Thursday, April 17, 2014

Playoff preview: Deke of Earl

Let's start with a few questions for language fans:

  • How well do you get the summary deck shown at right?
    Dissidents and supporters abroad are determined to deke the communist regime's security agents
    (Miami Herald, 1A Sunday)
  • Where are you from?
  • What's your favorite sport on TV?

According to your friendly OED, "deke" is chiefly Canadian; the oldest cite for the noun form is 1960, with the verb showing up the following year. The original is from the Canadian edition of Time and has that faintly doctored Time-speak feel:

‘I've developed a little play of my own,’ he says. ‘It's a kind of fake shot—we call them ‘deeks’ for decoys.’

So it's a hockey term. You can find outdoors columns from lower Midwest papers in which it means "decoys" the old-fashioned way:

On the subject of decoys, if you're hunting the smaller flocks of greater Canada geese, it's often best to go with just a few dozen dekes. I like to set them out organized into family groups: four here, two there, five there, three over there.

... but it does appear to be broadly rooted in the hockey-speaking areas of Canada and the northern US. That's how I came across it. As some of you may have noticed over the years, I am not from around here. I am from the part of the country where you do not waste perfectly good ice by skating around on it and throwing octopuses when you could be putting it in your tea. I do have the great good fortune of being wed to a Detroit native, which helps a lot when it comes to pizza and road names, but there's more to acculturation than that. So over the past few years, I added "deke" in more or less the same way I learned to speak baseball back in the 1960s: Watch TV, listen to the radio, read the paper, and eventually you figure out what strange new words go with which actions.

Which is fun, as detours go, but eventually we ought to get back to our initial questions: Did you get the hed, and how does that relate to your sports-consuming habits? Because I'd really like to know whether "deke" has become so widespread in South Florida that you can stick it in the 1A display type without a second thought. Thoughts and comments on that point are welcome.

It might be worth noting that "deke" itself never appears in the story -- except that leads to some deeper concerns about the story itself. How come the focus of the anecdotal lede is someone who doesn't show up again until a cameo appearance in the 17th graf? Is there a particular reason the story concentrates on one longtime figure in the exile movement but can't find a picture of him newer than 1996? If a dozen alleged experts "agreed to broadly describe their concerns and security measures" but then declined to give any details, do we even have a story in the first place? If Florida is now forward of the main line of resistance in the War on Editing, we have more to worry about than random hockey language in subtropical headlines.

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Anonymous Ed Latham said...

As a Brit who consumes much American sports literature, I'm familiar with 'deke' meaning 'fake'. I'm sure I read Thomas Boswell using it (or maybe it was Rick Reilly) some years ago.

11:55 AM, April 18, 2014  
Anonymous Ed Latham said...

Ah, it was Boswell: 'stuck his glove up in a deke' from his write-up of the 1991 World Series,6741980

12:28 PM, April 18, 2014  
Blogger fev said...

Nicely caught. And in a baseball story, no less.

10:00 PM, April 18, 2014  
Anonymous Ed Latham said...

Gotta love golden-era Boswell.

4:57 AM, April 19, 2014  
Anonymous Picky said...

(1) Not at all well.

(2) Currently 100 or so miles west of London (that's London UK) but once no miles at all.

(3) Cricket, lovely cricket.

(4) For a bonus mark, hockey to me ain't got no ice. But even in this little country it is possible to find yourself on the desk of some newspaper half a world away from your home town and put something in a head or text that means damn'all to locals. One expects (one has suffered) severe reprimand and ignominy for such a fault.

(5) Where are all your Floridan readers (is "Floridan" OK?)

10:30 AM, April 19, 2014  

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