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Warren Clements: Word Play

Oh good, a 'free' gift. Not like all those gifts you pay for Add to ...

It's almost July, and the Word Play files, seizing upon any excuse, demand to be pruned.

Reader Paul Rapoport passes along an article about energy minister Blair Lekstrom's resignation from Gordon Campbell's cabinet in British Columbia, over the planned July 1 introduction of the HST. The story said Lekstrom's departure inspired "off-the-record comments from bankbenchers" and left "bankbenchers grumbling that they too were blindsided by the controversial levy." Now we know where the front-benchers get all their money. However, an adjacent article observed that this was not the first time Lekstrom "has broke ranks." Rapoport comments: "The penury of said bankbenchers is unfortunate indeed. Is that what the HST is about?"

Responding to a column about anagrams, Anson R. McKim recalled the screenwriter of such notable films as Don't Look Now. "My late friend Chris Dobson, who wrote for the screen under the name of Chris Bryant, disliked having other writers forced upon him and sharing the writing credits. He also often disliked the results, but did like the money, so another alias was created: 'Bradley T. Winter,' an anagram of 'badly rewritten.' The Internet Movie Database notes this cheerful fact."

Reader Susan Evans Shaw learned from a historian's PowerPoint presentation that a hapless gentleman had been "gourd by a cow." Shaw comments: "I wasn't aware cows could be so deadly or violent, but maybe she was out of her gourd."

Retired proofreader Mary Morell ("as if one could ever retire from that profession; I am on duty 24/7") saw an advertisement for a restaurant where "the feature was a three-course 'pre-fixed' lunch for $20. When contacted, the ad manager agreed that prix fixe was indeed meant. Nice visual, though: all those little containers lined up for pickup."

The June 3 issue of the Toronto newspaper Metro carried a scathing review of a CD by former American Idol contestant Clay Aiken. "No wonder Simon Cowell quit" American Idol, it said. He "couldn't bare the thought that people might hold him partially responsible." Perhaps Cowell will go on to bear his soul.

An advertisement for a brand of tequila called Hornitos says the drink is "purer than your intentions." The joke, of course, is that the imagined intentions of the horndog reading the ad are anything but pure. But if the point of the ad is to say its tequila is pure, isn't "purer than your intentions" setting the bar ridiculously low? One might as well advertise bed linens by saying they are cleaner than a corrupt politician's expense account.

A renewal notice from the magazine Chatelaine says, "Keep your subscription coming. Plus, get a FREE gift!" That would make a change from all those gifts you have to pay to receive.

While researching a recent column about "dead reckoning," I happened upon the origin of "dearth," which has nothing to do with death, unless it's a dearth of life. It evolved from dear, as in expensive. Just as warmth was the noun to describe being warm, and length to describe being long, so dearth described being dear. Because items are often costly because they are scarce, dearth came to mean scarcity.

Dating back at least to the year 1000, dear has meant both expensive and beloved. But while many would call Prime Minister Stephen Harper's fake lake, created for this week's G20 summit, dear as in costly, few would call it dear as in endearing.

Critics have also belittled the fake lake as "Harper's folly." Folly entered Middle English from the Old French folie (madness), from fol (fool), from the Latin follis, which originally referred to a bellows, the device that emits a blast of air. The sense of fool arose from the metaphorical use of windbag to describe someone who prattles endlessly on. Not that anyone would associate "windbag" with a politician.

 

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