Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Consort & Concert


Having heard music by the Quadriga Consort, Francine asked about the possibility of a connection between the words concert and consort. It turns out that in a limited sense, there is. But first let’s distinguish between two nouns with identical spellings and some overlapping meanings.

Consort1 came from the Latin consors, a partner or colleague. It moved through several meanings:

·      companion, mate, or colleague
·      a ship sailing in company with another
·      a husband or wife
·      the spouse of a king or queen (Prince-consort Albert)
·      mated animals

Consort2 meant, variously, a fellowship or partnership, a society, and agreement or accord. There was a musical sense, which begins to answer Francine’s question. First of all, it meant harmonious voices or instruments. It evolved into a company of musicians. In our time, it refers to a company of musicians that specializes in Renaissance or Baroque music—so-called Early Music.

It is thought that the musical word consort arose as a mistake. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it was an erroneous representation of the French concert and the Italian concerto. From the mid-1600s onward, the musical performance was spelled concert.

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, October 25, 2014

Meme


Mac asked what a meme is, commenting that the term is showing up everywhere. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “a cultural element or behavioural trait whose transmission and consequent persistence in a population, although occurring by non-genetic means (esp. imitation), is considered as analogous to the inheritance of a gene.”

In other words, just as a physical trait such as eye color gets transmitted genetically, certain catchy phrases, posters, videos, and so on run virally through a population – these days, thanks especially to the internet.

What gets passed on is usually trivial and humorous – a cat craving cheeseburgers, a dog being shamed for bad behavior, or an infant talking like an adult. Its origin was more serious. The term was used by biologist Richard Dawkins in 1976 in his book, The Selfish Gene. He was thinking of more serious transmissions, such as religious belief, copycat crime, art, fashion, etc.

The basis of the word comes from the Greek.  It is a shortened form of μίμημα [mimema], that which is imitated. In turn, that came from the verb μιμεσθαι [mimeisthai], to imitate. And yes, a mime is related.

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, October 12, 2014

Commission




Conrad from Traverse City brought up the word commission as yet another example of a word with multiple meanings. It came from a Latin verb, committere, to entrust.

Here’s a rundown of the meanings that evolved over the years.

·      order, command, instruction

·      delegated authority

·      authorization as an officer in the army or navy

·      a warrant conferring authority

·      a body of persons charged with some specified function
·      an order to execute a particular work
·      remuneration given to a dealer or agent

·      an instance of a crime

 

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.

t


Friday, October 03, 2014

Bated Breath

Margaret from Traverse City came across the phrase with bated breath and wondered what it meant and where it came from. It is considered a cliché.

The first thing to observe is that the spelling is b-a-t-e-d, not b-a-i-t-e-d. A person with baited breath would have been eating worms or minnows.

Bated in this sense amounts to “held breath.” So if you are waiting with bated breath, you are holding your breath in suspense, shock, terror, or some other arresting emotion. It goes back to Old French and Anglo-Norman words that meant to reduce, decrease, or beat back. In turn, those words came from a Latin term that meant to knock down.

Abate, abatement, debate, and rebate are allied words.

Bait originally meant food placed on a hook or in a trap to entice and capture prey. It came from an Old Norse word that meant pasture or food.


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.





Dona Sheehan's prints