Saturday, December 29, 2012

Affect the Effect



A posting on a web site made it to Facebook today. “Rule 8: Affect is a verb and effect is a noun.” Actually, that is not correct. Both words can be verbs and both words can be nouns.

AFFECT:
  • Noun: feeling or emotion (used primarily in the field of psychology).
    The patient’s face showed no affect at all; he was impossible to read.
  • Verb: to have an influence on (substitute the word “change” as a test). Rheumatic fever can affect the heart.

EFFECT:
  • Noun: Something produced, brought about by a cause (substitute the word “result” or “outcome” to check.      The incident had a deleterious effect on our relationship.
  • Verb: to bring into existence or to produce (substitute the word “create” to check).  Specific genes effect specific bodily characteristics.

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

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Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 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, December 26, 2012

With Bated Breath



Doug from Traverse City asked about the origin of what is now a cliché: with bated breath. Bated is a shortened version of abated, meaning reduced, limited, subdued, stopped. So if you are waiting with bated breath, you are holding your breath in suspense, shock, terror, or some other arresting emotion. By the way, the word is increasingly being spelled incorrectly as baited. Don’t swallow that hook.

Bated tracks back to a Latin word that meant to knock down. If you are knocked down, you are stopped in your tracks, and action is stymied. A few words were built on that root. They include abate, abatement, debate, and rebate.

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

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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.



Sunday, December 23, 2012

Some Christmas Words



stable: Latin stabulum, stable, stall, enclosure or fold for animals; literally, a standing place, from stāre to stand.

crèche:  came through French from the German, where it meant a receptacle for fodder, a food rack or crib for animal feed. Now it’s a representation of the infant Jesus with attending figures.

manger: a long open trough in a stable used to hold fodder for animals. From the French manger, to eat.

fodder: food for cattle, especially hay or straw.. From a Germanic word meaning to feed.

stall:  each compartment in a stable holding a single animal. From a Germanic word meaning to stand.

nativity:  now used exclusively to describe the birth of Jesus, it comes from a Latin word that means birth or origin.

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

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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.




Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tad, Skosh, and Other Small Matters



Doug from Traverse City asked about the words tad and skosh. Both mean a very small amount. Tad showed up in print around 1940. It is probably a shortened form of tadpole, the early stage of a frog or toad. Skosh showed up in print around 1951. It came from a Japanese word, sukoshi, that meant short or just a little. The word was picked up by American soldiers stationed in the orient.

There are formal words to express a small amount, such as scintilla, a minute particle (from the Latin), but the informal, colloquial, and slang terms are more entertaining. Let’s look at a few.
  • dab [1729] a small or trifling amount. From a dialectical use of the word that meant a slight blow or slap with the back of the hand. 
  • smidgen  [1845] a small amount. Possibly a variation of smitch, a particle or bit [1840]
  • bit  [1200]  a small amount (of food). From bite.
  • jot [1526] a very small amount.  From iota, the smallest Greek letter.
  • speck [1400] A small or minute particle of something. From the Dutch speckle, a speck.
  • nip [1736] a small quantity (of spirits). Possibly from the Dutch nippen, to sip.
  • mite [1375] an insignificant amount. Figurative use of a Dutch word that meant a small coin of low value.
  • shred [1000] a scrap or fragment. From a Frisian word meaning a clipping from a coin.
  • ort [1325] a scrap or fragment (of food). From a Frisian word meaning fodder left by cattle.

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

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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.






Saturday, December 15, 2012

Key



Even native speakers of English sometimes have trouble with words because of a confusing feature: multiple meanings. If a word is old enough, it probably will have accumulated layers of meaning—sometimes astonishingly contradictory.

Richard from Empire, Michigan, pointed out that such a word is key. The meaning that comes to mind immediately is the notched metal device used to lock or unlock a door or other barrier. From there, it becomes a wild ride. Branching meanings include
  • spiritual authority (Matthew 16:19)
  • a symbol of office
  • a symbol of access, as in key to the city
  • a means to a desired objective
  • a position with strategic advantages
  • a bribe or inducement
  • a solution or explanation
  • a means of decrypting a code or cipher
  • the part of a textbook  that contains solutions
  • a list containing an explanation of symbols, abbreviations, etc.
  • in botany and zoology, descriptive features used in identification
  • an essential element
  • in chess, the first move in the solution of a problem
  • a central stone in an arch
  • a piece of wood or metal that locks parts together
  • a dry fruit
  • an instrument for turning tuning pegs of a stringed instrument
  • an instrument for winding a clock
  • a component that opens or closes a valve
  • the roughness of a surface that enables plaster to adhere to it
  • the free-throw lane and circle in basketball
  • a note or a tone
  • the tenor of a piece of writing
  • the prevailing tones in a painting
  • a lever on a musical instrument
  • a lever on a telegraph, computer, etc.
  • something of crucial importance

Then there’s the key that means a low-lying island or reef and the slang use of key that means a kilogram of an illegal drug,

Now I’m all keyed up.

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

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Glaring Rockets



Bernie from Boyne Falls asked about a phrase that appears in the Star-Spangled Banner: the rockets’ red glare. Basically, he expressed surprise that rockets existed in 1814, when Fort McHenry was attacked by the British naval vessel Erebus.

Indeed, they did exist in that era. The British stole the idea from India, which waged war with rockets against the British in the late 1700’s.  Colonel William Congreve brought samples back to Great Britain and made it his business to improve upon them. The Congreve rocket, as it came to be called, was designed to be launched from ships.

Francis Scott Key witnessed the rocket and mortar attack against Fort McHenry on September 13 and 14, 1814. They were launched from onboard batteries that consisted of a wooden box housing many metal firing tubes. The rockets weighed about 30 pounds, and they were designed to embed themselves in a target before an incendiary charge burst into flames. [The illustration above shows a different model.]

The word rocket came from a Latin word, rocheta, and it meant a projectile. It had a cousin in a word that meant a bobbin, a cylindrical wooden object around which thread would be wound. The military rocket had a similar shape.

The Oxford English Dictionary summarizes it this way: “A cylindrical projectile that can be propelled to a considerable height or distance by the combustion of its contents and the backward ejection of waste gases, usually giving a burst of light and used for signalling, in maritime rescue, for entertainment, and as a weapon.”



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

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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.




Saturday, December 08, 2012

Word of the Year Lists



Word of the Year lists begin to sprout this time of year. Many of them are banal, the product of trend-focused minds or curmudgeonly prejudices. One of them that is actually interesting is Merriam-Webster’s list. Rather than being based on ephemeral categories such as new words or quirky words or words detested by curmudgeons, M-W’s list records the top ten words actually looked up on their web site in any given year. That is useful information. You’ll find this year’s list at  http://www.merriam-webster.com/info/2012words.htm

The other list that I find interesting is the one posted by the American Dialect Society after a membership vote at its annual January conference. I find it useful because it comes from professional wordsmiths. In addition to overall word of the year, ADS has many subcategories, including most useful, most creative, most unnecessary, most outrageous, most euphemistic, most likely to succeed, and least likely to succeed.

Some of the words submitted to the nominating list so far include vulture capitalist, the combining form crypto- (as in cryptomuslim, cryptocapitalist, cryptoliberal), Rick Perry moment, twitterverse, spaghetti model, and my personal favorite, butt-chugging (an alcohol enema).




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

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Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Fetch!



Variations of the word fetch have been one of the topics of conversation on my last two programs. First, the word fetching, meaning attractive and alluring, came up. It derived from the idea of fetching—grabbing or snaring something. Beauty will grab one’s attention.

The following Tuesday, Liz from Sutton’s Bay and George from Petoskey contributed nautical meanings of the word. Liz mentioned that it is an act of tacking. George pointed out that it also refers to the distance that waves can travel continuously without obstruction.

There are other meanings for fetch as a noun. In fact, there are three unconnected nouns spelled identically.

Fetch 1 includes the meanings covered above, and several others:
  • the act of bringing from a distance
  • a sweeping motion
  • a trick or stratagem
  • a sigh or difficulty in breathing
  • a game bird decoy
  • as fetch-about, an evasive wordiness, a circumlocution
Fetch 2 meant the apparition, double, or wraith of a living person. If it appears to you in the morning, it means long life. If it appears in the evening, don’t buy unripened fruit; you’ll never get to eat it.

Fetch 3 was a variant of fish—not the finny creature, but a long piece of hard wood used to strengthen or brace a mast or spar.

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

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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, December 01, 2012

Shades of Gray





I haven’t been able to find 50, but discovering 15 different word parts signifying various shades of gray isn’t shabby.
  • ash-gray: tephr- (tephroite) and has- (hasard) and spodio- (spodiosite)
  • blue-gray:  caesi- (caesius)
  • brown-gray: bis- (biset)
  • dark bluish-gray: peli- (peliosis)
  • dusky-gray:  phaeo- (phaeophyll) and pheo- (pheochrome)
  • flax-gray:  grid- (gridelin)
  • green-gray:  glas- (glastum)
  • iron-gray:  feran- (ferant)
  • pale-gray:  polio- (poliomyelitis)
  • pearl-gray:  gris- (griseous)
  • silvery-gray:  glauco- (glaucodont)
  • white-gray:  can- (canescent)

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

Nook edition
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.

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



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