylish lady. And stylish, yes, svelte always seems stylish, fitted, bespoke tailored.  Continue reading...
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This is a topical word: the cardinal electors have just spent two days locked into their pressure-cooker, the Sistine Chapel, to determine who will bear the keys of St. Peter. They were all sequestered in the Vatican, that enclave in the middle of the Eternal City, locked in debate and prayer and voting. Literally locked in: the doors of the Sistine Chapel were locked.  Continue reading...
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Some writers go to great lengths to find synonyms for things or acts that they have to refer to repeatedly in a story. They seem to have the idea that this adds flavor and depth and style to their writing. Actually, it can add a thick layer of B.S. and to demonstrate quite clearly why supposed synonyms are not necessarily fungible.  Continue reading...
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In his latest Word Tasting Note, James Harbeck presents a baker's dozen of reasons why he likes lagniappe, a word meaning "a small gift, especially one given by a merchant to a customer who makes a purchase."  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 Displaying 1-7 of 16 Articles