QUESTION: Why were American soldiers in World War I called "doughboys?" - Tom W.
ANSWER: The experts have had a field day with that one, and the first thing you should know is that the name is at least as old as the Civil War, and probably much older. Consider the possibilities:Gen. George Custer's widow wrote a book shortly after the Civil War in which she said the soldiers were called doughboys after the name for the round buttons on infantry uniforms; the buttons got their name from a small round doughnut.
Another explanation is that the word came from "adobe-boy" or "dobie-boy," a term used well before the Civil War for soldiers in the Southwest, perhaps because their uniforms were often spattered with mud. And yet another version is that the word originated during the Peninsular War when some of Lord Wellington's soldiers named a spot Dough Boy Hill because of the pains they took there to make dough for their bread.
About the only explanation not offered is that doughboys were called that because their Army pay left them rolling in dough. Wonder why no one thought of that?
QUESTION: Which did I do - I waked up, I woke up or I awoke? Or is it better to have simply stayed asleep? - Fanny W.
ANSWER: Yes. But if you're determined not to sleep, you may use any of the three choices you offered. Bergen Evans has observed of the verb "wake" or "waken" that there are "27 forms for the principal parts of this verb, where ordinarily two forms are enough."
QUESTION: This "writee" is surprised that my newspaper would bow to the usage of "attendee" instead of "attender." And while we're at it, "escapee" is wrong. It should be "escaper." - Lester R.Comment on this story
ANSWER: Ah, sir, you're trying to make sense of English usage. Forget it. Check dictionary definitions of "-ee" and you'll find that, by now, almost anything goes. It would certainly make sense to limit "-ee" endings to recipients of actions - addressee, draftee, appointee, and so on - but the whole nation is against you. Still, you're entitled to flinch if you wish. In that case, I suppose, somebody would call you "flinchee."
HARD QUESTION of the week, from Thomas B.:
"My newspaper had an article about a place where, it said, `houses spot the countryside.' I've heard of houses dotting the countryside, but spotting? Are these houses too big to be mere dots?"