07 September 2021

From the writings of Edgar Allan Poe...

From The Murders in the Rue Morgue:
"A murder so mysterious, and so perplexing in all its particulars, was never before committed in Paris - if indeed a murder has been committed at all.  The police are entirely at fault - an unusual occurrence in affairs of this nature  There is not, however, the shadow of a clew apparent."  
"At fault" seems like a reference to the perpetrator of the crime.  In this case it means at a loss or puzzled, from hunting jargon referring to a break in the trail or a lost scent.

"Let me now advert - not to the whole testimony respecting these voices - but to what was peculiar in that testimony..."  (Heed, pay attention)

(An editor's comment re a laundered oath): 
"Darn", according to H.L. Mencken, is "derived from tarnal, an American contraction of eternal that arose during the eighteenth century and was in wide use as an intensive by the time of the Revolution.  Tarnal... quickly gave rise to tarnation as a euphemism for damnation, and... by 1798 it had assimilated the initial d of damnation, and in the course of time tarnal and its derivatives in t dropped out of use, and only darn remained." (The American Language, Knopf, 1863 ed: p. 296) 
"I will not describe the city of Edinburgh - the classic Edina."  [posted because 70 years ago I lived in a city called Edina.  This was new to me]

An editor's note:  
"The  word "belfry," by the way, does not come from the word bell.  The Middle English word was berfrey, but by association with bell tower the word changed its spelling and pronunciation in the fifteenth century.  Berfrey originally meant a penthouse, then a movable tower used by besiegers, then a tower to protect watchmen, a watchtower, a beacon tower, an alarm-bell tower, and finally a place where a bell is hung.  The modern French word is beffroi."


  1. Well, now that I know, I guess I will no longer say "What in tarnation!"

    As a Christian who seeks to not take the Lord's Name in vain, the article reminded me of something my young son said to me (this was several years ago)....

    If startled or amazed, I would often say "Holy moly!"

    But one day, my young son, speaking beyond his years, heard me say this and said, "Daddy, you shouldn't say that...because God's Name is holy."

    That might have been some form of the four-term fallacy, but to set a good example, I decided to seek to remove it from my vocabulary. But more than that, it just might be that there is indeed something to what he said.

    I know few would agree with that take. But I have to do what is right for me. And I'm sure you follow that same reasoning.

    1. I thought euphemisms were specifically designed to avoid saying offensive words or phrases. If a euphemism is considered inappropriate, then I would think your range of responses would become severely limited.

    2. Aaaah, yes, but by saying (e.g.) "darn" you are still referring to the inappropriate term - or so I imagine the reasoning goes. In that sense, euphemisms don't really serve their intended purpose, because you're still thinking of the thing considered inappropriate. Which is part of the reason why euphemisms are typically in constant need of updating. Over time, a euphemism tends to lose its inoffensiveness, because no matter what term you come up with, it remains associated with the concept you were trying to avoid. So a new euphemism has to be made, which will eventually go through the same process, etc. This is called the Euphemism Cycle.

  2. Edina! I grew up in Morningside, a piece of Edina that tried to make it on its own for a couple dozen years. It didn't last, however, ending just after we moved out - too small to survive, I guess.

    1. And there is a Morningside in Edinburgh -


      (probably not a coincidence)


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