The Ecphorizer

Letters - Issue 41

Issue #41 (January 1985)

Dear Editor,

I still refuse to dignify the lies in Dolly Jayal-Bate's letter to you (January, 1984, Ecphorizer, p. 22) by a reply. However, I hope you will not publish her new letter of gossip. I categorically deny that my hoax theory of Mismeasure of Man is based on the expose article by Bernard D. Davis "New Lysenkoism, IQ, and the Press," in the Fall, 1983 (No. 73), Public Interest.

Please accept my apology for botching up the galley proofs of Part One (December, 1983). Instead of correcting Pierce's error in my source from "early 1984" to "early 1985," I changed "end of the world in 1985" to "1984." What's one or two years viewed from 2168 A.D.? Also, our word use as of 2168 is different from yours. "Post-1984" usually means "1984 and after" in your time-world, but it means after 1984 in ours--"1985  and after." I hope this clears up the inconsistencies your readers have been deluging you with complaints about. My sympathies, of course, to the Ec-fanatics who sold their Marin County homes to buy a boat, which is now icebound in Antarctica with them aboard.

--Lottie Fish-Bate

Dear Editor,

Enjoyed enormously John Cumming's comments on The Dictionary of American Slang in the Eck. I like the refined way he obliges the reader to hunt for his subtle barbs at the authors instead of hooting and bashing authors over the head as I do. Although that dictionary does include some fascinating and useful stuff, it also certainly contains a lot of barkings up the wrong trees.

Obviously they have hired some of their writers through the personnel department--that "spic and span" as referring to Latinos, for instance, sounds wholly made up by some cute contemporary ass. As for their attributing "all shook up"to Elvis in 1955, he must have overheard my mother using the expression to describe her nerves twenty years before. (The occasion, however, was not Rock, but just a mouse.) And although the story of Mr. Daly chalking the word "quiz" everywhere sounds plausible, isn't it more likely to be simply the Latin quis, meaning "what?" Every schoolboy once had Latin drilled into him every day in the form of quizzes. Maybe Mr. Daly merely meant to popularize it amongst the uneducated.

As for their overlooking "bug" as a computer term, that's really dumb. I've heard "we haven't got all the bugs out yet" used all my life in reference to some new device or system still in the works, as far back as the '30s or '40s, before they had even heard of microchips. It was, to my knowledge, however, never used in the singular to point to a specific small error until the advent of programming, when probably it became possible for the first time to pinpoint the exact typo that causes your program to go ahead and write a check for one billion dollars to everyone listed in the telephone directory.

His mention of a "feature" as an alternate to a flaw I take as referring to communication bugs, such as phone taps or FBI "bugs" in hotel rooms. Is that right? If so, might not those particular bugs have some more direct metaphorical origin? Such things may be electronic "features" to those who buy, sell, and install them, but are more like cockroaches or lice to those who live with them, unaware of their presence.

That "spizzerinctum" really intrigues me because I remember hearing a similar word in my early childhood--the "-erinctum" part, that is--but the first part, the "spizz," was different. I don't remember what it was, though, and have no idea of the context of the whole word, except that I'm almost positive it had nothing to do with "vigor" or money!

--Ed Rehmus

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