Sunday, June 21, 2015

Breaker, Breaker


Each week, my program ends with a multiple choice vocabulary quiz, and prizes are awarded for a correct answer. Last week’s quiz used the word biblioclast.

   biblioclast:  (a) book seller  (b) book lover  (c) book destroyer  (d) book binder

The correct answer is (c). The –clast word part comes from the Greek word κλάστης (klastes), a person or thing that breaks other things, whether literally or metaphorically. Several words use that combining form.

bioclast: a fragment of a shell or a fossil forming part of a sedimentary rock.

·    cranioclast: an operation in which the head of a fetus is fractured in order to facilitate a difficult delivery.

·      crystalloclast: a person who breaks crystals in order to study them.

·      eidoclast: one who destroys idols.

·      hyaloclast: a glass-breaker.

·      iconoclast: breaker of images; one who attacks cherished beliefs.

·      lithoclast: an instrument for breaking up bladder stones.

·      mythoclast: a person who destroys myths.

·      pyroclast: rock fragmented by volcanic action.

The corresponding Latin combining form is –frage. It shows up in words such as calculifrage (device to break up calculi), nucifrage (the spotted nutcracker), ossifrage (bird that drops bones from a great height to shatter them), and saxifrage (plant that roots in rock clefts).

 

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, June 14, 2015

Spelling vs. Pronunciation


Casey from Gaylord asked why some words are spelled one way, but pronounced another. He used the word colonel as an example.

 

In some cases, a word comes into English through more than one route. It may then retain the spelling of one, but favor the pronunciation of the other. This happened in the case of the word colonel. It came into English from the Italian word colonello. It also entered English from the French word coronel. The Italian version influenced the English spelling, but the French pronunciation ruled.

 

In other cases, words that were in currency when Caxton introduced the printing press into England in 1476 had their spelling frozen in place even though their pronunciation later changed. For example, this happened with the words knight, know, gnat, gnaw, wrist, and wrong. This also explains the inconsistency in sound among the words plough, through, thorough, rough, trough, thought, and dough.

 

Also, in the 18th century, poet John Dryden and his friends, ashamed of the “degenerated” English language, went into a Latinizing frenzy. If a word had originally come from Latin, they reasoned, it should be spelled in a way that gave homage to that heritage. So we ended up with the illogical receipt (< receptus), subtle (< subtilis), debt (< debitum), salmon (< salmo), and island (< insula), instead of the naturally evolved receite, sutill, dette, samoun, and ilande.


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, June 03, 2015

Plethora


Mike from Cadillac asked about the word plethora.  The Latin plethora, fullness of habit, came from the Greek word πληθώρα, fullness or satiety. It was based on a verb meaning to fill.

Originally, in ancient Greek medicine, plethora meant an overabundance of one or more of the humors. When it transferred meaning to an excess of any substance, quality, or activity, it acquired a negative connotation: surfeit or glut.

Eventually, it worked its way into a more neutral meaning-- a very large amount, quantity, or variety. It is now enshrined in virtual clichés, such as a plethora of words, a plethora of experience, and a plethora of choices.

It also has a modern medical sense, according to the Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary: a bodily condition characterized by an excess of blood and marked by turgescence and a reddish complexion. It’s also defined as an excess of any of the body’s fluids.

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, May 27, 2015

Umbrage


Dave from Traverse City asked about the word umbrage.  It’s the emotion that erupts when someone feels offended, aggrieved, or insulted. It often appears in the form, “I take umbrage at that.”

It comes from the Latin umbra, a shadow. When you take umbrage, you feel that you have been thrust into a dark, brooding area, away from the sunny and the bright. It acquired that meaning sometime around the late 17th century. Earlier in English, it was the shadow cast by trees or the foliage that blocked sunlight.

The Latin umbra is found in a number of English words, of which the following are a sample.

·      adumbrate: (1) to foreshadow; (2) to describe or state.

·      penumbra: the shadow cast by the moon on the earth in a solar eclipse, or by the earth on the moon in a lunar eclipse, resulting in an area that experiences only a partial eclipse.

·      umbrella: a shade supported by a central pole used to block hot sunshine or to shelter the holder from rain.

·      umbriferous: affording shade.

·      umbriphilous: loving shade.

·      umbriphobic: disliking shade.

·      umbrose: (1) giving shade; (2) dusky in color.


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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