Friday, May 10, 2019

Align



Ginger from Acme, Michigan asked if the word align is related to the word line. Indeed it is. Align came from a Middle French term that meant to arrange two or more items in or along a line.

Bizarrely, its earliest meaning in English (15th century) referred to a male animal copulating with a female animal. Proper aim is everything in love and war.

In the 18th century, it was commonly used as a military term, as in cavalry formation or aiming a gun properly at a target. It slipped casually into civilian use to designate anything lined up with geometric precision.


By the 19th century, it took on the added meaning of associating oneself with a cause, a movement, or a group. For a brief time, a variation was alignation, but it is now labeled as rare. And in our day, given breeding potholes, wheel alignment is a concern for auto owners.




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 some podcasts there under TheRon Jolly Show.




Saturday, April 27, 2019

Something Fishy Going On



There are two prominent word parts to help us construct words about fishing. One comes to us from the Greek, and the other from Latin.

Let’s start with the Greek term, icthus. Icthyology is the branch of zoology that studies fish, and a person who does that is an ichthyologist. If you like to eat fish, you are icthyophagous. If you like to write about fish, you are an icthyographer. Centuries ago, people who tried to foretell the future by studying fish entrails were engaged in icthyomancy.

Now if all of this sounds too esoteric, let’s remind ourselves that we are dealing with the word icthus every time we see a bumper sticker on a car that depicts the outline of a fish. It’s a proclamation by the car owner that he or she is a practicing Christian. The fish is an ancient symbol of Christianity, and there’s a good reason for that.  Icthus is an acronym for a phrase in Greek. In other words, each letter stands for an entire word. The Greek phrase, to get it quickly out of the way, is Iesus Xristos theou ‘uios soter, and that means Jesus Christ, son of God, savior. So the next time you see that bumper sticker, know that you are being exposed to a Greek word part.

The Latin root that helps form fish terms in English is spelled p-i-s-c, and it comes from the Latin word meaning fish—piscis. There is a sign of the zodiac called Pisces, and no surprise, its symbol is a fish. Piscatology is the practice or study of fishing. If it’s your hobby, you are a piscatologist, and you engage in piscatorial pursuits. If you fish using sticks of dynamite, you are committing piscicide, the slaughter of fish. Fish farming is called pisciculture, and if you enjoy eating fish, you are a piscivore. Something shaped like a fish is pisciform. On the negative side, the smell of rotting fish is called pisculence.

Even if fishing isn’t your hobby, you are frequently going to run across similes and metaphors based on fish and fishing. Let’s just quickly review a few:

·      I’m like a fish out of water
·      Stop fishing for compliments
·      She’s a big fish in a small pond
·      My uncle drinks like a fish
·      That’s just like shooting fish in a barrel
·      There are plenty of other fish in the sea.
·      He’s just trying to bait you.
·      The police finally netted the bank robber.
·      They fooled you hook, line, and sinker.
·      You’d better fish or cut bait.
·      Don’t let them lure you into buying a cheap suit.
·      Well, that’s a fine kettle of fish!
·      Don’t be a cold fish – smile!
·      He’s as slippery as an eel.

Let’s end with a quote from Maimonides, a medieval philosopher:

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.


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 some podcasts there under TheRon Jolly Show.





Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Flocculation




Steve from Maple City asked about a word that appeared in the Traverse City Record-Eagle on March 24. Here is the quote containing the word.  

“Raw water pulled into the Traverse City Water Treatment Plant is so clear, in fact, officials said it makes for an added obstacle in the processing for public consumption. ‘The challenge is flocculation. There’s not as much for the coagulant to bind to,’ said Jacqueline Johnson, water plant superintendent.”

Flocculation refers to the process by which fine particulates are encouraged to clump together into a floc, which is a sponge-like mass. The floc is captured and removed when it floats to the top of the liquid, settles on the bottom of the tank, or runs through a filter. This is a standard purification process when treating sewage water.

Flocculation owes its existence to the Latin word floccus, a tuft of wool. Another word based on the same Latin root is floccilation, the act of a delirious patient plucking at the bed clothes in the course of an illness. In times gone by, the bed coverings were often made of wool, as was the mattress stuffing.

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.comand clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find some podcasts there under TheRon Jolly Show.






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