Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bat


Gary from Cross Village, Michigan, called Words to the Wise to ask why the implement used to strike the ball in baseball is called a BAT. The basic reason is that the word was already long in use in a somewhat similar stick-and-ball game, cricket. It was ripe for borrowing.

Ultimately, it came from a Latin verb that meant to strike. As I mentioned on an earlier program, bat is one of those words that has wildly unconnected meanings, principally because an identical spelling evolved from completely different sources.

·      Flying mammals  [Scandinavian]
    A sports stick or club   [French]
·      A pack-saddle   [French]
·      A spree or binge   [unknown]
·      The colloquial speech of a foreign country  [Hindi]

Other implements used in stick-and-ball games include the following:

·      STICK:  [Latin, to spur on]
·      CLUB:  [Germanic/Scandinavian, a mass of wood]
·      PADDLE: [ Latin, a spade-like implement]
·      RACQUET:  [French, palm-like implement]
·      MALLET:  [French, hammer]


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.





My blog Wordmall has been nominated for the category “Language Professional Blogs”.

The voting phase lasts from May 20
nd to June 9th. During this period, everyone can vote for their favorite language lovers in the five social media categories. The final results will be based on Lexiophiles’ ranking criteria (50%) and user votes (50%). The winners will be announced on June 12th.

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Redneck


Gwen from Lake Ann, Michigan, called in to ask if the term redneck was due to the red clay prevalent in Georgia. It seems to me that redhand would have been the designated term if digging in the dirt had been the cause. The most likely reason for the nickname is the sunburned neck of a farmer working in hot climates. The Dictionary of American Regional English has a citation from 1893: "the poorer inhabitants of the rural districts...men who work in the field, as a matter of course, generally have their skin stained red and burnt by the sun, and especially is this true of the back of their necks".

It started as an insult—a poorly educated white bigot from a rural area in the South. But as time went on, the term was co-opted by people proud to call themselves rednecks because they put a positive spin on it. [Rednecks, white socks, and Blue Ribbon beer

Complicating matters, and leading to heated battles on the internet, is the fact that the term redneck has been used in several historical situations where poor white American Southerners were not involved.

In the mid-17th century, Scots-Irish Presbyterians who refused to embrace the state-sponsored Anglican Church signed petitions (some using their own blood as ink) and wore red pieces of cloth around their necks as a symbol of resistance. Oddly enough, 200 years later, the term redneck was an insult hurled at mackerel-snapping Roman Catholic Irish people. Evidently, God has no favorites.

In the early 20th century, the word redneck was applied to its striking members in Appalachia by the United Mine Workers of America. A red bandana became their symbol of defiance to mine owners.

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.




Words to the Wise has been nominated for the category “Language Professional Blogs”.

The voting phase lasts from May 20
nd to June 9th. During this period, everyone can vote for their favorite language lovers in the five social media categories. The final results will be based on Lexiophiles’ ranking criteria (50%) and user votes (50%). The winners will be announced on June 12th.

If you enjoy this blog, please vote for it here:




Thursday, May 22, 2014

Untenable or Untenuous?


Steve from Traverse City called in to say that he heard President Obama misusing a word. Steve thought he heard the President say that “we are facing an untenuous fiscal situation.”

My first reaction was to agree that untenuous is simply not a word. There is the word tenuous, which means slender, weak, insubstantial. It came from the Latin tenuis, thin.  But it is not negated by adding the prefix un-.

Later, it occurred to me that the President might have used the word untenable. That came from the Latin verb tenere, to hold. Untenable is equivalent to indefensible, incapable of being supported. So I turned to a search engine and found the following in a Reuters News report:

"I realize that we are facing an untenable fiscal situation," he told a meeting of his economic recovery advisory board to discuss strengthening the partnership between community colleges and the private sector. "What I won't do is cut back on investments like education."

It turns out that he didn’t use untenuous after all.

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.



Words to the Wise has been nominated for the category “Language Professional Blogs”.

The voting phase lasts from May 20
nd to June 9th. During this period, everyone can vote for their favorite language lovers in the five social media categories. The final results will be based on Lexiophiles’ ranking criteria (50 %) and user votes (50 %). The winners will be announced on June 12th.

If you enjoy this blog, please vote here:




Saturday, May 17, 2014

Perspicacity


A listener asked about the word perspicacity. It means insight, the ability to go beneath the surface, the act of seeing through a situation. It comes to us from two Latin words: per, through, and specere, to see or observe. Its obsolete opposite was imperspicuity.

Many words have used the –spic– root. They include auspice (patronage or a favorable sign), which came from auspex, the seer who interpreted omens by observing birds. His counterpart practiced haruspication, divination by inspecting animal entrails.

Another old term, occurring in the 17th century, was circumspicuous, something that could be seen from all sides. Conspicuous (plainly evident) is a useful word, as is inconspicuous, its antonym.

Prospicience (foresight) looks forward, and retrospicience looks back, while something despicable is simply looked down upon.

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.






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