I read a sentence in Word by Word by Kory Stamper which was:

That changed in 2003 when I was now a managing editor overseeing a big chunk of the editorial correspondence. An e-mail came down the transom claiming that "irregardless" was the superlative form of "regardless" -- among educated Mississippians, in any event.

Most of the dictionaries describe the word "transom" as "a small window that is above a door or larger window". But I don't think this is what the author mean. The only established idiom containing "transom" was "over the transom", not "down the transom". So, what's the catch?

  • You've got me on this one. I can only assume the author is either writing figuratively or deliberately mixing metaphors. I only know "transom" as being part of the back end of a boat. – Andrew Jul 30 '19 at 16:24
  • Perhaps that's her counter-attack on "irregardless". The Mississippi being a river, with boats. Other than @Andrew 's meaning, a transom is a structural member of a window, with AmE usage short for "transom window". – Weather Vane Jul 30 '19 at 18:10
  • Makes no sense to me. – Colin Fine Jul 30 '19 at 20:43

It's a reference to the phrase "over the transom", meaning "unsolicited", and refers to the idea of actually throwing a manuscript through the (transom) window of a publisher's office.

It's not a well-known idiom outside of journalism, though.

  • Thanks @PMV for illuminating an otherwise impenetrable usage, but can you cite a source? – JeremyC Jul 30 '19 at 21:43
  • @PMV - I guess you're mistaken. It was an e-mail that the author was talking about. And second thing, a transom is too high to be convenient to pass something through. Please clarify. – kelvin Jul 31 '19 at 1:02
  • @JeremyC: for a dictionary reference to the phrase, here one is. – Peter Shor Jul 31 '19 at 10:47
  • @kelvin: You are correct that the transom is not a convenient way to pass something through. but that's why it was used in this expression. The manuscript was unsolicited, which means that the publisher didn't ask for it. Since the publisher did not leave a convenient place for an author to leave an unsolicited manuscript, the author had to go to the trouble of tossing it through the transom. – Peter Shor Jul 31 '19 at 11:59
  • @PeterShor Thanks. I have learned something. – JeremyC Jul 31 '19 at 14:52

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