Monday, 15 March 2004


One of my happiest memories of New York is a sign saying “No expectoration in this elevator”, so I was pleased to come across the following in Fowler (the 1926 edition):
expectorate, -ation seem to be now the established American for spit-(ting). In British use they have as yet only the currency of medical terms & genteelisms. This difference of status, which it is to be hoped will not be diminished from our side at least, is an object-lesson on the vanity of genteelism. The mealy-mouthed American must be by this time harder put to it with expectorate than the mealy-mouthed Englishman with spit; his genteelism has outgrown its gentility & become itself the plain rude word for the rude thing; it must be discouraging to have to begin the search for decent obscurity all over again - with so promising a failure behind one, too.

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