Words: fowl, n. and adj.

THIS COLUMN, which regularly hauls up The Grocer for its cruel treatment of our language, must impartially recall the leader item last week in this newspaper's business pages that referred to Microsoft's "fowl play".

Do Bill Gates's poultry handlers set cockerels below the window each dawn to deprive Apple's funkier honcho, Steve Jobs, of the sleep necessary for a day's work on those items far superior to the smeary Windows? Fowl is from Old English fugol and linked with Teutonic words for fly. (Johnson notes, "It is colloquially used of edible birds, but in books of all the feathered tribes.") Foul is from Old English fl. "Foul play" first appears in The Tempest (1610), a natural successor to the "fair play" used twice in King John.

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