Saturday, February 26, 2011

Daedal



Jim from Northport wrote, “I came across the word ‘daedall,’ but can’t remember the context. I think it is Latin, but I can’t find it on the internet. Is this a word? What does it mean?

I was unable to find a word with that spelling, so my suspicion is that it is a misspelling. The strongest possibility is that it is connected to the name Daedalus. He was the man who created the labyrinth at Crete, an impossibly intricate maze, and who later devised wings constructed of feathers, string, and wax so that he and his son Icarus could escape imprisonment. Icarus flew too high despite his father’s warning that the sun would melt the wax, so he traded his artificial wings for the wings of an angel.

Daedalus, a Greek word, is usually translated as “the cunning one.” I consider that a bit unfortunate, because in our day, cunning bears the connotation of skill in pursuit of deceit. Instead, it should be taken as a synonym of the original meaning of crafty – a craftsman, someone with skill, dexterity, and inventiveness.

Percy Bysshe Shelley used the word in his Ode to Liberty: “The daedal earth,
 That island in the ocean of the world,
 Hung in its cloud of all-sustaining air . . .” And British poet Laurence Binyon took it up a notch: “Visions of cloud and light and daedal earth are the airman's daily scene.”

There is an adjective spelled daedal. It means skillful, ingenious, able to invent or fashion complex things in an artful way. Applied to an object, it means complex or finely wrought. My guess is that this is the word that Jim encountered or that the original writer intended.


Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition


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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Transitional Words Are Not Subordinating Conjunctions


Amy wrote, “I am confused on an issue of grammar, and hope you can straighten me out. When using a word that creates a dependent clause, such as although, however, etc., I have seen conflicting information. One source I found indicated that if you attach the dependent clause to the end of a sentence, you must use a semi-colon, as a comma creates a run on. For example: Many people think protectionism can halt rising prices; however, the opposite is actually true. (A comma here would be considered run-on, but with the semicolon, is it correct?)

If, however, the clause is attached to the front of a sentence, would a comma be sufficient? It seems that a semi-colon would be inappropriate. For example: Although many people think protectionism can halt rising prices, the opposite is actually true. Does it makes a difference if the dependent clause is attached to the front or end of the sentence, as to whether I would use a comma or semi-colon?”


Your examples are correctly written, but there's a bit of confusing crossover going on. Two elements are involved:

(1) Some words, called subordinating conjunctions, signal the beginning of a dependent clause—although, because, if, since, so that, when, where, etc.

(2) Another set of words, transitional words, do not signal a dependent clause; rather, they show the logical connection between adjacent statements—however, furthermore, therefore, first, next, finally, later, meanwhile, etc. In your protectionism example above, no dependent clause is involved. The semicolon joins two independent clauses.


With that in mind, as far as the comma being used with a dependent clause, there's a two-part rule.

(A) When the dependent clause comes BEFORE the independent clause, use a comma:

"After I finish college, I want to be an accountant."

(B) When the dependent clause comes AFTER the independent clause, do not use a comma:

"I want to be an accountant after I finish college."


The semicolon never comes between a dependent clause and its independent clause; that would be an error called a sentence fragment. The semicolon is designed to join two independent clauses. Don’t think of the semicolon as a super comma; think of it as a weak period.


When it comes to transitional words (which may appear either in dependent clauses or independent clauses) there are two rules:

(A) When a transitional word BEGINS a sentence, add a comma right after it:

"Furthermore, your mother is sympathetic to your plight."

“However, if you don’t call her more often, she may turn on you.”

(B) When a transitional word is INSIDE the sentence, use two commas:

"Your mother, furthermore, is sympathetic to your plight."

“If you don’t call her more often, however, she may turn on you.”


Of course, if a transitional word ends a sentence, the second comma would be replaced by the appropriate terminal punctuation.


Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition


Check out Mike's program-based books here:
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Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:00 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Lock


Joni asked about the connection between a lock of hair and a lock used to protect one’s home. There is no direct connection; instead, there are two words with identical spelling.

Lock1, generally speaking, involves hair or material that resembles hair.

  • a tress, the natural division into which hair will clump
  • a figurative description of leaves on a tree
  • a tuft of wool or cotton
  • a small bundle of hay or straw

Lock2 , for the most part, involves containment or confinement.

  • a device, activated by a key, that employs a bolt to fasten a door.
  • a shackle on an animal’s foot designed to prevent it from straying.
  • a device to keep a wheel from revolving or turning.
  • a mechanism in a firearm for exploding the charge.
  • a section of a waterway, such as a canal, closed off with gates, in which vessels in transit are raised or lowered by raising or lowering the water level of that section.
  • a chamber for a person to transition between air and water (as in a submarine), or between air and a vacuum (as in a spacecraft).
  • an assemblage of objects jammed together.
  • a grip in wrestling.
  • a secure hold or control of a situation.
  • an outcome marked by certitude.

SIDEBAR: Lock4, the band


Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition


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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Magazine


Peggy from Cadillac asked if the magazine that you read and the magazine that holds cartridges for a gun are connected. They are.

The word started as an Arabic word (makzin) meaning a storehouse, and the many meanings that the word has all relate to containment. The publication is a storehouse for articles, pictures, etc., and the gun magazine is a receptacle from which cartridges are spring fed automatically to a machine gun or automatic weapon.

Other meanings for magazine span the centuries:

  • a warehouse or depot
  • a country or district rich in natural products
  • a portable receptacle for protecting articles of value
  • a building or ship compartment for storing guns, ammunition, and other military materials
  • a ship (magazine ship) that provides supplies
  • a pile of clothing
  • rhetorically, a store of ideas or resources
  • a broadcast series that covers a variety of topical issues
  • a container for film

SIDEBAR: Magazine, the band


Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition


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Saturday, February 12, 2011

The A-Teem


Katy from Suttons Bay writes, “I heard a CNN reporter say that the streets of Cairo were teaming with thousands of demonstrators, and I wondered what he meant.”

We’re not talking about a well-coordinated athletic event here. The verb that the reporter used is spelled teeming, and it means to swarm. The interesting thing is that there are three verbs spelled t-e-e-m, and they are not connected.

Teem1 came from an Old English word that meant to bear children. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this is how it expanded.

  • To bring forth, produce, give birth to, bear (offspring).
  • To bring forth young, bear or produce offspring; to be or become pregnant.
  • To be full, as if ready to give birth; to be prolific or fertile; to abound, swarm.
  • In Anglo-Saxon law: To refer or trace (property), for evidence of ownership, to a third person representing the party from whom it was acquired; to vouch to warranty.
  • To refer or appeal to for confirmation or testimony: to God I teme, I call God to witness.
  • To attach oneself (to any one) in fealty, dependence, trust, or love; to turn or draw to.
  • To acclaim (as lord); to offer or dedicate (to God); to bring into a position or condition.
  • To betake oneself, to repair, go, proceed to.
  • To lead to (an issue).

Teem2 came from an Old Scandinavian word that meant empty, and it progressed this way.

  • To empty (a vessel, etc.); to discharge or remove the contents of; to empty (a wagon, etc.).
  • To discharge (something out of or from a vessel, a cart, etc.); to empty out, pour out.
  • To drain the water off (boiled potatoes, etc.).
  • Of water, etc.: To pour, flow in a stream, flow copiously; of rain: to pour.

Teem3 owed its existence to an Old Saxon word, beteem, that meant to think fit.

  • To think fit or proper; to vouchsafe, grant, consent.
  • To vouchsafe, accord, grant, concede.
  • To allow, permit (to do something).
  • To think (a person) worthy, to admit the worth of.

SIDEBAR: Teem – Swear Down


Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition


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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Helicopter


Mike called in last Tuesday to reminisce about Tony Randall’s frequent appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Mike has fond memories of their discussions of interesting words. One word was helicopter, and what Mike specifically remembers is Randall commenting that most people would mistakenly split it into the word parts heli- and –copter. In reality, the division should be helico- and –pter.

Helico comes from the Greek ἕλικος (helikos), spiral. Pter comes from the Greek πτερόν (pteron), wing. I was surprised by how old the concept of helicopter flight is. Here are a few citations from the Oxford English Dictionary.

  • 1861: [G. L. M. de Ponton] “The required ascensional motion is given to my aerostatical apparatus (which I intend denominating aeronef or helicoptere,) by means of two or more superposed horizontal helixes combined together.”
  • 1887: [Jules Verne] “We can look forward to such contrivances (which we can call streophores, helicopters, orthopters) by means of which man will become the master of space.
  • 1908: [ Orville & Wilbur Wright] “Several years later we began building these hélicoptères for ourselves.”
  • 1921: [Glasgow Herald] “Recently the Aero Club of France offered a prize to the first helicopter pilot in France to take a machine 25 metres up in the air.”

SIDEBAR: Helicopter development


Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition


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Saturday, February 05, 2011

Pike



Maureen has a daughter interested in gymnastics, and she has encountered the word pike.

The pike is a jackknife body position used in jumps, on parallel bars, or on rings, in which the body is bent forward at the waist with the legs kept straight. It may have been named because the body in that position looks like the pointed head of the weapon called a pike.

Pike turns out to be an interesting word with many applications. Used as a noun, we find

  • a pickaxe; a pick used in digging, breaking up ground or rock, dressing stone, etc.
  • the pointed metal tip of a staff, spear, arrow, etc.
  • a prickle, thorn, or spine, especially of a plant or animal.
  • an implement for clearing the ear; an ear-pick.
  • the spike or pin in a lathe upon which one end of the object to be turned is fixed.
  • a pilgrim's staff.
  • a pitchfork or hay-fork
  • a tent pole, or its pointed end.
  • a single-pronged pole used for moving blocks of salt.
  • a long pointed toe of a shoe or boot, of a type fashionable in the 14th and 15th centuries.
  • the pointed end of an anvil.
  • a narrow triangular or wedge-shaped piece of land, especially at the side of a field.
  • a mountain or hill with a pointed summit.
  • a beacon, pillar, or cairn built on the highest point of a mountain or hill.
  • a pointed or peaked stack, often conically shaped, in which hay is either stored or dried temporarily in the field before being stored.
  • a long-bodied, predatory freshwater fish having a pointed snout with large teeth.
  • a weapon consisting of a long wooden shaft with a pointed steel head.
  • a mountain peak, especially a volcanic cone.
  • a road on which a toll is collected at a toll gate; a turnpike.
  • a railway line or system.
  • in California and other Pacific states of the U.S., a member of a perceived class of poor white migrants from the southern states of the U.S., especially from Pike County, Missouri.

Used as a verb, we have

  • to make off with oneself; to hasten off, go away.
  • to gamble cautiously or for small amounts; the person who does so is called a piker.
  • to travel from end to end.
  • to sail close to the wind.
  • to wound, impale, or kill with a pike.
  • to heap or pile up (hay) into pikes.
  • to lift (something) with a pike.
  • to grade or resurface a road; to provide with a crown.
  • to adopt a pike position.

By the way, Pike’s Peak is not a redundancy. The mountain was named after Zebulon Pike, the man who explored the southern Colorado area in 1806.

SIDEBAR: Double pike


Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition


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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Sounding Board


Phil noticed the word part –sonant in a few familiar words such as consonant, dissonant, and resonant, and he wondered about the link among them and the frequency of use. A look at the Oxford English Dictionary reveals almost fifty words using that word part, but many of them are rare or obsolete.

The common link is a Latin verb (sonare) that meant to make a sound. The –ant suffix comes to us from Latin through French, and it is usually attached to adjective forms.

  • absonant: harsh and inharmonious
  • altisonant: high-sounding, lofty, or pompous
  • armisonant: rustling with armor
  • assonant: corresponding in vowel sound
  • bisonant: having two sounds
  • circumsonant: sounding on every side
  • clarisonant: clear-sounding or shrill
  • consonant: in agreement or concordance
  • disconsonant: out of harmony; discordant
  • dissonant: disagreeing; out of harmony
  • dulcisonant: sweet-sounding
  • equisonant: agreeing in the octave
  • fluctisonant: sounding like waves
  • grandisonant: stately-sounding
  • horrisonant: horrible-sounding
  • inconsonant: not agreeing or harmonizing with
  • intersonant: sounding between
  • irresonant: devoid of resonance
  • luctisonant: mournful-sounding
  • magnisonant: important-sounding
  • mellisonant: sweet-sounding
  • multisonant: producing many sounds
  • resonant: causing prolongation of sound
  • rhonchisonant: sounding like snoring
  • sonant: voiced
  • terrisonant: terrible-sounding
  • trisonant: sounding in three ways
  • undisonant: sounding like waves
  • unisonant: of the same pitch or sound.

Hands down, my favorite is rhonchisonant.


Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition


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Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:00 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now.

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