Monday, June 15, 2009

What Is It With Swine?

Here's the list of the 50 words found most puzzling by readers of the New York Times. I take no particular pride in declaring that I am (perhaps too) comfortable with all 50--I worked to expand my vocabulary when I was young and the curse of pretentiousness has hung over me ever since. I don't really use louche, #3, very often, except perhaps when talking about Winston Churchill's friends. I know #46, phlogiston only because I had the great good fortune to take a course in the history of physics from Al Stewart at Antioch College back in the early 50s (I met him a few years later; he didn't remember me). I get far too much enjoyment out of #11 schadenfreude. I don't think I use #29 risible much at all, which is surely just as well.

But #31 swine? Well, they do say that New York is a parochial town.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

1. If you looked at the number of articles in which the word swine appeared, there were obviously quite a large number. This clearly inflates its place on the chart.

2. You vastly underestimate the population's familiarity with history or farming (the two instances where the word occurs most often, or did before Swine Flu). The younger population probably does far worse than the population as a whole, but is far more likely to be reading online.

3. I would be surprised if a majority of NY Times online readers were in fact New Yorkers. I would expect a plurality, but not more. So I'm not sure it's fair to blame New York.