Saturday, July 30, 2011

Is This A Dagger Which I See Before Me . . . ?


The Latin verb pungere, to prick or sting, produced three connected sensory words in English: pungent, piquant, and poignant.

Pungent originally referred to the kind of pain that comes from stabbing or piercing, whether literal or figurative. In the 17th century, the additional meaning of “forcefully or trenchantly expressed” was added, soon followed by “intensely flavored.”

Piquant started off as a sharp object, especially the spine of a hedgehog. It progressed to a sharp taste, then to wounded feelings. “Fascinating or charming” eventually crept in.

Poignant took a side trip through French, which influenced the spelling. It started as a reference to taste or smell, transferred to physical pain, then settled on mental feelings: grief, regret, or despair. Along the way, sorrowful tenderness (paradoxically, a pleasurable pain) worked its way in.

Related words include compunction, expunge, punctual, puncture, and punctum.

Pun Gent: a man addicted to paronomasia.


SIDEBAR: Recipe for sauce piquant


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


Check out Mike's program-based books here:
Amazon.com


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.

There is a collection of podcasts. Go to wtcmradio.com and click on Podcasts. Scroll down The Ron Jolly Show to find the Words to the Wise audio button.


Visit The Senior Corner at seniors.tcnet.org


Labels: , ,

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Giddy with Enthusiasm


Three words are linked in a curious way: swindler, giddy, and dizzy.

A swindler cheats and defrauds people for his or her personal gain. Originally, the word meant a giddy person. Giddy people were believed to indulge in flights of fancy, in gossamer schemes, in flights from reality. Eventually, the schemes were seen as nefarious, and the cheating element crept in.

At first, giddy meant possessed by spirits; that was the original explanation for insanity. There was a connection to the word god, pointing to giddiness as the result of being taken over by a god. When finally secularized, it came to mean silly or foolish. [Although it is not etymologically connected, the word enthusiasm also started out as “possessed by a god.”]

In Old English, dizzy meant foolish or stupid. In the 14th century, the idea of vertigo was introduced. In Latin, vertigo was a whirling or turning that resulted in a loss of equilibrium.


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


Check out Mike's program-based books here:
Amazon.com



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.

There is a collection of podcasts. Go to wtcmradio.com and click on Podcasts. Scroll down The Ron Jolly Show to find the Words to the Wise audio button.


Visit The Senior Corner at seniors.tcnet.org



Labels: , ,

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Where There's Smoke


Smoke is defined as the visible vapor given off by burning or smoldering material. The word goes back to Old English, and it was derived from Dutch, German, and Danish models.

More interesting are the words that relate to smoke in a covert way. I'm speaking about terms that usually come from Latin or Greek forms not easily recognized by most people. Let’s run through some examples.

  • acapnia: diminution or deficiency of carbon dioxide in the blood. It comes from two Greek elements—a-, meaning without, and kapnos, meaning smoke.
  • capnomancy: divination by observing rising or swirling smoke.
  • chipotle: a dried and smoked ripe jalapeño pepper, dark reddish-brown with a strong, piquant flavor, used in Mexican cooking. Its source is the Nahuatl chil-, chilli, and poctli, smoke.
  • fumacious: fond of smoking. The source is the Latin fumare, to smoke.
  • fumitory: related to tobacco smoking.
  • fumivorous: feeding or living on smoke, a perfect adjective for a fire fighter.
  • misocapnic: opposed to tobacco smoke.
  • perfume: we associate it with the aromatic mist or liquid used to mask body odor, but originally it referred to fumigation, a cleansing process using smoke.
  • typhus: the infectious fever. It comes from a Greek word, typhos, that meant smoke, but another meaning of typhos, stupor, is directly related to the fever.


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


Check out Mike's program-based books here:
Amazon.com


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.

There is a collection of podcasts. Go to wtcmradio.com and click on Podcasts. Scroll down The Ron Jolly Show to find the Words to the Wise audio button.


Visit The Senior Corner at seniors.tcnet.org


Labels: , ,

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Conversational Fillers


Bill asked about conversational fillers, citing if you will as an example. Every language seems to have them. In English, um, er, well, sort of, actually, basically, you know, and like are among the most common.

When they are overused, they can be well, you know, like, annoying as hell. I remember a teacher who overused surely, which he pronounced as shirley. Before his class, we would form a pool to predict the number of shirleys that would show up that day. [Leslie Nielson clip]

Sometimes fillers can be a sign of unfamiliarity with the subject, nervousness, or a challenged vocabulary, but they can also serve a useful purpose. For instance, a conversation involves two inescapable elements: give and take, send and receive, speak and listen. When we have finished a statement, our ensuing silence is a signal to the other party to respond. If we are thinking ahead and are not ready to relinquish our turn, we may use a filler to indicate that we are not finished.

Other useful roles for fillers include

  • memory searches
  • softening or strengthening a statement
  • restating for emphasis
  • expanding a thought
  • switching ideas midstream
  • bringing in peripheral, but connected, thoughts

So, while overuse of conversational fillers can be distracting and counterproductive, a measured use can help manage a conversation and direct the listener’s attention.


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


Check out Mike's program-based books here:
Amazon.com


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.

There is a collection of podcasts. Go to wtcmradio.com and click on Podcasts. Scroll down The Ron Jolly Show to find the Words to the Wise audio button.


Visit The Senior Corner at seniors.tcnet.org


Labels:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Eleemosynary


This tracks back to a Greek word meaning pity. The Greek word ἐλεημοσύνη [eleemosyne], an expansion of the shorter word, meant compassionateness. The modern sense pertains to an act motivated by charity.

The word alms is inextricably bound up in the word eleemosynary. It signified a dependence on alms for survival. In Old English, alms was spelled aelmysse, making the connection with the original Greek more obvious.

The word pittance now means a very small or inadequate amount of something, but originally, it, too, was connected to the word alms. Originally, it was alms in the form of food given to monks or paupers—the product of pity.


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



Check out Mike's program-based books here:
Amazon.com


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.

There is a collection of podcasts. Go to wtcmradio.com and click on Podcasts. Scroll down The Ron Jolly Show to find the Words to the Wise audio button.


Visit The Senior Corner at seniors.tcnet.org


Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Nit


Jeff wrote to say that he gets the meaning of “Gotcha Journalism,” but wonders about related charges of nitpicking coming from conservative politicians.

Nitpickers are said to make a big deal out of minor issues. Lacking major complaints, they quibble over insignificant items. Originally, a nit was the egg of a parasitic insect like the louse. Later, by extension, it referred to the parasite itself.

Shakespeare used the word nit to designate an insignificant, inconsequential, and contemptible person.

  • Love's Labour's Lost, iv. i. 146: “And his Page . Ah heauens, it is most patheticall nit.”
  • Taming of the Shrew, iv. iii. 109: “Thou Flea, thou Nit, thou winter cricket, thou.”

Eventually, the term hit America. Humorist George Ade once wrote, “I don't read Books. I am an Intellectual Nit.”

Nit also shows up in nitwit, defined as a stupid, foolish, or idiotic person. Wit refers to the mind, the seat of cognition. The first citation mentioned in the OED is from The Los Angeles Times, 5 June 14: “After her trip to Virginia Miss Helen Morton was quoted as saying that Chicago men were ‘nit wits’.”


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

Check out Mike's program-based books here:
Amazon.com


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.

There is a collection of podcasts. Go to wtcmradio.com and click on Podcasts. Scroll down The Ron Jolly Show to find the Words to the Wise audio button.

Visit The Senior Corner at seniors.tcnet.org


Labels: , ,

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Cuff


Dona asked about the word cuff, as in, “If you kids don’t knock it off, I’m going to come out there and cuff your ears.” It means to beat, strike, or buffet. The origin is labeled uncertain, but the OED reminds us of the existence of kuffen, a German criminal slang word meaning to thrash.

The other verb use is an abbreviation of handcuff, to manacle one by the wrists. The cuff involved there came from a word meaning a mitten or glove, particularly the section that covers the wrist.

Cuff also means a blow with the fist or an open hand; it shows up in fisticuff. Other unconnected noun uses include a contemptuous slang term meaning a miserly old man, a Scottish variant of scruff (the fleshy part of the back of the neck), and an abbreviation for Cuffee, a personal name.


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


Check out Mike's program-based books here:
Amazon.com


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.

There is a collection of podcasts. Go to wtcmradio.com and click on Podcasts. Scroll down The Ron Jolly Show to find the Words to the Wise audio button.


Visit The Senior Corner at seniors.tcnet.org

Labels:

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Without Feck


An online description for Turner Classic Movies described Rebel Without a Cause this way: “Volatile teens with feckless parents witness tragedy.” Feckless parents: you don’t see that every day.

The –less segment tells us that something is missing. What is missing is feck, described by the Oxford English Dictionary as an apparent aphetic of the word effeck, an old variant of effect, in the sense of “to become operative or to prove effective.” (Aphetic refers to the loss of a short unaccented vowel at the beginning of a word.)

Feckless first referred to physical objects, and it meant valueless or futile. Applied later to human beings, it came to mean lacking vigor, energy, or capacity; weak or helpless. Feckless parents, then, would be irresponsible parents, unable or unwilling to carry out their duties.


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



Check out Mike's program-based books here:
Amazon.com


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.

There is a collection of podcasts. Go to wtcmradio.com and click on Podcasts. Scroll down The Ron Jolly Show to find the Words to the Wise audio button.


Visit The Senior Corner at seniors.tcnet.org


Labels:

Friday, July 01, 2011

Austerity


Ron Jolly brought up the word austerity on last Tuesday’s program. The original Latin and Greek words were sensory words. They meant harsh to the taste, producing an astringent sourness in the mouth. The word austere, the root of austerity, referred to any substance or condition that made the tongue dry and rough.

As time went on, it could be applied to any person or situation that was harsh, stern, or rigorous. That led to the meanings self-discipline, self-restraint, and ascetic. Eventually, it settled into lack of luxury or adornment.

During World War II, it referred to the simplicity in clothing and food necessitated by rationing and a shortage of goods. Recently, we have read of riots in Greece because the government is trying to inaugurate fiscal austerity measures that will cut spending and increase taxes.


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

Check out Mike's program-based books here:
Amazon.com


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.

There is a collection of podcasts. Go to wtcmradio.com and click on Podcasts. Scroll down The Ron Jolly Show to find the Words to the Wise audio button.


Visit The Senior Corner at seniors.tcnet.org


Labels: ,

Dona Sheehan's prints