Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

Dead cool, not cool, and he said what??

with 6 comments

Cool City Limit

Image by jimmywayne via Flickr

Dead cool

The word ‘cool’ began to be used in a non-temperature sense in the 1920s, according to Oxford Dictionaries (scroll to the end of the entry). 

But maybe that’s not quite accurate…

The inscription on a woman’s gravestone in the parish church of St Thomas a Becket, in Devon, England, includes the following instruction to her husband and children: ‘Be cool and do not lament.’ She was buried in 1827.

Not cool

You can skip this next bit if talk of language and gender affects your blood pressure and your tablets aren’t to hand. However, I think this use of the word ‘girls’ to refer to women is particularly inappropriate and worthy of mention.

Feminist writer and activist Gloria Steinem was recently featured in the Guardian and the discussion includes mention of Playboy ‘bunnies’. Steinem worked as one in the early 60s to carry out research for an article.

The interviewer, Rachel Cooke, writes that Steinem revealed ‘just how badly the girls were treated’.

It’s a stab in the dark, but I’m guessing that those girls were women. That Cooke has fallen into the old trap of using language that infantilises women, particularly in such a context, is sloppy, to say the least.

Oh, you found your tablets. Good. Then you can read more on this here.

He said what?

Due to reasons beyond its control (not really), the Wordwatch Towers board hasn’t distributed any prizes for some time. However, I can now officially announce that the butler is, as I speak, polishing a recently purchased award-thingy-Oscar-type-object to be presented to the overall winner of Best Euphemism 2011. (There is no way this will be trumped before the end of the year.)

And the winner is:

Plagiarist extraordinaire, Q R Markham. He has recently admitted cobbling together his novel Assassin of Secrets from a variety of sources. In other words, he copied it. Or in his words:

‘There was a need to conceal my own voice with the armour of someone else’s words.’

Told you: untrumpable.

More on this here.

N.B. Note Markham’s use of the passive; see more on the passive and euphemism.


6 Responses

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  1. Nice to have you back in view, Deborah. That quote from Markham is incredible! Since when is the choice to conceal a lack of attribution for appropriating another writer’s material (presumably for pay) a “need”?

    Invisible Mikey

    17/11/2011 at 9:33 pm

    • Thanks very much, Mikey. It’s nice of you to visit so soon; I appreciate it.

      Markham was very apologetic and pretty abject about it all. But even so!


      17/11/2011 at 9:45 pm

  2. Great to see you posting again.

    Came across the Markham story earlier this week – fascinating stuff. I can’t help but think that with the sheer amount of stuff he was lifting from other writers and then trying to mould into a cohesive whole that it would have been far easier for him to simply write his own work.


    18/11/2011 at 1:07 am

    • Hi, and thank you. It’s really nice to see you here too. Thanks for dropping by. I think you’re absolutely right — it would have been easier to buckle down and write his own stuff. And even if he does write original work now, no one will trust him.


      18/11/2011 at 8:20 am

  3. Still, I suppose that work of Markham’s is safe from plagiarists . . .

    Welcome back!


    18/11/2011 at 1:49 pm

    • Hi, Ron, and thank you.

      And that’s a very good point you’re making!


      18/11/2011 at 2:08 pm

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