Friday, November 27, 2015

Assume & Presume

Ron asked if there’s an appreciable difference between the words assume and presume. Each has several meanings, so they do diverge at times, but the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives this meaning for assume—“to take for granted”—and this meaning for presume—“to take for granted.”

Both are based on the Latin verb sumere, to take up. So is the word consume, and the word subsume, which means to include an item in something more comprehensive or to encompass it as a component element.

Many of the words built on the Latin sumere are now obsolete. They include

·      absume: to diminish or carry off;

·      desume: to borrow or derive;

·      forsume: to waste or consume;

·      insume: to take in or absorb;

·      introsume: to take medicine internally;

·      transume: to make an official copy of a legal document.


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, November 15, 2015

Bail & Bale




Kent from Traverse City asked about the connection between a bale of hay and the bail pledged to get out of jail. It turns out that there is no connection. The words are homophones—they’re pronounced the same—but their spelling and meaning are totally different.

The Oxford English Dictionary lists four words spelled b-a-i-l. Their identical spelling is a quirk of history.

·      A handing over or delivery.
·      A half-hoop for supporting the cover of a wagon.
·      A container used to remove water from a boat.
·      An outer line of fortification.
·      A cross bar.
 
Three nouns spelled b-a-l-e are also listed.

·      Evil with the power to injure or destroy.
·      A great consuming conflagration.
·      A large bundle or package.



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, November 01, 2015

Dribs & Drips


Traverse City Record-Eagle headline: Shipwrecks pose threat to U.S. waters
[Nov 1, 2015, 3b]

”Past leaks have shown that the oil usually comes out in drips and drabs rather than gushes, lessening the worry of a full-scale catastrophe and the need for urgent action in most cases.” (AP)

The clichéd doublet isn’t used all that much, so it’s not surprising that it was modified in this article in an attempt to make it sound a bit more logical. However, the phrase is actually dribs and drabs, and the first written instance in the Oxford English Dictionary dates to 1809: “Whether it be better to have a little [news] and often, or a great deal and seldom, I leave to your better judgment to determine... You may have it in dribs and drabs if you like it better.  [E. Weeton Let. 17 Mar. in Jrnl. of Governess (1969) I. 158]

The OED defines a drib as a drop or an inconsiderable quantity of something; the word dribble is related. A drab was a small or petty sum of money. Pairing the two was redundant, but reduplication (as in bits and pieces) is often seen as attractively ear-catching.

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 year’s worth of podcasts of Words to the Wise there under Audio.




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