Challis Muniz writes:

“Is it now accepted that people will use ‘spill’ for ‘spiel’? It drives me batty, but I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle, as ‘spill’ kinda makes sense in that a bunch of words have got to ‘spill’ out of your mouth …”

This is the first I’ve heard of spill being used for spiel. They have nothing in common. Probably don’t even like each other very much. Spill is derived from a Middle English word for “kill, destroy.” Spiel is from Yiddish.

Garner’s Modern American Usage says “spiel is best pronounced /speel/ not in the mock Yiddish fashion that has become so common (/shpeel/) which is jocular.”


I didn’t know that people were using spill for spiel, and I didn’t know they were pronouncing spiel shpeel. I may not be the best person to seek information from regarding spielery.

To change the subject (not entirely successfully — I can’t answer this one either), why are bats considered mentally unstable? I’m not aware they’re any dizzier than the next flying mammal. It’s true they look sort of out of control when they’re darting around, but they don’t have a lot of accidents. Maybe people just think that mammals should keep their feet on the ground, that any mammal that flies is inherently confused. But better flying bats than flying elephants, I suppose. Those elephants might get in your hair.


Is it cut and dried or cut and dry? And what does it mean either way? — Kurt Meesom Slacke.

The original and still the best is cut and dried, although cut and dry has made advances. Either way it means “decided, settled, not open to change.” Wiktionary says the phrase dates back to 1710, and is “from herbs being cut and dried for sale, rather than fresh.”

We’ve noted, disapprovingly, the increasing use of fail for failure. I recently saw on the sports page a headline about a high school football player who might enroll at Fayetteville: “Former LSU commit considering Arkansas.” Note my objections. To the usage, that is. I’ll take all the LSU-type football players we can get.