Wednesday, February 10, 2016

'Twere


“Twere is a contraction of a form of the verb to be. In full, it is written as it were, a subjunctive form. I bring it up because it is used in a scene in the Coen Brothers’ movie, Hail, Caesar.

In that scene, a movie director becomes increasingly frustrated by an actor’s inability to say a simple line: “would that it ‘twere so simple.” The actor has a history of playing westerns, but he has been thrust unwillingly into a British drawing-room drama, where he obviously is out of place.

The problem is that ‘twere already contains the pronoun it as a contraction. So the line literally reads, “would that it it were so simple.” A double it? That’s redundancy.


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, January 30, 2016

Unisex Names




Kelly from Harbor Springs asked for a word denoting a name that can be used both for boys and for girls, citing his own name as an example. Existing examples include Avery Brooks and Avery Winter; Bailey Chase and Bailey Hanks; Cameron Monaghan and Cameron Diaz; Cody Hodgson and Cody Kennedy; Drew Brees and Drew Barrymore; Kelly Hansen and Kelly McGillis; Morgan Freeman and Morgan Fairchild.

Various sources call them unisex names, epicene names, gender-neutral names, or androgynous names. Unisex and gender-neutral are obvious to everyone, so let’s take a quick look at the other two.

Androgynous combines two Greek roots-- aνδρο- male + γυνή- female. Originally, it meant someone exhibiting both male and female characteristics, so it is used here in a less physical sense.


Epicene comes from the Greek eπί  close + κοινός common, amounting to denoting neither sex. Grammatically, sheep would be the common term, while ewe and ram would highlight gender distinctions.

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, January 18, 2016

Exasperate & Exacerbate



Last week, I listened to a speaker confuse the words exasperate and exacerbate. “This will only exasperate the problem,” he said, actually meaning exacerbate. It’s becoming a common mistake, primarily because the pronunciation is so close.

Originally, the two words were nearly interchangeable, referring as they did to severity. Exasperate was built on a Latin word that meant rough or harsh. Exacerbate was based on a Latin word that meant bitter or harsh.

But over the centuries, the words settled into individual niches. Exacerbate now refers to worsening a situation, especially one involving distress, pain, disease, or emotions. The synonym to focus on is the word worsen:

·      The prairie fire was exacerbated by months of drought.
·      Deliberately hostile language will exacerbate the difficulty of negotiations.
·      The dust storm will exacerbate her congestion.

Exasperate means to provoke to anger or irritation. Think of the synonym annoy:

·      The long lines at the airport exasperated me.
·      She let out an exasperated sigh and left the room.
·      Teenagers instinctively know how to exasperate their parents.

In summary, exasperation is internal; it’s a feeling of irritation that I experience. Exacerbation is external; it involves a situation or problem outside me.

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, January 02, 2016

Fudge



One of the delights of Christmas grazing is fudge. While I was indulging in that substance the other day, neighbors Alexandra and Danielle Arens asked where the word came from.

Fudge is a soft candy made from chocolate chips, sugar, butter, and condensed milk. It became popular as a candy in the late 19th century. The name seems to have come from a 17th century verb, fadge, which meant to fit or merge together. The candy’s name, then, would refer to the fact that it is a blend.

Aside from that, the word fudge has some other interesting meanings. It can mean a vague and ambiguous statement designed to dodge a committed stance. It is the term used for a piece of last-minute news inserted in a newspaper. It is a synonym for nonsense, and a euphemism for the F word.

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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