Saturday, March 28, 2015

Except Accept


Susan called to report a sign over the cash register in a local store. It read, We do not except personal checks. Since except means to leave out, that means that they take personal checks. Yes, I know what they meant – accept – but word choice matters.

The prefix will help distinguish which word to choose. Ex- means without or lacking. Mentally connect exclude to except. We decided to exclude Dudley from the party. Everyone except Dudley attended the party. So except signifies exclusion.

Ac- (a variation of ad-) means direction towards or attraction to. Mentally connect accept with the concept of inclusion. We will gratefully accept your gift; we will take it.

In another matter entirely, a golf announcer talked at length today about a particular hole at the Valero Texas Open. He emphasized that because of its tight and twisting layout, the hole demanded accuracy and precision. He ended with, “An exacting shot is needed from here.” I submit that from the context, he should have said exact. The situation was exacting (demanding), but the shot had to be exact (on target) to land on the green.

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.





Saturday, March 21, 2015

Pension


Art asked about the word pension, which in our day is an agreed-upon payment made to a retired employee. At various times since the 14th century, it has meant

·      payment made to retain loyalty – almost a bribe;
·      payment made to an artist or scholar to produce public works;
·      a tax;
·      a payment to an ecclesiastic taken from the revenues of a benefice;
·      payment for board or lodging.

It came from an Anglo-Norman word that meant compensation or annuity. In turn, that was indebted to a Latin word that meant a measured weight. The idea was that whatever was coming to a recipient was carefully weighed or measured.

Some other English words sharing the same Latin ancestor include compensate, depend, expend, impend, and stipend.

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.





Friday, March 13, 2015

Rump Parliament





Wes Schulz reminded me last week that he has long been a fan of the exotic word callipygian. It means having shapely buttocks, and it is based upon the ancient Greek word for rump, πγή (pyge). It is also part of the name of the classic statue seen above, The Callipygian Venus. There are a few other rump words that could also be applied to the human booty.

callipygian: having shapely buttocks.
[Greek
καλλι- comb. form of κάλλος beauty + πγή buttocks]

dasypygal: having hairy buttocks, rough-bottomed.
 [Greek δασύς hairy + πγή rump, buttocks]

platypygous:  having broad buttocks.
 [Greek πλατυ-, wide, + ancient Greek πυγή rump
pygal: relating to the rump of an animal, especially a tortoise.
[Greek πυγή, rump]
steatopygous: having fat buttocks.
[Greek στεατ-στέαρ fat, tallow + π
γή rump, buttocks]

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.





Saturday, March 07, 2015

Vent Your Spleen


Brad Schnaidt wrote, “Can you explain the source/origin of the phrase ‘vent your spleen’? Does it have something to do with the old (and currently being revived) medical treatment of blood-letting? Thanks for your help, and I am an avid listener and fan of your Tuesday show on WTCM.”

Thanks for listening to the show and for taking the time to write. There are a couple of murky areas involved in answering your question.

First of all, I gather that there may still be some medical uncertainty about the exact purpose of the spleen. It stores fresh blood, it destroys worn-out blood cells, it filters foreign substances, and it produces products to fight infection. And yet, if the spleen is removed, other organs easily take over all these functions.

In earlier centuries, it was common to assign emotions and traits to various organs and bodily substances, usually based on very slender evidence. For the ancient Greeks, the four humors (fluids in the body) explained feelings and moods. Blood was responsible for joy, optimism, and affection. Phlegm caused passivity, lethargy, and emotionalism. Yellow bile provoked anger, irritability, and jealousy. Black bile made a person melancholy and withdrawn. To the Greeks, therefore, an outburst of anger would more properly be called venting the liver. As long as the humors were balanced, the person was healthy. If one prevailed, the balance was tipped.

By the 14th century, the spleen had become the source of melancholy:

·      The Splen is to Malencolie Assigned for herbergerie.”
[1390, J. Gower Confessio Amantis III. 99]

By Shakespeare’s day, hot temper, violent anger, irritation, and peevishness had been assigned to the spleen:

·      “Out you madhedded ape, a weazel hath not such a deale of spleene as you are tost with.” [1598,  Shakespeare Henry IV, Pt. 1 ii. iv. 76]
·      “All this...Could not take truce with the vnruly spleene Of Tybalt deafe to peace.”
[1599, Shakespeare Romeo & Juliet iii. i. 156]
·      O preposterous And frantike outrage, ende thy damned spleene.”
[1599, Shakespeare Romeo & Juliet iii. i. 156]  

Since his day, the spleen has taken over exclusively as the alleged source of anger. To vent one’s spleen is to forcefully release vapors poetically residing in that organ. But why not the thymus, the liver, the pituitary, or the prostate? There seems to be no good answer. We’re not in the realm of logic here.

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.





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