Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Goads


 Gifford Haddock asked about a word that appears in Acts 26:14. The word is goads, and it appears in this context: And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’” (The King James Version uses the old-fashioned word pricks.)

A goad was a prod to control oxen. It could be as simple as a stout pointed stick, eight to ten feet long, or it could be made a bit more sophisticated and punishing by adding a metal point.

An animal that kicked against the goad would be startled by getting punctured. In addition, the ploughman would only repeat the assault against a recalcitrant animal. (Recalcitrant, appropriately, comes from a Latin word that means to kick backward.)

Judges 3:31 also speaks of the goad as a formidable weapon: “After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox goad. He, too, saved Israel.”

“To kick against the goads,it turns out, was a relatively common proverb in the ancient world, and it spoke to useless resistance to a superior force.

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, May 16, 2016

Foist


Fred asked about the word foist. It shows up in settings such as this: “Don’t let them foist their shoddy goods on you.” In this sense, it means to palm off or surreptitiously force items on someone.

“To palm off” is quite accurate because the word originally meant to conceal a token in your hand or fist and then make it appear as if by magic. It later meant to practice fraud, to behave stealthily, and to introduce something inferior.

There are two other verbs spelled f-o-i-s-t, and they came from completely different sources. To foist meant to smell or grow musty, and it took its meaning from the noun meaning a wine cask.

Another foist (long obsolete) meant to break wind; the noun from which it was derived involved onomatopoeia--fssssst!  In their play The Honest Whore, Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton gave this advice: “Spurne your hounds when they foiste.”

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, May 08, 2016

Just Call It A Couch!


Mike from Cadillac called in a question that has come up before: why is a certain piece of furniture called a davenport? My immediate thought was that it must have been manufactured in Davenport, Iowa, but I was mistaken. It has all sorts of cousins.

davenport:   A type of large, upholstered couch or sofa which may be convertible into a bed.  [Probably from the maker’s name]

couch:    An article of furniture for reclining or sitting on. [L. to put in place]

sofa:    A long, stuffed seat with a back and ends or end, used for reclining; a form of lounge or couch.  [Arabic: a part of the floor raised a foot or two, covered with rich carpets and cushions, and used for sitting upon]

divan:     Now usually, a low bed or couch with no back or ends. [Persian: a cushioned bench]

settee:    A seat holding two or more persons, with a back and arms.  [Perhaps a fanciful variation of settle, a place to sit]

chesterfield:    A stuffed couch or sofa with a back and upright arms. [Ostentatiously named after an Earl of Chesterfield, though he probably had nothing to do with it]

lounge:    A kind of sofa or easy chair on which one can lie at full length. [Origin obscure]


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, May 01, 2016

Gorge


Kevin asked about the connection between stuffing oneself with food (gorge) and the narrow opening between hills (gorge). They definitely are connected. In each case a throat shape is involved.

The word probably came from a Latin word, gurgulio, which meant the windpipe. At first, gorge was the external throat, then the internal throat, then the crop of a hawk, then a narrow opening between hills or a ravine with rocky walls. It led to an image to express disgust: one’s gorge rises, the prelude to vomiting. Gorge also had military and architectural meanings.

The word gorgeous is not related at all, though it shares a letter sequence. Gorgeous probably came from an Old French word that meant elegantly or finely dressed. However, the words gurgle and gargle are connected to gorge. That Latin word mentioned earlier forms the base for each. It also figures in gargoyle, the grotesque carving that often appeared on cathedrals. The gargoyle acted as a rain spout—the water came flowing from its mouth.


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.





Thursday, April 21, 2016

You’re Smart, but That Smarts!


Phil from Traverse City asked about the connection between smart (intelligent), and something that smarts (hurts). Oddly enough, both meanings attach to the same word.

Tracing the meaning through the centures by using the Oxford English Dictionary makes things clear.

·      In 1225, smart meant severe and intense pain. Feel the smart! could have been the cliché du jour.

·      By 1300, pain had been stripped out, and the focus was now intensity. Smart referred to a natural force or process that was strong, vigorous, bracing, and keen. 
·      Roughly a century later, smart meant a person who was quick in action or response; such a person was lively, active, and prompt. 
·      By 1571, smart meant the now familiar clever, intelligent, and knowledgeable.
·      In 1644, the focus was on something distinct, sharp, and clearly outlined. 
·      Twenty years later, there was a shift to something delivered quickly and sharply, as a blow.

·      Now we have smart mobs who are assembled through the use of smart phones and other mobile devices and who may reach their destination in smart cars.


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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