Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fathom


Mike from Glen Arbor asked about the word fathom, especially when it means to understand, as in, “I saw something in that lad's eye I never quite fathomed.” [Charlotte Brontë Villette III. xxxix. 221]

As the word existed in the original Germanic/Scandinavian forms, it referred to outstretched arms, especially arms outstretched to hug someone. If you measure the outstretched arms of the average adult male from tip of longest finger to tip of longest finger, the approximate length is six feet.

The idea of hugging eventually drifted into the background, and the measurement of six feet moved front and center. That became the standard for sounding, measuring the depth of water by dropping a line knotted every six feet. Shakespeare used it that way in The Tempest: “Full fadom fiue thy Father lies.”

The idea of understanding something thoroughly arose by analogy, the idea being that you would dive into or plumb the depths of a person’s mind, and immerse yourself in his or her thoughts.


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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Friday, November 25, 2011

In Droves


A headline in Friday’s South Bend Tribune declared that shoppers were hitting the malls in droves. That’s an interesting word, although it has a bit of an old-fashioned flavor.

If you’ve ever read a western novel or seen a western movie, you’re familiar with the term cattle drive. To drive was to force animals to move in a desired direction. The action might involve beating or whipping or shouting; there was always some kind of intimidation. An old proverb observed, “he must needs go, whom the devil drives.”

Originally, a drove was a herd or a flock—a number of beasts, such as oxen or sheep—that were driven in a body. The person who drives a drove is called a drover. Eventually, drove came to mean a crowd or multitude of human beings, especially when moving in a body. In its latest incarnation, the driving force behind droves of shoppers is an impending holiday.


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.

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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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Trip the Light Fantastic


Tom from Petoskey asked about the phrase, trip the light fantastic. Most of us know the phrase because of the song, The Sidewalks of New York, whose chorus contains this:

Boys and girls together / Me and Mamie O'Rourke,
Tripped the light fantastic, / On the sidewalks of New York.

We associate tripping with stumbling, with being clumsy, but in Chaucer’s time, it meant to hop, skip, or step nimbly. Milton’s L’Allegro contained these lines: “Come, and trip it as you go / 
On the light fantastic toe.”

The word light is almost redundant, meaning as it does nimbly or gracefully. Fantastic meant in an imaginative or artistic manner. So we end up with, “to dance in a graceful way.”


SIDEBAR: The Sidewalks of New York


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.

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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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

-vene/-vention


My wife asked about a possible connection between words that end in –vention. The fact is, many of them are connected because they are based on the Latin motion verb, venire, (past participle ventus), which means to come. The –ion suffix simply turns a verb into a noun. It’s the prefixes that make the big difference.

  • Circum- means around, so to circumvene is to find a way around something.
  • Contra- means against, so to contravene is to come in conflict with something.
  • Con- means with, so to convene is to come together.
  • Inter- means between, so intervene means to come between actions or events.
  • In- means in or inside, so to invent means to come into a situation with a new idea.

There are some obsolete or rare words that share the same root.

  • advention: an extrinsic addition.
  • obvention: an incoming fee or revenue, especially one of an occasional or incidental character.
  • postvention: counselling and other social care given after the experience of a traumatic event, especially to those directly affected by a suicide.
  • subvention: a grant from government or some other authority in support of an enterprise of public importance.

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

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Friday, November 11, 2011

11/11/11


Let’s jump on today’s bandwagon from the perspective of words. Two words—one Greek, one Latin—have influenced some words in English that bear the meaning eleven, In Greek, it was hendeca; in Latin, undecim. Both are the equivalent of 10 + 1.

  • hendecachord: a series or scale of eleven notes.
  • hendecacolic: consisting of eleven cola.
  • hendecagon: a plane figure having eleven sides and eleven angles.
  • hendecagynous: having eleven pistils.
  • hendecahedron: a solid figure contained by eleven faces.
  • hendecandrous: having eleven stamens.
  • hendecaphyllous: (of a leaf) consisting of eleven leaflets.
  • hendecarchy: government by eleven persons.
  • hendecameter: an 11 syllable line written with a trochee followed by a dactyl and 3 trochees in that order.
  • hendecasemic: (prosody) of the value of eleven moræ or units of time.
  • hendecad: a period of eleven years used to adjust the ancient calendar.
  • hendecathlon: an athletic event that requires proficiency in 11 different sports.
  • undecagon: a plane figure having eleven sides and angles.
  • undecennary: given, occurring, or observed every eleventh year, or once in every eleven years.
  • undecimal: characterized in some way by the number eleven.
  • undecimarticulate: having eleven sections.
  • undecimvir: The body of eleven magistrates in ancient Athens.
  • undenary: having a base of eleven.
  • undectet: an eleven-piece band.
  • undecuple: multiplied by eleven.
  • undecennary: given, occurring, or observed every eleventh year, or once in every eleven years.


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.

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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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Rush the Growler


Janet called in to ask about the phrase, to rush the growler. The original growler was a metal pail, with or without a lid. Factory workers would hire children as young as 10 to go to a tavern, then haul the beer back to them. Fathers would send their children to the tavern with a growler at night after the parents got home from work.

The original growler held one quart of beer—four glasses—and the beer cost about 7 cents. When customers began to bring in oversized buckets, bartenders began to rebel, and eventually growlers were banned. Of course, Prohibition didn't hurt.


Here are a couple of contemporary accounts.

“The growler is the latest New York institution. It is a beer can, the legitimate outgrowth of the enforcement of the Sunday liquor law. Young men stand on the sidewalk and drink their beer out of a can, which, as fast as emptied, is sent to be refilled where-ever its bearer can find admittance.” [Trenton NJ Times, June 20, 1883]

“In New York a can brought in filled with beer at a bar-room is called a growler, and the act of sending this can from the private house to the public-house and back is called working the growler”. [Harper’s Magazine, July 1892]

No one is willing to be definitive about the origin. There are several suggestions, a couple of them patently ridiculous.

  • It causes drinkers to growl at each other as they scramble to get their buckets filled.
  • It refers to the growling stomachs of hungry factory workers.
  • When the beer sloshed around in the pail, it created a rumbling or growling sound as the CO2 escaped through the lid.
  • Growling represented the give and take between the bartender and the customer as to what constituted a full pail, the customer demanding to wait until the foaming head went down.

Finally, nostalgic memories of growlers led to this verse:

The old iron growler, the galvanized growler,

The much-dented growler which hung on the wall!

That coveted vessel was hailed as a treasure,

And always at noon, when I took it to fill,

Pa found it the source of an infinite pleasure,

As tired and thirsty he came from the mill.

How quickly he seized it, with hands that were eager,

And deeply he quaffed of the cold, quenching brew,

While I hung around like a guilty intriguer,

Hoping to have what was left when father got through;

The old iron growler, the galvanized growler,

The much-dented growler my infancy knew!

[William J. Fielding, Pebbles from Parnassus, 1917]

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.

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


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Sunday, November 06, 2011

. . . And Counting


Carlos asked about the relationship among the words recount, account, and discount. In all cases, the concept of enumerating or calculating is involved.

  • Account represents a reckoning, and money is usually involved. Eventually, it evolved into a statement explaining one’s actions, whether or not money was involved—in effect, any report or a narrative.
  • Recount can be a synonym for account: a narrative; or, as a verb, to enumerate what happened. Recount can also mean to count for a second time. Some commentators would like to see that meaning spelled as re-count.
  • Discount is a reduction from an amount already determined.

Basically, the –count segment is rather transparent: to enumerate, to calculate, to describe point by point. The word part came into English through the French, but the grandparent was Latin.

A county was the domain of a count, but neither word involved enumeration. Instead, they came from French/Latin words meaning an escort or retinue, since that’s one of the ways they served their monarch.


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.

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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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Pip-Pip Hooray!


Mike from Cadillac asked about the origin of pipsqueak, something that he calls his young dog. It is usually applied to youngsters, especially human children. There are two elements. Pip-pip is an imitation of a repeated, short, high-pitched sound, especially one made by a car or bicycle horn. A squeak is a sound of a thin, high-pitched character made by animals or persons. Both would be characteristic of a childish voice.


Later callers spoke of the many meanings applied to the word pip. There are five noun forms and five verb forms with that spelling.

  • A respiratory disease of birds. v. To remove the scale from the tongue of a fowl affected with the pip.
  • Any of various varieties of apples, or any of the seeds of various fleshy fruits.
  • Each of the dots or symbols on a playing card, die, or domino; a small spot or speck; a small flower; the stars worn on the shoulders of an officer’s uniform to denote rank; a small spike or deflection on a radar screen; a voltage pulse.
  • An arbitrary syllable used for the letter p in telephone communications and in the oral transliteration of code messages.
  • A short, high-pitched electronic tone used as a signal; especially (a) one of a sequence of such tones broadcast over the radio as a time signal or (b) one of a sequence of such tones transmitted over a public telephone line as a signal to the caller to insert more money. v. To sound a horn or to emit a pip as a radio or telephone signal.
  • To chirp.
  • To defeat or to beat narrowly; to hit or wound with a gun; to fail an examination; to die.
  • Of a chick, to crack the shell of an egg when hatching; to give birth.


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


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