Friday, 28 October 2005

A.W.A.D. - There Is A Word For It (10.2005)

There is a Word for it.

With the largest vocabulary of any language, in English we have a word to describe almost everything. And when we can't find one, we're happy to borrow from another language (from German: schadenfreude, pleasure at others' misfortune), or just make one up (petrichor, the pleasant smell of rain after a dry spell).

Having said that, let's not gloat over how many words we have. English's poverty shows in many places, for example, when it comes to words to describe relations. How useful is it to introduce the woman with you as your sister-in-law when the term could mean any number of things?

This week we visit a few terms that make one say, "I didn't know there was a word for it!" We start with:

(ak-SIZ-muhs) noun
Feigning disinterest in something while actually desiring it.

[From Greek akkismos (coyness or affectation).]

If you've ever uttered something resembling any of these expressions, you've practiced the fine art of accismus: "Oh, you shouldn't have done it." or "Thank you, but I'm not worthy of such an honor."

Accismus is showing disinterest in something while secretly wanting it. It's a form of irony where one pretends indifference and refuses something while actually wanting it. In Aesop's fable, the fox pretends he doesn't care for the grapes. Caesar, in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, is reported as not accepting the crown.

(vuh-JI-tuhs) noun
The cry of a newborn.

[From Latin vagire (to wail).]

A newborn child's cry is called vagitus. Babies' cries have been heard even before their births. It's rare but vagitus uterinus has been observed on occasions when the membranes rupture, allowing air to enter the uterine cavity.

(puh-REEZ-i-uh) noun
1. Boldness of speech.
2. The practice of asking forgiveness before speaking in this manner.

[From New Latin, from Greek, from para- (beyond) + rhesis (speech).]

From political leaders to business heads, very few like to face the truth. Some claim to want candor but follow the dictum of filmmaker Samuel Goldwyn who said, "I want everybody to tell me the truth, even if it costs them their jobs."

If you're not entirely sure about your boss, we recommend starting with parrhesia (sense 2), before giving in to parrhesia (sense 1). Preface your opinion of how pin-headed your supervisor's idea is, with:

With all due respect...
If I may be so bold...

(nik-THEM-er-on) noun
A full period of a day and night: 24 hours.

[From Greek, a combination of nykt- (night) and hemera (day).]

Ever wondered why day and night were divided into 12 hours? The number 12 is not as random as it sounds. There are 12 moons in a year. The number 12 is easy to divide into halves, thirds, and quarters. Also, some cultures counted in base 12: three joints on each finger (thumb as the counter).

Aren't we glad a nychthemeron isn't divided in metric? Who wants to sleep 30 hours every night?

(vuh-LEE-i-tee) noun
Volition at its faintest.

[From Latin velle (to wish), ultimately from Indo-European root wel-(to wish, will) which is also the ancestor of well, will, wealth, wallop,gallop, voluptuous, and voluntary.]

Finally, a word to describe a few of those things we can't wait to do: filling out tax forms, for example. Velleity is volition at its weakest. It's a mere wish or inclination, without any accompanying effort. But who could tell just by looking at the word?

So next time you're late in filing your tax return and the tax department sends a reminder, just send them a polite letter vouching for your velleity. The taxman will think the check (or cheque, as our Canadian grammar guru Carolanne Reynolds would write) is coming soon and you've been completely forthright.

Friday, 21 October 2005

A.W.A.D. - Words About Words

Imagine you've just started your great epic novel and one of the keys on your keyboard is broken. It would be trivial to manage without a Q, X, or Z, but writing without a single E -- ah, that'd be some challenge. If it sounds undoable, consider that whole books have been written without an E, the most used letter in the English language. Without an E, one has to give up some of the most common pronouns such as he, she, we, me, and so on. What's more, even the article "the" is barred.

Coming back to books written without Es (I'm sure writing them is not something everyone can do with ease), Ernest Vincent Wright's 1939 novel Gadsby is written without the second vowel. One of the best known E-less works is Georges Perec's lipogrammatic French novel, La Disparition (The Disappearance). Its plot is full of wordplay, puzzles, and other word-fun.

For example, a character is missing eggs, or is unable to remember his name because it needs E in the spelling. Though it may be hard to believe considering the restriction under which it is written, the novel is said to be quite engrossing. Apparently, many reviewers were not even aware that a special constraint was used in writing it. After writing the novel, Perec faced a protest from the A, I, O, and U keys on his keyboard that they had to do all the work and E was leading an e'sy life. So Perec had no choice but to write a short work called Les Revenentes, where he put to work all those idle Es: the only vowel used was E.

If that doesn't sound incredible enough, here is more. La Disparition has been translated into English as "A Void" by Gilbert Adair. Of course, the translation also doesn't have any E in it. In case you have not already noticed, both the phrases "La Disparition" and "A Void" have only vowels A, I, and O in them, same as in the word "lipogram". And Void's protagonist is named Anton Vowl.

One can write numbers from zero, one, two... onwards, and not use the A key on the keyboard until reaching thousand. As for the literary merit of that composition, I'm not very certain.

(LIP-uh-gram) noun
A piece of writing that avoids one or more letters of the alphabet.

[From Greek lipo- (lacking) + gram (something written).]

In spite of what it sounds like, a lipogram is not a message with a kiss. Lipogram is a work written with a constraint.

(god-WOT-uhr-ee) noun
1. Gardening marked by an affected and elaborate style.
2. Affected use of archaic language.

[From the line "A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!" in a poem by Thomas Edward Brown (1830-1897).]

Now here is a word with a dual personality. Poet T.E. Brown unwittingly helped coin it when he wrote a poem describing his garden filled with all that came to his mind: grotto, pool, ferns, roses, fish, and more.

And when he needed a word to rhyme with the line "Rose plot," he came up with "God wot!" He used "wot", an archaic term that's a variant of wit (to know), to mean "God knows!" and it stood out among other contemporary words in the poem.

If you wish to create your own godwottery, we recommend: sundials, gnomes, fairies, plastic sculptures, fake rockery, pump-driven streams, and wrought-iron furniture. A pair of pink flamingos will round it out nicely.

(AL-uh-nim) noun
The name of a person, usually historical, taken by an author as a pen name (as opposed to using a fictional pseudonym).

[From French allonyme, from Greek allo- (other) + -onym (name).]

When one borrows the content of another's book, it's called plagiarism. But when merely an author's name is lifted, the term is allonym.

Sometimes it's done for parody. When hired by someone to do so, it's known as ghostwriting. An example of a work written under an allonym is The Federalist, also known as Federalist Papers. This collection of 85 essays about the US Constitution was written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison during 1787-1788. They chose to write under the name Publius in honor of this Roman official for his role in in setting up the Roman Republic.

Some people believe that Shakespeare's works were written by various authors who used his allonym. Writing a great novel might be a breeze but choosing what to call your pseudonym, that's not easy! You could simply call it your pen name or byname.

If you wish to appear sophisticated, you might say it is your nom de plume or nom de guerre. If you reversed your own name to coin a nickname, it would be an ananym. But why not take a walk in the library, browse the spines, and select an allonym?

(het-uh-ROG-ruh-fee) noun
1. A spelling different from the one in current use.
2. Use of the same letter(s) to convey different sounds, for example, gh in rough and ghost.

[From Greek hetero (different) + -graphy (writing).]

The idea of heterography is a recent phenomenon, relatively speaking. Earlier, when English was mainly a spoken language, it was a free-for-all, spelling-wise. Any spelling was good as long as you could make yourself understood. Each writer spelled words in his own way, trying to spell them phonetically. Shakespeare spelled his own name in various ways (Shaxspear, Shakespear, and so on).

If you read old manuscripts, you can find different spellings of a word on the same page, and sometimes even in the same sentence. Spelling wasn't something sacrosanct: if a line was too long to fit, a typesetter might simply squeeze or expand the word by altering the spelling.

If the idea of to-each-one's-own spelling for the same word sounds bizarre, consider how we practice it even today, in the only place we can: in our names. Look around you and you might find a Christina and a Cristina and a Kristina and many other permutations and combinations.

With the advent of printing in the 15th century, spelling began to become standardized. By the 19th century, most words had a single "official" spelling, as a consensus, not by the diktat of a committee.

Today if you write "definately" and someone points out that you've misspelled the word, just tell them you're a practitioner of heterography.

(nee-OL-uh-gist) noun
One who coins, uses, or introduces new words, or redefines old words in a language.
[From French néologisme, from Greek neo- (new) + -logy (science, study).]

A language grows by infusion of new words. Anyone who has been on the Internet for more than a few days knows what a webmaster is. Yet only a few years ago if we came across a "webmaster", we wouldn't know what that person did for a living.

There are many ways to coin words. You can make words out of thin air: googol, a word for a very large number (1 followed by 100 zeros) was coined by a nine-year-old boy. It was the inspiration behind the naming of the Google search engine. You can redefine old words. The Google name, in turn, became genericized as a verb meaning to search for something, not necessarily on the Web.

You can sandwich two existing words (web + master) or you can fuse them together: lexpert (lex + expert), someone who is an expert in words. Such an amalgamated word is also known as a portmanteau (from French, meaning a bag for carrying clothes, one that opens on two sides) since Lewis Carroll gave them this moniker in his 1872 classic "Through the Looking-Glass". Carroll himself coined some great portmanteaux, such as chortle (chuckle + snort), and slithy (slimy + lithe).

Coining words is easy. Getting them into a dictionary, now that's a topic for another time.

Friday, 14 October 2005

A.W.A.D. - Eponyms (10.2007) (Words Coined After Peoples Names)

The US currency notes are printed in the Bureau of Engraving and Printing plants in Washington, DC and Fort Worth, Texas. I visited the Washington DC money factory a few years back and have to say the place feels a bit surreal. You can see sheets of currency notes rolling through by the millions, as if they were the daily newspaper to be read and discarded. Workers move the giant stacks of uncut sheets with forklifts.

No matter how the economy is going, this is one place that always makes money. It's perhaps fitting that it's Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), an inventor and printer, whose picture is printed on the highest denomination currency note in the US.

The name derives from Benjamin Franklin, US statesman, whose portrait adorns the bill.

(BEN-juh-min) noun
Benjamin is a nickname for the US one-hundred-dollar bill.

(maks-WEL-i-an) adjective
Of or relating to shady business practices, financial tricks, misuse of public funds, etc.

In the US we had Ken Lay and friends from Enron; across the pond in the UK, there was Ian Robert Maxwell (1923-1991). Maxwell was a Czechoslovakian-born British publisher who became notorious for misusing his employees' pension funds of some 400 million pounds.

He also engaged in dubious transactions between his private companies and a public company to prop them up and boost the share prices. For his resilience to rebound after a castigating government report, he earned the nickname the Bouncing Czech.

(seer-ee-OL-uh-jist) noun
One who specializes in investigating crop circles.

Going by the countless varieties of cereals on the supermarket shelves, you'd think you have to be a cereologist to be able to select one. But it's not that. Rather, a cereologist is someone who studies crop circles, intricate circular patterns on crop fields. The word is coined after Ceres, the goddess of agriculture in Roman mythology.

Heath Robinson
(heeth ROB-in-suhn) adjective
Absurdly complex and fancifully impractical. The term was coined after W. Heath Robinson (1872-1944), a British artist known for drawing ingeniously complicated devices.

It's not only mechanical devices that can be Heath Robinsonish. A few years back I came across a book titled "How to Wash Your Face". I'm not kidding--this 256 page tome was authored by a doctor and lists for $25. They say reality is stranger than fiction. The fiction that comes to mind here is a Heath Robinson contraption, or one devised by his US counterpart, Rube Goldberg. Check out their illustrations at and

Who knows, those illustrations might make you laugh, resulting in the coffee in your mug getting spilled on the tail of the pet cat on your lap, making the startled kitty jump and hit the ceiling, thus activating the fire-sprinkler and causing it to trigger the fire alarm, making you look up in curiosity, so that your face is splashed with the sprinkler water, thus saving you the $25 cost of the aforementioned book. Who said those devices were useless?

Tuesday, 11 October 2005

The Connecticut Renaissance Faire

This weekend was spent at the Connecticut Renaissance Faire and it was great!

The weekend for me started on Friday at 11:00 - I had had breakfast with LeRoy, stopped at the bank and got on Route 287 at about 11:02. I took Route 287 North through New Jersey to New York and 287 East, over the Tappan Zee Bridge, which I love and then onto 684. I was on 684 for 25 miles: in New York for most of it, through a corner of Connecticut for about two minutes and then back in New York. I was then on Route 84 East for the bulk of the journey – five miles or so in New York and then all Connecticut for the rest. I got off at Exit 70 onto CT-198, then CT-171, then finally to CT-169, all country roads with many fieldstone walls and houses with a huge distance between them – not like New Jersey at all. Even Sussex County is not that rural! It was all so gorgeous – woods and open fields and blue sky and horses grazing – it was stunning. There is rural and there is wow. This was all wow. I loved it. I wished I could have stopped to take many pictures. Woodstock is lovely - but I am getting ahead of myself.

The ride up was fine. I howled along with ColdPlay, Split Enz and Enya, enjoyed the scenery and sun and hit only a bit of traffic, first on 287E between exits 11 and 14 (road repaving), a little back up on 84 (more road work) and some minor hiccups in the flow in Hartford. Had I taken Route 95, the pick of the navigation unit, I'd have been mired in miles of unmoving traffic through Danbury, Hartford, and any other Connecticut city along the way. The navigation unit is not savvy when it comes to what roads to avoid. But I am (having been stuck on Route 95 for two road trips) and have deeply learned that lesson - never take it!

The trip took a total of three and one quarter hours – not bad. Harry had taken 4 hours and his was a shorter journey but anything on Route 95 is nothing but a nightmare. He was sitting in traffic the whole time. I ran into a bit of a slow point getting to the Tappan Zee due to resurfacing the highway and some small amount of traffic on Route 84 getting into Waterbury for the same reason. I got home faster – two hours and fifty minutes. Sunday driving is easier. There was no traffic in Hartford, CT – normally there is a lot – and no snags getting over the Tappan Zee as well.

I got into Woodstock around 1400, after a 20-minute journey down a very windy country road that was a total delight. Up and down mountains, woods with the sun shining through the leaves, beautiful "brooks" in the valleys and many, many stone walls about 20" - 24" high all over the place. Most houses dated in the 1700s and 1800s - no modern house farms ruining the landscape here! It was lovely. I enjoyed every bit of it and while I need not be at the faire until much later, my plan is to be on the road at roughly the same time or earlier to enjoy more of Connecticut. I really want to see it and not have to just zip through on the way to the faire.

Woodstock is mostly farms and woods and no small amount of historical places and buildings. I got to the Faire and went in without having to pay and found David fairly easily – the faire is tiny compared to New York’s sprawling grounds – maybe one twelfth the size. These were all tents, no permanent structures (there were buildings there but not for common use except for the employees and vendors. I went to the tent and was pleasantly surprised – it is a big tent. It is, as David calls it, the world’s biggest brassier. It looked like it. It had two pointed tops and was mostly white but the tops were blue. It was quite roomy inside and we had no trouble with sleeping arrangements.

It was cool but lovely out. The sun was shining in the blue sky and it was around 19˚C so it was light sweater weather, my favourite. I got in with a massive headache and starving. My last meal had been at 0930 and I was definitely hungry. But the faire was only just winding down, so I went with Ruth to get my pass (a hard card like a credit card with a photo taken on the spot - very professional and completely different than the cheesy one I get every year at the NYRF), got my car and parked in front of the tent and got my stuff in. The evening was pleasant and David, his daughter Ruth and I went out for Chinese food at a buffet place in Putnam that night. The temperature did drop, though, to around 6˚C – too cold for me but it was alright with the two of us under a thousand blankets and on the air mattress. We also wore clothing to bed (a novel experience for me as I am accustomed to sleeping in the all-together, as it were). Good thing, though, as it was cold when I awoke.

Unfortunately it was 1900 by the time we went out to get dinner. But the Chinese food buffet was great and the meal was enjoyable, just David, his daughter Ruth and myself. We spent some time after that in the dollar store in the same strip mall and found tons of candy - some that I haven't seen since I was a kid. I am ABSOLUTELY stopping there again! As we were leaving to go out, Rook and Nightbringer arrived, and we left them bickering and setting up their tent. Apparently the man who owns it did an abysmal job of setting it up!

We said good night to Ruth and got back to the tent at about 2100, just in time to put the bed together and make it for the night. The faire keeps these huge Klieg lights on until 2200 - at 2200 sharp, they all go off and the night sky comes alive - delightfully so! The Milky Way was completely visible and Mars glowed orange-yellow to the northeast, and Venus was brilliant in the west. It was incredible! I need to remind David to bring his telescope. I have mine but transporting it is not an easy thing and at a value of $400 I am not lugging it to a place where some one might see it and decide to acquire it. I doubt that would happen there, but my New Jersey mind refuses to believe that!

Anyway, it was great. I went to the bathrooms with Rook and David was right - they were spotless and clean and I had no issues with using them. So not like the NYRF, which is as disgusting as any place can be. She also showed me where the free morning breakfast was and the shower and anything else I needed to find. Free breakfast! I couldn't believe it! And lunch as well! This faire actually cares about its vendors and feeds them and treats them like people, not indetured servants. There was everything we needed. Truly amazing!

We went to bed around 2330 - I couldn't keep my eyes open and after three hours of driving and then three hours of setting up I had run completely out of steam. I got in under the covers onto the air mattress and it was quite comfortable. Very surprising, since I am a fussy sleeper and need all the cushiony comfort of my waterbed. But it was good - and warm, which is really saying something. It was all of 65 degrees when I got there and dropped down to a chilling 40 degrees at night - BBBR-R-R-R-R! So we had on clothing (I had been warned of this and had packed night clothes) and a ton of blankets and it was great.

What wasn't great was awaking during the wee hours and finding a leg thrown over me and one bootie off. I had on a pair of socks and booties over my feet but it was staying under the covers that kept me warm.

Saturday morning dawned clear and cold. Other than making sure I was wearing warm clothing, it was an easy trip up to the bathrooms and the shower. At 08:30 I showered in a clean shower with hot water (!) and the bathrooms were immaculate! I was delighted. I never had any luck at the NYRF – one had to shower between 04:30 and 06:00 to have anything resembling warm water and the privies and showers were never well-cared for. It was always a rather unpleasant experience. Not so here. The water pressure was weaker than I might be accustomed to but that is not even a price to pay – I was warm and clean and perfectly delighted to be so.

I had a good time working there on Saturday and it was pleasant in the Gypsy Camp, as our portion of the Faire was called. I got to know Tracy and I already know Nightbringer and Rook all too well at NYRF, so it was good to have people to talk to. We also started and ended every faire day with a gypsy dance and all fell to dancing just above the May pole with great abandon – it was a lot of fun. I took a lot of pictures and partook in the exercise as well. Next year I hope to have better gypsy attire and not be trapped in a bodice to do this.

I did get out and really have a good look at the faire around 15:30 and did not return to the tent until 17:15 – the faire closes at 17:00 but I was really getting a good long look at all the different crafters and things and enjoying greatly the hot apple cider there. I love hot apple cider!

There were wenches that came around at 10:00 (opening) with baskets of breakfast foods and again at 13:00 with baskets of sandwiches for the vendors. It was delightful! I had free food – a completely new experience as we never even get a discount with any foods sold by the NYRF consortium. Up until this year when we became friendly with the food people across the road from us we never got a break on anything edible. (It turned out that the food people across from us next to the archery booth at the NYRF are not owned by the faire. We bartered with them this year and they fed us free drinks and snacks – hot pretzels and chocolate covered strawberries, which I adore and that worked nicely but for real food we were on our own.) The Connecticut Faire was an entirely new experience! Free food is a luxury.

Every morning I discovered they also served hot foods in the commons room by the bathroom/showers. I went there and got hot tea and oatmeal for David. I also usually grabbed a banana and ate better there than anywhere (except for Ray making me strawberry pancakes on Tuesday morning – yum!

They did serve hot lunch as well but I eat neither Mac and cheese or chili (not to mention I shiver at the thought of what I would “pay” later for eating chili – yikes!) so never partook. However, a PB&J suited me just fine (a peanut butter and jelly sandwich).

I did do some looking and found a woman selling gourds that I loved and suggested bartering for that. I did get a hanging hollowed out gourd with an opening for putting in a candle and a cut out of the pentacle on the other side. It is gorgeous and I need to hang it up. David was happy – she bartered for that (the cost was $35) and paid an additional $40.00 on top of that. It worked out really well.

I also bought a couple of little odds and ends around there and lived on hot apple cider. I did not go home empty-handed.

Saturday night a group of us went out to eat a fine Chinese restaurant, not anything like the buffet we did in Putnam. This was a really nice restaurant and the food was excellent. I loved it. We all had a really nice time. That night we collapsed into bed around 22:00.

Sunday was a little warmer and I got out a little bit but not much. I did more hot apple cider and made good money. The weekend was very worthwhile and enjoyable. I left at about 17:00 and was home just before 20:00. I took a shower and had a couple of slices of pizza from across the street and went to bed early after starting the laundry going. I was exhausted – three hours of driving is okay but I find it draining. And it was not at all a bad drive! It’s just a long time to be in the car.

During the week I kept busy with calls, working around the house and helping Ray on Thursday closing the pool. Well… it is not yet closed. Not for lack of trying, really. It was too dirty and needed to be vacuumed badly but there was a jam in the filter and we did not discover before using most of the excess water. We stopped around 15:30 with the pool mostly vacuumed but not all the way and decided to pick up on Tuesday in the morning.

I left for Connecticut around 10:30 this past Friday morning after running some minor errands. It was cloudy but dry and quite warm, somewhere around 26˚C. I got there in two and a half hours. I had all the time in the world with David not due in until 21:00 or so and realised that I was all of 20 minutes away from Rhode Island. I immediately thought of my pen friend Daniela in the Czech Republic, who has not gotten a Rhode Island postcard. I needed to stop and get some for her and my other pen pals.

I wish I’d had the time to go to the coast, but I did not, so I drove into Providence. I made some discoveries. Providence is a hole. Other than a small high-end/historical section, it is really kind of a dump. The drivers there, however, were a whole different breed than anything I am accustomed to. I would put on my turn signal and the driver that was in the lane I wished to change to would immediately slow and allow me in! This is not New Jersey/New York driving. Here, I put on my signal and the driver in the aimed-for lane would immediately speed up to ensure I wasn’t getting in front of him/her!

Conversely, the rural part of Rhode Island was just gorgeous, even on a crappy, overcast day like it was – and the drivers were horrendous. Where the speed limit signs in New Jersey are meant to be followed on small one-lane roads, in Rhode Island, drivers considered them more suggestive than required. I went no more than 5 to 7 mph over the limit and people were tailgating me so closely I could feel my hair going grey from fraying nerves. Not to mention the overtaking business. If the party behind me was unsatisfied with my speed (and they ALL were) they’d get in the oncoming traffic lane and pass me. I found a lot of that in England, too, a very surprising thing. Understand that in the 18 plus years of driving that I have been doing, it has all been in urban and suburban areas. There are no one-lane roads with overtaking! Not here, not in Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Virginia and definitely not in Washington, DC. I did not find it in Florida, Nevada or California, either. The parts of Connecticut that I had been in previously did not have it, and Canada did not as well. So this was all new to me. I was relieved to get back to Connecticut.

I stopped briefly to check out an old cemetery (I do so love those) but it was clearly not meant for visitors to prowl around in and although I could have easily gained entry over the low stone wall I did not want someone chasing me off their property or worse, calling out the local constabulary to get me out.

I got to the grounds around 18:00 but there was no Rook and NB and David was still three hours out. So I went to the Chinese buffet and ate well – all you can eat and unlimited Chinese tea for $6.95 is too attractive to pass up – and I know where it is. I did some prowling about in the dollar store there and also stocked up on Vitamin C chewy things. Very yummy and healthy! I returned to the grounds at 19:45 and had enlisted Tracy and her boyfriend to help me with the pop-up tent when NB and Rook pulled in. We all got the tent up. They went for dinner while I worked on setting up the inside to be ready for David when he got in and to go to bed.

David pulled in around 21:45, which was a little late and we quickly unloaded the van as it was just starting to rain. The clothing we had to get in as fast as possible and we did it all just before the serious rain began. We got everything set up and ready for the next day by 22:30 and I went to bed then. Well, I passed out… I was really tired.

At 08:30 I was roused from sleep to hear the staccato beat of hard rain on the tent roof. There was some wind as well and a pool of water to the left of the air mattress. Yuck. It was warm, though – not that this was a plus. What with rain falling hard, 95% relative humidity and warm temps did not make it a better day. It was disgusting. And the ground… it all quickly turned to mud, muck and mire in no time and it was awful. In a word. And it was inside and outside the tent and the rugs were soaked through. That night after a delicious dinner at a small pizza place in Putnam, we went to the Wal-Mart there and picked up a plastic sheet used for covering the ground/furniture while painting and put it on over and under the air mattress to keep it dry.

I take medication to help me sleep sometimes and I definitely wanted it with me for this – I wouldn’t have slept a moment without it. I don’t regret that. It made me sleep well and deeply and was well worth it. But it rained so hard on Saturday night into Sunday morning that even I w0ke up at some point to hear the pouring rain and high winds battering the tent. David had had to get up and go outside to batten down the hatches – not even that amazing tent was meant to deal with horizontal rain! But we made it through that hellish night… to find that the temperature took a nose dive to about 11˚C! So now it was cold and rainy! This was no better than warm and rainy and in some ways it was worse.

While it did not rain much on Sunday it was bitter cold and never sunny – in fact I have not seen sun since midday on Thursday while Ray and I were working on the pool. And at the current rate with the forecast as it is, I won’t see sun until Monday! I’m not enjoying this at all…

At worst it misted a couple of times on Sunday so while I did not make a lot of money, I did make some and I also got some shopping done. I got a start on Christmas stuff. I loaded up my car with everything I did not need that night after dinner and parked it in a place that I could just hop in and go on Monday afternoon to be on the road and home at a decent time. I could not stay late as I had a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday morning at 08:00.

Sunday night into Monday night was fine, and the rain held off until right at opening time at 10:00. It was more like Saturday and rained hard on and off. At 15:00 I reached my limit of patience. I changed into normal clothes – I was freezing – and loaded my car up and at 15:50 I was heading home. I got through Hartford with only the slightest slowing of traffic and through pouring rain, ran into a bit of slowness getting into Waterbury and it was quite slow getting onto the Tappan Zee. But once through the Tappan Zee bridge I sailed right home. I got in on Monday night at 19:34. Not bad considering the weather and the time and the fact that it was Monday – true, it was a holiday, but only for government employees and school kids. So there was still plenty of mess to get mired in.

I loved the Faire, hated the weather of the second weekend and I am quite relieved that it is all over!

Friday, 7 October 2005

A.W.A.D. - Combining Forms

It's a good thing we don't have to go with the literal meaning of words or we'd be exercising in the nude in the gymnasia. The word gymnasium derives from the combining form gymno-, meaning nude or bare. Other words similarly formed are gymoplast (protoplasm without surrounding wall) and gynosophy (a form of philosophy practiced by those refusing to wear clothes).

What are combining forms? You can think of them as the Legos of language. As their name indicates, a combining form is a linguistic atom that occurs only in combination with some other form.

This week we'll see words formed using these combining forms: auto- (self), tricho- (hair), chiro- (hand), algo- (pain), and lepto- (thin). We start with:

(au-TOT-uh-mee) noun
Autotomy is nature's gift to some animals to help them escape when under attack or injured. A lizard being chased will drop its tail and slip away. The detached tail continues to wriggle, distracting the predator, while its former owner flees to safety. The lizard goes home and buys a replacement on eBay. Just kidding! Of course, it can't do that. eBay's policy explicitly prohibits lizards from bidding. They just grow it back.

Other animals who use autotomy are: spider, crab, lobster... and maybe even humans. In 2003, a courageous hiker got his arm trapped under a boulder in a remote Utah canyon. He used his pocket knife to cut his arm off and freed himself. If only humans could grow them back as well.

The word autotomy does double duty. It has another sense: performing surgery upon oneself. It's not as unusual as it sounds. While we see it mostly in science fiction (think Terminator doing his own eye surgery), with the skyrocketing cost of healthcare, perhaps days of autotomy aren't far-off. Look for do-it-yourself surgery kits in your neighborhood pharmacy soon.

We got this word thanks to the Greeks: from auto- (self) and -tomy (cutting). The word "anatomy" is related. Its derivation refers to the dissection med students perform to study the structure of a body.

(tri-KOL-uh-jee) noun
Who would you look for when caught in a hairy situation? I don't know about you, but I'd sure want an expert in trichology: the study and treatment of hair and its disorders.

Now, what should we call one who is an expert in trichology: tricho-something? Why pull your hair out for a mere word, let's just call him a headmaster. If you do often get an urge to pull your hair out, here is a word for the affliction: trichotillomania. It comes from a Greek root meaning father or mother of a teen.

Seriously, the Greeks were really the root cause of all this madness: tricho- (hair), -logy (science, study), tillein (to pull out), and -mania (madness).

(ky-ROG-ruh-fee) noun
Back in the Jurassic era, when there were no laptops and no text-messaging, people used a little thing called a pen to write on a flat surface known as paper. Chirography is a word from those times. It means handwriting or penmanship, also known as calligraphy.

My daughter says, "Why didn't they just download new fonts to their pens?"

Well, we did once have fountain pens. We can thank the Greeks again for the combining forms chiro- (hand) and -graphy (writing). The word has many cousins:

chiromancy: reading palms to divine the future: palmistry
chiropractic: adjusting the spine (using hands, presumably)
chiropody: an odd name for podiatry (treating foot problems)
chiropter: a species of bats (who got their hands retrofitted as wings at Intelligent Design, Inc.)

(al-guh-FO-bee-uh) noun
Usually having a phobia might brand you as a nut but here is a phobia that indicates you're a regular human being, if you have it. Algophobia is the fear of pain.

Though the word indicates an unusual, morbid fear of pain, producing intense anxiety. There is even an instrument called an algometer to measure pain. Now I know why they called that grueling course "algorithms" in my computer science curriculum.

We got the word from the Greek algo- (pain) and -phobia (fear).

(lep-tuh-DAK-tuh-luhs) adjective
If you are still stuck to those tired words to describe your sweetie, here is a new one for you. Leptodactylous means having fine, slender digits. No, not, digits on a bathroom scale or on a bank account. Here digit means a toe or a finger.

It all sounds Greek to me: from lepto- (thin) and -dactylous (fingered or toed).