My wife and I enjoy reading the police report in the local paper, which frequently amuses us with tales like these:

An animal was removed from a chicken coop at a Pelham Road residence. The owner of the chickens was given advice on how to keep other animals from attacking the chickens.

A black bear wandering in and out of traffic on Shays Street was not located by police.

(We don’t live in a high-crime area, though there are occasionally worrying rashes of burglaries.) This morning, my wife asked me “What does asportation mean?” “Gotta be a typo,” I responded. (The paper’s typos are so frequent and so awful I’ve given up complaining about them, since they obviously don’t give a damn.) “But it occurs twice,” she said. I took a look. A story about two people “facing charges related to a shoplifting incident” ended thus:

The woman will be summoned to court on a a charges [sic!] of larceny over $250 and shoplifting by asportation, second offense, while the man will be summoned to court on charges of larceny over $250 and shoplifting by asportation, third offense [sic, no period]

This word asportation is not in M-W or AHD, but it’s in various law references, several of them collected here; West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, for instance, defines it as “The removal of items from one place to another, such as carrying things away illegally.” And it’s in the OnEtDic: “from Latin asportationem (nominative asportatio) ‘a carrying away,’ noun of action from past participle stem of asportare ‘to carry off,’ from abs– ‘away’ […] + portare ‘to carry.'” So there you have it. And remember, kids, crime doesn’t pay!


  1. J.W. Brewer says

    Blackstone’s classic exposition of the common-law elements of the crime of larceny says in pertinent part: “THERE must not only be a taking, but a carrying away: cepit et asportavit was the old law-latin. A bare removal from the place in which he found the goods, though the thief does not quite make off with them, is a sufficient asportation, or carrying away. As if a man be leading another’s horse out of a close, and he be apprehended in the fact; or, if a guest, stealing goods out of an inn, has removed them from his chamber down stairs; these have been adjudged sufficient carryings away, to constitute a larceny. Or if a thief, intending to steal plate, takes it out of a chest in which it was, and lays it down upon the floor, but is surprised before he can make his escape with it; this is larceny.”

    I think I first heard the word not in a law-school class but while preparing for the bar exam. I’m not sure I’ve heard it since. My best guess is that, as with a lot of words that were part of the common jargon of Anglophone lawyers 200+ years ago, it has been retained in common jargon in some US jurisdictions (maybe because it is used in the specific wording of a statute, although there could be other reasons) while becoming obsolete in others.

  2. I hadn’t known about this dissimilation of abs- to as- before p; it seems to be regular, though the only other example I can find is as-pello “drive away”. ETA: turns out it’s not dissimilation but part of a more general loss of stops and liquids before sT, as in a(*d)spicio, su(*b)stineo, te(*r)stis; dexter from *deksiteros shows that it preceded syncope.

    So what is shoplifting not by asportation?

  3. The Massachusetts shoplifting statute seems to cover various scenarios that would not have been common-law larceny (whether because of lack of asportation or some other element), such as where you take the item out of the store with the store’s knowledge and consent but having paid too little because e.g. you deliberately switched the price tag with the price tag on a much cheaper item before bringing it to the register to pay. Whether in the current jargon of Massachusetts cops/courts/lawyers that would be the non-asportative kind of shoplifting is not clear to me, however.

  4. By this definition, all shoppers commit asportation when they remove retail merchandise from shelves into shopping carts.

    It’s not quite clear to me at what moment asportation becomes “shoplifting by asportation”

  5. Perhaps… each of the alleged perpetrators took an item, then each tossed the taken items to the other one, and then they both left the store. Each of them did a taking and an asportation, which adds up to shoplifting.

  6. English law has statutory offences of “taking without owner’s consent” (1968) and “”making off without payment” (1978)

  7. David Marjanović says


    Oh, so the witness is the third one who stands there at the scene of the crime?

  8. Oh, so the witness is the third one who stands there at the scene of the crime?
    AFAIK this originates in contract law – two counterparts agree on something and the third person witnesses.

  9. It’s not quite clear to me at what moment asportation becomes “shoplifting by asportation”

    It’s a rule of reason: When would a reasonable person conclude that you had removed the goods from the store’s control based on your intent to take something without proper payment? If you see from inside the store that your car is on fire, and you rush outside with a basket of the store’s goods still in your hands, it probably is not shoplifting if you return them as promptly as the situation allows.

    In NYC it is common to see signs that say “Shop with baskets, not with bags”, as the assumption is that things in bags have been paid for, possibly at another store. (Unlike most Americans, we tend to shop daily or every few days in small quantities at a variety of fairly small stores — even the supermarket closest to me has only four aisles, though others nearby are bigger.)

    The charge of eating while shopping is new to me, however. I have been known to eat a packaged piece of food or drink while in the store, retain the packaging, and have it properly scanned and paid for when I check out. I’ll make sure not to do that in Massachusetts!

  10. – The charge of eating while shopping

    Based on definition above, it’s still “shoplifting by asportation”, I believe.

    Removing candy from the shelf into your belly.

    – I’ll make sure not to do that in Massachusetts!

    I wouldn’t advise doing that anywhere in the world. Shop staff, if they were so inclined, could easily argue that you were in the process of shoplifting by eating (or whatever it’s called) when they stopped you.

    Your intent to pay later can’t be proved – video cameras can’t capture your thoughts, but they sure do record your actions.

  11. I wouldn’t advise doing that anywhere in the world.

    I agree — just because you haven’t had a problem so far doesn’t mean you’ll continue to be lucky. All it takes is one suspicious/malicious clerk.

  12. Fortunately, in the U.S. it is not up to me to prove my good intentions, it is up to the store or the public prosecutor to prove that I had bad ones (the presumption of innocence). If challenged, I would certainly pay on the spot, but after 35+ years that has never happened. Some checkout clerks mention to me that I’m passing them an empty package (on the assumption that I’ve made a mistake), but when I say “I ate it already”, they just smile and continue.

  13. JC: “Shop with baskets, not with bags”

    Baskets are openwork, you can see what’s in them, unlike most bags.

  14. I don’t know the history of the law in this area, but I wouldn’t be surprised if shoplifting statutes had to be developed and tweaked over the course of the 19th/20th centuries because the nature of the typical shopping process made the ancient definition of larceny a poor fit — if when you initially pick up and start asporting the store’s goods you are doing so with the store’s consent, on the assumption you are going to pay for them in the usual fashion before actually leaving the store with them, there’s likely a technical problem in making the old definition fit, i.e. the line into illegality is typically crossed not when you first take the item into your possession and move with it, but when you subsequently exit the store w/o paying or take some sketchy-looking preparatory step toward exiting-store-without-paying (slip the item into a pocket, detach or disable the security tag so it won’t cause a beep when you exit, etc.).

    Note that some kinds of goods are typically kept behind the counter either for quasi-regulatory reasons (cigarettes) or just because (depending on the store’s location and risk profile) they are e.g. unusually small and thus to shoplift without detection. That sort of interaction, where you need to ask for what you want and the storekeeper essentially puts it down on the counter simultaneously with you putting your money down and you don’t pick it up until you’ve paid, avoids these conceptual difficulties. And if you grab it off the counter and asport it by running out the door at the point where you would have been expected to pay, that’s easily larceny under the vintage definition.

  15. I wouldn’t advise doing that anywhere in the world.\

    In US it is safe, at least if you happen to be white and look middle class. Supermarkets really don’t like to make a fuss. I even went so far as eating food without any packaging (like a bagel) and then just telling a cashier to charge me for it.

  16. Indeed, NYS has no specific shoplifting statute: shop lifting is petit or grand larceny depending on the dollar value.

    m-l: Just so.

  17. January First-of-May says

    Most stores I’ve been to seem to have no problem with me carrying a backpack (even, and perhaps especially, a very large one), as long as I don’t actually hit the shelves with it (which is admittedly tricky with a full hiking backpack).
    Some places insist on putting the backpack in a storage locker outside the main store area; if the lockers are really small, and/or my backpack is really big, and it’s obvious that the backpack won’t fit in a locker, even those guys tend to shrug and allow me anyway.
    A few of the larger stores insisted on putting the backpack in a special huge plastic bag; a few times, when I showed up with a particularly huge backpack, they ended up making holes in the plastic bag to let the shoulder straps out, so that I could still carry it as a backpack anyway.

    I don’t think I ever tried eating groceries that I hadn’t yet paid for, however (though some stores have grocery sections with separate cash registers, so in principle it’s possible to still be inside the store even after paying for the item – not that I’d risk it either way; and Auchan Gagarinsky even has an entire in-store cafeteria, though I hadn’t actually eaten anything there yet either).

  18. Richard Hershberger says

    @ J.W. Brewer:
    “My best guess is that, as with a lot of words that were part of the common jargon of Anglophone lawyers 200+ years ago, it has been retained in common jargon in some US jurisdictions (maybe because it is used in the specific wording of a statute, although there could be other reasons) while becoming obsolete in others.”

    My favorite example of this is the office of the “Prothonotary,” which survives in an utterly random grab bag of jurisdictions, including all but one of the Courts of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania, two Australian states, and the Vatican.

  19. I had heard of the word ‘prothonotary’ on account of this splendid bird. It doesn’t particularly put me in mind of a law clerk, but perhaps I missing something.

  20. J.W. Brewer says

    Each county in my native Delaware (which was affiliated, with varying degrees of autonomy, with Pennsylvania during much of the colonial period) also still has a prothonotary. It has perhaps become more obscure since having transitioned (I believe sometime since my own boyhood, although googling couldn’t quickly turn up the date of the relevant tweak to the state constitution) from an elective office to an appointed one, but it’s still there.

  21. I had an impression that protonothary was a highly ranked Byzantine official, usually an eunuch.

    It’s fascinating that they survived in America of all places

  22. Lars (the original one) says

    Many supermarkets in Sweden let you use a hand scanner to register items you collect and pay for them at automated checkouts. I usually put the items into my backpack directly (inside the store) and nobody has ever complained; there are occasional random checks at the checkout, however. (And you do need to have a membership card to use the system).

  23. Quoth WP on the prothonotary warbler: “This bird was supposedly named after certain prelates in the Roman Catholic Church known as protonotaries, due to its golden plumage (although protonotaries apostolic wear purple robes). It was once known as the golden swamp warbler.” But nooooo, that would be too sensible a name for a bird.

  24. The word “apportation” is of course related. It has two main usages: 1) materializing an object out of the spirit world, in a seance. 2) magically grabbing an object at a distance, in a role-playing game or similar fiction.

    Players of the roguelike Omega may recall Apportation as a useful spell to steal one high-value item while standing just inside the door of a sleeping dragon’s cave.

  25. Lars (the original one) says

    Apport is also the Danish dog command for for ‘fetch’.

  26. David Marjanović says

    The word “apportation” is of course related.

    It’s the opposite: ad-portare “carry to” instead of abs-portare “carry away”.

    Apportieren is “fetch” when dogs do it in German, but the actual command tends to be the normal word for “fetch”, if indeed any is needed.

  27. Danish apport, German apportieren: these must from French apporter ‘to bring’ (an object, not a person).

  28. Apport is also the Danish dog command for for ‘fetch’.

    Likewise Russian апорт; they’re presumably both from French.

  29. Lars (the original one) says

    The verb is indeed apportere which should have imperative apportér, but the dogs don’t care.

    I’m sure Danish got it from German though:

    Hver Mand, som med Kløgt gik i Lærdom til Bund,
    Latin paa Papiret kun malte,
    med Fruerne Fransk, og Tydsk med sin Hund
    og Dansk med sin Tjener han talte.

            Christian Wilster, 1827

  30. Convincing evidence indeed.

  31. Amusingly, GT renders Tydsk as ‘timid’. Wikt says that the current Danish for ‘timid’ is frygtsom, something I never would have guessed, for frightsome (arch.) means ‘scary’, not ‘scared’.

  32. David Marjanović says

    Furchtsam does mean “easily scared”, though.

  33. Oxford English dictionary says

    frightsome, adj.
    1. Causing fright; frightening, frightful. Also in weakened use as an intensifier.

    †2. Frightened, fearful. Obs. rare.

    1827 T. Carlyle tr. F. H. K. de La Motte Fouqué in German Romance I. 306 Edwald and Froda had their own almost frightsome thoughts on the matter.
    1886 London Jrnl. 22 May 332/2 This young gentleman be so loike my lord that I beant surprised Ben be frightsome loike.

  34. Likewise Russian апорт

    Also a variety of apples:

  35. Yes, but that’s a different word, probably (via Polish japurt) from Middle High German apfalter ‘apple tree.’

  36. David Marjanović says

    …That’s something I had no idea of.

  37. Lars (the original one) says

    ‘Terrible’ is frygtelig in Danish. I cannot guess where GT got its match for Tydsk, but regularizing to Tysk does help.

  38. Lars: so, “apportere” is the ordinary verb, with the imperative form used for dogs being “apport” instead of the expected form *”apportér”. Interesting: at first glance you might think that the French verb was borrowed, as was its imperative form (perfectly regular in French), and that we have an example of borrowed inflection. Hmm…borrowed inflection is not common, and here we’ve an example (seemingly) of a borrowed inflection used for a specifically non-human addressee. There might be potential for an article here…I can see it already: “Danish ‘apport’: The intersection between borrowed inflection and specifically canine morphological apocope: a critique of so-called ‘Universal Grammar’ and its human-centered biases.”

    However, I wonder whether the verb and the command might not have each been borrowed separately (probably via (Low?) German) into Danish.

  39. The frightsome definitions are the usual confusion with words like suspicious and nauseous and happy, which can apply to either the person experiencing the feeling or whatever inspired it.

  40. apporte

    In this case the “borrowed” infinitive inflection is the bare stem of the verb, which is not felt as inflective, so that it is likely that the form was borrowed as an interjection, “Apporte!”, like “Sit!” or “Heel!” or whatever is used to order animals about. Then a full verb form was half-created, half-borrowed from French according to an already known pattern, e.g. German -ieren for French verbs in -er.

  41. Well, in interjections, and especially those given to animals, brevity and (supposed) recognizability would probably trump grammatical correctness. I would argue that “Go fetch!” works as an interjection, but not quite as a proper imperative, where it would have to be “Go fetch it!”.

  42. Mongolian dog commands are all in Mongolian with exception of “Апорт!”, “Фу!” and “Фас!”.

    The latter is the most scary. You wouldn’t want to be bitten by something like

  43. Фас is of course German “Fass!” Interesting that it made it to Mongolia (most likely through Russian).

  44. Фу is German too.


  45. Could be, it’s harder to tell with interjections like that.

  46. David Marjanović says

    It’s fuj deep into the Balkans, too.

  47. Lars (the original one) says

    However, I wonder whether the verb and the command might not have each been borrowed separately (probably via (Low?) German) into Danish.

    That is not at all unlikely.

  48. English fie, but no longer used even to dogs.

  49. I think I shall take to shooing dogs with fie!

  50. marie-lucie says


    I think that English fie must be from older French fi, an obsolete interjection expressing disgust, contempt (at someone’s thoughts or behaviour).

    In earlier times the word often occurred as part of the phrase Fi de X! where X could be a person, event, thought, etc, considered as unworthy of one’s consideration – the phrase could be roughly equivalent to Modern English To hell with X! in dismissing the relevance of X to the topic being discussed. In Modern French the phrase is largely obsolete, except in the verb phrase faire fi de X, which is still found in somewhat high register contexts, as in Le président fait fi des opinions des citoyens ‘The president dismisses the citizens’ opinions, considers their opinions beneath his notice.’

  51. Indeed! OED:

    Middle English fi, fy, apparently < Old French fi, fy (modern French fi) < Latin , an imitation of the sound instinctively made on perceiving a disagreeable smell. Compare Old Norse (Danish fy, also fy skam dig, fie shame to you! Swedish fy), of similar origin.

    The Old Norse may possibly be a joint source of the English word, but the early instances either occur in translations from French or imitate the French construction fi de.

  52. Yes, they must all be borrowings from French; Latin /f-/ would be /b-/ or /d-/ in Germanic.

  53. Lars (the original one) says

    Our little dog certainly knew very early that fy! meant that he’d done something he shouldn’t. (It took a bit longer until he could reliably figure out which solecism it was).

  54. David Marjanović says

    Of course they can’t be traced back to PIE, but I don’t think the Norse version can be borrowed from French with its different vowel. Rather, “an imitation of the sound instinctively made on perceiving a disagreeable smell” has repeatedly led to similar results, including both German versions, pfui and the nowadays more widespread wäh ([væ̫] – a literally extralinguistic interjection, said with the tongue sticking out).

  55. marie-lucie says

    There is also English phew (not quite homophonous with few) which seems to fit with the other Germanic words.

  56. David Marjanović says

    That’s a sound of relief, though, not of disgust.

  57. And Russian тьфу.

  58. marie-lucie says

    DM: (phew) : That’s a sound of relief, though, not of disgust.

    Really? I did not associate it with fi, but not with “relief” either.

  59. Yeah, definitely relief: “Phew [or “whew”], we made it!”

  60. It’s not how Nero Wolfe used it. Here’s some history ZOUNDS!: A Browser’s Dictionary of Interjections courtesy Google Books (start looking on the previous page). As you might have guessed things are somewhat nuanced. Phew, is there anything not nuanced in this language.

  61. Nero Wolfe, despite being a Montenegrin, used pfui (not phew) in its German sense. Of course, I was used to that despite the lack of explanation in the books, because my mother used it too. Neither one of them overworked the word. (Wiktionary refers to Wolfe but defines it as “an exclamation indicating disagreement or rejection of an argument”, which strikes me as off.) Quoth Wikipedia:

    In the first chapter of Over My Dead Body (1939), Wolfe tells an FBI agent that he was born in the United States — a declaration at odds with all other references. Stout revealed the reason for the discrepancy in a 1940 letter cited by his authorized biographer John McAleer: “In the original draft of Over My Dead Body Nero was a Montenegrin by birth, and it all fitted previous hints as to his background; but violent protests from The American Magazine, supported by Farrar & Rinehart, caused his cradle to be transported five thousand miles.”

    —(Wikipedia s.v. “Nero Wolfe”)

  62. Yesterday, marie-lucie mentioned To hell with… !, which reminds me of a minor linguistic conundrum. That is the usual phrasing for that expression. However, in one of Susan Cooper’s fantasy novels (probably The Grey King but possibly Silver on the Tree), the character of Bran Davis says, “The hell with it!”

    When I read that as a kid, it struck me as wrong. However, it occurred to me later that The hell with it! might be a particularly Welsh usage. The character of Bran Davies is about as Welsh as it’s humanly possible to be. (Literally: He is the legitimate son of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, but at the time of his birth, the king was suspicious that the boy might not have been his actual son. To protect Bran from Arthur, his mother accepts Merlin’s help in sending the boy forward in time to the twentieth century, when he can assist Merlin in his final defense against the Dark. Guinevere leaves the boy with a Welsh herder named Owen Davies, who raises him and teaches him all about Celtic folklore.) So does anybody know if The hell with it! is a specifically Welsh form for that expression?

  63. J.W. Brewer says

    The google books n-gram viewer suggests that since c. 1940, “the hell with it” has consistently occurred (in texts found the relevant corpus) about 80-90% as frequently as the slightly more common “to hell with it.” So the version with “the” may be the minority variant, but hardly a marginal one. Looking at a few pages of hits in the corpus, “the hell with it” is found in the mouths of a number of seemingly non-Welsh personalities, such as Richard Nixon (on tape in the Oval Office, talking to Kissinger and Haldeman), a female character in a Neil Simon play (engaging in some hasn’t-aged-well racially-charged joking about a Native American romantic rival), and a member of the Chippewa nation (possibly not a Neil Simon fan).

  64. marie-lucie says

    Brett, JWB: After decades in English-speaking North America, I am very familiar with T.. hell with …, but the phrase is not part of my active vocabulary, so I may have confused the two variants.

  65. There’s a meme that you don’t see much these days.

  66. ktschwarz says

    I read Silver on the Tree at the time and felt nothing wrong with “The hell with it”. The hell, to hell, same difference.

    John Rowlands also says “The hell with both of them” and “The hell with all of you” — and nobody says “to hell with” anything — so maybe Cooper did think of “the hell” as characteristic of the area.

    Or did Cooper have some American leaking into her style, after living there for over a decade? Google books n-grams show a much higher “to hell with”/”the hell with” ratio for British English than American English.

  67. David Marjanović says

    The hell should have some kind of interesting origin, because it doesn’t seem to occur anywhere in English outside this phrase.

  68. What the hell makes you think that?

  69. J.W. Brewer says

    What the hell are you talkin’ ’bout, David M.? The “… with it” fixed phrase ain’t the only place “the hell” occurs in standard English, at least in the American rescension.

  70. J.W. Brewer says

    I had not known the wording of the canonical “I say it’s spinach …” bit was from the pen of E.B. White. Now I’m curious if Strunk & White have an oracularly-declared preference for “the hell” over “to hell.”

  71. I’m sure I say “the hell with it” more often that the “to hell” version.

    There’s a meme that you don’t see much these days.

    It’s occasionally heard around our household, but then we are relatively old — though not nearly as old as the gag; I had no idea it went back as far as 1928.

  72. The hell even has its own entry in online m-w.

  73. David Marjanović says

    …yeah, that and what the hell. :-] Otherwise, hell and heaven are treated as proper names in English and lack articles; the hell with it would be* perfectly grammatical in German, but in English it’s odd.

    * The actual expression was zur Hölle damit, lit. “to the hell with it” – having our cake and eating it, too.

  74. David Marjanović says

    …Of course, the “interesting origin” is pretty much obvious: it’s modeled on the devil, perhaps originally as a slight euphemism – or as a dysphemism (“all the devils”). See also: the fuck.

  75. J.W. Brewer says

    When conceptualized as unitary, “hell” and “heaven” are anarthrous in English, but when conceptualized as each consisting of multiple subparts (as in Dante’s elaborate schema) the subparts can take a definite article as appropriate, as e.g. “the deepest hell” or “the highest heaven” or Paul’s anecdote in Second Corinthians beginning (I’m using NIV to ensure self-consciously modern syntax/register) “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven.” (Admittedly the fixed phrase is these days more often “in seventh heaven” than “in the seventh heaven,” but the google books n-gram viewer claims the anarthrous variant has only been the more common one since 1975.)

  76. Another “the hell” phrase is “the hell out of”. “They beat the hell out of him.” “You embarrassed the hell out of me.” “I enjoyed the hell out of that cake.”

  77. the hell with it would be* perfectly grammatical in German, but in English it’s odd.

    “The hell with it” has about half the ghits of “to Hell with it”: it is perfectly cromulent English, and I use it all the time. (I personally capitalize Heaven and Hell when they are used as names of places, so “to Hell”, “in Hell” but “raise hell”, “the hell”; but not everyone does that.)

  78. I’m pretty sure that by “it’s odd” he didn’t mean “it isn’t used much” but rather “it doesn’t fit naturally into the English system of word combinations.”

  79. From our old pal David Foster Wallace, Ticket to the Fair:

    The carny operating the Scooter — bumper cars that are fast, savage, underinsulated, a sure trip to the chiropractor — has been slumped In the same position in the same chair every time I’ve seen him, staring past the frantic cars and tearing up used ride-tickets with the vacant intensity of someone on a locked ward. I lean casually against his platform’s railing so that my credentials dangle and ask him in a neighborly way how he keeps from going out of his freaking mind with the boredom of his job. He turns his head very slowly, revealing a severe facial tic: “The fuck you talkin’ ’bout?”

  80. I had no idea it went back as far as 1928.

    I actually was shocked to see “hell” spoken, and by a child, in a 1928 cartoon. Of course those were licentious times, just two years before the Hays Office, but I still imagine some older reader picking up a copy of that upstart magazine and turning purple.

  81. Hunter-gatherers in Japan were cultivating cannabis (perhaps their only crap) as long as 10,000 years ago. They probably used it to help control the boredom of hunting.

  82. J.W. Brewer says

    That famous self-description provoked (perhaps not quite so famously) retaliation from another fledgling magazine that happened at the time to be published out of the same building on W. 45th: “In Dubuque, Iowa, there lives, doubtless, an old lady,” Time observed. “Her existence is recognized only because certain middle-aged people in Manhattan began some weeks ago to think about her. She came frequently into their conversation and, at each allusion, a leer passed round the company—all spoke in derisive terms of her taste, though the kinder-hearted merely pitied her for being the victim of an unfortunate environment.” The boys at Time pretended to have lately posted to this female Dubuquian in the twilight of life a copy of the magazine that was not edited on her behalf and to have received a telegram by way of reply. “The editors of the periodical you forwarded are, I understand, members of a literary clique,” she wired. “They should learn that there is no provincialism so blatant as that of the metropolitan who lacks urbanity.”

  83. metropolitan who lacks urbanity

    What the hack does this mean? It was written before the sprawl…

  84. Urbane
    2. a. Of a person: elegant and refined in manners; courteous, civil; suave, sophisticated.
    b. Of a quality, action, etc.: characteristic of or befitting such a person; refined, sophisticated.

  85. OK, thanks!

  86. David Marjanović says

    I’m pretty sure that by “it’s odd” he didn’t mean “it isn’t used much” but rather “it doesn’t fit naturally into the English system of word combinations.”


    “They beat the hell out of him.” “You embarrassed the hell out of me.” “I enjoyed the hell out of that cake.”

    I wonder if that started as a euphemism for “they beat the shit out of him”… or perhaps “the devil”, as a method of mostly metaphorical exorcism.

  87. cannabis (perhaps their only crap)

    Their only crop, to be sure. Although cannabis is also known as shit.

  88. Ha!

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