Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Over the weekend I spent some time with a dear friend and former colleague. In one of our long, rambling conversations, thoughts ricocheting off each other in every direction, she mispronounced "taciturn" as "taxi-turn." 

Since we happened to be walking along the streets of Glasgow, I immediately looked for a turning taxi. (Like our conversation, traffic seemed to be veering off in all directions, especially since the cars were driving on the "wrong" side of the road.) 

The conversation took another turn, and I lost the opportunity to correct her mispronunciation. (That's what friends do, isn't it?) Later I began to wonder if I had gotten it wrong all these years. Was I mispronouncing "taciturn," like when I once said to a friend that something or other had gone "ah-ree" (awry)? Naw, I had it right, I figured.

I didn't think about it again until last night, when "taciturn" (that is, temperamentally disinclined to talk) turned up in Daniel Mendelsohn's memoir The Elusive Embrace. A couple of pages later, he used the word "tacit." Then it struck me: Are taciturn and tacit related? 

My feeble brain never made the connection, but they are related, and come from similar Latin words: tacitus (tacit) and taciturnus (taciturn); tacit meaning: expressed or carried on without words. Silence. I get it now. 

Though I wasn't taciturn, you could say that our conversation had continued with my tacit approval of her pronunciation. 

(T-shirt pictured above, but not the seemingly taciturn model, available at

Monday, March 15, 2010

Eager vs Eagar

A lot of eager readers write in to the publication where I work. We publish some of their comments each month. 

I was surprised to see in an upcoming issue comments from someone in Eager, Arizona. 

Um, make that Eagar, Arizona's "winter playground," according to the city's website

I was so eager to move the file on that I didn't spot the mistake. But an eagle-eyed proofreader caught it. 

Now I know better. And so do you!

(T-shirt pictured available at

Monday, March 1, 2010

What's a limn, Part III

"Limn" seems to be a book reviewer's best friend. (See my first post on this topic.) At least that's the case for New York Times book reviewer Michiko Kakutani. 

Back in November 2002, New York magazine's Matt Gross called Kakutani out on her overuse of "limn" (see "One Life to Limn by Michiko Kakutani"--great head, by the way). 

Searching on the NYT website, I found seven more "limns" in Kakutani's reviews since then, though she keeps them to about one a year these days. Most recently, Kakutani wrote on January 28, 2010, that "Mr. Salinger was able to empathetically limn the nooks and crannies of his youthful narrator's psyches..." 

Thanks to my dear colleague Jane (whose creative mind mushed lime and rim to come up with another definition of "limn": to wet the rim of a margarita glass with lime juice) for bringing this alarming limn trend to my attention. 

("Limn" by Gina Wilson, copyright 2008, courtesy Laura Russo Gallery)