a person who completely dominates another, usually with selfish or sinister motives.
Two terms survive from George du Maurier’s novel Trilby (1894). The first is Svengali, the evil musician who hypnotizes, controls, and exploits Trilby O’Ferrall, a young Irish girl, and makes her a great singer who is unable to perform without his help. In the stage version of the novel, the actress who played Trilby wore a sort of soft felt hat with an indented crown, now called a trilby or trilby hat. The trilby is now commonly mistaken for a different hat, the fedora. Svengali in its extended sense of “a person who completely dominates another, usually with selfish or sinister motives” is recorded by the early 1900s.
Lou Pearlman, who died on Friday in federal prison in Miami, at the age of sixty-two, was arguably the great pop Svengali of our time.
Though he comes across in his own writings as witty and self-aware, the picture that emerges decades later is of a moody, manipulative Svengali, blinded by his ego to what was really happening on the raft.
appropriate and characteristic even if untrue; happily invented or discovered.
Ben trovato, an Italian phrase meaning “well found,” comes from the sentence Se non è vero, è molto ben trovato “If it isn’t true, it is very well found, happily invented.” The saying seems to have been common in Italy in the 16th century but is especially associated with the pantheistic philosopher (and therefore heretic) and poet Giordano Bruno (1548–1600). Ben trovato entered English in the late 18th century.
There is a story that Nolan met Burr once on one of our vessels, when a party of Americans came on board in the Mediterranean. But this I believe to be a lie; or rather, it is a myth, ben trovato, involving a tremendous blowing-up with which he sunk Burr …
There is, when we are willing to be deceived, but small difference between the “vero” and the “ben trovato“ …
improper use of words; unidiomatic or ungrammatical language.
The noun abusage, a derivative of the verb abuse, has been in English since the mid-16th century, and originally the noun had many of the original senses of the verb: “misuse, ill-use, abuse,” and the still stronger sense “corrupt practices, immoral behavior.” New Zealand-born British lexicographer Eric Partridge (1894–1979) is credited for giving abusage its current meaning “improper use of language” in his Usage and Abusage: A Guide to Good English (1942).
As a presidential campaign approaches, great rhetorical and metaphoric strain is placed on the language. … Lest this abusage corrupt the young, this department instituted (I started) the scrupulously bipartisan 1988 Hyperbolic and Metaphoric Watch.
Many New Yorkers and New Jerseyites persisted in referring to the agency as the “Port of Authority,” and this abusage long served as a kind of shibboleth for identifying natives of the area.
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