The Corner

May I Borrow a Pin?

Impromptus today is called “A Turn in the South.” It is composed of jottings on a trip to Mississippi. One of those jottings has to do with one of my favorite terms, all time: “ink pen.” And I note that the second of those words is pronounced “pin.”

A reader writes,

You caught me short with your note on “ink pen.” Usually, when you make these kinds of observations, I smile and think, “Yes, I’ve heard that done.” Today, however, I found the shoe on the other foot, as for the life of me, I can’t think how else one could pronounce “pen” aside from “pin.” Which made me smile all the more!

There’s no sport like a good sport. By the way, I take my title, of course, from V. S. Naipaul. As befits a great writer — and he is arguably the greatest in the English language — he is a great titler. “A Turn in the South,” “A Bend in the River,” “The Mystic Masseur,” “In a Free State,” “The Enigma of Arrival,” “A Way in the World,” “The Mimic Men,” “Half a Life,” “An Area of Darkness,” “Among the Believers,” “India: A Million Mutinies Now” — I could go on.

If you’re going to shine, you might as well do it right from the title page.

P.S. I also like my correspondent’s expression “caught me short” — a combination of “caught me off guard” and “brought me up short.”


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