Date: Wed, 29 Mar 1995 15:18:57 GMT


Subject: Words with variable references

There is a very interesting quote in Mencken (4th ed., p 289-90) concerning

variation in meaning, for what it's worth:

If an Englishman reads "The floorwalker says to go to the _notion_ counter,"

he knows at least one word he does not understand. If he reads a speech of

Presiden Roosevelt declaring that "our industries have little doubt of

_black-ink_ operations in the last quarter of the year.' he is at least aware

of a foreign usage, and may be trusted to go off and discover it. But if I

write "The _clerk_ gave a _biscuit_ to the _solicitor_," He will imagine

something precise, if a little odd. The trouble is that, however lively his

imagination, what he imagines may be precise but is bound to be wrong. For

he is confronted with three nouns which mean different things in the United

States and in England.