Friday, February 26, 2016

Indolence


Tanya asked about the word indolence. These days, it is a classy way of saying laziness, sloth, inertia. Lethargy, languor, and torpidity are upper-level synonyms. The literary level is represented by hebetude.

The strange thing is that indolence originally meant without pain. The in- prefix is a negative form, and the -dol- root came from a Latin word that meant pain. Originally, indolence was freedom from pain. Often, it referred to a painless tumor, one that was growing slowly.

When we offer our condolences to someone who has lost a loved one, we are sharing their emotional pain. A dol was once a unit designed to measure the intensity of pain. A dolorimeter is an instrument that measures sensitivity to pain. Dolor is a fancy word for pain or sorrow.

In the early 18th century, indolence came to mean the disposition to avoid trouble and painful circumstances and to embrace ease.

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, February 21, 2016

Shot


 Mark asked why we use the word shot in the phrase a shot and a beer.   Shot comes from an Old English word—sceot—that described a darting, rapid motion. When most Americans drink from a shot glass, they do not sip delicately; they throw the contents back quickly, swallowing in one go.

Shot is an interesting word because it has so many meanings. It is

·      the discharge of a weapon (the shot heard ‘round the world)
·      an attempt in sports to score (the shot was wide of the net)
·      a picture opportunity for a camera (a great shot of the sunset)
·      a hypodermic injection (get your flu shot)
·      an attempt to do something (give it a shot)
·      an uninformed guess (shot in the dark)
·      an important person (big shot)
·      an unfairly critical remark (cheap shot)
·      metal pellets in a cartridge (bird shot)
·      an attempt to reach a distant target via rocket (a moon shot)
·      a boost to one’s spirits (a shot in the arm)


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.





Wednesday, February 10, 2016

'Twere


“Twere is a contraction of a form of the verb to be. In full, it is written as it were, a subjunctive form. I bring it up because it is used in a scene in the Coen Brothers’ movie, Hail, Caesar.

In that scene, a movie director becomes increasingly frustrated by an actor’s inability to say a simple line: “would that it ‘twere so simple.” The actor has a history of playing westerns, but he has been thrust unwillingly into a British drawing-room drama, where he obviously is out of place.

The problem is that ‘twere already contains the pronoun it as a contraction. So the line literally reads, “would that it it were so simple.” A double it? That’s redundancy.


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