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AWADmail Issue 107

January 4, 2004

A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages

From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

The Decay of Public Language:

The Genesis of the Alphabet:

On Filler Words:

From: Chris J. Strolin (haveaknifedayATyahoo.com)
Subject: Bogart - The true original meaning

While "to bogart" now means "to hog or take more than one's share," (largely because of the song lyric "Don't bogart that joint, m' friend. Pass it over to me again.") this is only because so many people have gotten it wrong for so many years. One of the great misunderstood slang phrases of my youth, "to bogart a joint" originally meant to dangle a marijuana cigarette from your lips in the same manner Humphrey Bogart would do with a regular cigarette while eyeing a sultry Lauren Bacall from across a smoky bar room. With the lit end pointing downward this way, the joint would burn much more rapidly and, worse, would do so to no one's benefit.

Speaking from personal experience, the social crime involved was not in hogging the marijuana but in wasting it! (Of course, should any prospective future employers be AWAD subscribers, this info came from ne'er-do-well friends of my older brother.)

From: Amy A. Metnick (applebtrATcatskill.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--bogart

I have always enjoyed the quirky origins of expressions, and I especially appreciate A.Word.A.Day's forays into pop culture. With this in mind, I paid particular attention to 'bogart,' a verb to which I was introduced as a teenager in the late 1960s. I'm sure many of your subscribers will respond to this particular word as it relates to the drug culture. I'd like to point out that the classic 1969 film, Easy Rider, features the song, "Don't Bogart That Joint," written by Elliot Ingber. The song was also recorded by the band Little Feat. For interested readers, I submit the following website, which includes the song's lyrics.

Even though most definitions point out the expression refers to Humphrey Bogart, they don't fully explain why this word conveys the sense of hogging or taking more than one's fair share of something. Back in the day, my friends and I, amid a smoky haze, offered several theories. As we watched old films featuring 'Bogie' (a word, by the way, which became a euphemism for a joint/ marijuana cigarette, as in 'roll a bogie'), we conjectured, in our stoned-out, philosophical way, that his manner of clutching a cigarette close to his person, puffing on it as an intimate act, suggested ownership and possession in the extreme. A poor theory, perhaps, but one that helped us believe we were involved in an elite class of those in the know. It's ironic, isn't it, that Bogart kept the smoke so close to himself that he succumbed to esophageal cancer?

From: Martin A. David (mdavidATcompteam.com)
Subject: Bogart

Did you hear about the clever Berkeley collegians who named the shuttle bus that runs from the campus to the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) trains, "Humphrey Go Bart."

From: Lynn (lthornATearthlink.net)
Subject: Bogart - boggart

I've always been interested in the possible relationship of the two words: Bogart and Boggart.

The Boggart is a very mischievous type of ghost from the north of England. The Boggart crawls into peoples bed at night and puts a clammy hand on their face. Sometimes he strips the bedsheets off them. Sometimes they also pull on a persons ears. A horseshoe hung on the door of the house will keep a Boggart away.

From: Evan B. Hazard (eehazardATpaulbunyan.net)
Subject: Can a squirrel "weasel"?

Today's AWAD includes this mot: "Bill Adler Jr. had the same sort of trouble--with a squirrel that kept weaseling onto his window-ledge bird feeder and bogarting all the seeds."

My doctoral research involved lots of field observations. Once I saw a grey squirrel chase a raccoon up a tree, and wrote "squirrel badgers raccoon up tree" in my fieldnotes. Prudently, I omitted that wording from the thesis.

From: Robert Cook (geoduck42AThotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--McGuffin

One of the more amusing uses of "McGuffin" that I've seen over the years turned up in an episode of the 80's cartoon series _G.I. Joe_. In the episode, the titular heros and the terrorist villains ended up fighting tooth-and-nail for possession of a piece of high technology called, literally, The McGuffin Device. What was really clever was that it was also a McGuffin in the thematic sense; neither side had the slightest clue what the thing actually did, they just knew that they didn't want the other guys to have possession of it. If I recall correctly, it finally turned out that the machine brought fantasies or dreams to life, tying in with another subplot in the episode where one of the heros was forced to tell a story to some kids.

From: Eric Shackle (eshackleATozemail.com.au)
Subject: Origin of AWAD?

All is explained! See washington.edu.

If you know only one language, you're a prisoner, stuck in the tyranny of that one language. -Andrew Cohen, professor of linguistics (1944- )

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