Monday, September 2, 2013

September 2-14: the fastest fortnight in British history

How time flies

On this date, the British (who drag their feet for nearly two centuries) now make one sweeping correction of the calendar by royal decree. As Tom Christiansen dryly notes in the daybook of his blog about the date September 2, 1752: "Today is the last day of the Julian calendar in Great Britain and the British colonies. The Gregorian calendar will go into effect tomorrow, which will be September 14 (eleven days will disappear). Most other countries made the adjustment 170 years ago, in 1582." The following day September 3, "Feeling that eleven days have been taken from their lives, people riot in England." Judging from his royal sour puss above, King George III was not amused.

The OED, now online-only

Oxford English Dictionary has become an on-line only resource (two million hits per month from subscribers) after its one-hundred year existence in print as the ultimate go-to volume for word hoarders, poets, novelists, and the merely dyslexic (or dylsexic, depending on your point of view.) It will be a shame to lose the occasional page-browsing amid the arcane and forgotten phrases. From Language hat via Schott's Vocab comes this great OED phrase I haven't heard before. Having lived in the South for 40 years I'm surprised this hasn't ever come up in any conversation. Yet. But I'm waiting to use it!
pig's whisper, n. colloq.
Brit. /pɩgz wɩspə/, U.S. /pɩgz (h)wɩspər/ Forms: 17- pig's whisper, 18 pigs-whisper. [< the genitive of PIG n. + WHISPER n.] 1. A very short space of time, an instant.
1780 J. O'KEEFFE 
Tony Lumpkin in Town I. 4 I'll be with them in a pig's whisper. 1837 DICKENS Pickwick Papers xxxi. 333 You'll find yourself in bed, in something less than a pig's whisper.
[...] 1918 P. B. KYNE Valley of Giants xxv. 218 'Thanks so much for the invitation', Ogilvy murmured gratefully. 'I'll be down in a pig's whisper'. 1991 R. COOVER Pinocchio in Venice xxi. 229 'Back in a crack, direttore!' 'In a pig's whisper, direttore!'

2. A whisper; a confidential tone of voice.
Swell's Night Guide 110/1 Pig's Whisper.., a word 'twixt you and me. 1866 M. BANIM Peter of Castle 5 The eulogist may.. in what they call a pig's whisper (that is, in a confidential tone).. [relate] a few anecdotes of his prowess. 1922 J. JOYCE Ulysses II. 484 Virag (Prompts into his ear in a pig's whisper). 2001 Hindu (Nexis) 21 Jan., I heard Ata informing Mummy, in a pig's whisper, that plagiarism, too, was actionable.

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