As a Sopranos fan, I was delighted to see the show featured in a Mark Liberman post on Language Log. Mark links to a hilarious exchange of letters between Jeffrey Goldberg, Jerry Capeci, and Leon Wieseltier, part of a regular feature called “Mob Experts on The Sopranos” that I intend to follow religiously. Mark focuses on the lack of a clear way to refer to pronunciations of the -ing suffix; I will call attention to a technical term new to me, used by Wieseltier in describing his experience on the set: “Who did I meet? Just about everybody who was in my episode. Not on the set, which was an all-nighter at the New Jersey Botanical Gardens, where I had the honor of being the martini…” (Emphasis added.) Goldberg asks “Leon—a martini? What’s a martini? I always pictured you more as a bottle of slivovitz…” and Wieseltier responds:

Glad you asked: The martini is the last shot of a shoot, after which work is over and the customary depredations of the artistic life may resume. It was cheap of me to use the term as if I have known what it means for more than 20 minutes. A useful lesson, I plead contritely, in the distinction between knowingness and knowledge. (Note that I could have continued to play the knowingness game by explaining it to you this way: “The martini, of course, is …” You will be familiar with that particular device for intimidating readers from the work of many distinguished writers.)

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