Last night in re-reading a favorite writer I happened upon this line: " ... a contemptible falsehood -- a poor hoax -- the lees of the invention of some pitiable penny-a-liner." So I must have run across this phrase before, "penny-a-liner," for hack writer.
I wrote down part of Poe's line, to help me remember.
To show that my mind even in this rediscovery was not wholly alert, I note that this morning I was thinking about "racking," a word not used in the winemaking sense by non-winemakers nor non-brewers, so far as I know. Racking refers to using some means to draw the clear liquid off the sludge or dregs that will accumulate at the bottom of a fermenting vessel.
The other day I was doing my racking quite inefficiently. Some of the wine we made last summer and fall went into odd-sized secondary fermenters, because we were running out of gallon jugs. Since we have no siphon-pump to fit in a smaller-size bottle, "racking" a liter bottle, for instance, means pouring it off into another same-size bottle -- as carefully as possible, to minimize the inevitable stirring-up of the yeast that has settled out.
So this morning in thinking about racking, it struck me that, of course, the dregs or sludge is called "the lees." I had read the word in Poe's line thinking it more-or-less meant dregs, without thinking past that meaning to its winemaking reference. I felt pleased enough about finding "penny-a-liner" -- and I could have felt twice so.