29 December 2008

Faint Praise

We often see the term fulsome praise used to indicate abundant approval or admiration. The problem is, fulsome doesn't mean that at all. Rather, the word means "flattering to an excessive degree," according to the Oxford American Dictionary. Thus, fulsome praise "isn't a lavish tribute," explains Bill Bryson in his excellent Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors, "it is unctuous and insincere toadying."

Good Deed, a Short Story

We were half-way through our third drink when the old guy at the end of the bar toppled off his stool onto the floor. He lay there for several minutes, his face turning gray, and no one tried to help him. So we called 9-1-1. The ambulance arrived quickly, and two EMTs loaded the guy on a stretcher and carted him off. An hour and a half later, he walked back in and said something to the bartender, who pointed at us. He nodded and headed our way. “Probably wants to buy us a drink,” I said to my friend. But I was wrong. “Next time,” the old guy told us, “mind your own fucking business.”