Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Monday, February 27, 2006
Today's Word: Stilliform
Friday, February 24, 2006
Life is Just A Bowl of Back-Formations
Kudo may raise some folks' linguistic hackles, but two other respectable words arose this way. In Middle English, pease (as in "pease-porridge hot") served as both the singular and plural for those little green things, deriving from the Greek word for same, pison. Many people assumed, therefore, that the singular of pease must be pea. Something similar happened when Anglo-Norman cherise wandered into Middle English. Many assumed cherise was plural, and therefore one of these tangy fruits must be a cherry.
Why I Didn't Say "A Big Kudo to Our Quizzicist"
Kudos to Our Quizzicist
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Today's Word: Quincunx
Monday, February 20, 2006
Bursting Into Tears Yet?
Many of you have since have since asked about that painting. It's "The Burial of Atala" by French painter Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson (1767-1824). The Art Institute of Chicago, which is exhibiting the painting through April, says Girodet based it on a popular 19th century novel about an American Indian woman, Atala, who converts to Christianity. Later, she:
frees the Indian brave Chactas from his enemies and finds refuge with him in the cave of the religious hermit Father Aubry. Having consecrated herself to God, Atala takes poison when she fears that she is falling in love with Chactas. After her death, the brave vows to become Christian himself.Wow. Well, have a closer look, and tell me what you think.
Ancora Imparo: Another Learning Experience
So there I was on the plane yesterday, thumbing through SkyMall magazine, when I came across a plaque with those very words for sale! The ad copy: "Made in a small studio in
I have an even better idea: type these words into your computer, make them your screensaver, then send me $59.95. You just saved $20! Learn something new every day, eh?
Today's Word: Hypallage
On our latest show, we discussed hypallage (hye-PAL-uh-jee), a.k.a. "the transferred epithet," which occurs when a modifier's misplaced or misapplied, as in a worrying development. (The development isn't actually doing the worrying--someone else is.)
Garner's Modern American Usage has more examples, including feminine napkin. (Technically, the napkin's not feminine--that is, you can't turn it over like a puppy and check to see.)
On a flight yesterday, I ran into an another example. A sign in the lavatory read: airsick bags. Gee, I hope not!
Hypallage's often used for rhetorical effect. Merriam-Webster calls it "an interchange of two elements in a phrase or sentence from a more logical to a less logical relationship"-- as in "a mind is a terrible thing to waste," when you really mean to say is "to waste a mind is a terrible thing."
So I'm not all that worried by the phrase a worrying (as opposed to a worrisome) development. ButI leaned away from those airsick bags just in case.
Friday, February 17, 2006
Today's Word: Quidnunc
Thursday, February 16, 2006
We had a blast with this week's show, which features my interview with Yiddish translator Michael Wex, author of Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All Its Moods -- a book that's very funny but also intellectually chewy and enlightening. Check out Wex's website, scroll halfway down, then come back and tell me: Who says word nerds aren't sexy?
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Today's Word: Osculate
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
One More Thing About Kisses
. . . Give me a thousand kisses, then another hundred,Sounds like a plan to me! (Treat yourself to audio of the whole thing in Latin here.)
then another thousand, then a second hundred,
then yet another thousand more, then another hundred.
Then, when we have made many thousands,
we will mix them all up so that we don't know,
and so that no one can be jealous of us when he finds out
how many kisses we have shared.
More About That Article on Kissing
That New York Times piece on kissing also asserts:
The German language has words for 30 different kinds of kisses, including nachküssen, which is defined as a kiss "making up for kisses that have been omitted."
I haven’t looked into this, but it's worth noting that linguists have debunked similar claims about other languages (like Eskimos having X number of words for “snow” and the assertion that the Irish lack a word for “sex”). So take such things with grain of salt.Speaking of salt, one more tidbit from the NYT article:
(The Germans are also said to have coined the inexplicable phrase "A kiss without a beard is like an egg without salt.")
All I can say is de gustibus non est disputandum.
All I can say is de gustibus non est disputandum.But I love the idea of a word that means “making up for kisses that have been omitted,” and plan to start using it immediately.
See? I Told You Learning Latin is Sexy!
Interesting article about kissing in today’s New York Times. Writer Joshua Foer notes that the ancient Romans distinguished among three kinds of kisses:
the friendly oscula, the loving basia and the passionate suavia.Another Latin kiss-word he didn’t mention: morsiuncula, a kind of kiss that involves “biting with the lips.” (This last word is a linguistic relative of the English term for that “bite” you might feel later if you're now regretting that kiss: remorse.)
Monday, February 13, 2006
Feeling Blogged Down?
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Seeing Seeing Double?
Okay, so it's not in a dictionary, but it's pretty great. Can anybody top that one?
Friday, February 10, 2006
How Do You Spell "Embarrassing"?
Parents of an O'Brien Middle School eighth-grader are demanding an instant replay of the Washoe County Spelling Bee after their daughter was eliminated despite spelling a word correctly.
It now appears that, under threat of a lawsuit, the parties have reached a compromise. The larger question, though, is this: What good are spelling bees, anyway? If kids are going to put all that energy and effort into rote memorization, why not have them memorize something truly useful--like Latin words? (Just imagine how much better those kids would do on their SATs!)
"I'm a momma bear with her bear claws out," Cindy Beckman said. "Spellers and academic children don't get all the accolades that the sports kids do. This is one of their few chances to shine, to get attention and look what happens."
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Today's Word: Macarize
Not that I'm paranoid, but I assumed that she was yet another of the Mac users in my life who keep nagging me to ditch my beloved IBM Thinkpad and come on over to their side. (You know who you are!)
Turns out that macarize has been around since at least the early 1800s, and means "congratulate." The OED says macarize originally meant "to account or call (a person, etc.) happy or blessed." Seeing that, I was smacking (smackerizing?) my forehead for not guessing this word's Greek origin. Macarize is from makarizein, the root of the word that appears repeatedly in the Greek text of the Beatitudes ("Blessed are the peacemakers," etc.)
Anyway, I'd like to macarize Randy Hecht for introducing me to a new word. But until they make a Mac-compatible version of the OED on CD-ROM, I'm not letting go of my Thinkpad.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
A Cruciverbalist Fills Us In
Some 60 million of us do it at least once a week. Marc Romano gets anxious if he doesn't do it at least once a day. I'm talking, of course, about solving crossword puzzles. (What'd you think I meant?)
Marc's new book, Crossworld: One Man's Journey into America's Crossword Obsession, is about his wild and crazy adventures in the world of competitive crossworld puzzling. It's a great read. Recently, Marc stopped filling in squares long enough to fill us in about what it's like to compete with fellow crossword fanatics at a national tournament -- right down to hearing the "termitelike sound of hundreds of No. 2 pencils scratching on paper." You can hear my chat with Marc here.
Today's Word: Perendinate
(Gee, thanks, Lenore! We’re flattered. No, really.)
Actually, Lenore said some very nice things about “
Anyway, Lenore wanted to find out the word I’d mentioned that means “to put off until the day after tomorrow.” That word is perendinate.
I suspect that most first-year Latin students get a little thrill when they learn the Latin word cras, which means “tomorrow.” Once you see that word, it’s easy to see how we get the word procrastinate, which literally means "to put off until tomorrow."
The word perendinate, however, goes procrastinate one better. As the Oxford English Dictionary tells us, "perendinate" means to "put off something until the day after tomorrow." It's from the Latin perendie -- literally, "on the day after tomorrow."
Btw, Lenore, I would have answered your email before now, but I’ve been dreadfully busy perendinating.
"It'll Never Be Seen on a Galloping Horse"
The other day
This caller told us that her mother used to say this whenever she was talking about something that "wasn't perfect, but was good enough." It seems this phrase is popular among
It seems this phrase is popular amongquilters in particular. (As in, "Maybe my stitches don't match up perfectly, but doggone it, they're good enough!")
Several listeners have since called and emailed us with variations of this phrase. Kelly from
In any case, the next time I'm tempted to overwork something I'm writing, I'm going to make myself think of galloping horses and move on. Which is why I'm hitting the "post" button right now.
Saturday, February 04, 2006
Today's Word: Poculation
Something tells me there's going to be a poculation explosion tomorrow, just about the time the Super Bowl comes on.
So, Listen to Us on NPR already!
You'll find our show at NPR's podcast page. There you can also get a suitable-for-printing-out-and-framing photo of the two of us -- provided, that is, that you have a 5 mm x 5 mm frame.
For more about "A Way with Words," visit our home station in San Diego, KPBS-FM.
Blogorrhea for Logophiles and Logorrhea for Blogophiles . . .
Friday, February 03, 2006
Oy! She's Kvetching Again!
OK, I'll bite. What's an Ort?
I was hoping you'd ask!
The Oxford English Dictionary defines ort this way:
"A fragment of food left over from a meal; fodder left by cattle; a refuse scrap; leavings. Usu. in pl. Also fig.: a fragment, esp. of wisdom, wit, knowledge, etc."
That' s pretty much what you'll find here -- leftovers from my ruminations about a variety of topics.
I look forward to hearing yours, too.