Thursday, December 11, 2014

Contrite



Bill from Maple City asked about the word contrite. From the context of what he was reading, he figured that it meant sorry.

In popular use, that’s true, but it can also range up to an industrial-strength level of remorse. In its original sense, contrite referred to a physical state. It meant material that was crushed, broken, or worn by rubbing. It came into English from 12th century French. In turn, French had borrowed it from the Latin terere—to rub, crush, or grind.

In time, it took on a figurative sense, a type of spiritual erosion. It meant a spirit crushed or broken by the guilt of sinning, thus bringing a person to a penitent state and the possibility of reconciliation.

That same –trit- root shows up in other words. Examples include

·      attrition: reduction in size or strength by wearing away and not replacing
·      detritus: matter produced by the wearing away of exposed surfaces
·      lithotrity: medical crushing of stone in the bladder
·      obtrition: abrasion
·      trite: worn out by constant use
triturate: to reduce to powder by rubbing, pounding, crushing, or grinding

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, December 05, 2014

Near Miss or Near Hit?


David from Traverse City called to complain about the use of near miss in place of near hit or near collision

If I am slavishly literal, a near miss is actually a hit: “I nearly missed you with my car, but I finally managed to bring you to the pavement.” “The fly ball nearly missed me, but at the last second it smashed my eyeglasses.” And, in fact, there are some safety experts who fiercely ban near miss from their vocabularies.

But the federal government is more tolerant. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides the following definition of a near miss in an Accident Investigation Fact Sheet: “…incidents where no property was damaged and no personal injury sustained, but where, given a slight shift in time or position, damage and/or injury easily could have occurred.” So it is a miss, but only by a narrow margin.

            And Plant Services Magazine takes a philosophical stance: “Near miss, near hit: don't let the terminology bog you down. Whether called near misses, near hits, close calls or something else, the key is to make sure organizations track and investigate them. It’s important to choose a term that employees can relate to. For example, if employees identify more with the term ‘near hit,’ ‘close call,’ or something else, then consider that.”

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.




Thursday, November 27, 2014

Something Akin to Kinship

Mike from Glen Arbor, Michigan, asked if the words kin and akin are connected. Indeed, they are. They come from a cluster of Germanic, Scandinavian, and Dutch words that meant to produce, to engender, to beget. In turn, those words are related to the Greek γένος (genos), which would show up in a word like generate, and the Latin genus.

Kin means family or blood relations. It was once used in the stock phrase kith and kin, where kith meant one’s familiar country or countrymen. Akin originally meant belonging to the same family. Then it expanded to mean connected by resemblance.

Related words include

·      kindred: related by blood, and figuratively, connected by resemblance (kindred spirits)

·      kinship: consanguinity, and figuratively, sharing similar qualities or character

·      kinsman: a male relative

·      kinswoman: a female relative



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.





Sunday, November 23, 2014

Comprise & Compose


The following sentence appeared in an editorial in the Traverse City Record-Eagle on Sunday, November 23, 2014:

“Safe Harbor, comprised of 23 area churches that open their doors to the homeless during the winter months, has said the group can’t continue indefinitely.”

My quibble is with the wording comprised of. Comprise means to include or contain; compose means made up of or formed by. Safe Harbor, included of 23 area churches . . . makes no sense.

The whole comprises the parts; the whole includes the parts:

·      Safe Harbor comprises 23 area churches.
    America comprises 50 states.
·      The federal government comprises three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial.
·      A full deck comprises 52 cards.
·      The English alphabet comprises 26 letters.

Alternatively, the whole is composed of its many parts; the whole is made up of or formed by its many parts:

·      Safe Harbor is composed of 23 area churches.
·      America is composed of 50 states.
·      The federal government is composed of three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial.
·      A full deck is composed of 52 cards.
·      The English alphabet is composed of 26 letters.

Finally, the parts compose the whole; the parts make up or form the whole:

·      23 area churches compose Safe Harbor.
·      50 states compose America.
·      Three branches—executive, legislative, and judicial—compose the federal government.
·      52 cards compose a full deck.
·      26 letters compose the English alphabet.

Here is a simple rule that will cut through confusion:
    Never, ever, write or say comprised of.

 


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.





Thursday, November 20, 2014

Achoo!


A listener who wished to remain anonymous asked if I knew the name of the syndrome in which a person sneezes when suddenly exposed to light. I didn’t, but I found it online. It’s called photic sneeze reflex.

There’s some confusion about its cause, but here are links to a couple of articles that take a stab at an explanation.



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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