New newsletter from Chris today. Does he even read the forum anymore?
He said, "Some folks took issue with me calling the phrase "gift of the gab" uncommon. However, nobody has offered data to support their claims." Bob Coyne used Google N-Gram, and I reported statistics from several text databases on the relative use of "gift of the gab" vs "gift of gab." Both contain real data.
Then Chris linked to a Google N-Gram comparison of the two variants of the phrase. Without any credit to Bob or myself
for having done exactly that. As if it were a new and original idea. (this from the guy who discussed plagiarism only two newsletters ago)
He said "Some commented that 'gift of gab' is more common. As the graph shows this is only true for usage in books for the most recent 30 years or so." It is also true when you consider data from assorted newspaper databases, like Chronicling America and Newspapers.com (which Chris will use and cite when they support his theses, but apparently ignores when they don't).
"Gift of the gab" is not a commonly used phrase. But it is not so uncommon, that if one sees it in a 1902 book and also in an 1870 book of similar subject matter, that one should assume that the author of the 1902 book copied it from the 1870 book (which is a summary of the argument that Chris is making). It shows up in newspapers, in magazines, and in books from the years immediately preceding 1902, and if one assumes that Erdnase was well-read (which Chris has asserted often), then it would be entirely expected that he had run across the phrase in some place or another. It is in two slang dictionaries, for example: Albert Barrère's A dictionary of slang, jargon & cant . . .
(1897); and in James Maitlan'd's The American Slang Dictionary
(1891) published in Erdnase's own Chicago. It appears (at least) 14 times in the Chicago Tribune
in the years before 1902.
"But, Bill" you say, "Erdnase used the phrase in the exact same context that Steinmetz did -- when he was discussing patter! Wipe the scales from your eyes -- he must have cribbed it!" The discussion of patter is the only place in the book that it makes sense to use "gift of the gab". Why would you use it when talking about shifts, or stacking decks? That it appears in similar context doesn't add anything to the argument.
Chris also says "Now with this importance of "The Gaming Table" for Erdnase in mind, further consider that the author of the book was called Andrew Steinmetz. That is an Andrew S. -> Andrews. Could it be that Erdnase adopted the pseudonym 'Andrews' from the first name of the author of the book he so loved? As a kind of homage to the author of the book? I think it is possible. I actually think that this is a pretty sound explanation for the possible pseudonym Andrews."
I am truly glad that Chris has finally come to accept that "S. W. Erdnase" is in fact a reversal of "E. S. Andrews", and has nothing to do with the German translation of "earth nose".