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.





Friday, May 22, 2015

Underdog or Underduck?





Loveda in Traverse City called because she and her daughter-in-law call the same action by different names, and she wanted to know which one was correct. The action takes place on a swing set. The pusher runs under the swing and then lets go. Loveda calls it underdog. The relative from Ohio calls it underduck.

We’re definitely in the realm of regionalisms here. Which one is correct? It depends where you live. When I used a search engine to see what I could find on the internet, I was startled to find about 1,150 results. People get very opinionated about this and hurl insults at each other. Even people living in the same state or Canadian province disagree on which is “correct.”

The underduck contingent maintains that you duck under the swing. The underdog folks say that you don’t duck, you stand straight up and perform a feat worthy of the cartoon character Underdog. They also point to the strong possibility that underduck is a childish mishearing of underdog, especially in certain regional pockets.

I’m not going to commit to either without definitive evidence. On the southside of Chicago many decades ago, we called it “trying to strand your buddy on the swing crossbar, pinned by chains.” It was a tough neighborhood.

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, May 12, 2015

Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On



Speaking about the recent second earthquake in Nepal, CNN’s Wolfe Blitzer referred to tremblers or tremblors. It’s impossible to tell from pronunciation alone how he would have spelled it.

He should have used the more correct temblor, a word for earthquake taken from the Spanish, and at first popularized in the southwestern United States. To tremble is to shake or quiver involuntarily because of fear or cold, so a trembler could be a terrified person, but not properly an earthquake.

He could also have used the word tremor, a shaking movement of the ground before or after an earthquake. Contributing to the confusion is the fact that all three words (trembler, temblor, tremor) track back to the same Latin verb, tremere, to shake.


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, May 09, 2015

Throws or Throes?


Jamie from Elk Rapids wrote to complain of a misspelling that she thinks is becoming annoyingly frequent. She keeps seeing the word throws written in place of throes, as in the throws of winter or the throws of passion. It’s not unusual that homophones get misused by the careless or inattentive, but it is, indeed, annoying.

Throe means intense or violent pain or struggle; throes is the plural form. It is the descendant of an Old English word that meant affliction, plague, or painful evil. In our day, it should be distinguished from throw, but ironically, in its long history it was sometimes spelled throwe, throw, or thraw.

Throw is a synonym for a toss, but at various times it has meant an act of twisting, a perverse temper, a needle deflection on a galvanometer, the rotary motion of a shaping machine, a cast at dice, the act of slamming a wrestling opponent to the mat, a piece of fabric placed on furniture to protect it, or a shawl.

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, April 29, 2015

Caught Red-Handed



A caller asked about the phrase, “caught red-handed.”  Currently, it means to be caught in the very act of committing a crime. Given the circumstances, there is no possibility of pleading innocent.

It seems to have arisen in Scotland somewhere around the 15th century. Originally, it meant to be caught with blood on one’s hands. This could happen while poaching — a very serious offense, especially on royal property—or while committing a murder. To be caught with the victim’s blood still on your murderous hands would be a slam dunk for the prosecutor.

Here’s a quote from Sir George Mackenzie's A discourse upon the laws and customs of Scotland in matters criminal, 1674: "If he be not taken red-hand the sheriff cannot proceed against him."

It also shows up in Spenser’s Faerie Queene II. iii. 47:  “He might, for memory of that daye's ruth, Be called Ruddymaine [i.e. red-handed].

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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