Friday, July 25, 2014

Hot to Trot


Frank from Elk Rapids asked about the phrase hot to trot.

There are many meanings derived from the original meaning of hot – characterized by a high temperature or sensation of heat. The hot in hot to trot signifies burning with desire, eager, keen to get started.

The word trot betrays the origin of the phrase. Horses trot. In the standard horse race, the horses begin by lining up at rest side by side. You will often see the jockey forcibly restraining the horse lest it try to take off before the starting signal or the opening of the gate. An eager horse is said to be chomping at the bit. The fact that hot and trot rhyme no doubt contributed to the popularity of the phrase.

Other extended uses of hot include angry, spicy in nature, sexually aroused, dangerous, topical, forceful, stolen, electrified, radioactive, fresh, intense, exciting, rapid, and fashionable.

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.





Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Jolly Roger


A listener asked why the flag flown on a pirate ship was called a Jolly Roger. The Oxford English Dictionary brands this popular story as folk etymology: Their red flag was called Joli Rouge (pretty red) by the French, and may have been corrupted into English as Jolly Roger. 

The principal reason for doubting this explanation is that the traditional pirate’s flag was always black.

As for the semantic motivation, the first element (Jolly) may refer to the appearance of the skull, the conventional emblem adorning the flag, with the skull's mouth humorously being taken as showing a broad grin.” [OED]

With the second element (Roger), the OED offers two possibilities.

(1) Roger was the stereotypical name of a male person of a particular class, such as a manservant.
            1631:  J. Weever Ancient Funerall Monuments,   “The seruant obeyed,
            and (like a good trustie Roger) performed his Masters commandement.”

(2) Old Roger was a humorous or familiar name for the devil, and pirates were considered anything but godly.
           
1725: New Canting Dictionary, Old Roger, the Devil.


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.




Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Crotchety

Doug asked about the word crotchety. It is frequently—and unfairly—applied to an old person, and it means cranky and bristly.

Synonyms include bad-tempered, cantankerous, choleric, crabby, cross, crusty, curmudgeonly, fractious, grumpy, grouchy, ill-tempered, ill-humored, ill-natured, irascible, irritable, ornery, peevish, pettish, petulant, prickly, short-tempered, snappish, tetchy, testy, touchy, and waspish.

It came into Middle English from the French word crochet, a hook. Through the years, crochet referred to various hook-shaped or hook-like devices:

·      A small device used for fastening things
·      A surgical instrument
·      A tool used to reap
·      A device used by porters to carry parcels
·      Animal or insect claws
·      A peculiar notion
·      A fanciful literary device
·      A battle array

So, it’s as if a crotchety person is being jabbed or pricked, and is therefore irritable and difficult to approach.

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, July 03, 2014

Nous

Kim from Old Mission called to say that a word caught his attention while he was watching The Hobbit. At one point, the character Gandalf says something like, “At least he had the nous to get out of this situation.” In context, Kim reported, nous seemed to mean intelligence or knowledge.

Nous is an Anglicized version of a Greek word. Some pronounce it to sound like house or mouse, while others prefer the sound from goose or moose. In Greek, the original noos (νοοσ) would have been pronounced as two syllables, no-ahss.

J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit, was an expert in Old English and various Germanic/Scandinavian languages, but he had been educated in the classical tradition, which meant attaining proficiency in Latin and Greek. So when he made up a Middle Earth vocabulary and language, he drew on all of these elements.

In Greek, nous developed and expanded into many shades of intelligence. In various contexts, it could mean mind, sense, wit, reason, understanding, resolve, intention, intuition, and countless other variations. But in the quote from Gandalf given above, knowledge or common sense will do just fine.

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. Look for the section called Words to the Wise.





Friday, June 27, 2014

Terrific!

Penny from Benzonia, Michigan, called to confirm a word origin that she had heard about. The word was terrific, and she was told that it originally meant terrifying or frightening. Her information was correct. The word entered English as the equivalent of a Latin verb that meant to terrify. Now it means amazing, impressive, excellent, exceedingly good, and splendid.

It’s a great demonstration of the fact that words can accrue multiple meanings over the centuries, and that it’s even possible for the meaning to do a complete reversal. A couple of other examples spring to mind.

The word silly means foolish or frivolous. But originally it meant amazing, impressive, excellent, exceedingly good, and splendid. Before arriving at its current meaning, it meant weak or pitiable. Quite the turnaround.

The word nice is another interesting example. Now it means pleasant and considerate. When it first entered English, it meant foolish, silly, ignorant, and simple. Then it transitioned through showy and ostentatious; finely dressed and elegant; scrupulous and punctilious; fussy and strict; fastidious and decent; shy and modest; and intricate and precise. Talk about evolution.

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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