Saturday, October 29, 2011

Stent or Stint?


Roberta asked about apparent confusion between stent and stint. From my observation, the confusion is rather widespread.

The Old English form of stint meant to blunt or dull. Its forefathers were Scandinavian and Germanic words that meant blunt, short, stumpy, and scanty. The modern word ranges all over the landscape, but most of the meanings convey the idea of shortening, ceasing, limiting, or stopping altogether.

There are 9 different stents, totally unconnected, but the one most people think of is the medical device, a tube placed in a vessel to promote fluid flow and reduce constriction. There is some controversy over the origin of the word, but there is evidence that it was originally a dental impression compound invented by a 19th century British dentist named Charles T. Stent.

We might use both in the same sentence by writing something such as, “Don’t stint on the stents during my angioplasty.” I think that the distinction is worth maintaining, but I acknowledge that Webster's 3rd New International Dictionary of the English Language (1961) had this entry: “Stent, also stint.”


SIDEBAR: National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: stent



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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fear


Two types of fear came up in conversations on the same day – yesterday. Ron Jolly mentioned the service offered by the Mackinac Bridge crew, who will drive a car across the bridge for drivers who are afraid to do it themselves. This is classic gephyrophobia, a fear of bridges.

The second fear to be mentioned yesterday was the fear of needles, mentioned by a young neighbor who will be having his adenoids removed. (Good luck, Jonathon.) The fear of needles is known as aichmophobia, though belonophobia is sometimes used.

This prompted me to browse through the Fear section of my Word Parts Dictionary. Here are a few fears or aversions that I extracted.

  • accidents: dystichiphobia
  • beards: pogonophobia
  • cats: ailurophobia
  • dogs: cynophobia
  • emotions: thymophobia
  • flatulence: physaphobia
  • growing old: gerascophobia
  • hurricanes: lilapsophobia
  • infection: molysmophobia
  • jumping: catapedaphobia
  • kissing: philemaphobia
  • loud noises: ligyrophobia
  • mice: muriphobia
  • nosebleeds: epistaxiophobia
  • old people: gerontophobia
  • poetry: metrophobia
  • quarrels: rixophobia
  • razors: xyrophobia
  • snakes: herpetophobia
  • tornadoes: lilapsophobia
  • ulcers: helcophobia
  • vomiting: emetophobia
  • wasps: spheksophobia
  • x-rays: radiophobia
  • yawning: oscitophobia
  • zombies: basinecrophobia


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

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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.


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Friday, October 21, 2011

Bye and By


John from Bass Lake brought up the subject of bye weeks in American football. Each NFL team plays 16 games out of 17 weeks in the NFL schedule. The game that they don't play is called their bye week, or open date.

John’s first issue was the proper spelling: should it be bye or by? It turns out that bye is what’s currently used, though it came from the preposition by, the one expressing passing without stopping or contact, thus signifying a state of avoidance.

Bye seems to have started as a cricket term, and it had a meaning quite specific to that game. As it was adopted by other sports as a descriptive term, it signified the team left out in a league with an uneven number of participants after every other team had been paired.

SIDEBAR: Walk on By (Dionne Warwick)


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

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Expeditious


Sarah has been reading Ulysses Grant’s Memoirs for a history assignment, and wrote with a question about the following sentence: His problem was to get from Lookout Valley to Chattanooga Valley in the most expeditious way possible. Her question was, “Is expeditious connected in any way to expedition?”


Sarah indicated that she knows that expeditious means with speed and efficiency. And even though some expeditions throughout history were tortuously slow and difficult, the words are related, as are expede, expedite, expedient, and expediency. All of them owe their existence to a Latin word that means, “to free a person’s feet from fetters.”


Their opposites are impede, impedient, impediment, and so on. Those words come from a Latin word that meant, “to shackle a person’s feet.”


One strange word that popped up in the middle of my research because of its connection to foot (-ped-) was expeditate, defined as “to cut off from a dog three claws or the ball of the forefoot; to law.” A wretched practice, indeed, but my eye was caught by “to law.” That was new to me. It turns out that to law means “to mutilate an animal so as to render it incapable of doing mischief.” Fortunately, the practice seems to have died out in the 17th century.


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


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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tang


Roberta wrote that she was watching a show on the Food Channel and caught a reference to the tang of a knife. She has always associated tang with a pungent taste, and wonders what the commentator meant.

The word tang has many different meanings. In spite of all the variations, tang1 definitions have one thing in common: a projecting point. The tang of a chef’s knife is that unsharpened lower end of the blade that is encased in the handle. Other tools also have a tang; think of a chisel or a file or a sword. A full tang provides strength to the instrument and provides better balance when grasped in the hand.

Other definitions of tang1 found in the Oxford English Dictionary include the tongue of a serpent, the sting of an insect, a pang of grief, the prong of a fork or an antler, the barb of a hook, the root of a fang or tree branch, a piece of superfluous metal found in a metal casting, a penetrating flavor or odor (often disagreeable, which makes me wonder why they named the orange drink powder Tang™), and a trace or touch of something.

There are four other tangs, all with separate derivations:

  • the ringing note produced when a bell or piece of metal is struck with force, or a tense string is sharply plucked
  • a coarse seaweed
  • the Madagascar hedgehog
  • the dynasty that ruled China from 618 to 906 C.E.

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

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Sunday, October 09, 2011

Paradigm


Gary from Burt Lake commented on a buzzword of our day—paradigm—and the many meanings that it seems to bear. It came from a Greek word that meant an example, pattern, or model.

Originally, in English, it referred to a typical example of something. The Oxford English Dictionary includes a 1996 quote from Carl Hiaasen illustrating this: “I don't really care if he liked to play find-the-periscope with prostitutes, but I do care that he passed himself off to voters as a paradigm of Christian rectitude.”

Later, for English speakers studying classical Latin and Greek, it took on a grammatical meaning: a table showing the inflected forms of a particular verb, noun, or adjective, the exemplar standing as a representative of its class. For instance, the model for verbs ending in –are was amare, to love. The chart or paradigm for the present indicative active was

SING. PLU.

1. amo........amamus

2. amas......amatis

3. amat......amant

That same pattern would be applied to all verbs ending in –are.

In linguistics, a paradigm is a set of units which are linguistically substitutable in a given context, especially a syntactic one. For instance the verb form -will listen- may be preceded by I, you, he, she, it, we, or they. In rhetoric, a paradigm is a figure of speech in which a comparison is made by resemblance.

In the sciences, a paradigm is a conceptual model that attempts to explain and buttress the theories and practices of a particular era. More generally, it may be described as a world view. When new discoveries or understandings occur and a model must be tweaked, the general phrase used is paradigm shift.


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

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Thursday, October 06, 2011

Yacht


Margaret saw a sign advertising the Little Traverse Yacht Club when she was on the road recently and wrote to ask about the word yacht.

It has gone through innumerable spellings in English, but the word came through Dutch from the German. The German base was jagen, to hunt. The Dutch invented the swift vessel, designed to chase and hunt down freebooters and smugglers, in the 16th century.

That German root also shows up in jägermeister, a popular German liquer. Traditionally, the drink was served at the end of a meal, based on the belief that it would aid the digestive process. Jägermeister may be translated as “master of the hunt,” and it was an honorific applied to foresters and gamekeepers.

In a military sense, jäger meant light infantry.


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

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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.


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Monday, October 03, 2011

Vandalism


Patti read about acts of vandalism being perpetrated in the Old Town area of Traverse City and wrote to ask about the origin of the word.


It represents a very deep tribal memory. The Vandals were a Germanic tribe that swept across Europe and northern Africa as the Roman Empire was crumbling in the 5th century. They entered Rome itself in 455 and spent a couple of weeks trashing the city and carrying off everything that wasn’t bolted down.


Their reputation for looting and defacing led to the generic use of the term: wanton destruction or spoiling of another’s property. While the Romans had a word for Vandal, vandalism came into English through French in the 18th century.


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.

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.


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