February 6, 1937, John Steinbeck published Of Mice and Men. Although it wasn’t his first successful published work, this novella of migrant field workers during the Great Depression garnered national attention and paved the way to a Pulitzer Prize win for The Grapes of Wrath two years later. Steinbeck went on to publish 27 books, including novels, short story collections, and nonfiction. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962.
Etymatching Steinbeck: Match the Steinbeck-title word with its appropriate etymology snippet.
Marmots across the nation will scramble out of their burrows to dabble in seasonal prognostics tomorrow, February 2 — Groundhog Day. If it’s a sunny morning, and the groundhog of the moment is scared back under cover by seeing its shadow, the sad prediction is for six more weeks of winter. If the groundhog finds unshadowed comfort to dwell in above ground, it bolsters our hopes for an early spring.
According to the National Pie Council and those of us complicit in using tasty pastries to brighten dreary winter days, today is National Pie Day. Whether your tastes tend toward savory or sweet, fruit or custard, lattice or crumble, there's a pie out there for you. As the council says: "It's not just a dessert, it's a tradition. ... Grab a slice of life!"
Five hundred and twenty-two years ago today, January 9, 1493, Christopher Columbus insulted merfolk everywhere by observing that the mermaids he saw off the coast of the Dominican Republic were "not half as beautiful as they are painted" [History.com; see also "Oh no he did not"]. If he had looked more closely, perhaps Columbus would have noticed that these mermaids were missing more than just half their beauty.
Although the origins of Boxing Day are unknown, it’s a nice day-after-Christmas holiday that our UK, Canadian, Australian, and other friends celebrate. Traditionally, it has included giving gifts to service workers and those in need. Today, it’s commonly observed by relaxing and eating Christmas leftovers or by taking advantage of shopping or sporting events. (Anyone want to join me in petitioning for its official holiday status here in the United States?)
I have already confessed to loving ridiculous new words. But, like every other editor I know, my word sensibilities can’t always keep pace with the changing language. Emerging new usage often makes me squint. Overwhelm as a noun? Onboard as a transitive verb? I’m just not ready to onboard people to my methods of managing the overwhelm.*
Disco and plaid polyester weren’t the only confusing developments of the 1970s. From 1971 to 1977, Veterans Day in the United States officially occurred in October but in many places was still observed in November.
Bring your Old Scratch vocabulary up to scratch with our devilish vocab. Can you figure out the two dozen devil-filled words and phrases? Fill in the blanks to make the word or expression that matches the clue. Difficulty level: devilishly difficult, of course.
When new words pop up in pop culture, as they do, it never occurs to me to bemoan the state of the English language or the literacy of the current generation. Whether I like a modern coinage or think it’s the worstmanteau ever (surely that one is in the running), my initial response tends to be appropriately learned and eloquent, like “Heck yeah — words!”
The Nobel Committee awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India today “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”