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Refreshments or forgiveness?

Rosie Right

A letter from reader Catherine Ray asks:

"While attending a very interesting play at the University of Richmond last week, I noticed a sign next to the box office which read 'concessions will be sold here during intermission.' This sounded strange to me, but I figured persons at such a prestigious university knew what they were talking about. After coming home and checking my dictionary, I believe the writer made up the word from 'concessionaire' — one who owns or operates a stand or booth to sell refreshments. I believe the writer felt that a concessionaire must sell `concessions,' and therefore used the word to mean refreshments …What do you think?"

Ms Ray is probably correct. This seems to be a misuse of the word concessions. According to the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, Second Edition, the first meaning of the word is "the act of conceding or yielding, as a right, a privilege, or a point or fact in an argument." The fourth meaning, however, is "a space or privilege within certain premises for a subsidiary business or service: the refreshment concession at a movie theater."

The University of Richmond's sign did not, of course, mean that spaces would be sold at intermissions — refreshments would have been a better word.

Rosie has heard several comments on this little problem: One friend insists that concession in this case means giving in to your inner devil and eating more than you should. Another remarked that this sign sounded a bit like a religious advertisement for some sort of forgiveness.

Once more, it has been proved that writing signs is a dangerous occupation.

Stylish Use of Shakespeare:

In his Feb. 11 column for the New York Times, William Safire wrote:

"Bankers are rediscovering the fishy eye, and sadder but wiser investors are finding how sweet are the uses of diversity."

Let Rosie hear from you by telephone (358-0825) fax (355-9089), e-mail or letter (c/o Style Weekly, 1707 Summit Ave., Suite 201, Richmond, Va. 23230)

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