Monday, August 08, 2005

More usage: elliptical

Aside from notes from old friends, nothing is more welcome in my mailbox than Entertainment Weekly. It's always full of so many great tidbits. For example, in this week's issue we learn that Julia Ormond is turning forty, Haley Joel Osment is checking out colleges, and Michael Chabon's wife is a bit of a lunatic an eccentric mystery novelist.

But this is what interested me most. On page 46, in an article about "a perfect storm that's ruining the movie business"--how's that for overheated rhetoric?--we find the following (no link since EW won't let you read it unless you subscribe):
Granted, the depth, the duration, and even the existence of the recent box office slump are a matter of constant, elliptical debate.
Now a debate can be elliptical in the sense that it seems to be missing something. This usage of elliptical comes from the noun ellipsis, or omission, as in the "..." we use to indicate that we're skipping a portion of a quotation. But this statement doesn't seem to me to mean elliptical in this sense. I think the author means that the debate keeps going round and round. This usage clearly has its roots in elliptical trainers. In case you haven't been to the gym in, like, forever, these are the most popular workout machines and the ones that George Bush loves so much. Elliptical trainers are a cross between a stairmaster and a cross-country skiing simulator and when you use one each of your feet traces an ellipse, an oval shape. What the author means, then, is that the debate keeps going round in ovals. Like "devolve," "elliptical" could have a whole new usage in its future. And we will be able to say we were there at the beginning.

Ok, I'm done gettin' my Geoff Nunberg on. That felt good!


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