By Joe Diorio
During a May 23 post-game press conference after the Nashville Predators defeated the Carolina Hurricanes in a double overtime National Hockey League playoff game, Predators Coach John Hynes lauded his team’s “can-do” attitude.
“In between periods the guys were upbeat,” Hynes said. “They were full of piss and vinegar.”
I was taken aback to hear that term used on television. Not only was it used during the live press conference, but it remained as a sound bite when the evening news recapped the game.
Idioms like “full of piss and vinegar” are unique aspects of the language. Often, they hold meanings germane to a point in time or to a specific audience or culture.
One of the earliest citations of the term “piss and vinegar” comes from John Steinbeck, who used it in the novel, In Dubious Battle, when he wrote, “Listen, mister,” London said, “them guys is so full of piss and vinegar they’ll skin you if you show that slick suit outside.” He liked the phrase so much he used it again in 1938 when he wrote The Grapes of Wrath.
Phrases.org in the United Kingdom traces the term as far back as 1602, when it was in the play, Return from Parnassus: “They are pestilent fellowes, they speake nothing but bodkins, and pisse vinegar.” Somewhere along the line the term morphed from a negative, as it appears to have been in 1602, to a more positive compliment, pointing out one’s level of moxie.
The Predators were tied with the Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when Coach Hynes uttered the phrase. Sadly, on May 27 Carolina finished off the Predators to move on to the next round of the playoffs. That piss and vinegar vat was not bottomless, I guess.
Post pandemic terms I’m noticing
Summer Stimmy: “Stimmy” being a shortened, slang version of “stimulus.” In this case it is being used as a marketing promotion by Bud Light, where free tickets to sporting events and concerts are being given away.
Too soon, perhaps: New play opening in New York titled, Breathe: The Musical.
Fully vaxed or fully vaxxed: I have seen both spellings, and neither is in the dictionary … yet. It refers to one having been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Vax-A-Million: This refers to a promotion in Ohio where there will be drawings for $1 million given to people who are vaccinated. All one needs to do to enter is get vaccinated and opt-in to the drawing. As of May 20, there were over one million entries.
In this together: I suspect that, along with “masked,” this one is never going away, is it?
Visualizing Pandemic Terms
Torch Search runs algorithmic scans focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and identified a word cloud of commonly used phrases from the previous 24 hours. Below is the May 18 word cloud.
Write-around tactic of the moment
In my book, A Few Words About Words, I discuss “write arounds,” those tactics we employ to help us get around grammatical roadblocks we encounter. Here’s a good one I discovered on Twitter recently. (Thumbs up to Joscelyn Kate for this one.)
Spelling restaurant correctly is a cinch. “A woman (who spoke English as a second language) once told me she pronounces it ‘Rest-ow-oo-rant’ to remember where to put the ‘U’ and I’ve never forgotten.”
What are some of your favorite grammatical write-around tactics?
And another one from Twitter
Alicia Anne Creger (@alioop326) asks this, “Okay, all you word nerds, debate this one for me, because [it] bugs me. The word ‘suds’ – plural or singular? As in “There was plenty of suds” or “There were plenty of suds.”
I at first harkened back to my college days, when “suds” were what one consumed from a bottle of Schaefer beer. (Yes, Schaefer. The one beer to have when you’re having more than one. And one certainly wants to have an abundant supply of beer if a kegger is on the agenda.) But Merriam-Webster defines “suds” as “water impregnated (Yes, they say “impregnated;” it creeped me out, too.) with soap.” Their definition 2.b. is “beer.”
But I digress. The question is whether “suds” is plural. My take is that suds is talking about the state of the liquid. Whether it is from hops or detergent there are multiples in the liquid, so “suds” should be plural.
I ran a quick survey. The overwhelming results: 75 percent of the respondents say plural. Pass the beer.
A hundred or one hundred? The votes are in.
Last month I asked readers if the Arabic numeral 100 should be written as “a hundred” or “one hundred.” The vote was as evenly split as possible, with “a hundred” getting 50.3 percent of the votes and “one hundred” getting 49.7 percent of the votes.
Ah, but was it THAT close? A closer examination of the tallies shows 36 people voted twice. Aha! There is voter fraud! (Wait, don’t go there. Please.)
I asked one of the double voters “wassup” and he explained there are situations where each works. “What if I am speaking and the term ‘a hundred’ just rolls of the tongue easier?” Well, he has a point.
By the way, if I tally up the votes by not counting those who voted for each (Notice I am not saying “voted twice” … I am not touching that chestnut.) then the results are still 50-50. Let the debate rage on.
Let’s write carefully out there, people.
Joe Diorio is a writer living in Nashville, Tennessee. His first book, “A Few Words About Words,” will be published August 10, 2021 by Beaufort Books.