A couple of items of linguistic interest in today’s NYT Magazine:
1) William Safire’s column investigates the odd but pleasing word wackadoodle, an insult (comparable to kook(y) or nutjob) which he traces back to a 1995 use in the Philadelphia Inquirer. I plan to use it whenever it seems appropriate. He also, impressively, refuses to take the bait offered by a reader who deplores the phrasing “I approve this message” (rather than “approve of”); he writes:
The O.E.D. makes clear that in both the sense of the 1380 “to pronounce to be good” and the 1413 “to confirm authoritatively,” the verb stood alone; no of followed. In the 17th century, the construction approve on appeared, followed by approve of. For reassurance, I turn to Dennis Baron, professor of English and linguistics at the University of Illinois, who concludes that “for the two most relevant meanings of approve, the verb without preposition is both the earliest form and the one that continues through to the present.”
2) Virginia Heffernan passes along the sad news that the OED will not publish a paper version of the new revision. I can understand the decision, but still—what happens when the internet collapses, hey? What price your fancy websites then?