Thursday, June 23, 2016

Suess* +Seuss* (for Seuss* or Suess*)

In the latest book by the late Dr. Seuss, The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories, we're introduced to a rather folksy expression with which I was totally unfamiliar. In "The Strange Shirt Spot," the speaker is trying to get a stain out, but the dirt just keeps coming back someplace else. "The towel was all right," he says. "It was perfectly white. My troubles were over ... But oh-oh! Not quite! For the spot that had moved from my shirt to the towel was now on the tub! I was sore as an owl!" A friend who had read and recommended the story, though, had to wonder: "Are owls known for their soreness?" It turned out to be a question for which the worldwide web wasn't a whole lot of help. I was ultimately unable to determine the origins of the phrase, but I did, at least, confirm that it is one. I suppose it's sort of like "mad as a wet hen"; maybe it got its start due to perching owls occasionally losing their balance and falling into the water. If that's even a thing. (Because I can sort of see how that could make an owl sore, both literally and figuratively.) Or perhaps it's the way that, when some people get angry, they will stare at you unblinkingly. Like an owl. Anyway, if any of our owlish readers knows any more about this peevish puzzle, this might be a good spot to get it off your chest. And getting back to our typo for the day, here's a word to the wise.While I'm sure you won't get sued over it, remember that the good doctor spells his name EU, not UE. We spotted 11 of these in OhioLINK, and 161 in WorldCat.

(Spotted Owl, 15 November 2012, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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