“WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is not the sort who leaves readers wondering what he really thinks, especially when it comes to members of Congress. … ‘Fuzzy, leave-the-details-to-be-sorted-out-by-the-courts legislation is attractive to the congressman who wants credit for addressing a national problem but does not have the time (or perhaps the votes) to grapple with the nitty-gritty,’ Scalia wrote.”

Everything has gotten more casual, including Supreme Court opinions. A slang term, nitty-gritty was new, hippie and faintly disreputable when it entered wide usage in the 1960s. I vaguely remember a story to the effect that the bourgeoisie who took up the expression didn’t know what it really meant, and wouldn’t have taken it up if they had known. But I don’t remember what the forbidden meaning was supposed to be, and neither does anyone else, apparently. Dictionaries today agree that get down to the nitty-gritty means simply get down to the basics, get down to brass tacks.


The only source I’ve found that even hints at anything shady in nitty-gritty’s past is Stuart Berg Flexner’s “Listening To America,” published in 1982: “Get down to the nitty-gritty, to get down to the hard facts or hard bargaining, 1963, when it was first popularized by black militants in the Civil Rights movement (it may have originally referred to the gritlike nits or small lice that are hard to get out of one’s hair and scalp or to a black English term for the anus).”

Sounds like Justice Scalia might qualify as nitty-gritty himself. He’s hard to get out of America’s hair, and he’s a major … well, you know.


Lo, the poor preposition:

“In a medieval village that’s haunted by a werewolf, a girl falls for an outcast orphan even though her parents arranged her to marry a wealthy young man.” At one time, we could have assumed that the for that should be between “arranged” and “her” was omitted accidentally. Now I’m not so sure, what with people graduating high school and buying a couple dozen eggs.


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