Is the word ‘welsh’ derogatory?

In an earlier post, I casually wrote that Donald Trump is a “notorious welsher on debts”, meaning that he feels free to not pay what he owes. It is not a word that I commonly use but am familiar enough with that it came naturally to me when I wanted to describe Trump’s practice of defaulting on his debt obligations.

That is the common meaning of the phrase ‘to welsh’. But later it got me thinking. ‘Welsh’ also refers to the people of Wales, a distinct nationality with their own language that makes up part of the United Kingdom. Was using the term ‘welsh’ the way I did a slur on them, implying that they as a people were prone to this type of dishonesty?
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Great moments in driving

Here is a video of three minutes of a driver speeding along on an interstate seemingly oblivious to the fact that it was in the wrong direction and causing oncoming drivers to swerve to avoid a collision.

What is astonishing is that the driver did not brake, swerve, or otherwise try to avoid oncoming traffic but drove as if they had the right of way. This could have ended in a tragedy but luckily only minor injuries occurred.

Here is the story.

Great moments in driving

We have pretty much all had this experience at some time or other in some form. You are driving along a narrow road that has just one lane of traffic each way. The direction you are traveling in is jammed with very slow-moving traffic while the other lane for cars going in the opposite direction is empty. What do you do? If you are a normal person and not a jerk, you put it down to the vagaries of life and continue to crawl along.
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‘Just deserts’ or ‘Just desserts’?

I do not believe that I have ever used the phrase ‘just desserts’ myself but I have been familiar with it from adolescence. I had always believed that the word was spelled as ‘desserts’ and, as all of us tend to do with beliefs, had created a theory to justify it. My theory was that ‘dessert’ referred to the treat one gets at the end of one’s meal, that parents often used to reward children for good behavior, such as eating all their vegetables. So ‘just desserts’ meant that one got a treat that was appropriate for what one did: a minor good act got a small treat while a major good act got a big treat.
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Georgia suspends driver’s license tests

The governor of the state of Georgia has said that, due to the current pandemic situation, people can get their driver’s licenses without actually taking a road test. This has naturally horrified many people because driving puts you in command of a lethal weapon. As any driver will tell you, even when you take driving lessons, spend some time getting practice, and then pass the test, the first few months of driving alone tend to be nervous periods because safe driving habits have not as yet become instinctive. To not have to take the test at all just makes it that much worse.
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NASA or Nasa? NATO or Nato? Dealing with acronyms

I almost always use upper case when I am using obvious acronyms, so it is WHO, NASA, NATO, AIDS, and so on. But I have noticed in reading news articles from some but not all sources that certain acronyms are written as if they are just nouns, as in the case of Nato and Nasa. For example, this article from the Guardian refers to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as Noaa and to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science as Vims. Similarly, this article from the BBC refers to Nasa. But the BBC, WHO, NFL, and the NBA are always kept as upper case.
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This year’s Spelling Bee cancelled

I have argued in multiple posts that I think that the Spelling Bee contest is not a good use of young people’s intellect. The skills it teaches are not commensurable with the time, energy, and resources that the children’s families put into it. The format of the contest is not designed to even produce the best spellers, because luck plays a significant role in determining the final outcome. The contest is designed to produce TV drama (and ratings) by putting these young children under enormous pressure.

So I can’t say that I was sorry to hear that this year’s contest, like so many other events, has been cancelled. I do feel sorry for all those young people who had been devoting so much time to preparing for it because those who think that they can be winners pretty much give up everything else for years on end in pursuit of that goal. Perhaps being released from the pressure to memorize the spelling of obscure words will allow them to explore other areas of creativity and discover new pleasures in life. I hope so.

Will the Spelling Bee recover after social distancing ends and make a come back? Sadly, it seems likely because there is money in it.

Using the word ‘irony’

I use the word ‘irony’ on occasion. It is a problematic word in that it is often used in a wide variety of ways, some of which do not match its definition in the Oxford English Dictionary that describes it as “cruelly, humorously, or strangely at odds with assumptions or expectations.” Roger Kreuz reports on the work of psychologist Joan Lucariello who classified 28 different usages of the word and grouped them under seven general headings.
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What’s the term for a group of three?

On reading the title of this post, readers would have immediately been able to provide the answer and may have wondered why I was even asking it.

But as I was writing my impressions of Lucia di Lammermoor and the sextet that is sung there, it struck me that while I knew the names for groups of singers of almost all sizes from two to ten (duet (two), quartet (four), quintet (five), sextet (six), septet (seven), octet (eight), nonet (nine), and dectet (ten)), I did not know the term for three singers. So I looked it up and (duh!) it is ‘trio’, a common word that I was very familiar with. After all, the Kingston Trio was a very popular group in my youth.
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