Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Assonance & Alliteration



On yesterday’s show, Ron asked about the difference between assonance and alliteration. Both terms apply to poetic techniques.

Assonance is the deliberate repetition of similar vowel sounds, usually with a specific effect in mind, such as soothing or alarming. The appeal is to the ear, which is why most poetry should be read aloud, even when alone. The word comes from the Latin ad-, toward, and sonare, to sound.

Tennyson’s Lotos-eaters uses assonance to duplicate the drowsiness that a drug user might feel:
            The Lotos blooms below the barren peak:
            The Lotos blows by every winding creek:
            All day the wind breathes low with mellower tone
            Thro’ every hollow cave and alley lone,
            Round and round the spicy downs the yellow Lotos-dust is blown.

Alliteration is the deliberate repetition of similar consonant sounds, especially at the beginning of words. (Accidental alliteration is also a consideration since there are more consonants than vowels.) The word comes from the Latin ad-, toward, and littera, letter.

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven used alliteration. Notice the predominant D’s here:
            Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,              
            Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before

And in this section of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s The Windhover, notice the outbreak of M’s and D’s:
               I caught this morning morning's minion, king -
               dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
               Of the rolling level underneath him steady air . . .


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

Now available as an ebook

Check out Mike's program-based books here:
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Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.

Visit The Senior Corner, a web site containing information for senior citizens.



Saturday, October 27, 2012

Nag, Nag, Nag



The word nag came up on last Tuesday’s program. The question was, how can it convey two such very different meanings?

One meaning is a horse, especially an old or feeble one. The Oxford English Dictionary says that the origin is uncertain, but then it goes on to cite an early modern Dutch word—negge, a small horse.

The other nag means to scold, find fault, or persistently complain. The OED points to a nexus of Scandinavian words as the source. They meant to rub, grumble, complain, or irritate.

SIDEBAR:  Joan Jett’s Nag


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Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.






Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Query About Quarry



Sylvia wrote, “I grew up near Rogers City, the location of a huge limestone quarry. At the same time, my Uncle Henry, who was an avid hunter, used to refer to the quarry that he was going to kill when he went hunting. It confused me then and it still does, so I’m glad I stumbled across your program. Can you clear this up for me?”

One of the more confusing things about language is that words that end up with identical spellings can have absolutely no connection to each other, either in origin or meaning. Such is the case here.

In one case, quarry is a surface excavation where stone is removed for building or construction purposes. It owes its existence to a Latin word that meant to square off. Blocks of quarry material are cut, blasted, or otherwise removed, then refined into squareness.

In the other case, quarry refers to prey, an animal pursued and taken in a hunt. Originally, it designated the chunks of meat taken from an animal and given to the hounds as a reward for their work. The meat was placed on the deer’s hide, and that’s where this quarry came from – a Latin word meaning an animal hide.

To further complicate things, quarry can also refer to a small diamond-shaped pane of glass. Occasionally, the pane can be square, so we’re back to the first Latin word mentioned above.

Check out Mike's program-based books here:
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Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.

Visit The Senior Corner, a web site containing information for senior citizens.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Senior Corner

The Senior Corner is an informational web site for senior citizens. It has been online since 1994. While it is primarily directed at seniors, their families, and their caregivers who live in northern Michigan, it contains links that will be of interest to others.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hail-Fellow or Hale-Fellow?



Bill Froelich from WTCM asked about a word he encountered while reading: hail-fellow or hale-fellow. He wasn’t sure of the spelling.   

I haven’t found a definitive answer yet. There are two possibilities. First, and most probable, if it is spelled hail-fellow, it is probably a shortened version of hail-fellow-well-met, defined as an affable, outgoing person, someone easy to be with in a social situation. An example from 1688 reads, "Let not your Servants be over-familiar or haile fellow with you."

If it’s spelled hale-fellow, it would refer to a healthy person. Hale is connected to the word heal. Hale is an interesting word with several layers of meaning.
  • health, well-being
  • a nook; a secret place
  • a structure with a roof but with open sides
  • a haul of fish
  • the two handles of a plough or wheel
  • a halo

Check out Mike's program-based books here:
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Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.

Visit The Senior Corner, a web site containing information for senior citizens.



Saturday, October 13, 2012

Inspired by a Spire



Another example of accidental spelling involves the word spire and the combining form –spire. Though it looks as if they have a common ancestor, they do not. The identical spelling was due to chance.

The word spire comes from a Scandinavian/Germanic form that meant a sprout or sprig. Its early meaning was a tall and slender plant stalk. It evolved through the top of a tree, a reed, a conical pointed body, the prong of a deer’s horn, a column, and the tapering portion of a steeple.

The combining form –spire came from the Latin adspirare, to breathe into or to breathe forth. So when prefixes are added to –spire, you can hear heavy breathing in the background. Examples include
  • aspire: to long and pant for something.
  • conspire: to breathe together as one.
  • inspire: to breathe into.
  • perspire: to breathe (pass) through.
  • respire: to breathe again.
  • suspire: occurring under the breath – a sigh.
  • transpire: to breathe across – to leak a secret.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Klaxon



Tina came across the word klaxon in her reading and commented that it sounded like the name of an alien race in Star Trek. “Never turn your back on a Klaxon,” she wrote.

Klaxon is the name of a company that makes warning horns that have a loud, piercing sound. If you’ve ever watched a movie featuring submarines, you will remember the aHOOga sound that screams from the speakers when the vessel is about to submerge.

The klaxon was developed in the early part of the 20th century, and the rights to it were  purchased by a New Jersey Company. Now it seems to be a British company.

The original company came up with the “Klaxon” name. It was based on a Greek verb meaning to make a sharp, piercing sound. Sophocles applied the verb to the screeching or shrieking of birds, while Homer referred to the screaming of cranes.

SIDEBAR:  klaxon   


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

Now available as an ebook

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

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Getting All Proper



Miriam writes,  “I came across a reference to a proper name. What would be an example of an improper name? Would it be a nickname or a vulgarity?”

Like so many words in our language, “proper” has layers of meaning. Often, we must revert to context to determine which multiple meaning is involved.

You are matching the meaning decent or respectable to its opposite, improper. In this case, proper means “one’s own,” and its opposite would be something like “common” or “widespread.” It comes from the Latin proprius, one’s own.

In grammar, a proper noun refers to a specific person, place, product, etc. Traditionally, proper nouns are capitalized. A common noun applies to all individuals in a category, and it is not capitalized. Man would be a common noun or name; Thomas would be a proper name.

Other meanings attached to proper are immaculate, capable, elegant, private, decorous, authentic, respectable, normal, admirable, and complete.


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Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Seasonable vs. Seasonal



Teri asked about the difference between seasonable and seasonal. In our day, they have different shades of meaning—although, to be fair, there can be some areas of overlap.

Seasonable means occurring during the right season. Think of synonyms such as opportune, appropriate, fitting, or congruous. Snow is seasonable in January here in Michigan. High temperatures are seasonable in summer.

Seasonal means characteristic of a particular season. It reflects things that change with the seasons, such as employment or merchandise. Being a ski lift operator is a seasonal job, as is being a lifeguard at a beach. Sales of snow throwers and lawn mowers are seasonal.

But you could say that selling snow throwers in winter is a seasonable activity and that selling lawn mowers in summer is a seasonable activity. That’s an instance of a slight overlap, though the original distinction is maintained by careful wording.

The characteristic error involves calling a ski lift operator or a beach lifeguard seasonable occupations. They are seasonal. Here is a misuse taken from a web site: “There are a tremendous amount of jobs that helicopter pilots do on a day to day basis. There are also quite a few that are done on a seasonable basis. Agricultural spraying is one of those seasonable jobs.”

Make that seasonal—twice.


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

Now available as an ebook
Check out Mike's program-based books here:

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.
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