Saturday, April 15, 2017

No Man Is An Island


The Latin word insula had two meanings, one dry and one wet. It meant a block of buildings separated from surrounding structures, and it also meant an island – a land mass completely surrounded by water.

It shows up in words like insulate, insulated, and insulation. In those words, it can mean much the same as isolation, but it can also refer to a protective covering or barrier. This appears in reference to electricity, sound, and heat or cold.

It takes on a negative sense in words like insular and insularity. The stereotype is that people who live on an island are cut off from mainlanders, and are thus prone to narrow or prejudiced feelings, ideas, or social expectations. Their minds allegedly close up, just as their island is closed off from the rest of society.

The Latin root also shows up in the word peninsula. I remember a student who was convinced that a peninsula was so named because it was shaped like a penis. I had a difficult time convincing him that it came from the words paene insula, almost an island. Replace the connection to the land mass with more water, and you would have a full-fledged island.

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, April 09, 2017

In Perpetuity


Frank from Suttons Bay came across the phrase in perpetuity, and he figured out from context that it means forever. In legal use, it means “not subject to termination.” The phrase is often used in documents granting an easement to a utility company. 

It tracks back to the Latin adjective perpetuus, lasting or permanent. There are a few words that use the same root, and these examples have been compiled from the Oxford English Dictionary.

·      perpetual:  Continuing or continued in time without interruption or remission; repeated frequently or without cessation; occurring in endless succession; persistent; continual; constant.

·      perpetuality:  The quality, state, or condition of being perpetual.

·      perpetually:  Without remission or intermission, unfailingly, incessantly; with constant recurrence, continually.

·      perpetualness:  Perpetuality.

·      perpetuation:    The action of perpetuating something; permanent continuation; preservation from extinction or oblivion; (in recent use) spec. continuation or preservation of an idea, myth, etc., by reiteration.

·      perpetuative:  Having a tendency or inclination to perpetuate something; that effects perpetuation.

·      perpetuator:  A person who or thing which perpetuates something.

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 25, 2017

Seeing What’s Not There


The Science channel carries a program named What on Earth? The program examines mysterious images captured by satellite cameras and tries to determine what is actually being seen.

Last week, the program discussed what appeared to be a large face engraved on a Ukrainian field.  The optical illusion turned out to be uneven terrain, but it illustrated a well-known phenomenon: the tendency for humans to impose a pattern even upon random features. We are wired to make sense of what we see even when what we see doesn’t actually make sense.

I was long aware of the phenomenon, but I had never encountered its name until this program. It’s called pareidolia, and it’s a common phenomenon. Human faces and their expressions are very important to us from infancy on. It explains why we see faces in clouds, in ink blots, in geological features, on tree bark, on the surface of the moon, and even on toast and muffins. Of course, it can expand in scope so that we see animals, buildings, other anatomical features, and so on.

The word derives from the Greek words para (παρά), instead of, and eidōlon (εδωλον), image, form, or shape.



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, March 21, 2017

Paraprosdokian


Joan from Torch Lake reminded me of a figure of speech that is delightful to encounter. It involves a sentence in which the last half presents a twist in meaning – an unexpected conclusion – that causes the listener to go back to the first half to reinterpret the meaning of a term.

This is a good example: “Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.” In the first half, we immediately interpret change as alteration or transformation. But when we get to vending machine, we are forced to shift the meaning of change to coins.

This figure of speech is called paraprosdokian. It comes from the Greek παρά (para-), against, and προσδοκία (prosdokia), expectation. Let me share some examples.

·      Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.
  • A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
  • Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
  • Light travels faster than sound. That’s why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
  • War does not determine who is right - only who is left.
  • You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  • Hospitality: making your guests feel like they're at home, even if you wish they were.
  • I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.
        Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.

 

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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