Sir: I don't know why, but I sometimes read your little column, and here's something you may like to spend time on. I often hear people say "I reckon so." What does that mean, if anything, and where did it come from?
- Gordon T.Answer: Gee, thanks. You have quoted an informal use of the verb "reckon"; it means to think or assume. For example, you might say, "I reckon it's about time to be condescending," and someone else might agree by saying, "Yeah, I reckon so." Other meanings of "reckon" include to count or compute, to consider, to regard as, to figure, to calculate, and so on. It comes from an Old English word meaning recount or arrange. You reckon that's good enough for you?
Sir: It keeps happening. This time a national newspaper said in a front-page story "between she and Simpson." Can we never end the use of "she" as an object?
- Charles L.
Answer: It does begin to look hopeless, but we can at least keep trying; some causes are too noble to abandon. Let no day pass without reminding someone that "she" must never be used like that. Tell all your friends, "If we can send a man to the moon and back, we can somehow break the deplorable custom of using `she' as an object."
Then go dream of some other impossible future.
Sir: My newspaper said in a story from Washington that proposals for solving the welfare problem were "once largely viewed as draconian." Does the writer have bats in his belfry, or do they have a dictionary in Washington they don't let others have? I consulted three dictionaries for a definition of draconian, but to no avail. I say reform welfare, yes, but do it with words from the dictionary.
- Dorothy H.
Answer: But "draconian" is in any dictionary worthy of the name, ma'am. The word comes from Draco, a man who wrote a harsh code of laws for Athens in ancient times. It means "harsh" or "severe." If you really do have a dictionary that doesn't list draconian, you should take draconian steps against it. Like throwing it out.
Sir: I keep seeing "This was to be the climatic battle." I must be dumb, because I can't figure out what the weather has to do with it.
- Tom T.
Answer: What a big difference one little letter can make. Next time you read that, look again and see if the word isn't "climactic." Then look it up and you won't feel dumb.
Meanwhile, your question that follows isn't dumb at all:
BIG QUESTION of the Week, also put by Tom T.:
"I heard a politician say, `I am an ex-Vietnam veteran.' How did he pull that off?"