What better time than Halloween to give the devil his due? The devil, you say!
Truth be told, though, we've been giving the devil his due pretty much year-round, and all over the country. The Dictionary of American Regional English, up in Madison, Wis., has collected ,, devils by the dozen. Among the best:
C9* Devil-dancer: A gust of wind, especially on the water.
* Devil-on-a-sidewalk: A sparkling firecracker you roll with your foot.
* Devil's bopeep: A wild young girl.
* Devil's lantern: A will-o'-the-wisp.
* Devil's shoelace: A certain kind of seaweed.
Devil's snuffbox: A certain kind of mushroom; crush it and the spores fly everywhere.
* Devil's pictures: A deck of playing cards.
Devil's kindling wood: Any kind of soft drink. (It could start you on the road to liquor, you see.)
And there are more:
* When someone accomplishes something in an indirect -- or even an evasive -- way, you might say: "He beat the devil round a bush."
* When you walk into a room or a house that's totally messy: "It looks like the devil had a fit in here."
* When neither X nor O wins at tic-tac-toe: "The devil got it."
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist based in Milwaukee.