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So long, summer

Posted by Jan Freeman, keep until April September 22, 2008 07:39 PM
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Another deadline missed: As of 11:44 this morning, it's officially autumn. I meant to squeeze in a few more summer blog items, but unlike Arlo, I''m too late; my summer reading roundup, part 2, will now be a fall book report.

Still, the inexorable calendar is no reason not to share some of the Words I Noticed on My Summer Vacation.

No Bicycles No Walkers: When I saw this sign above a state highway in Ohio, warning of a construction zone ahead, the picture that popped up for me was a line of elderly shoppers forced to push their walkers around the block on a detour. A blink later, I realized it meant "no pedestrians." I was led astray, I suppose, by the mismatch of terms: If the sign read "No Bicyclists No Walkers" it would have been clear it meant people, not mechanical devices. And besides, who ever heard of a bureaucrat choosing a normal word like "walkers" when he could have used "pedestrians" or "foot traffic"? That's what I call misleading.

Bunglehouse Blue: Every paint maker's fandeck includes some bizarre color names, but even in a world of Leisure Time, Taupe Trivia, and Eccentricity, Sherwin-Williams's Bunglehouse Blue leaped out at me. Choosing a paint is tough enough -- why tempt fate with something labeled a "bungle"?

But it turns out bunglehouse has a charming history: It comes from the Roycroft settlement in East Aurora, N.Y., a late-19th-century hotbed of Arts & Crafts design. The original bunglehouse, a converted chicken coop/blacksmith shop, now a museum, served as a studio for the artist Alexis Fournier. According to American Bungalow magazine, "Fournier named this idyllic but somewhat haphazard little building the 'bungle-house,' because, he said, 'it didn't deserve to be called a bungalow.'"

So paint in peace, bungle or no. Or if your home renovation is up to date, try the paint name game: I scored 7 out of 10, so I'm a Paint Color God. (In theory only: The unused gallons in the basement tell a different story.)

Give it to the Goodwill: This summer I heard my mom say "the Goodwill," which I couldn't remember hearing before in her (and my former) neck of the woods. "Give it to Goodwill," we said, or "Give it to charity." But of course it was "Give it to the Salvation Army."

"The Goodwill" is a minority option, but it doesn't seem to be a regionalism, like Southern Californians' calling highways "the 405" and "the 10." "The Goodwill" shows up all over the nation. Could be the influence of "the Salvation Army," "the dump," "the rummage sale." Could be that the specific use ("Let's stop at the Goodwill store") is influencing the generic use, or that the two versions are used in different situations. Or is it a generational thing? Readers, tell us what you say: Goodwill or the Goodwill?

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Rules and realities of English usage from Boston Globe Ideas columnist Jan Freeman.
Jan Freeman, a former Boston Globe editor, has been writing the weekly column The Word since 1997. E-mail her at freeman@globe.com.
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