I always listen carefully when Mike Nichols is talking–he is as smart, witty and sophisticated as they come–and that was the case last month, when he appeared on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” to discuss the production of “Death of a Salesman” he recently directed. Referring to the library research he did about two previous directors of Arthur Miller’s play, Nichols commented: “I saw a letter from [Elia] Kazan to [Harold] Clurman, who is sort of his partner-stroke-nemesis.”
Naturally, what struck me was the word stroke. I sensed from context and subsequently confirmed that it is the British equivalent of the punctuation mark Americans call slash (/), or nowadays forward slash, and similarly used orally, as the OED puts it, “to indicate or stress alternatives.” The dictionary lists these examples:
1965 M. Allingham Mind Readers xv. 153, I have my own feel, of course, which would be ‘glad stroke laughing at’ in his case.1971 J. Yardley Kiss a Day ii. 39 The Truman stroke Eisenhower regime.
As for U.S. use of stroke, I haven’t been able to find a single example other than Nichols’. That makes sense. If it emerged from the mouth of anyone of lesser stature, it would come off as insufferably pretentious.