Saturday, July 28, 2012

Neat's Foot Oil



Chris from Williamsburg asked about the origin of neat’s foot oil. That’s something I used in my youth to prep a new baseball glove.

Neat’s foot oil is made by boiling the heel of a cow. Neat is a very old word, going back to Old English, meaning a bovine animal, an ox or bullock, a cow or heifer. It is related to a cluster of words in Old Frisian, Swedish, Danish, Icelandic, and Germanic, all of which designated livestock.

The Encyclopedia Brittanica has this: “After the slaughterhouse scraps are rendered in water, the oil is skimmed off, filtered through cloth, and subjected to two pressings, the first yielding pure neat’s-foot oil, used to lubricate fine machinery, the second, a lower grade, used in the textile and leather industries. The solid stearin obtained in the second pressing is used in soap manufacture.”

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Inconcinnity



Occasionally, a word will pop into my mind unbidden—usually a word that I would never actively use. That happened yesterday with the word inconcinnity. I have no idea what the trigger was, but there it was, front and center.

The in- in inconcinnity is the negative prefix. The meaning is inelegance, awkwardness, impropriety, and unsuitableness. And yes, there is a concinnity, meaning skilful and harmonious adaptation or fitting together of parts, harmony, congruity, and consistency.

Some variant forms are

  • concinnate: to put together fitly; to set right, arrange duly or neatly; to trim, adjust, prepare fitly.
  • concinnation: skilfully putting together or properly adjusting.
  • concinne: well fitted together, skilfully arranged; harmonious.
  • concinnus: fitly put together or arranged, harmonious; agreeable, elegant, graceful.

The word is indebted to the Latin concinnus, skilfully put together, well-adjusted.

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.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Diurnal/Nocturnal



Evelyn wrote: “ I know that animals active at night are called nocturnal. Is there a similar word for animals that are active in the daytime?”

The word you are looking for is diurnal. It comes from the Latin word diurnalis, which meant daily. In turn, that came from the Latin word dies, day.

Let’s take a quick look at some words pertaining to day and night.

  • matutinal: of early morning. [< Latin matutinalis, of the morning.]
  • diurnal:  daily or by day. [< Latin diurnālis daily, < diēs day.]
  • hemerine:  of a day, daily. [< Greek hemera, day.] 
  • antemeridian: of the forenoon or morning.  [< Latin ante merīdiem, before noon.] 
  • meridian: of noon or midday. [< Latin merīdiānus, relating to midday.]
  • pomeridian: of the afternoon. [< Latin pōmerīdiānus, variant of postmerīdiānus. 
  • postmeridian: of the afternoon. [< Latin post, after, and meridies, midday.]
  • vespertine: of the evening. [ < Latin vesper, evening.]
  • crepuscular: of twilight. [ < Latin crepusculum, twilight. 
  • nocturnal: of the night. [. nocturnalis, of the night.]


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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.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Coronate



Bob Hagerman from Glen Arbor, Michigan, wrote:   “With all the festivals this time of year, almost each of which requires a queen, perhaps you would be interested in saying a word (or  25) about "to coronate" used as a synonym for "to crown."  (As always, I also object to the use of  "to surveil" as a synonym for the verb “to watch" )

            Coronate is designated rare by the Oxford English Dictionary. The last printed example in the OED dates back to 1847. Surveil, by the way, is a back formation of surveillance, and it seems to have been most popular in the1960s and the 1970s.

            Running counter to this is the fact that entering “coronate” in google results in 313,000 hits, and entering “surveil” brings up 296,000 results. Disappointing, no?



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.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mum's the Word



Susan asked about the phrase, mum’s the word.  Mum is an inarticulate sound made with closed lips. It mimics the way that we pronounce the letter –m-. In fact, if you say an extended –m- and open your lips for just a fraction of a second, you will utter a mum.

Pursing the lips or closing them is a sign of an unwillingness to speak, and that’s what mum signifies: silence, don’t say anything, zip it. A related word is mummer, a masked person in a play, especially a mime, who says nothing so as not to break character. Originally, a mummer was any person who murmured or muttered.

Although normally silent, a mummy has nothing to do with mum.



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.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Mess Hall



Jack saw an episode of The Mentalist that took place on a prep school campus. Prominently displayed in one scene was a sign pointing to the Mess Hall. Why, Jack wonders, is the dining area called a mess?

It came into Anglo-Norman from Old French, which, in turn, was indebted to a Latin word. The basic meaning was a portion of food. In Latin, it was a portion of food sent (missus) from the food preparation area to the dining area. In time, the emphasis moved from a portion of food to the place where it was consumed to the untidy state of a table after a meal to a disheveled person, whether physically or emotionally messed up.

In fact, it went through such a range of meanings that I think it’s instructive to list them as presented in the Oxford English Dictionary.
  • A serving of food; a course; a meal; a prepared dish of a specified kind of food.
  • The quantity of milk given by a cow at one milking.
  • A quantity (of meat, fruit, etc.) sufficient to make a dish.
  • A take or haul of fish, esp. one sufficient to provide a meal.
  • A (usually large) quantity or number of something.
  • A portion or serving of liquid or pulpy food such as milk, broth, porridge, boiled vegetables, etc.
  • A kind of liquid or mixed food for an animal.
  • An unappetizing, unpalatable, or disgusting dish or concoction; an ill-assorted mixture of any kind.
  • A situation or state of affairs that is confused or presents numerous difficulties; a troubled or embarrassed state or condition; a predicament.
  • A dirty or untidy state of things or of a place; a collection of disordered things, producing such a state.
  • A person who is dirty or untidy in appearance; (fig.) a person whose life or affairs are disorganized, esp. due to the influence of drink or drugs used habitually; an ineffectual or incompetent person.
  • Excrement, esp. that of an animal deposited in an inappropriate place.
  • Nonsense, rubbish; insolence, abuse.
  • An entertaining, witty, or puzzling person.
  • Any of the small groups, normally of four people sitting together and served from the same dishes, into which the company at a banquet was usually divided. Hence: any company of persons, esp. members of an institution or professional body, who regularly take their meals together.
  • Each of the groups into which a military unit or ship's company is divided, the members of each group taking their meals together. Later also: the place where meals are taken by such groups; a place where personnel, esp. of similar rank, regularly eat or take recreation together.
  • Military: Mealtime, or a meal, which takes place at a mess.
  • A communal meal.
  • A company or group of four persons or things.

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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.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Crab Apple



Bill from East Bay called to ask where the crab apple got its name. He couldn’t imagine a relationship between a crustacean and a fruit.

As it turns out, there are four separate nouns with the spelling c-r-a-b. Crab1 is the name of the crustacean. It comes from an Old Norse word that meant to scratch or claw. Because of physical resemblance, it is also the name of a sign of the Zodiac and a three-legged frame with tackle for raising heavy weights.

Crab2 comes from a Norse word that meant the fruit of the wild apple tree. There is the implication of smallness, compression, and poor condition. As applied to a person, it means a person with a sour disposition.

Crab3 is a corruption of carap, the name of a South American tree. It produces a nut or seed that is the source of oil used to produce light and also to fight intestinal worms. Versatile would seem to be an appropriate word.

Crab4 is related to crab1, with the original meaning to claw or scratch. It means adverse criticism or objection.


SIDEBAR:  Crab Apple recipes


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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