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.

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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.





Monday, September 29, 2014

Token

Terri asked about the word token, especially as it appears in a token of my esteem. The word originated in a wide cluster of related languages (Old Germanic, Old Scandinavian, Old English), and in each case it carried the meaning of teaching, demonstrating, or showing.

A token of my esteem is the equivalent of a sign or symbol of my esteem. The word token has gone through a number of meaning variations.

·      sign or evidence

·      characteristic mark

·      proof of authenticity

·      vestige or trace

·      omen or portent

·      password or badge

·      memorial keepsake

·      evidence of a right or privilege

·      medium of exchange in the shape of a coin

·      block of 250 sheets passed through a printing press

·      representative of an under-represented group

Some of the obsolete uses of token include a sign of the zodiac, the sign on an inn, the plague, an act demonstrating divine power, and a a sign meant to attract attention.

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, September 24, 2014

Sist-ah!


Rita asked about the word element –sist–. It appears in a number of words that alter the basic meaning by adding different prefixes. The core comes from the Latin sistere, to cause to stand.

Let’s list some of the words that rely on this root, giving a rough and ready definition that shows how the stand meaning runs through all of them.

·      assist:  to stand by

·      consist:  to stand altogether

·      desist:  to stand down

·      insist:  to stand upon

·      persist:  to stand until completion

·      resist= to stand in place

·      subsist:  to stand firm


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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