Most of Australia stared on nonplussed when confronted with Kevin Rudd’s repeated fair shake of the sauce bottle, but he has literary precedent: the supreme PG Wodehouse gave us two shakes of a duck’s tail in his classic Right Ho, Jeeves:
“And in two shakes of a duck’s tail Gussie, with all that lapping about inside him, will be distributing the prizes at Market Snodsbury Grammar School before an audience of all that is fairest and most refined in the county.”
Wodehouse’s meaning comes across effectively despite the use of idiom, and in the mouth of Wooster it’s rather hilarious. In the PM’s mouth, a firm shaking is also hilarious, but the meaning effectively eludes entrapment.
Mencken translated Nietzsche quite a while ago now and left me reaching for the dictionary for the following:
- a hot, dry, dustladen wind blowing from northern Africa and affecting parts of southern Europe, or any warm, sultry south or southeast wind accompanied by rain, occurring in the same regions.
- any hot, oppressive wind, esp. one in the warm sector of a cyclone.
chandala or chandal (n): an opprobrious term, reserved for a despised group of peoples in India by people of India in the Sanskritic literature. Currently it is a caste title used specifically in the Indo-Aryan speaking regions of India.
- any of the orations delivered by Demosthenes, the Athenian orator, in the 4th century BC, against Philip, king of Macedon.
- (lowercase) any speech or discourse of bitter denunciation.
- A session of a court, A decree or edict rendered at such a session.
- An ordinance regulating weights and measures and the weights and prices of articles of consumption, and the standards so established.
- One of the periodic court sessions formerly held in each of the counties of England and Wales for the trial of civil or criminal cases, and the time or place of such sessions.
- A judicial inquest, the writ by which it is instituted, or the verdict of the jurors.
- a deity whose worship was marked by the propitiatory sacrifice of children by their own parents.
- anything conceived of as requiring appalling sacrifice: the Moloch of war.
- (lowercase) a spiny agamid lizard, Moloch horridus, of Australian deserts, that resembles the horned lizard.
The most-looked-up words on the New York Times website.
I can’t remember ever encountering louche or sumptuary.