Friday, November 25, 2016

Aftermath

                                                           [Winslow Homer]

William from Charlevoix asked about the word aftermath. Its origin is unexpected, to say the least. The after segment predictably means coming at a later time. The math segment comes from Germanic words that meant to mow. 

Originally, aftermath meant a second crop of grass that springs up after the first has been harvested. It was once accompanied by day’s math, an area of land that can be mown by one person in one day, the synonym lattermath, and undermath, an undergrowth of grass or other vegetation.

Aftermath later developed into a period of time that follows a significant event, and a consequence or effect remaining after something has ceased to be.

The word math, an abbreviation for mathematics, had an entirely different source. It came from a Greek word that meant something learned, knowledge. That root is used in automath, a self-taught person, misomath, a person who hates mathematics, opsimath, a person who begins to learn late in life, philomath, a lover of learning, and polymath, a person who has studied many disciplines.

There is a third math, not connected to the previous two. It comes from a Sanskrit word that means a cell. In South Asia, a math is a monastery meant for celibate Hindu mendicants.

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, November 22, 2016

Entitled to be Titled


Buzz from Traverse City called in a pet peeve. He said he flinches when he sees a sentence such as the following: “The book is entitled the Art of Fishing.” He maintains that the word should be titled.

That’s been my practice, too, but it seems that we are both on shifting sands here. The Chicago Manual of Style Blog characterizes the strict distancing of titled and entitled as a zombie rule. Both words are synonyms when they mean named.

The use of “a book entitled” turns out to be older than “a book titled.” Google Books Ngram Viewer makes that quite clear:


While both words are synonyms when they mean named, titled has surged to the forefront in recent times when talking about the name of a book, article, film, song, etc. That’s because entitled – thanks to government – is often saved to mean having a legal right to something. American entitlements are programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

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, November 12, 2016

Lame Duck



[Credit: Library of Law and Liberty]

Since President Obama is finishing his second term, he is known as a lame duck president. The phrase refers to any politician who has lost an election or is term-limited out and can serve only until the following January. It used to be until March because of travel difficulties in earlier times, but the 20th amendment to the Constitution cut that back to eliminate unwanted extra dead weight.

The term lame duck originated in the 18th century London stock market. It referred to a broker who couldn’t cover his losses, comparing him to an injured duck which drags itself away in shame.

In reading material to remind myself about the history of this term, I came across a very curious statement. It was written by someone named Kimberly Amadeo, and it appeared on a web site named The Balance. This is the current location

What caught my attention was this sentence: “In politics, President Lincoln first used the phrase lame duck when referring to outgoing President Calvin Coolidge.” I think not. President Lincoln died in 1865. Calvin Coolidge wasn’t born until 1872, and his term as President ran from 1923 to 1929. Unless Lincoln was stunningly clairvoyant, this statement is very strange, indeed.

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