Poem competition winner!

I feel bad moving the frown post from the top spot on the blog, seeing as it has been AMAZING. In one week, it's had 11,000 more hits than the math(s) post has had in nine years! (And that one is one of my most popular posts!) "Reviews" of the frown post include "mind BLOWN" and "I am FREAKED OUT". It is indeed so very weird that such a big meaning difference could be hidden from so many people for so long, when the evidence of the difference is all around us. Huh! (To comment on frowns, please go to that post.)

But I have a solemn and happy duty today: to announce the winner of the poetry competition to win a copy of  Oliver Kamm's Accidence will happen: the non-pedantic guide to English. The winner, by my studied judg(e)ment and popular acclaim is: MJ Simpson
Here are the winning words.

In suspenders and pants and a vest,
Looking nerdy - but smart - I impressed.
In the States that was fine
But a Brit friend of mine
Thought me kinky and quite underdressed.

Thank you MJ--please get in touch so that I can (AmE) mail/(BrE) post your prize to you.

And thanks to everyone who submitted a poem or (orig. AmE ) rooted for the poems of others. 

Changes are a-coming. I'm working with a web designer to improve various aspects of the blog. The current question: which font for the title? Life is hard. In a good way.


  1. Lovely poem! As to the font, how about this one: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stencil_(typeface)

  2. I say Something fancy

  3. Absolutely brilliant! My Irish husband and I, an Ohio girl and longtime linguaphile, love Mr. (I assume?) Simpson's poem, particularly since we've had many similar confusions between us. He still finds it funny when I wonder whether I ought to wear pants or a skirt. :)

    By the way, your post about 'frown' has inspired several great arguments and discussions among our friends! I am still shocked at how we can all be speaking the same language and be saying quite different things. That's why I adore this blog. It tickles my brain!

  4. Hah! Very good!

    Now, the use of "quite" is a case in point of language evolution and transatlantic differences. In the poem, I assume the author means it sound British and to mean "wholly", "completely", "totally". Whereas to the modern British vernacular "qutie underdressed" reads "as only a bit, but almost mostly underdressed"...

  5. Ah, "quite". I keep confusing my O/H. He'll "Are you sure?" about something.
    "Yes, quite sure," I reply
    "Only quite?" says he...
    "I mean very sure," I have to explain.

    I did a bit of a search of this blog on the suspenders (AmE) = Braces (BrE) / suspenders (BrE) = garter (AmE) thing: there's a bit in the comments here:
    and a bit more also in the comments here:

  6. Changes are a-coming. I'm working with a web designer to improve various aspects of the blog.

    Lynne: since changes are a-coming, I'd like to advocate once again that you get rid of Blogger's woefully outdated comment tool!

    In the past I've suggested Disqus as a replacement -- mostly because I have a Disqus account and use it in my own Blogger blog -- but I'm not picky. Just something that allows your legions of fans to 1) reply to a comment so the reply is visibly evident as a reply, meaning it shows up in indented form directly below the original comment, 2) upvote a comment a visitor approves of, even if the visitor has no intention of posting his or her own comment or reply, 3) edit a comment or reply after posting it (which Disqus does by starting the clock on a 5-minute window before the comment or reply is published) and 4) delete a published comment or reply if its author decides (for whatever reason) it's no longer suitable. Needless to say, Disqus -- as well as most other alternative comment tools, I believe -- allows *you* to delete any comment you think isn't suitable as well as to moderate comments before publication.

    Thanks for listening!

  7. I think your frown post was so popular because it got picked up by MetaFilter, and... yeah.

    Re: Disqus - disqus is just great, until it breaks. Unfortunately, once it hits a certain number of comments it gets real glitchy, real fast.

  8. Conuly: Metafilter has helped, but it's not the whole answer. I've come up on Metafilter before (maths and please, I think?) and it's a big boost, but what's doing it this time is Facebook. It's become the blue/black versus white/gold dress of 2016!

    Conuly/Dick: Thanks for the feedback. The first time I tried to install Disqus, it did all sorts of things that alarmed me. Thinking I might give it a try again, I asked my web guy about it, and he can't use it because of the privacy software he uses. So, I have to say, am not particularly moved to try it.

    Were I to start over again, I might not use Blogger, but that's where I am and I can't afford the time or the money to switch elsewhere. (I can't really afford the time or money I'm putting into it now!) Ah well...

  9. I considered registering with Disqus once (to enter a caption competition on Wondermark), but was put off by the privacy concerns mentioned on Wikipedia.

  10. Thank you all for your kind comments on my limerick, and thank you to Lynne for the book which arrived this morning. Yes I'm male, yes I'm British, and I only recently discovered this blog so I'm enjoying lots of old posts.

    And yes, I used 'quite' in its largely archaic meaning of 'significantly' rather than the modern meaning of 'moderately'. The limerick is a Victorian verse form and lends itself to slightly archaic language.

    I'm slightly surprised that no-one seems to have picked up on 'kinky' which I would have thought was distinctively BrE. I don't know whether there's an AmE version.

    While I've known for a long time that AmE vest = BrE waistcoat, I only recently discovered that BrE vest is called a tank top in America, which is a whole level more of complexity because a tank top over here is a sleeveless jumper...

  11. Cute poem! "Kinky" makes perfect sense in AmE, and I assume the meaning is the same. The meaning of "quite" that you call archaic is perfectly valid in AmE. The clothes, however, are a different story. The tank top is usually an outer garment for hot weather, or part of a two-piece woman's blouse. The same garment under a man's shirt is usually (but not always) an undershirt. A jumper, on the other hand, is a type of sleeveless dress to be worn over a sweater or blouse. I think the thing you mean, I'd call a sweater?

  12. 'Kinky' in BrE is 'mildly pervy' (as in this classic https://youtu.be/5Q-e_T4WRcs). I don't think I've heard it used by Americans.

    A sleeveless lightweight men's top in BrE is always a vest, even if nothing is worn over it. When Usain Bolt is doing the 100m, he's wearing a 'running vest'.

    A long-sleeved, knitted top for either sex is a jumper or pullover, occasionally a sweater. (Unless it buttons up the front of course, in which case it's a cardigan).

    I don't know what a dress worn over a sweater or blouse would be in BrE. Just a dress, I imagine.

  13. It's a 'pinafore dress'. Not as common a term in BrE as 'jumper' (for the same thing) is in AmE, but very much alive in the world of school uniform.

  14. MJS

    Congratulations! A very worthy winner.

    Re vests, don't forget that a "grandfather vest" (as you will know) has long sleeves (and three buttons to the neck). It is an item of "thermal underwear", often worn with "long johns" which are long (under)pants going down to the ankles.

  15. I'd call a long-sleeved undergarment a 'thermal vest'. I've not come across 'grandfather vest' before. Maybe it's regional.

  16. MJS

    Hmmm ... nothing fitting my above usage seems to come upon on internet search for that term. Now I'm wondering if it's just me.

  17. With the changing seasons, an off-topic but timely North American joke that many North Americans - I bet - won't get:

    Q:Why, when an National Hockey League team gets restyled uniforms, do they want to bring the Devils to town for their home opener ?

    A:So they can have a special promotion and call it New Jersey Night,

  18. Fantastic poem! (I'm the kind of person who likes to memorize poems so that I always have them with me, and I promptly committed that one to memory. I'm sure it will make me smile for a long time.)

    I also wanted to agree with the American who posted above -- kinky is perfectly comprehensible in American English, and means "kind of pervy," just as it does in British English.

    Now, the New Jersey Night thing . . . I have no idea what that means.

  19. MJS

    Ah! After consulting an old friend, I am reassured that a "grandad vest" (perhaps I went a bit formal with "grandfather" in this public forum) is indeed (in his words): 'basically a t-shirt with three buttons down the front from the neck, sometimes with long sleeves, like old-fashioned "combinations"' and also, as I considered mentioning originally: 'there was a fashion for them back in the late 60s/ early 70s'. Those ones usually came in bright single hues, as opposed to the standard white or cream you got in "combinations" (= grandad vest + long johns). Paul Weller, the musician, describes them as "really stylish" here (though it seems his preference was for non-uniform monochrome).

  20. MJS

    What we often wore south of the grandad vest was, of course, a pair of cotton, wide-bottomed trousers known as "loon pants" (not "trousers" -- did they come from America, I wonder?). So, in an echo of your meisterwerk, we were walking around in England in our vest and pants! Kinky!

  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

  22. @Zouk Delors - I'd never heard the phrase "grandad vest/shirt," and I think the more modern term would be henley. I suspect the granddad vest might have referred more specifically to the waffle-type fabric common in longjohns, but a quick search for the phrase today brings up other fabrics, indistinguishable from henleys on Amazon. (And at Nordstrom's there's a "Bonobos Slim-Fit Waffle-Knit Henley"...)

    And I'm shocked to see someone reference kinky boots without a link to the very American, Cyndi Lauper-penned Kinky Boots!

  23. Christian Johnson

    Some Henleys (as depicted at your link) are a little like the grandad vests of the seventies but the latter were simpler in design: close fitting (hence Paul Weller's remark about how his didn't fit properly), with long sleeves (usually), in bright single colours (usually) in untextured cotton and with three (usually) buttons to the neck. This puff for a seventies box set of music suggests you "Put on your flares, and maybe that purple grandad vest, and cool out to the sound of the 70s". (Flares refers to the wide-bottomed -- wide at the ankle, not the arse/ass -- trousers of which loon pants were a species. People would also turn jeans into flares with inserts).

    Classic (thermal) grandad vests, though, were often ribbed (waffle-textured), possibly for extra thermal efficiency

  24. Anonymous in New Jersey22 September, 2016 05:08


    I got it. (But then, it references my state monster.)


    We totally use "kinky" to mean "mildly pervy" in the U.S., too.

    – AiNJ


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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)