It was one of those mornings when I get dressed and I'm ahead of schedule and I think I'm pretty cool, until I'm on the way out the door and I realize that I have no idea where my keys are and it occurs to me that I might not be as cool as I'd hoped. Later, when I'm halfway to Waltham and it's begun to rain for real and I realize that I forgot my umbrella -- it is then readily apparent that I'm not anything like cool.
Wussing out of a muddy mile and a half walk (and soaked books, and an unhappy velvet jacket -- what possessed me to wear that?), I took the bus back to Harvard Square, and ducked into Newbury Comics "to get out of the rain" (which, when I'm not lying to myself, means "buying that Polyphonic Spree album"). From there I proceeded to Davis Square, and McIntyre & Moore -- funny how record shops and book shops seem to offer me the best possible protection from the weather. By the time the sun had (sort of) come out, I was well into a pot of mango black tea and a pile of used books.
I've recently decided to collect dictionaries. I can't afford any of the ones I really want; I think a full set of the OED will have to wait until I have achieved financial stability and own a house in which to keep the whole thing. (That'll be my wedding registry: everyone can give me one volume of the OED.*) So I've decided to collect obsolete reference books instead: old style manuals and slang dictionaries, with special priority given to works that have no practical application whatsoever.
Today I purchased Wilson Follett's Modern American Usage: A Guide (New York: Hill & Wang, 1966), which purports to be "grounded in the philosophy that the best in language... is not too good to be aspired to," and H.W. Horwill's A Dictionary of Modern American Usage (London: Clarendon, 1944), which sounds like the same thing, but "confines itself to what is; it is not concerned with what should be." The former rails against the proliferation of "Germanisms" in the language, clarifies the distinction between momently and momentarily (have I ever heard anyone say momently? was that a word in 1966?), and other grave errors:
sake, for its own. This phrase harbors an ambiguity that has led some critics astray in their efforts to popularize the disctinction between the practical and fine arts, or more especially between communicative and so-called pure art. When a "purist" critic says that he listens to music, not in order to follow a story or titillate his emotions but for its own sake, he successfully suggests that he is pursuing a nobler course than his neighbors and doing proper honor to the high art of music. But a moment's reflection shows that for its own sake cannot refer to music, which, not being a person, has no sake.
...Whereas the latter is less judgemental, and more of a guide for British readers who want to make sense of the American dialect. Circa 1944, of course.
cunning. In Am. this word often lacks any idea of dexterity or slyness. It is a common term of endearment, applied esp. to children and pet animals of small size. 'What a cunning little baby!' is the Am. equivalent of the Eng. 'What a ducky little baby!'
Davis Square, Somerville. The ceiling of the Someday Cafe, with its two shades of endearingly godawful blue.
Harvard Square, Cambridge. Anyone can get decaf or a flavor shot, but only English speakers are allowed a moment to themselves. Everyone else is shit out of luck.
*This remark is a pretty sure sign that no one will ever marry me.