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About Ben Yagoda
Ben Yagoda teaches English, journalism and writing at the University of Delaware, and is the author, coauthor or editor of nine books. He has written about language, writing and other topics for Slate.com, the New York Times Book Review and Magazine, The American Scholar, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and many other publications. He contributes to "Lingua Franca," a Chronicle of Higher Education blog about language and writing and "Draft,"a New York Times blog about the art of writing. His personal blog is "Not One-Off Britishisms." He lives in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.
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Not One-Off Britishisms - Over the last decade or so, an alarming number of traditionally British expressions have found their way into the American vocabulary.
Periodically, I experience a sinking sensation roughly verbalized as, “The person who wrote what I’m reading isn’t a writer by trade, but does what I do better than I do. Damn his eyes.” When I had such a reaction to the memoirs of Alec Guinness and Bob Dylan, and the diaries of Richard Burton, I could at least comfort myself with the fact that they are, or were, creative types.
But not so with my most recent sinking feeling. It came a couple of weeks ago, while I was reading Warren Buffett’s annual state-of-Berkshire Hathaway letter to shareholders.
In November, a waiter at an Upper West Side deli was thrilled to see sitting down at one of his tables none other than Philip Roth. You see, the waiter, whose name is Julian Tepper, is also a novelist, and had recently published a book called Balls. As Tepper described the encounter in a Paris Review piece, he handed a copy to Roth, who had recently announced his retirement as a fiction writer. “Great title,” the novelist said. “I’m surprised I didn’t think of it myself.” That was exciting, but then Roth went on to say some other stuff:
It's a sad day in the kingdom of letters. Today's Times has obituaries of two of its longtime distinguished staff members, Ada Louise Huxtable and Harvey Shapiro. The paper generally does a good and thoughtful job assessing the lives of its contributors and editors, and today's obits are no exception. The paper's architecture and development reporter David Dunlap assesses Huxtable, who in 1963 was hired as the first full-time architecture critic at an American newspaper and in 1970 won the first Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism.