Saturday, March 25, 2017

Seeing What’s Not There


The Science channel carries a program named What on Earth? The program examines mysterious images captured by satellite cameras and tries to determine what is actually being seen.

Last week, the program discussed what appeared to be a large face engraved on a Ukrainian field.  The optical illusion turned out to be uneven terrain, but it illustrated a well-known phenomenon: the tendency for humans to impose a pattern even upon random features. We are wired to make sense of what we see even when what we see doesn’t actually make sense.

I was long aware of the phenomenon, but I had never encountered its name until this program. It’s called pareidolia, and it’s a common phenomenon. Human faces and their expressions are very important to us from infancy on. It explains why we see faces in clouds, in ink blots, in geological features, on tree bark, on the surface of the moon, and even on toast and muffins. Of course, it can expand in scope so that we see animals, buildings, other anatomical features, and so on.

The word derives from the Greek words para (παρά), instead of, and eidōlon (εδωλον), image, form, or shape.



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, March 21, 2017

Paraprosdokian


Joan from Torch Lake reminded me of a figure of speech that is delightful to encounter. It involves a sentence in which the last half presents a twist in meaning – an unexpected conclusion – that causes the listener to go back to the first half to reinterpret the meaning of a term.

This is a good example: “Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.” In the first half, we immediately interpret change as alteration or transformation. But when we get to vending machine, we are forced to shift the meaning of change to coins.

This figure of speech is called paraprosdokian. It comes from the Greek παρά (para-), against, and προσδοκία (prosdokia), expectation. Let me share some examples.

·      Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.
  • A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
  • Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
  • Light travels faster than sound. That’s why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
  • War does not determine who is right - only who is left.
  • You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  • Hospitality: making your guests feel like they're at home, even if you wish they were.
  • I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.
        Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.

 

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, March 07, 2017

Vowels in a Row


 Bill from Merritt, Michigan, asked if there are any words that contain all five vowels in order. The answer is yes. Helping matters greatly is the existence of the common suffix –ious/-ous, meaning characterized by or full of. That leaves us the task of frontloading words with the letters a and e. I used a wildcard search in the online Oxford English Dictionary to find the following examples. The ones marked with an asterisk are now obsolete or rare.

·      abstemious (moderate)
·      abstentious (self-denying)
·      acedious (slothful)
·      acerbitous (bitter or harsh)
·      acheilous (lipless)
·      adventious (variant of adventitious, extraneous or by chance)
·      aerious (airy)
·      affectious* (loving)
·      alpestrious* (mountainous)
·      anemious (growing in windy conditions)
·      annelidous (pertaining to a worm)
·      arsenious (containing arsenic)
·      arterious (arterial)
·      arteriosus (prolongation of the right ventricle in mammals)
·      caesious (bluish-gray)
·      fracedinous (producing heat through putrefaction)
·      materious (composed of matter)
·      parecious (proximity of reproductive organs in mosses)
·      placentious* (complaisant
·      tragedious* (tragic)

Remember that –y is sometimes used as a vowel, so if you want to expand the list, add –y to the words that sustain an adverb form, such as facetiously, abstemiously, and tragediously.

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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