papa in paris, and slang (old and new)

1. Two articles about Ernest Hemingway recently reminded me of how careful we have to be about taking people and things at face value.

The first is an opinion piece from the New York Times which, among other things, repeats Hemingway’s own statements about how poor and happy he and Hadley (his first wife) had been in Paris in the 1920s.

The second is a review of a book of Hemingway’s letters from that period, which makes it clear that they had not been particularly poor or happy, and that Hemingway’s loudest assertions of how great his marriage was came when it was actually falling apart.

2. Also from the New York Times: “Slang for the Ages

That reminds me of one of the Nero Wolfe mysteries, where he’s taking to a character who’s something of a neighborhood sharpie, and the guy uses the word “sennight” (meaning “week”).

Wolfe, of, course, stops the conversation cold in order to ask where this guy had learned “that fine old word.”

The guy asserts that it’s “making the rounds” — everybody is using it these days.

“Extraordinary,” Wolfe says, and regular readers will easily be able to tell that this fact is, for Wolfe, the most interesting part of the whole case.

3. Oh, and here’s a good piece about the word “unique.”

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