Favorite

What about lunch, and dinner?

According to the Oxford University Press, the 10 most commonly used nouns in the English language are, in order: time, person, year, way, day, thing, man, world, life and hand.

I don’t have standing to argue with the Oxford University Press — not that lack of standing, or information, has ever kept me out of an argument — but this list seems fishy. I’m fairly sure that in the conversation and correspondence I’m a party to, time is not the most commonly used noun. People must be asking each other what time it is an awful lot. Does nobody have a watch?

And hand in the top 10? It doesn’t appear to me that people talk about hands all that much. I suppose it’s possible that people are seeking assistance from their neighbors (“Give me a hand”) more than I realized. They’re probably saying “Hand me that thingamabob” too, but in that case, hand is a verb, not a noun. (At first, I was suspicious of the absence of both love and hate, but then I realized that when people say “I love/hate somebody/something” they too are using verbs, not nouns.)

OUP says that its list is “corpus-based.” A corpus is a big computerized data base, compiled in this case by researchers “using the Internet to examine newspapers, weblogs, bulletin boards and fiction.” Maybe that’s the problem. Too much researching, not enough listening.



How’d you like to swing on a cat?

Two more contributors to our discussion of “not room to swing a cat” have come forward. Doris Whitaker and Dr. Douglas E. Young tell essentially the same story. Both recall a saying they heard years ago: “Not room to cuss a cat without getting hair in your mouth.” Ms. Whitaker adds, “I believe that ‘swing’ may have been substituted for ‘cuss’ by uptight folks who didn’t like to use the word ‘cuss’ (or ‘swear’) and then dropped the rest of the expression because it no longer fit.”


Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

  |  

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Doug Smith

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

More by Max Brantley

Most Shared

  • Discussion: State killing of the mentally ill

    The Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and others will have a forum on mental illness and the death penalty at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Bowen School of Law's Friday Courtroom.

Latest in Words

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

October

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Caution: government at work

    • The people of Arkansas need to keep demanding that our state government be accountable to…

    • on October 21, 2017
  • Re: Cotton to CIA?

    • Watching C-Span last week, they were talking about Cotton for the head of the FBI…

    • on October 21, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation