Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Spelling: adding suffixes



Brad from Charlevoix expressed exasperation over a spelling issue: deciding whether to double a letter when you add a suffix to a word. It is an issue only if the word ends in a consonant (not a-, e-, i-, o-, or u-). Words ending in a vowel have their own separate problems.

When you add a suffix to a word that ends in two or more consonants side by side, there is no spelling change.
            fill + -ing = filling        snarl + -ed = snarled       world + -ly = worldly

When you add a suffix to a word that ends in a single consonant, the consonant will be doubled if you can answer YES to all 3 of the following questions:

(1) Does the suffix begin with a vowel?
            YES:  -ing, -er, -able                 NO:  -ment, -ful, -ly

(2) Are the last 3 letters of the word a consonant-vowel-consonant in that exact order?
            YES: run, win, forget                 NO:  arm, cry, treat

(3) Does the accent of the word fall on the last syllable? [Single syllable is a yes]
            YES: run, forget, repel              NO: benefit, remember, channel

If you answer NO to any one of the questions above, do not double the final consonant.
            forget + -ful = forgetful            (1) 
            treat + ed = treated                    (2)        
            benefit + ing = benefiting         (3)

[Source: Handbook for Basic Writers by Michael Sheehan & Nancy Sheehan]


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

Nook edition
Check out Mike's program-based books here:
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Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 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.
http://www.co.grand-traverse.mi.us/departments/Commission_on_Aging/The_Senior_Corner__By_Michael_Sheehan.htm


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Scandal



Stephanie asked about the word scandalous, as in scandalous behavior.

The root word is scandal. It comes from the Greek σκάνδαλον (skandalon), which originally meant a snare or a trap that would spring shut on its prey.

In English, the first sense was theological. Scandal was any discredit to religion occasioned by the dubious conduct of a religious authority who was supposed to be an impeccable example. Later, it expanded beyond humans and applied to any stumbling block to faith.

In time, it slipped into the secular realm, becoming any event injurious to one’s reputation, or an insult to the social fabric or sensibility. Because norms varied so widely depending on the era, social class, population density, and other such considerations, some scandals of the past are now seen as laughable. Once upon a time, for instance, it was scandalous for women to wear slacks.

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

Nook edition
Check out Mike's program-based books here:
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Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 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.



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Shotgun



Someone asked about the word shotgun. It’s a smooth-bore gun used for firing small shot, as distinguished from a rifle, which has grooves in the barrel and fires a bullet. The shotgun sacrifices accuracy and distance in favor of scatter and close-up coverage.

The word gun is at the core, and there are many kinds: pop-gun, machine gun, BB gun, handgun, blow gun, air gun, burp gun, flare gun, ray gun, stun gun, and so on.

Professor Skeat (A Concise Dictionary of Middle English) suggested that the word ultimately may have come from the name of an ancient Scandinavian goddess, Gunilda. The name meant war.

Shotgun shows up in many phrases, a few of which are mentioned here.

  • shotgun formation: in football, an offensive formation in which the quarterback sets four or five yards behind the center with the other backfield men split out as flankers. It’s designed to send out as many pass receivers as possible while the QB has more time to throw the ball.
  • shotgun wedding: the father of the pregnant bride forces the wedding with a shotgun.
  • shotgun microphone: a highly directional microphone with a long barrel that is pointed at a distant source of sound.
  • shotgun prescription: medical slang for a prescription containing a great number of drugs of various properties.
  • ride shotgun: stagecoach guards rode shotgun—next to the driver. The term is a relatively modern addition indebted to movies and TV shows. It doesn’t seem to have been used in the heyday of coaches. Children with siblings will “call shotgun” when going for a car ride, meaning "I get to ride in the front passenger seat where the view is less restricted."

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

Nook edition
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.

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



Saturday, November 17, 2012

Scot-Free



Ron from Northport asked about the origin of scot-free. It means without being punished, without consequences. It often shows up as “he got off scot-free.”

There are at least two explanations, one a romantic fabrication and one an actual fact.

The fabrication revolves around a historical figure, Dred Scott. Scott was a slave who sued for his freedom in 1847. After years of legal maneuvering, his case came before the Supreme Court. That august body ruled that all people of African ancestry, whether slave or free, could never become citizens of the United States and therefore could not sue in federal court.

Ulimately, childhood friends of Scot bought him and then set him and his wife free. Sadly, he died only nine months later, Scott-free.

The reality is that the word scot once meant a tax or tribute paid by a feudal tenant to his or her lord or ruler in proportion to the ability to pay. As one R. Higdon put it in 1425, “Scot, that is the paymente of a certeyne money to the vtilite of the lorde.”

So if you got off scot-free, you didn’t have to pay the tax or tribute.


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

Nook edition
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.

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




Saturday, November 10, 2012

Nao-



The Greek word ναός (naos) is at the core of a very small number of English words. Naos is defined as an ancient Greek temple, specifically, the innermost part of a temple or shrine.

Naology is the study of sacred buildings. Its adjective form is naological – of or relating to the study of sacred buildings.

Naometry is the numerological analysis of biblical accounts of the dimensions of the Temple of Solomon.The word owes its existence to the long-lost text of the Naometria of Simon Studion, a 16th century German mystic.

The temple dimensions are found in 1 Kings 6:2, 2 Chronicles 3:2, and Ezekiel 41:2. The thinking was that manipulation of these numbers would lead to prophetic revelations.

Lots of luck with that.


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.

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



Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Wake



Glen asked how the wake of a ship and a wake for a dead person are connected. The short answer: they’re not.

As far as a ship goes, its wake is the smooth track it leaves on the surface of the water as it passes through. That wake came from an Old Norse word that meant a hole or a channel in ice.

In the funeral sense, a wake is connected to the word that means not sleeping. A wake in the original sense was a vigil kept during the night by the deceased’s family and friends. An old joke says that it was to make sure that the S.O.B. didn’t wake up, but it was really a religious observance. This wake came from Germanic/Scandinavian terms that meant a night-watch.

There is a third noun spelled w-a-k-e, and it comes from a completely different source. It is an obsolete name for a North African bird. The name was an attempt to imitate the sound that the bird makes as it flies.

SIDEBAR:  Dies Irae


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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.





Saturday, November 03, 2012

Slab



Someone asked where Traverse City’s Slabtown got its name. Located at the west end of Front Street, it was once populated by mill workers who built houses for themselves out of wood scraps taken from the sawmills. The flat, broad, and comparatively thick pieces of wood were called slabs.

The Oxford English Dictionary opts for obscure origin, but points out that the word has been applied to all kinds of material that can take that form. Metal was molded into oblong pieces called slabs before being rolled. So were small chunks of glass. Irregular masses of rubber were called slabs, as were rectangular blocks of pre-cast reinforced concrete used in high rises. A flat piece of wood or stone used as a table was called a slab; think of a mortuary table. A slab of bacon was an unsliced chunk, and a slab cake was baked in a large rectangular pan.

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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