Word of the Day and the Use of the English Language

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Re: Word of the Day and the Use of the English Language

Post by Vito Simplicio » Wed Feb 07, 2018 9:01 am

logomachy

noun | loh-GAH-muh-kee

Definition

1 : a dispute over or about words
2 : a controversy marked by verbiage

Did You Know?

It doesn't take much to start people arguing about words, but there's no quarrel about the origin of logomachy. It comes from the Greek roots logos, meaning "word" or "speech," and machesthai, meaning "to fight," and it entered English in the mid-1500s. If you're a word enthusiast, you probably know that logos is the root of many English words (monologue, neologism, logic, and most words ending in -logy, for example), but what about other derivatives of machesthai? Actually, this is a tough one even for word whizzes. Only a few very rare English words come from machesthai. Here are two of them: heresimach ("an active opponent of heresy and heretics") and naumachia ("an ancient Roman spectacle representing a naval battle").

Example of LOGOMACHY

"Not that anyone could accuse this city of lacking logophiles—that's 'lovers of words,' if you have to ask. But where could word warriors go to engage in spirited logomachy?"
— Ron Fletcher, The Boston Globe, 29 Apr. 2007

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Re: Word of the Day and the Use of the English Language

Post by Vito Simplicio » Fri Feb 09, 2018 9:22 am

blench

verb | BLENCH

Definition: to draw back or turn aside from lack of courage : flinch

Did You Know?

If a stranger approaches you in a dark alley, it might cause you to blench. Do you flinch or turn white? Actually, you could do both, and both would be considered blenching because there are two separate verbs spelled "blench" in English. The blench that means "to flinch" derives from blencan, an Old English word meaning "to deceive." The blench meaning "to turn white" is an alteration of blanch, from the French adjective blanc ("white"). Clues to which meaning is intended can often be found in context. The "flinch" use, for example, is strictly intransitive and often followed by from or at ("blenched from the sight of blood"; "didn’t blench at the sound of thunder"). The "whiten" use, meanwhile, can be intransitive ("his skin blenched with terror") or transitive ("the cold blenched her lips").

Examples of BLENCH

"I blenched when my son first introduced me to the initials IRL, meaning In Real Life, as opposed to the online world where he and his generation spend so much of their time."
— Allison Pearson, The Daily Telegraph (London), 26 Apr. 2017

"If you're a responsible teacher, you talk to your students about money. You say: most novelists earn around £5,000 a year from their writing. You watch them blench. You say: so if you're going to do this, you have to think about how you're going to support yourself."
— Naomi Alderman, quoted in The Guardian, 15 Mar. 2014

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Re: Word of the Day and the Use of the English Language

Post by Andrew Fryer » Fri Feb 09, 2018 11:14 am

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Re: Word of the Day and the Use of the English Language

Post by Vito Simplicio » Sun Feb 11, 2018 9:36 am

mnemonic

adjective | nih-MAH-nik

Definition

1 : assisting or intended to assist memory; also : of or relating to a technique of improving the memory
2 : of or relating to memory

Did You Know?

The word mnemonic derives from the Greek mnēmōn ("mindful"), which itself comes from the verb mimnēskesthai, meaning "to remember." (In classical mythology, Mnemosyne, the mother of the Muses, is the goddess of memory.) In addition to its adjectival use, mnemonic is also a noun meaning "a mnemonic device," and the plural from mnemonics is used in the sense of "a technique of improving the memory." As with many classical borrowings, we retained the double initial consonant, but not the pronunciation of both, since the combination doesn't occur naturally in English (pneumonia is a similar case). If this spelling strikes you as particularly fiendish to remember, keep this mnemonic in mind: although the word's pronunciation begins with an n sound, the spelling begins with an m, as in memory.

Examples of MNEMONIC

James taught his students the mnemonic sentence "King Philip Came Over For Good Spaghetti" to help them remember the levels of biological classification (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species).

"Let's illustrate this point with a simple exercise using the elementary school mnemonic 'Every Good Boy Deserves Fun.' Teachers use this tool to help students learn the letters of the musical staff: EGBDF."
— Richard Klasco and Lewis H. Glinert, The Washington Post, 14 Jan. 2018

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Re: Word of the Day and the Use of the English Language

Post by amezcua » Mon Feb 12, 2018 4:04 pm

Mnemonic for Rhythm. Rhythm Helps Your Two Hips Move .

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Re: Word of the Day and the Use of the English Language

Post by Andrew Fryer » Wed Feb 14, 2018 1:30 pm

Beag is an Anglo-Saxon word for ring (with a gemstone - beag can also mean a kind of crown, which must refer to the gemstone). It is cognate with the Dutch bagge which gave the French their word bague (as opposed to anneau - a ring without a gem). The same Germanic word via Old and Middle High German and then Yiddish, gives us the word bagel.

I guess Anglo-Saxon hring is cognate both with ring and kringel (both words modern German).
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Re: Word of the Day and the Use of the English Language

Post by Les Montanjees » Tue Feb 20, 2018 6:19 am

Steatopygia - "an excess of fat on the buttocks." (Concise Oxford Dictionary 1990). A more polite way of saying, "Hey, fat-arse!"

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Re: Word of the Day and the Use of the English Language

Post by Vito Simplicio » Thu Mar 08, 2018 9:03 am

woolgathering

noun | WOOL-gath-uh-ring

Definition : indulgence in idle daydreaming

Did You Know?

Woolgathering once literally referred to the act of gathering loose tufts of wool that had gotten caught on bushes and fences as sheep passed by. As you might imagine, woolgathering was not the most profitable of enterprises; its practitioners must have seemed to wander aimlessly, gaining little for their efforts. In the mid-16th century, woolgathering began to appear in figurative phrases such as "my wits went a woolgathering"—in other words, "my mind went wandering aimlessly." From there, it wasn't long before the word woolgathering came to suggest foolish or purposeless mind-wandering.

Examples of WOOLGATHERING

My woolgathering in the backseat was abruptly interrupted by a question from the taxi driver.

"I love the feeling of being on a train, the rumble and roar that seem to aid woolgathering, and I never tire of staring out the window, no matter the scenery."
— Karl Zimmermann, The Los Angeles Times, 3 Sept. 2017

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Re: Word of the Day and the Use of the English Language

Post by gitgeezer » Thu Mar 08, 2018 12:57 pm

"Woolgathering" reminds me of "gleaning." From Old French "glener" and Middle English "glenen," "glean" meant to gather kernels of grain, one by one, that had fallen to the ground during a harvest. It must have been back-breaking and little-rewarding. In scripture, Ruth and Naomi were gleaners. And there's that beautiful line in Keats' "To Autumn":

And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep 
   Steady thy laden head across a brook

Now "glean" means to gather information piece by piece, as a researcher might do in gathering information from ancient texts to inform a question of history.

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Re: Word of the Day and the Use of the English Language

Post by Vito Simplicio » Wed Apr 18, 2018 10:19 am

embarrass

verb | im-BAIR-us

Definition

1
a : to cause to experience a state of self-conscious distress
b : to place in doubt, perplexity, or difficulties
c : to involve in financial difficulties

2
a : to hamper the movement of
b : hinder, impede

3 :
to make intricate : complicate

4 : to impair the activity of (a bodily function) or the function of (a bodily part)

Did You Know?

If you've ever been so embarrassed that you felt like you were caught up in a noose of shame, then you may have some insight into the origins of the word embarrass. The word can be traced back through French and Spanish to the Portuguese word embaraçar, which was itself probably formed as a combination of the prefix em- (from Latin in-) and baraça, the Portuguese word for "noose." Though embarrass has had various meanings related to acts that hinder or impede throughout its history in English, these days it most often implies making someone feel or look foolish.

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Re: Word of the Day and the Use of the English Language

Post by Andrew Fryer » Thu May 10, 2018 8:54 am

noon

This is a comparatively simple one, but I'm putting it here because I hit upon it by accident and coincidence.
I had been reading Bede in Latin and Beowulf in Anglo Saxon and come across the word 'nona' in several places which I didn't note, but I tracked one to Beowulf line 1600.
This originally meant the 9th hour of the day. (e.g. nonet, a piece for 9 musicians), indeed the German word neun=nine.
The Romans counted 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of dark, therefore their hours varied in length.
In summer the daytime hours were longer than the night-time hours and in winter vice versa.
In the Church this became 12 hours of daytime between 6AM and 6PM, so nona or the church services Nones were at 3PM.
Interesting that Beowulf contains this too, but then Beowulf is a more Christian poem than people realise.
According to Chambers' dictionary, under noon, "the Church service called Nones was shifted to mid-day", no explanation why.
But the reason it was shifted (Loeb Bede, vol 1, p.346n2) was because they used to fast until Nones, and they couldn't last until 3pm without eating, and that's why they shifted it to midday!

And that's how brunch was invented. [/joke]
Last edited by Andrew Fryer on Thu May 10, 2018 5:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Word of the Day and the Use of the English Language

Post by gitgeezer » Thu May 10, 2018 12:11 pm

An interesting aspect of "noon" is how we avoid its technical implications. Strictly speaking, midday is "12:00 noon," so why is it always listed as 12:00 pm. PM means "post-meridian" (past or after the meridian) but at the exact point of 12:00 midday, the sun is precisely at the meridian, not after the meridian.

There was once a movement to call it "12:00 m," but that very reasonable suggestion didn't gain traction. And some style manuals once suggested that noon be expressed as 12:00 am, not 12:00 pm, perhaps for the same reason that the year 2000 was the last year of the twentieth century, not the first year of the twenty-first century. But convention finally settled on "12:00 pm," so we're now stuck with it.

Just don't get me started on 12:00 am for what should be "12:00 midnight."

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Re: Word of the Day and the Use of the English Language

Post by Rasputin » Thu May 10, 2018 12:29 pm

Well, 12:00 pm covers an entire minute from 12:00 to 12:01. The part of that minute that coincides with the meridian is infinitessimally small, and all the rest is post-meridian, so 12:00 pm seems right to me. The same argument justifies 12:00 am for midnight. I have seen a distinction drawn between 24:00 (meant to refer to the last moment of the old day) and 00:00 (meant to refer to the first moment of the new day) but am sceptical about this for the same reason. I think it's better just to say the last moment of [date] or the first moment of [date].

I said in a recent thread that English signage didn't tend to use the am / pm system, but have to admit that, since then, I have been seeing it on signs everywhere, so it seems to be alive and well.

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Re: Word of the Day and the Use of the English Language

Post by gitgeezer » Thu May 10, 2018 10:53 pm

It's not true, Rasputin, that "12:00 pm covers an entire minute from 12:00 to 12:01." That is an idea of the digital age in which our digital clocks stay on "12:00" until "12:01" pops up. All we know when the numbers remain on 12:00 is that the time is somewhere between 12:00 and 12:01. Owners of old-fashioned analog watches or clocks with second hands can clearly see that. The second hand sweeps out the time and shows just where the time is between 12:00 and 12:01. If the second hand shows that 45 seconds have elapsed, an observer sees that the time is actually closer to 12:01 than still on 12:00.

Your second argument is a better one. The sun is continually moving (conceptually, as the planet rotates). It doesn't linger at the meridian. By the time the meridian registers in our brains, the sun is already in the p.m. If a "Nones" prayer begins precisely at 12:00 noon, the first word of the prayer will be spoken in the p.m. However, I was not talking about how we experience time, but how we signify and calibrate it, and for that reason I think "12:00 noon" or "12:00 m." is more precise.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), responsible for time keeping in the U.S., has this to say: "Are noon and midnight referred to as 12 a.m. or 12 p.m.? This is a tricky question because 12 a.m. and 12 p.m. are ambiguous and should not be used. To illustrate this, consider that "a.m." and "p.m." are abbreviations for "ante meridiem" and "post meridiem," which mean "before noon" and "after noon," respectively. Since noon is neither before noon nor after noon, a designation of either a.m. or p.m. is incorrect. Also, midnight is both twelve hours before noon and twelve hours after noon."

Your reason for the shift of "none" or "noon" from 3:00 to 12:00 may be correct, Andrew, but dictionary.com says "we still don’t know if the time of the midday meal shifted from 3:00 to 12:00 or whether the time of Church prayers shifted, or both, but by the early 1200s, 'noon' came to mean midday."

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Re: Word of the Day and the Use of the English Language

Post by mcote » Fri May 11, 2018 2:03 am

Idoneous (adj) Appropriate; suitable

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