Sir: Is there such a word as "defugalty"? I have heard it used by older people. Example: "The defugalty was all the people talking at once."
- Judy H.Answer: Oh, that. Yes, it's a word, but not the kind you'd find in a self-respecting dictionary. It's a jocular expression used by the old folks who're trying to be - well, jocular. Try "difficulty." Ain't it a scream?
Sir: My newspaper quoted a man as saying "It was a learning experience I wouldn't give a million dollars for." Isn't something wrong here?
- Dixie G.
Answer: I hope so. I wouldn't give a million either, millions being so scarce, but I wouldn't brag about it. Maybe he meant he wouldn't take a million for - but no, that's too stupid for anyone to believe. The more I think about it, the more I'm inclined to agree something just has to be wrong there.
Sir: I frequently hear someone say "Enjoy yourself" or "I enjoyed myself." It has the appearance of self-conceit. Shouldn't people enjoy other people or things?
- Eva V.
Answer: Of course people may and should enjoy other people or things, but that's no reason they can't enjoy themselves as well. Enjoying yourself can mean enjoying your activities, your company or whatever. My goodness, Eva, if you can't enjoy yourself, who can?
Sir: I read a headline that said "Graffiti Spells Gang News." Inasmuch as graffiti is plural for graffito, shouldn't it be "Graffiti Spell"?
- Max P.
Answer: No, it shouldn't. The word refers to a general type of vandalism, not one set of words in particular. In fact, a remarkably similar statement is quoted by one major dictionary, which says: "In such contexts, the use of graffiti as a singular is justified by both utility and widespread precedent." How's that for a direct answer from the book?
FEARFUL QUERY of the Week, from Margaret McG.:
"A news photo caption says of a man that he `learns about removing internal parts of a commercial dishwasher from' another man. Now, how do you suppose the other man swallowed those parts in the first place?"