iOS app Android app

Hugh Rawson
Hugh Rawson has been in involved in the book, magazine, and newspaper businesses all his working life. Among other things, he served as director of Penguin USA’s reference books operation, edited the Bulletin of The Authors Guild, wrote a column about American words and phrases for American Heritage magazine, and assisted William Safire on the last edition of Safire’s Political Dictionary. His books titles include Rawson’s Dictionary of Euphemisms & Other Doubletalk; Wicked Words, which is the opposite of Euphemisms in that it tells you everything you might want to know about so-called “bad” words, and Devious Derivations, a book about folk etymologies. He also is the author of Unwritten Laws: The Unofficial Rules of Life as Handed Down by Murphy and other Sages and he co-authored with Hillier Krieghbaum An Investment in Knowledge, a history-study of a National Science Foundation program for training teachers of science and mathematics. Rawson also has collaborated with his wife, Margaret Miner, on four dictionaries of quotations: The Oxford Dictionary of American Quotations, The New International Dictionary of Quotations, A Dictionary of Quotations from the Bible, and A Dictionary of Quotations from Shakespeare.

Blog Entries by Hugh Rawson

Never Ever Retreat

Posted February 28, 2011 | 14:30:35 (EST)

The United States has begun withdrawing forces from the Pech Valley in Afghanistan, an area once considered to be critical in the campaign against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. But this is not a retreat, mind you. As Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, U.S. commander for eastern Afghanistan, told...

Read Post

Mark Twain's Language: "Bad" Words Then and Now

Posted January 25, 2011 | 11:40:14 (EST)

When The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was originally published, people were not much disturbed by Mark Twain's use of n*gger, let alone injun, terms that have been replaced by slave and Indian in the latest bowdlerization of the Adventures, this one edited by an Auburn professor, Alan Gribbin, and released...

Read Post

Old Words in a New Box: Cee-Lo's Hit Single

Posted January 8, 2011 | 12:05:43 (EST)

It's Christmas Eve, and the family has gathered for what turns out to be a distinctly non-traditional celebration. Instead of singing "Away in a Manger" or "Noel, Noel, born is the King of Israel," my daughter, knowing her father has a decent interest in indecent words, has downloaded on...

Read Post

More Fowl Talk for the Holidays

Posted December 23, 2010 | 16:30:00 (EST)

-- Is it dark meat or white meat you will be helped
to? - said the landlady, addressing the Master.
-- Dark meat for me, always -- he insisted.

This exchange is from The Poet at The Breakfast-Table by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.,...

Read Post

Fowl Talk for the Holidays

Posted December 3, 2010 | 17:10:13 (EST)

Birds rank high in the lexicon of insult. For example, and this is just for openers, you can be dumb as a dodo, crazy as a coot, silly as a goose, a sitting duck, or simply a dupe (from de huppe, the hoopoe, an Old World bird, said to be...

Read Post

Chasing the American Dream

Posted November 19, 2010 | 15:05:01 (EST)

"I've spent my whole life chasing the American dream." --John Boehner (R., Ohio), presumptive Speaker of the House, election night, Nov. 2.

What is the American Dream? A home entertainment center, a hot tub, a week-end cottage on the beach? Or as a Republican campaign slogan once put it,...

Read Post