Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sally Port



Tim from Traverse City asked about sally port. A sally port is an entryway, but unlike a normal door or opening, it is scrupulously secure and controlled. It shows up in fortifications, prisons, police stations, courthouses, and some places of business, such as a jewelry store.

In a fort, a barrier of some sort—often a thick floor-to-ceiling wall or a huge latticed grill raised and lowered on chains by a winch—is built in front of an inner door to make a direct assault by enemy troops impossible. But there was a small, concealed door through which castle occupants could sneak out unexpectedly to whittle away at a siege. They would sally forth or sortie through a sally port.

In a prison, it may be an airlock—two locked doors or gates separated by an enclosed space.  The second door won’t open until the first one is locked, thus trapping the persons entering until they can be examined. I remember a jewelry store on the south side of Chicago that would trap you between two bullet-proof doors until the clerk looked you over and buzzed you in—or back out.

The word port is ultimately from the Latin porta, a door.  Sally came into English from a French word that meant to rush forth. In turn, that came from the Latin salīre, to jump.

Tom from Cedar wrote to say that there is a naval equivalent, and he cited The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, edited by Peter Kemp. On a warship, a sally port was one of four openings cut into the side of a ship to allow sailors to escape quickly in the event of a hit to the stored gunpowder. It was also applied to the entry of a three-decker warship during the days of sail. Finally, it was a specific landing place in Portsmouth Harbor, England, used by landing boats transporting sailors to and from men-of-war anchored in the harbor.

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

Nook edition


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.






Sunday, April 27, 2014

Get it?


Mike from Traverse City asked if it’s ever correct to use the verb got.  Hypercorrectionists have a field day with this one. Some go so far as to say never use get or got, but as one caller pointed out, the three absolutely legitimate principal parts for that verb are get/got/gotten. At the same time, we have to acknowledge that this verb is rife with ambiguity.

Get is the present tense. I get your point. Add the words shall or will, and you’re dealing with the future: I will get groceries while I’m in town. Use the word get as a command, and you’re using the imperative form: Get real!

Got is the simple past tense: I got her point immediately. But it’s also an alternative past participle form: He hasn’t got a clue. We also use it to express necessity: You have got to get a job!  But it can express incredulity, too: You have got to be kidding!

Gotten is the past participle form: I have gotten goose bumps just listening to your experience. Alternatively, we could say, “I got goose bumps just listening to your experience.” “Have gotten” seems to be more common in American usage than in British usage. But the line between colloquial use and formal use is often less than boldly drawn.

It would not be Standard English to say, “You got to slow down” if you mean “You must slow down” or “You have got to slow down.” Another common use of “got” that is colloquial, not standard, is exemplified by the advertising slogan, “Got milk?” Formal use would be “Do you have milk?” or “Have you got milk?” Equally common colloquial use is, “Hey, got a minute?” instead of “Do you have a minute” or “Have you got a minute?”

“I got drenched in the thunder storm” “is just fine. “I got a problem with that” is not. Then there’s a large, gray area. “I got to go to the show” is OK if you mean, “I had the opportunity to attend the show.”  But it’s wrong if you mean, “I must leave now in order to attend the show.”

Finally, some people object to the technically correct “You’ve got mail” as redundant, insisting that “You have mail” is sufficient. To some degree that’s defensible, but “You got mail” is not.

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

Nook edition


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.





Monday, April 21, 2014

Preheat/Reconfirm/Overpay


I received three “Is that really a word?” inquiries last week.  There’s a strong subjective element involved. The questioner will often say, “that just doesn’t sound right.”

Kelley objected to the phrase preheat the oven, claiming that you are simply heating the oven. Preheating would involve a cold oven. I’m afraid that it doesn’t quite work that way. The pre- in preheat doesn’t mean “the state before heat was introduced.” It means “to heat the oven before the food is introduced.” The first example in the Oxford English Dictionary tracks back to 1862.

Charles didn’t like the word reconfirm. Even if there’s repeated action, he maintained, each instance is a confirmation. The Oxford English Dictionary begs to differ, defining reconfirm as “to confirm, ratify, or establish anew.”  It cites 1587 as the first example.

Michael has a problem with the word overpay, as in are you afraid to overpay? It means to compensate someone beyond what is actually owed. I’m not sure what his objection is—perhaps he would prefer pay too much—but the OED gives the first instance as 1590, so it’s been around for a while.

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

Nook edition


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






Friday, April 11, 2014

Read the Riot Act


To read someone the riot act is to berate that person for unwanted behavior and to threaten him or her with consequences if the behavior doesn’t cease.

The fact is, there was an actual Riot Act, and it was passed into law in Great Britain in 1715. In case you want to read it to someone, here it is:

Our Sovereign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the act made in the first year of King George, for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies. God Save the King!

The idea was that if someone in an official capacity came across agitators in a party of twelve or more, the Riot Act would be read. If they did not disperse within the next 60 minutes, they could be arrested and charged with a capital crime.

The specific reason for the Act was the fear of the new Hanoverian regime that rebellious Jacobite forces would overturn them and restore the old order. It was taken quite seriously, as this quote from Charles James’ A new and enlarged military dictionary of 1802, indicates: “Soldiers are not to fire on rioters until the riot act has been read.”

SIDEBAR: The Riot Act

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

Nook edition

Check out Mike's other 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.






Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Pore or Pour?


I found this in the Traverse City Record-Eagle (AP) 4/7/14, 6B:  “[As an NBA player] point guard [Kevin Ollie] devoured information, pouring over scouting reports and game film, looking at tendencies and statistics—whatever he could to keep himself out on the floor.”

Unless he was spilling his Gatorade over those reports and films, he was actually poring over them. It seems to me that the once impeccable Associated Press has been slipping in its editing practices in recent years.

As a verb, pore means to examine something with rigorous attention. It’s found in English beginning in the 14th century. The Oxford English Dictionary declares the origin unknown, but speculates that it might be connected to the dialectical pire (to peer closely), but going from a long –i– sound to a long –o– sound poses difficulties.

As a noun, pore means an opening, a duct, on the skin surface. It came from the Greek πόρος (poros), a passage or a channel. It also appeared in English in the 14th century.

The verb pour means to emit in a stream. It may have come from a Middle French word meaning to decant a liquid, and it, too, appeared in English in that hyperactive 14th century.

In sum, you may pour wine into a glass, then pore over its surface to detect sediment. Never, under any circumstances, pore wine into a glass.

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

Nook edition

Check out Mike's other 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.





Dona Sheehan's prints