Thursday, 31 December 2009

A Word A Day - Last Two Weeks of the Decade

with Anu Garg

Fear and Desire. That sounds like the name of some 19th century novel. Instead, it is the theme for this week's words in AWAD. It seems that in English there's a word for every imaginable phobia and mania -- let's face up to some of these during the next few days.

agoraphobia

PRONUNCIATION:
(ag-uhr-uh-FO-bee-uh)

MEANING:
noun: A fear of being in public places, open spaces, or in crowds

ETYMOLOGY:
From Greek agora (marketplace). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ger- (to gather) that is also the source of egregious, gregarious, disgregate, aggregate, congregation, and segregate.

USAGE:
"Concerns a polar bear would suffer agoraphobia after moving from a city zoo to four acres in the Highlands were unfounded." Agoraphobic Bear Fears 'Allayed'; BBC News (London, UK); Oct 30, 2009.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke. -Arthur Plotnik, editor and author (b. 1937)

dipsomania

PRONUNCIATION:
(dip-suh-MAY-nee-uh)

MEANING:
noun: An insatiable, periodic craving for alcohol

ETYMOLOGY:
From Greek dipsa (thirst) + -mania (excessive enthusiasm or craze)

USAGE:
"As the emperor Janangir began his decline in the old familiar grip of dipsomania (both his brothers had died early of drink), his wife Nur Jahan took complete charge as his proxy."Sunil Sethi; Jahangir's Josephine; Outlook (New Delhi, India); Nov 27, 2000.

Explore "dipsomania" in the Visual Thesaurus.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence. -Bertrand Russell, philosopher, mathematician, author, Nobel laureate (1872-1970)

astraphobia

PRONUNCIATION:
(as-truh-FO-bee-uh)

MEANING:
noun: An abnormal fear of lightning and thunder

ETYMOLOGY:
From Greek astrape (lightning). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ster- (star) that is also the source of star, asterisk, asteroid, astrology, disaster, stellar, constellation, Persian sitareh (star), and the names Stella and Esther.

NOTES:
Also known as astrapophobia and brontophobia (from Greek bronte-, thunder, which also gave us brontosaurus).

USAGE:
"In the USA, it is estimated around 10 per cent of people suffer from astraphobia to some degree." Don White; Weatherwatch; The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, Australia); Dec 11, 2001.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Any advertisement in public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It belongs to you. It's yours to take, re-arrange, and re-use. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head. -Banksy, street artist (b. 1974)

onomatomania

PRONUNCIATION:
(on-uh-mat-uh-MAY-nee-uh)

MEANING:
noun: An obsession with particular words or names and desire to recall or repeat them

ETYMOLOGY:
Via Latin, from Greek onoma (name) + -mania (excessive enthusiasm or craze)

USAGE:
"Every time Ammon Shea came across an interesting word, he jotted it down, desperate to avoid onomatomania." Nicole Martin; The Last Word; The Daily Telegraph (London, UK); Oct 4, 2008.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Not far from the invention of fire must rank the invention of doubt. -Thomas Henry Huxley, biologist (1825-1895)

acrophobia

PRONUNCIATION:
(ak-ruh-FOH-bee-uh)

MEANING:
noun: An abnormal fear of heights

ETYMOLOGY:
From Greek acro- (height, tip) + -phobia (fear). Some related words are acronym (a word formed with the tips of other words), acrobat (one who walks on tiptoes), and acropolis (a city built on high ground).

USAGE:
"Dr Anthe George suggests that Mark would not even have been able to stand on the balcony of his own accord because of his acute acrophobia. 'Mark was truly afraid of heights. I do not mean he was afraid of standing on the edge of a cliff -- he was afraid of any height." Kevin Rawlinson; My Son Was Killed; The Independent (London, UK); Dec 9, 2009.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
It is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe. -Thomas Paine, philosopher and writer (1737-1809)

with Anu Garg
The new year is just around the corner. It brings new hopes, new ideas, new events. In a language, there's no new year -- it's always on the move. There's a constant churning in the waters of a language, words evolving, changing meanings, becoming obsolete, new words being born, gaining acceptance, and so on. This week we'll feature five words that today mean something quite different from their previous meanings.

beldam

PRONUNCIATION:
(BEL-duhm, -DAM)

MEANING:
noun: An old woman: a hag

ETYMOLOGY:
From Middle English beldam (grandmother), from Old French bel (fine) + dame (lady). In Middle English, the prefix bel was used to indicate relationships, such as belsire or belfader (grandfather, ancestor). In Modern French belle is still used to indicate in-law relationships. A belle-mère is a mother-in-law or a stepmother, for example.

USAGE:
"Carr mixes her story with such amusing oddballs as Carthage's mother, a vinegary and vain beldam." 'Bog' Weighed Down by Mundane Events; Minneapolis Star-Tribune; Mar 16, 2009.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
The real index of civilization is when people are kinder than they need to be. -Louis de Berniere, novelist (b. 1954)

prude

PRONUNCIATION:
(prood)

MEANING:
noun: A person who is overly concerned with propriety or decorum

ETYMOLOGY:
From Old French prudefemme (wise or good woman), feminine of prud'homme (wise man). The word prude once had positive connotations, but nowadays it is used only in a negative sense.

USAGE:
"I'm not a prude, by any means, but with all her talent, Mariah Carey doesn't need to use her bodacious bod to garner attention." Candace Hammond; TV News is Front and Center; Cape Cod Times (Hyannis, Massachusetts); Nov 6, 2009.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one. -Leonard Matlovich, a gay Vietnam Veteran (1943-1988)

quantum

PRONUNCIATION:
(KWON-tuhm)

MEANING:
noun:
1. A quantity or amount
2. A portion
3. A large amount
4. The smallest amount of something that can exist independently
adjective:
Sudden; major

ETYMOLOGY:
From Latin, neuter of quantus (how much or how great). In physics, a quantum jump or quantum leap is usually a small change, while in popular usage the term is used to mean a significant change.

USAGE:
"A quantum jump in the volume of traffic has made major snarls on the capital's periphery a routine affair for commuters." Dipak Kumar Dash; New Roadmap; The Times of India (New Delhi); Nov 7, 2009.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
A civilized society is one which tolerates eccentricity to the point of doubtful sanity. -Robert Frost, poet (1874-1963)

sycophant

PRONUNCIATION:
(SIK-uh-fuhnt, SY-kuh-, -fant)

MEANING:
noun: A servile self-seeking person who flatters in an attempt to win favor.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Latin sycophanta (informer, slanderer), from Greek sykophantes (informer, slanderer), from sykon (fig) + phainein (to show). How did a sycophant turned from one who shows a fig, to an informer, to a flatterer? There are two explanations though both are unconfirmed. The first theory is that the word referred to someone who informed against the theft or illegal export of figs in ancient Athens; other is that it referred to one who makes a fig sign. When the word arrived in the English language its meaning changed from an informer to a flatterer.

USAGE:
"There are few models around the world of coup plotters who have succeeded as civilian administrators. This is in part because dictators invariably begin to believe the sycophants who gather around them."The Savior Fantasy; The Washington Post; Oct 20, 1999.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Good men must not obey the laws too well. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

meticulous

PRONUNCIATION:
(muh-TIK-yuh-luhs)

MEANING:
adjective: Extremely careful, precise, or thorough.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Latin meticulosus (fearful), from metus (fear). Originally the term meant one who was fearful and eventually it acquired a positive sense.

USAGE:
"It was a movement that required the meticulous precision of a master surgeon." George Pelletier; A Christmas Story in Two Parts Eggnog; Nashua Telegraph (New Hampshire); Dec 24, 2009.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
When love is not madness, it is not love. -Pedro Calderon de la Barca, poet and dramatist (1600-1681)

ARTICLE: Blue Moon

By Ranjan Bhaduri
bluemoon_icstars_bigDec.29, (THAINDIAN NEWS) The recent hullabaloo about the possibility of a Blue moon on New Year’s eve has turned out to be a damp squib. It is not going to take place, at least not in Australia as the web sites and newspapers assumed. The possibility has been ruled out by the leading astronomers. Probably it started when some enthusiastic people misinterpreted the occurrence of a sophomore full moon in a month with blue moon. This phenomena happens once in every two or three years. However, the moon does not undergo any change in its color. According to the lunar calender, a blue moon will be seen on New Year’s Eve. However, its timing is 7:13 p.m. according to the GMT and not as per Australia’s time.

The Australians will get to see the moon on the dawn of 1st January. This means it will not be termed as a blue moon. It is not common place to get the moon, earth and sun in a straight line. After the New Year’s eve, the Australians will get the chance to witness a blue moon on January 30. However, for them February would be a month sans a full moon. It will be succeeded by another Blue moon in March. It was in 2007 when the Australians got to witness their last Blue moon.

The Blue moon is a celestial event that is eagerly awaited by the people interested in astronomy. While the residents of Australia will not get to see blue Moon on Dec 31st, people in UK will have the advantage over them owing to their location and time difference.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

WOW - Something for MD II

Tarantula Venom, New Treatment for Muscular Dystrophy?
Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Print ShareThisThey are big, hairy and to many people very scary – but scientists say tarantulas could be a key factor in helping people suffering from muscular dystrophy.

University of Buffalo biophysicists have found a protein in tarantula venom that shows promise as a potential therapy for MD, which is a group of inherited muscle diseases. Dr. Fredrick Sachs, a professor of physiology and biophysics at the University at Buffalo, and his colleagues discovered the peptide, which is called GsMTx4.

In collaboration with Dr. Eric Hoffman, director of the Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Center at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Sachs and his team extensively tested the effect of GsMTx4 on mice with muscular dystrophy and found the drug increased muscle strength and caused no deaths or toxicity.

Sachs said the peptide also has potential therapy for several other conditions, such as neuropathic pain and atrial fibrillation. In hopes of advancing the drug to clinical trials, Sachs and his colleagues have formed a biotech company in Buffalo, N.Y. called Rose Pharmaceuticals.

Sachs named the company "Rose," after the pet tarantula that has been living in his lab for nearly 20 years.

Currently, there's no cure for muscular dystrophy, but medications and therapy can help slow the course of the disease.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

ARTICLE: Ten Things Husbands Should Never Do...

Guys, we love you, we really do. But as wonderful as you are, every so often you do something that makes us want to jump out the nearest window (or push you out first). Please, please, don’t ever…

1. Offer to “babysit” your own kids. When your 16-year-old neighbor does it, it’s called babysitting. When a parent does it, it’s called child care, and it lasts for at least 18 years. Get it?

2. Imply that office work is harder than housework. At the end of a hard day, there may be smoke coming out of your ears, but let’s face it: You’ve basically been sitting on your butt. That same smoke is coming out of our ears too—but we’ve cleaned the house, shuttled the kids around, run errands all over town and lugged grocery bags besides. When we say we’re exhausted, we are exhausted.

3. Give a home appliance as a gift. Forgive us if we can’t work it up for this one. A new washing machine? Really? Can we get you some new snow tires?

4. Buy us the “cougar” perfume. Under our crew-neck sweaters may beat the heart of an untamed vixen—but most of us don’t want to smell like one. (Nice try, though.)

5. Brag about your driving. This is supposed to let us know that ours isn’t so great. If my husband tells me one more time that he’s been “accident-free since 1978,” I’m going to reach over, grab the wheel and make the car swerve into something, just to shut him up.

6. Be unimpressed by a meal that took a lot of time and trouble. I don’t know whose fault this is (Food Network? Julie and Julia?), but every so often we get the idea that it would be fun to make stock and spend the day basting. If the result is less than earth-shattering, say something nice anyway.

7. Buy clothes without trying them on. We know that the second you get into a department store you start to feel faint, but do us a favor and take the extra five minutes. Otherwise, you know who gets stuck with the returns?

8. Know it all, especially in public. Oh, honey. While you’re going on at length about whatever it is, we’re taking the temperature of the room, and we know everyone’s starting to fidget.

9. Say anything remotely critical about our new haircut. Sometimes getting a new cut goes well; sometimes it doesn’t. Usually we know the difference. Don’t rub it in.

10. Expect a medal for doing a little housework. Umm…it’s your house too, right? For now, we’ll give you the bronze. Maybe someday, if you work hard enough, you can pick up a gold.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Tiger Woods... and Why Do We Care?

Let's be honest. This is not about Tiger. Next week it will be someone else who is rich, famous or both. (The common folk do this stuff, too, but being common, we are completely un-newsworthy!) So why do we care? Does anyone care?

Here are several reasons not to care:

1. Statistically speaking this happens all the time
2. Elin won't go broke anytime soon, pre-nup or no
3. Tiger had a history of this (who is the stupid one here?)
4. Famous/wealthy people get propositioned all the time - eventually the right person will ask!
5. People get bored and when you can have your pick...
6. Wasn't there some teeny little voice in the back of Elin's mind when they were getting married, saying, "Maybe this is not the best idea? Maybe he is too famous?"

That was right off the top. If I mull it over I can come up with more. You see my point, though. And take your pick of the famous people getting/have gotten divorced.

Next week, I'll post about famous people who should be jailed for the names they gave their children... another sign that you have too much money/fame!

Catching Up With WORDS!

Remember the old days when I could post all the time? They disappeared for a while, so I have weeks worth of A Word A Day posts to put up! Here we go:

Week ending 29 November 2009:
A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

Last week we featured verbs. Now it's the turn for their little helpers: adverbs. Adverbs help verbs describe the action with more precision or more detail. How did she enter the room? Cautiously, gingerly, excitedly, etc. We know adverbs as words ending in -ly, but adverbs come in many garbs. This week we'll feature five unusual adverbs.

doggo

PRONUNCIATION: (DOW-goh, DOG-oh)

MEANING:
adverb: Still and quiet (used in the form: to lie doggo)

ETYMOLOGY:
Probably from dog

USAGE:
"The possibility is that [the Australian cricket team members] are merely lying doggo before they come out blazing in the next three days." Stephen Brenkley; Cricket: Anderson Has Australia in Deep Strife; The Independent (London, UK); Jul 18, 2009.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Hypocrisy is the homage which vice pays to virtue. -Francois, duc de La Rochefoucauld, moralist (1613-1680)

cap-a-pie

PRONUNCIATION:
(kap-uh-PEE)

MEANING:
adverb: From head to foot

ETYMOLOGY:
From Middle French de cap a pé (from head to foot). Interestingly, in Modern French the order of head and foot has reversed in this term: de pied en cap.

USAGE:
"The guest curator is Dr David Starkey. He explains the first exhibit -- the Earl of Pembroke on a charger, both man and horse cap-a-pie in full armour." Guy Liardet; Flesh and Blood of a Virgin Queen; The Times (London, UK); May 1, 2003.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it. -William Styron, novelist (1925-2006)

videlice

PRONUNCIATION:
(vi-DEL-uh-sit, wi-DAY-li-ket)

MEANING:
adverb: That is; namely; to wit (used to introduce examples or details)

ETYMOLOGY:
From Latin videlicet, contraction of videre licet (it's permissible to see), from videre (to see) and licere (to be permitted). The word is mostly used in its abbreviated form, viz. How did this abbreviation come about? In medieval Latin, the symbol of contraction for -et resembled the shape of z.

USAGE:
"The choreographer, videlicet Victor Kabaniaev, received formal training in Russia and has created more than 40 dance and ballet works." Jeffrey R. Smith; A Jaw-Dropping Dracul at The Crucible; Alameda Sun (California); Jan 15, 2009.

"In 1902, the Wanganui Herald reported that the mayor had proposed 'to have the name of our town spelt correctly - viz, by reinstating the letter h, making it Whanganui in accordance with its original name and meaning.'" One Little Letter Means So Much; Dominion Post (Wellington, New Zealand); Sep 18, 2009.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Nations have recently been led to borrow billions for war; no nation has ever borrowed largely for education. Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both. -Abraham Flexner, educator (1866-1959)

apropos

PRONUNCIATION:
(ap-ruh-PO)

MEANING:
adverb: 1. In reference to
2. Appropriately; relevantly
adjective: Appropriate

ETYMOLOGY:
From French à propos (to the purpose), from Latin propositium (purpose), from ponere (to put). Ultimately from the Indo-European root apo- (off or away) that is also the source of pose, apposite, after, off, awkward, post, and puny.

USAGE:
"Tom Stoppard said, apropos of his play Arcadia, that there were some works that made a playwright feel not so much proud as lucky." Alastair Macaulay; When Death (That Bowler-Hatted Gent) Comes Calling in Dreams; The New York Times; Mar 6, 2008.

"In the Radio Times interview, Eileen Atkins's comments seemed to arrive apropos of nothing." Katy Guest; Ladettes, Feminists and a Dame; Independent on Sunday (London, UK); Aug 3, 2008.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Words / as slippery as smooth grapes, / words exploding in the light / like dormant seeds waiting / in the vaults of vocabulary, / alive again, and giving life: / once again the heart distills them. -Pablo Neruda, poet and diplomat (1904-1973)

scienter

PRONUNCIATION:
(sy-EN-tuhr)

MEANING:
adverb: Deliberately; knowingly.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Latin scienter (knowingly), from scire (to know; to separate one thing from another). Ultimately from the Indo-European root skei- (to cut or split) that also gave us schism, ski, shin, science, conscience, and nice.

NOTES:
In law, scienter is an important concept. Scienter must be shown, i.e. a person was aware -- for example, the currency note he was passing was counterfeit -- to prove the guilt. The word is often used as a noun.

USAGE:
"The judge said that the complaint, if true, would show BankAtlantic's executives acted with scienter -- the intent or knowledge of wrongdoing that's the key to a plaintiff's argument in a class action complaint." Brian Bandell; Judge Lets Class Action Suit Proceed Against BankAtlantic Bancorp; South Florida Business Journal; May 22, 2009.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Forgive him, for he believes that the customs of his tribe are the laws of nature. -George Bernard Shaw, writer, Nobel laureate (1856-1950)

Week ending 6 December 2009:
A common misconception is that in the past when an immigrant to the US arrived on Ellis Island, the clerk at the registration office often changed a name, from Kwiatkovski to Kay, for example. While stories of renaming at the port of entry are mostly myths, many names were later anglicized, such as Pedersen becoming Peterson.

Something similar happens with the language. What do the words puny, petty, mayday have in common? Each is a French word that has been adopted into English with a phonetic respelling, from puisné, petit, and m'aidez (literally, Help me).

This week we've picked five French terms that are used in English with little change. They have the same spellings and meanings, though English pronunciations are a little different from their original French.

rapporteur

PRONUNCIATION:
(rap-or-TUHR)

MEANING:
noun:
1. Someone appointed by an organization, group, or committee to investigate or monitor an issue, and compile and present the findings
2. One who is designated to record the deliberations of a meeting

ETYMOLOGY:
From French raportour (reporter), from rapporter (to bring back, report), from apporter (to bring), from Latin portare (carry). Ultimately from the Indo-European root per- (to lead, pass over) that also gave us support, comport, petroleum, sport, passport, colporteur (a peddler of religious books), Swedish fartlek (a training technique), Norwegian fjord (bay), and Sanskrit parvat (mountain).
The word rapporteur in French has various other meanings besides a reporter, such as an informer or a tattletale, and a protractor.

USAGE:
"The United Nations special rapporteur, Raquel Rolnik, listened to it all patiently, occasionally taking notes, nodding encouragement." Chris McGreal; UN Meets Homeless Victims of American Property Dream; The Guardian (London, UK); Nov 12, 2009.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Reading a book is like rewriting it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms. -Angela Carter, novelist and journalist (1940-1992)

amour-propre or amour propre

PRONUNCIATION:
(ah-moor PRO-pruh)

MEANING:
noun: Self-esteem; self-respect

ETYMOLOGY:
From French amour-propre (self-esteem), from amour (love) + propre (own)

USAGE:
"Diaghilev was always happy to trample on the feelings of his colleagues if he thought that the outcome merited it and at different times we see Fokine, Benois, Bakst, and Nijinsky all desolated by jealousy and injured amour-propre." Luke Jennings; A Tyrannical Genius; The Observer (London, UK); Oct 25, 2009.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Man can be the most affectionate and altruistic of creatures, yet he's potentially more vicious than any other. He is the only one who can be persuaded to hate millions of his own kind whom he has never seen and to kill as many as he can lay his hands on in the name of his tribe or his God. -Benjamin Spock, pediatrician and author (1903-1998)

esprit de corps

PRONUNCIATION:
(eh-SPREE duh COR)

MEANING:
noun: A spirit of solidarity; a sense of pride, devotion, and honor among the members of a group.

ETYMOLOGY:
From French esprit (spirit), de (of), corps (body, group)

USAGE:
"Using cooking to promote an esprit de corps and employee bonding had its beginnings on the West Coast." Jonnie Bassaro; Corporate Employees Bond Through Cooking; News-Times (Danbury, Connecticut); Sep 17, 2007.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Commandment Number One for any truly civilized society is this: Let people be different. -David Grayson [pen name of Ray Stannard Baker], journalist, author (1870-1946)

chef-d'oeuvre

PRONUNCIATION:
(shay-DOO-vruh)

MEANING:
noun: A masterpiece

ETYMOLOGY:
From French chef-d'oeuvre (masterpiece), from chef (chief) + oeuvre (work)

USAGE:
"Not every item is a chef d'oeuvre: The Surrealists loved to create collages from trivial snapshots." Jorg von Uthmann; Kinky Dolls, Glass Tears Adorn Surrealist Photo Show; Bloomberg; Oct 29, 2009.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Every one is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody. -Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910)

savoir-faire

PRONUNCIATION:
(SAV-wahr-fayr)

MEANING:
noun: The ability to say or do the right thing in any situation; tact

ETYMOLOGY:
From French savoir-faire (know-how), from savoir (to know) + faire (to do)

USAGE:
"In a cascade of thanks, C.S. Richardson bows gracefully to all those elegant Londoners, full of savoir faire." Peter Wells; The A to Z of Life; New Zealand Herald (Auckland); Jul 7, 2008.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt. -H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (1880-1956)

Week ending 13 December 2009:
"How do you find words?" Readers sometimes ask me. I like to say that words come to me. "Pick me!" "Pick me!" They raise their hands, eager to go out, be widely known in the language, and find a place on people's tongues.

From time to time I scour dictionaries for words, to seek out more obscure ones. When I stumble upon an interesting word, I feel as excited as a paleontologist might feel on finding a fossil, or a geologist on discovering a new form of rock. Shiny words, grimy words, words long and short, words with an unusual arrangement of letters, words to describe something unusual, and more.

rhopalic

PRONUNCIATION:
(ro-PAL-ik)

MEANING:
adjective: Having each successive word longer by a letter or syllable

ETYMOLOGY:
From Latin rhopalicus, from Greek rhopalos (club, tapered cudgel)

NOTES:
A rhopalic verse or sentence is one that balloons -- where each word is a letter or a syllable longer. The word is also used as a noun. Here's a terrific example of a rhopalic by Dmitri Borgmann: "I do not know where family doctors acquired illegibly perplexing handwriting; nevertheless, extraordinary pharmaceutical intellectuality, counterbalancing indecipherability, transcendentalises intercommunications' incomprehensibleness."

USAGE:
"Soapy fired off a rhopalic sentence, that is, one in which each word is one letter longer than the word that precedes it: 'I am the only dummy player, perhaps, planning maneuvers calculated brilliantly, nevertheless outstandingly pachydermatous, notwithstanding unconstitutional unprofessionalism.'" Alan Truscott; Talking About Behavior; The New York Times; Oct 26, 1986.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
The sorrow which has no vent in tears may make other organs weep. -Henry Maudsley, psychiatrist (1835-1918)

periphrastic

PRONUNCIATION:
(per-uh-FRAS-tik)

MEANING:
adjective, also used as a noun:
1. Using a roundabout form of expression; wordy
2. Formed by the use of two or more words instead of inflection
Examples:
"daughter of John" (compared with "John's daughter)
"It did happen" (compared with "It happened")
"more stupid" (compared with "stupider")
"Do you have" (compared with "Have you")

ETYMOLOGY:
Via Latin, from Greek periphrastikos, from periphrazein (to explain around), from peri- (around) + phrazein (to speak, say)

USAGE:
"There is something frustratingly schematic about the characters ... periphrastic leader writer set against a reporter who speaks mostly in grunts and sighs." Charles Spencer; Alphabetical Order, Hampstead Theatre; The Daily Telegraph (London, UK); Apr 22, 2009. [leader = editorial]

"Some people are annoyed by the errors they find in others' choice of grammar or selection of vocabulary. To these guardians of language, there are few more egregious slip-ups (slips-up?) than ... to utilize an inflectional, rather than a periphrastic." Ammon Shea; Error-Proof; The New York Times; Sep 28, 2009.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
I am not a lover of lawns. Rather would I see daisies in their thousands, ground ivy, hawkweed, and even the hated plantain with tall stems, and dandelions with splendid flowers and fairy down, than the too-well-tended lawn. -William Henry Hudson, author and naturalist (1841-1922)

epanorthosis

PRONUNCIATION:
(ep-uh-nor-THO-sis)

MEANING:
noun: The immediate rephrasing of something said in order to correct it or to make it stronger. Usually indicated by: no, nay, rather, I mean, etc.
Example: I've warned you a thousand, no, a million times

ETYMOLOGY:
From Greek epanorthosis (correction, revision), from epi- (upon) + ana- (again) + orthosis (making straight), from ortho (straight)

MORE EXAMPLES:
God bless the King, -- I mean the faith's defender!
God bless -- no harm in blessing -- the Pretender!
(John Byrom)

No, let the monarch's bags and others hold
The flattering, mighty, nay, al-mighty gold.
(John Wolcot)

USAGE:
"But rather, simply the two most beautiful words in the language (let's face it, epanorthosis is my million-dollar baby)." Michael Brodsky; We Can Report Them; Thunder's Mouth Press; 1999.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
He felt justified to kill birds for a museum where they would be preserved forever, as some feel justified to eat fish, chicken, or other meat that is digested in hours. Which is more justified? And even if necessary, how do you justify? Those who are familiar with ancient folklore, or are up above the rest of us a moral notch or two, kill "respectfully" by offering prayers or apologies, in the hope that animals will "offer themselves" up to be voluntarily killed. However, it is a sad fact that no animal cares if those who might eat them invent reasons to justify their acts (to make themselves feel good). -Bernd Heinrich, biology professor and author (b. 1940)

monepic

PRONUNCIATION:
(mun-NEP-ik)

MEANING:
adjective: Composed of a single word or single-word sentences

ETYMOLOGY:
From Greek mono- (one) + epos (speech, word)

USAGE:
"His speech is monepic. These words consist of substantives, such as mamma, nurse, milk, and so forth." James Sully; Popular Science; Nov 1894.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Great thoughts reduced to practice become great acts. -William Hazlitt, essayist (1778-1830)

ploce

PRONUNCIATION:
(PLO-see)

MEANING:
noun: The repetition of a word or phrase for rhetorical emphasis or for extended meaning
Examples:
"Why wilt thou sleep the sleep of death?" (William Blake)
"Make war upon themselves - brother to brother / Blood to blood, self against self." (Shakespeare)

ETYMOLOGY:
From Latin ploce, from Greek ploke (plaiting), from plekein (to plait).

USAGE:
"Theme and irony both seem to echo through the following lines, in which ploce and pronouns play off one another. Duncan speaks to Lady Macbeth about love and thanks her for the 'trouble' of hosting his visit:
The love that follows us sometimes is our trouble
Which still we thank as love. Herein I teach you
How you shall bid God 'ild us for your pains,
And thank us for your trouble."
Paul Pellikka; Echoes of Sound and Sense in Macbeth; Style; Spring 1997

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey. -Kenji Miyazawa, poet and story writer (1896-1933)

Week ending 20 December:
A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

This week we'll feature a potpourri of words. We opened a dictionary, shook it gently, and five words fell out. They came in all shapes, sizes, and senses. They're short and long. They're flighty and grouchy. Call 'em what you will, a medley of words, a farrago, or a gallimaufry. They're disparate, they're diverse. They're varied and variegated, unclassified and unsorted. And they're all ready for use.

anomie or anomy

PRONUNCIATION:
(AN-uh-mee)

MEANING:
noun: Social instability and alienation caused by the erosion of norms and values

ETYMOLOGY:
From French anomie, from Greek anomia (lawlessness), from anomos (lawless), from a- (without) + nomos (law). Ultimately from the Indo-European root nem- (to assign or take) that's also the source for words such as number, numb, nomad, metronome, astronomy, and nemesis.

USAGE:
"That didn't mean the music was emotionless, but that the emotions were bleak: isolation, urban anomie, feeling cold and hollow inside, paranoia." Simon Reynolds; One Nation Under A Moog; The Guardian (London, UK); Oct 10, 2009.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible. -Vladimir Nabokov, (1899-1977)

simulacrum

PRONUNCIATION:
(sim-yuh-LAY-krum)

MEANING:
noun:
1. An image or representation
2. A vague resemblance to something

ETYMOLOGY:
From Latin simulare (to simulate), from similis (like). Ultimately from the Indo-European root sem- (one) that is also the source of simultaneous, assemble, simple, Sanskrit sandhi (union), Russian samovar (a metal urn, literally, self-boiler), and Greek hamadryad (a wood nymph, who lives in a tree and dies when it dies).

USAGE:
"The game [Webkinz] also offers an outlet to exercise a simulacrum of control over aspects of their lives, an opportunity often not available in the day-to-day world." Akin Ajayi; Every Kid Wants A Petting Zoo at Home; Jerusalem Post (Israel); Dec 3, 2009.

"Edward [the vampire] is stuck forever in the simulacrum of a devastatingly attractive 17-year-old boy." Olivia Laing; The Mormon Queen of the Damned; New Zealand Herald (Auckland); Nov 21, 2009.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. -Marcus Aurelius, philosopher and writer (121-180)

avoirdupois

PRONUNCIATION:
(av-ur-duh-POIZ, -PWA)

MEANING:
noun: Heaviness or weight of a person

ETYMOLOGY:
From Middle English avoir de pois (goods sold by weight), from Old French aveir de peis (goods of weight), originally referred to things sold in bulk

USAGE:
"Both McKay and Welles are tall and carry a fair amount of avoirdupois." Sam Allis; Getting Orson Welles Just Right; Boston Globe; Dec 6, 2009.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
The vanquished know war. They see through the empty jingoism of those who use the abstract words of glory, honor, and patriotism to mask the cries of the wounded, the senseless killing, war profiteering, and chest-pounding grief. -Chris Hedges, journalist, author, and war correspondent (b. 1956)

arrogate

PRONUNCIATION:
(AIR-uh-gayt)

MEANING:
verb tr.:
1. To claim as a right for oneself presumptuously
2. To claim on behalf of another: to attribute or assign

ETYMOLOGY:
From Latin arrogatus (appropriated), past participle of arrogare, from rogare (to ask). Ultimately from the Indo-European reg- (to move in a straight line, to lead or rule) that is also the source of arrogant, regent, regime, direct, rectangle, erect, rectum, alert, source, surge, supererogatory, abrogate, and prorogue.

USAGE:
"Youth fills you with optimistic thoughts, bursts with energy, and brims with confidence. It is the stage where you feel that your calling in life is to change the existing order for betterment arrogating the role of the social arbiter." Philip Fernando; Understanding the JVP; Daily News (Colombo, Sri Lanka); Dec 8, 2009.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Many demolitions are actually renovations. -Jalaluddin Rumi, poet and mystic (1207-1273)

pother

PRONUNCIATION:
(POTH-uhr)

MEANING:
noun:
1. A commotion or fuss
2. Mental turmoil
3. A smothering cloud of dust or smoke

verb tr.:
To confuse or worry someone
verb intr.: To worry or fuss

ETYMOLOGY:
Of unknown origin

USAGE:
"Very little will change whether that appointee is Caroline Kennedy or someone else. So why all the pother?" Ed Quillen; Expanded Non-story Season; Denver Post; Dec 28, 2008.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
I am always sorry when any language is lost, because languages are the pedigrees of nations. -Samuel Johnson, lexicographer (1709-1784)

YEEEAAASSSS!

Look at this! I'm on! YEEEEEHHHAAA!

After a too-long dry period, I'm back! Life is so good and about to get so much better! And you are sitting there shaking your head and chuckling, because I have been "jonesing" to write on my blog! Laugh away, my friends, it is funny. At least I'm just jonesing to do this... unlike the frequent fliers on the rig who indulged in their need for alcohol, drugs, both... I'd rather be like me, thanks.

And now, back to all the backlog of things that need to be said and posted!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

A Bad Confluence of Events

Nothing serious. I just can access Blogger from only two places:

Work
Luis' computer

Work is immediately out of the question. It is not even in the equation. I made the rules, so breaking them is not acceptable. That's one avenue down.

Luis' computer is - as you can see - available, but the moment he gets home all bets are off. You cannot come between a gamer and his computer. Watching him come h0me to this unit is like watching Stratavarius go to his violin. I know where my blogging falls in the grand scheme of things.

I have two computers - my office one, where my awesome new monitor is now completely non-functional; and my laptop, which somehow now can't log in to Blogger the moment I finished installing Windows 7 - a pity. Eventually I'll find the cure. Eventually I will take care of the monitor, too. I got it in August, so the clock is definitely ticking...

So five million things have gone unsaid - so unlike me - because of this weird confluence of celestial computer bad karma... or something like that. And a few million more things will go unsaid until I finally get this all resolved.

In the meantime, happy holidays!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Finally Enjoying the Ride!

I have been feeling so good since getting back from Philly and getting into a more normal rhythm of living. I still feel good. I e-mailed my doctor to set up an appointment so I can follow up with the sleep testing and ask if they know any particular opthamalogist in the CIGNA plan. I wanna get this ball rolling!

And I love the medication for my muscles! Almost no side effects, doesn't make me tired or loopy on a full stomach, does make me tired on an empty stomach and works well in tandem with Ambien, so I have cut back on that.
I eating less, getting back into exercising, getting into the holidays and taking pictures again... it's awesome! And work - I always love work but it had gotten so uncomfortable with the back spasms and neck tightness. Now I am focussing on work and not being in pain!

I don't think of it often, or I should say, I try not to think that this may just be a momentary thing. I don't want this to be a couple weeks of feeling great and then going back to the mess I was. That does scare me... but I am working on making sure that this won't happen!

Friday, 27 November 2009

The Luck of a Quiet Thanksgiving!

It really is usually far nuttier on Thanksgiving, but the gods smiled upon us this year.

One call, at 1820, for a syncope patient. That's it. And the patient was a perfectly wonderful person, having a good chuckle over this. We liked our patient, and our patient liked us. That is usually not the case with holiday calls.

Even 65 had an easy night. They were called out when we were enroute to the hospital for a 19-year-old choking (worry not, I believed all turned out well) and then around 2100 for someone at Greystone - better them than us. I've been to Greystone far too often this year... that is not my side of town and let's face it, no one wants to go to the scary old mental patient facility. Granted the facility we usually go to is modern and well-kept, but it is still freaky. A little bit.

After that, silence reigned - except 69 (the Hevy Rescue guys) had a board up to go to.

Happy Thanksgiving indeed!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Processing the Philadelphia Trip

As you., my few readers know, I went to Philadelphia Tuesday afternoon, had my doctor appointment at 0800 and left shortly after to return home.


We drove down Route 287 for a while until the navigator, harboring its own thought-processes on how to get there, took us off the highway and put us on Route 206 South, which was, in short, a nightmare. We passed through small towns; many, many traffic lights, all of which turned red just for us; cows; farms; open fields... it was boring, long and complete with schoolbusses, the root of all evil where road travel of any kind is done. I wanted off of those backroad, backwoods lanes NOW!


Eventually we made it to Route 95S (the other Route 95S - don't ask!) and there I happily took my chances with the local constabulary doing 80 - 85 the remaining distance until we reached Route 30 in Philly. Then the wretched traffic confined my speeding to low but steady numbers. That, and sheer stress - I hate driving in cities. Any city, really, but especially tower metropolises, like Manhattan, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas and (the number one, absolutely highest criminally wrong place to drive, Boston! The "engineers" who came up with that nightmare should be shot.


We found the hotel with relative ease. I am terribly ignorant of cities outside of Manhattan and so really hadn't realised that the hotels close to University of Pennsylvania Medical Center are not really the better places to stay - or that this is the most savory area of the city. Philadelphia has tons of history, good restaurants, fun places and things to do.... and the less well-lit sides with the violence, the drugs, the usual inner-city issues. I wasn't in the heart of South Philly, but I was not in the better parts of town, either.


The first hint was the local in general, which did not look... great. When we got in and checked in, it was less great. This was a one-night stay over, so I picked the hotel that was very close to the hospital - 4.5 miles away. The Best Western. For one night, who cares?


I cared when I requested two pillows and after the third request, the Front Desk told me they would send Security up with the pillows. Say what?! Sure enough, a huge burly friendly looking guy came up wearing a gun and a radio popped by with two pillows. I said, "You're my hero." and took the pillows gratefully and could not close and triple lock the door fast enough.


During the waiting time for the pillows, the room "behind" us became someone's love shack or "office" (take your pick), when the moaning and bed-banging sounds began. I couldn't believe it. I said t0 Luis, "We won't be returning here - this place must rent by the hour." Well... she certainly made the most of the hour. I don't know if this was one woman pleasuring herself, one woman with one silent guy, or one woman with three different silent guy but there would be 19 minutes of moaning and yelling and sex sounds, three or four golden minutes of silence and then another round. Three times.


The telly could not be loud enough.


We did survive the night, obviously, but we got up around 0600, got washed and dressed and outta there after a very continental breakfast. Time for the appointment.


The drive to UPenn was indeed short, but we passed some really posh hotels and that is where we are going next time. The money will be well spent. With room service and comfy beds and a view that would make Ben Franklin smile!


Luis dropped me off at the front of the building and went off to find parking. I went in and had no trouble finding the neurology center. I was all signed in and ready to go. In fact, they kept excellent records and had everything set up... but they did not ask for my new insurance card and so I owe them $5 (it is nice that since my last visit to UPenn, 18 months ago, the copay has only increased that much). The office was empty, just a couple of employees and one or two other patients, so I will remember to set up my annual visit for first thing in the morning.

I went and had my vitals checked, which true to form were fine and then returned to the waiting room. Luis came in and sat with me and around 0830, Dr. Lauren Elman came out with another doctor, introduced herself and the student, and we went into the room.

She ran me throught the usual tests, push on that, pull on these, don't let me push this, don't pull that, grip my fingers, tight, really tight, now let go fast! I have no neck strength, can't get out of a deep knee bend, have trouble with my balance, can't always let go of things right away, and can't lift much (including myself). But I have a good, strong, healthy heart, and I have other positives. She did ask if I snore and I looked at Luis - I'm asleep, so I have no way of knowing if I snore. Luis was nodding away, so I guess I do! The doctor recommended I have a sleep test for sleep apnia and I am sending an e-mail to my doctor's office to do that. I can't wait to jump into that - I would love to sleep well again.

She also suggested that I see an opthamalogist - I have to check what it is that I need to go for (I either missed the reason or the conversational ball was moving so fast that I did not get that far. Luis has an opthamalogist that never processes his insurance correctly, so we are going to seek out a new one together. And finally, Dr. Elman gave me a new script for a muscle relaxant that can be used as needed, so I won't be on something all the time.

And I asked the big questions: can I keep working (both jobs) and will I need to be in a wheelchair one day. She was very positive and encouraging in the work area - there are new things coming out all the time and we will meet once a year and I can call her ANYtime with questions or issues - and (Drum roll, please!) while there is some chance that I could some time down the road need a walker or something like that, she would bet her career that I will not end up in a wheelchair. She said I have had this all of my life, and she is sure that when I come and see her next year, that I will not have gotten worse than I am now.

That is HUGE!

I feel so much better - it hasn't fixed me and I will undoubtedly have work to do to keep on a better path but to hear that was so reassuring, so great! An enormous weight has been lifted!

And it is back to the gym and yoga for me! I need to get back to doing that.

Thanksgiving - Just Another Day Off

Every Thanksgiving is the same, whether we go somewhere or not. When I was little, Thanksgiving was a Grandparents' holiday. I was exchanged at Checkpoint Charlie (The then-lone Howard Jonsons restaurant on Route 80 right at the Delaware Water Gap on the Pennsylvania side) from my mother to my paternal grandparents, Grandma and Pop-pop (usually both grands have funny nicknames, but I wonder if my grandmother would have considered that beneath her dignity. I don't know, and it is unlikely I will ever know, but that sort of fits her.

That lasted into my 11th or 12th year, maybe into my midteens. Once my grandmother allowed herself to show anger that I was getting my menstrual cycle, Thanksgiving became the Platt Family sideshow.

Just a freaky little behaviour from my grandmother that no one could have predicted. All families have their idiosyncrasies and homegrown weirdnessess, but this was so pervasive that I elected to stay home for every holiday. They'd send gifts, but the real heart of the relationship had been broken because I had the temerity to grow up.

It's difficult for me to understand a lot of what motivated my grandmother. When I was little, I adored her. I had more realsitic feelings about Pop-pop - I loved him and a lot but he was not perfect and attempting to be that way. And it was easy to see at a young age, that he lived solely to be a Yes Man to my very controlling grandmother. But while those things were there and known I really did not see what a truly bizarre person she could be.

Frances Lydia Anderson - that is about as WASPy as any name could be. And she was very much that. I know plenty of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants and could not care less, but she was one-of-a-kind, because her whole essence to be and the core of everything she did revolved around one unutterable mantra: what would the neighbours think?

This is not an issue I will ever have. I don't even know my neighbours for the most part and am perfectly happy that way.

(I'm sitting in Luis' office typing this. For the time being he has quit the room and I have it for one reason: this awesome back massaging thing he has gotten. $200 buys you a heating, vibrating, rolling or shiatsu (or both) thing that you drape over the chair of your choice and give a message that will turn you into a wet noodle. Sign me up!)

Anyway, I have a vague memory of the early Thanksgiving - not unsurprising, with my long-term mnemonic skills. After I stopped going to Pennsy I would go with my parents to the Long Island Platchek Thanksiving show. My maternal grandmother was still alive, Ida, for whom I had no nickname. You can see the closeness my mother fomented between us. This was your smells-funny grandmother, who looked and smelled kinda weird, or old, I guess, despite being potentially younger than Grandma. I can't remember who was what age. I do know Ida died when I was 17, and she was 77, and that had to be in 1985. (The advantage of being born in late January is that there is little math involved in figuring out what year something happened if I know my age. I only have 25 days into any new year before my birthday.) Ma told me a story that Ida had put down a false birthyear on her birth certificate - she made herself two years younger. I find that laughable - so what? Two years. Shit, make it twelve and be done with it.

My other grandmother was not into aging, but not enough to fudge her records. She would always refer to herself as "39 and holding". I remember thinking that I was onto that act. I never understand people and getting bent over something that is a natural part of life. I wouldn't want to be Dorian Gray, either. I'll just take my normal aging lumps, thank you!

Um, where was I? Oh, yes, Thanksgiving. Well, for years we did the Long Island trek to either Douglaston or Queens to do the familial Thaksgiving (everyone's so into turkey, except me). That lasted until the Great Schism, when it was discovered that my mother was siding with the enemy, my uncle John. He and my aunt had split, and it was an ugly, ugly scene, so there were very strong feelings about this. Anyway, my parents made the decision to stay in touch with John and his new (then) girlfriend so when my aunt and cousin found out, they really had conniptions over it.

So after that we went to the Christmas Eve celebrations only, where we were semi-pariahs (which really did not affect us much as a whole), and began having Thanksgivings in Wayne, with my parents, Luis and me and John and Safia. And then ten years ago, it was my parents, Luis and me and John, Safia and Julia, their daughter. After that, we made our Thanksgiving visits shorter (being related to the child hardly makes a difference to me - kids are kids and I don't like kids), but still went.
After last year, however, there was no point in holding Thanksgiving any longer, so now it is just another day off with bad telly and no shopping. At least I don't have to eat turkey any more!
Tomorrow I will amuse myself by working on the Thanksgiving holiday hours for the time system so that this will be complete before I come in to work on Monday to run the payroll. That way it won't take me all bloody day to do it. Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas stuff - those are all the big ones. Christmas Day is the only easy one - EVERYONE gets it since it is the one day of the year - the whole year - that we are closed! All the others have to be calculated by hours worked.
So I have ALL day to blog, read, maybe do some online shopping for Christmas, install Windows 7 on first my office computer, then my laptop, do stuff around the house (cleaning off my desk would be an excellent start), bond with the kitties, hang with Luis... whatever. So many choices!
Blogging first!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

I Hate Feeling Like This

I don't know if it has been the sleeplessness of being on call 23.75 hours, the DM II, the weirdness that my life has become, but I am feeling very depressed. I have no doubt that the westerned sun at this early hour has a part in it as well, but not so much as the rest. Maybe medication adds to it. And a million other little things.

I don't want to feel this way. I feel like my life doesn't have enough meaning. Like I'm just taking up space or converting oxygen into carbon dioxide. That may sound valuable, but a vegetable can do that. I don't know what to do about this. We'll be in Philadelphia on Wednesday, though to meet with the DM specialist and maybe there will be something - a new direction or insight or I don't know what - to help me deal with all of this.

Well, enough for now. One hour left of covering.

Catching Up on Words

with Anu Garg

Little strokes make a letter and those letters come together to form words. We assign meanings to the words. Often they express simple ideas: a tree, a rock, water, and so on. Sometimes a word describes a more complex idea.

Have you ever found yourself wondering, "Wouldn't it be nice if there were a word for it?" Well, there is a word for almost everything under the sun. This week we have dug up five words you may not have known existed.

acnestis
PRONUNCIATION: (AK-nist-uhs)
MEANING: noun: The part of the body where one cannot reach to scratch

ETYMOLOGY: From Greek aknestis (spine), from Ancient Greek knestis (spine, cheese-grater).

USAGE: "In what has to be the longest post-election season in living memory, the last five months have felt like an acnestis upon our collective soul; like that little patch of skin on our backs that we just can't reach to scratch ourselves. It's irritating. It's annoying. It's left us reaching and spinning around in circles." A Wish List to Soothe Our Collective Itch; New Straits Times (Malaysia); Aug 5, 2008.

daymare
PRONUNCIATION: (DAY-mayr)
MEANING: noun: A terrifying experience, similar to a nightmare, felt while awake

ETYMOLOGY: Coined after nightmare, from a combination of day + mare (an evil spirit believed to produce nightmares). Ultimately from the Indo-European root mer- (to rub away or to harm) that is also the source of mordant, amaranth, morbid, mortal, mortgage, ambrosia, and nightmare.

USAGE: "Reports like these give me a deep and sickening feeling, somewhere between a daymare and deja vu." Margaret McCartney; A Swiss Cheese Method to Eliminate Fatal Errors; Financial Times (London, UK); Feb 18, 2006.

nihilarian
PRONUNCIATION: (nih-i-LAR-ee-uhn)
MEANING: noun: One who does useless work

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin nihil (nothing).

USAGE: "You may find yourself worrying that you're turning into a nihilarian." Sian Prior; Ineffable; The Age (Melbourne, Australia); Dec 16, 2002.

lentiginous
PRONUNCIATION: (len-TIJ-uh-nuhs)
MEANING: adjective: Covered with freckles

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin lentiginosus (freckled), from lentigo (freckle), from lens (lentil).

USAGE: "I realised that my freckly Celtic complexion wasn't a curse I had to endure for life, and my offensively lentiginous skin could be smoothed into picture-perfect ivory." Simon Price; Cover-up, Powder and Eyeliner; The Guardian (London, UK); Dec 14, 2002.

spurtle
PRONUNCIATION: (SPUR-tl)
MEANING: noun: A wooden stick for stirring porridge

ETYMOLOGY: Of uncertain origin, perhaps from Latin spatula, or from sprit (a pole to extend a sail on a ship).

NOTES: There's a word for everything. And there's a contest for everything. There is one for making porridge, grandly named, The Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship, held annually in Scotland.

USAGE: "I know hardly anyone who eats anything much in the morning. ... No one yet has owned up to stirring porridge with a spurtle, pouring milk over blocks of desiccated wheat, or even blasting a banana to a pulp in the blender. Nigel Slater; Oat Cuisine; The Observer (London, UK); May 19, 2002.

It's a sign of our historical dependence on horses that our language is filled with terms, idioms, and other references about them. When the locomotive came out, it was called an iron horse. And when the automobile was invented, it was named a horseless carriage.

Today, we use many horse-related terms metaphorically, from horse-trading (hard bargaining) to horse sense (common sense). A political candidate might turn out to be a dark horse (someone little known who gains unexpected support). One might change horses in midstream (to change opinion in the middle of action) or ride two horses (have two allegiances or follow two courses).

This week we'll look at five terms related to horses.

horse-and-buggy
PRONUNCIATION: (HORS-uhn-BUG-ee)
MEANING: adjective: Old-fashioned; outdated

ETYMOLOGY: Referring to the era before the invention of the automobile, when people often traveled in horse-drawn buggies.

USAGE: "'You can't continue to run a space-age company with horse-and-buggy methods,' said Angelo Rosati." Gina Thackara; Business Lessons Basic to Survival; Scranton Times (Pennsylvania); Oct 2, 1996.

horse latitudes
PRONUNCIATION: (hors LAT-i-toodz, -tyoodz)
MEANING: noun: Either of the two belts around latitudes 30 to 35 degrees N or S, marked by high pressure, and light variable winds

ETYMOLOGY: Of uncertain origin. There's a story, not very convincing, that when stuck in such a region of calm with little wind to get them across, sailors threw their cargo of horses overboard to save on rations and to lighten the load. Another conjecture is that the term is derived from Spanish golfo de las yeguas, literally, mares' sea, alluding to the unpredictable nature of the mares. A related term is doldrums, the calm area in an ocean around the equator.

USAGE: "Newspapers are emerging from the doldrums of July and August and gathering wind in their sails again as they sweep southwards through the horse latitudes of autumn, their masts (and metaphors -Editor) creaking from the renewed strain of events." Frank McNally; An Irishman's Diary; The Irish Times (Dublin); Sep 18, 2009.

stalking horse
PRONUNCIATION: (STAH-king HORS)
MEANING: noun:
1. Something used to mask the true purpose
2. A candidate put forward in an election to draw votes from another or to conceal another's potential candidacy

ETYMOLOGY: After the former practice of bird hunters of hiding behind a horse (or a decoy) until he had reached within close range of prey.

USAGE: "The escalation of war in Afghanistan may be only a stalking horse for an even larger war in Pakistan as the United States seeks to secure the nukes there."

hobbyhorse
PRONUNCIATION: (HOB-ee-hors)
MEANING: noun: A favorite pastime, a pet project or topic; an obsession

ETYMOLOGY: The everyday word hobby is a shortening of the term hobbyhorse. A hobbyhorse is a child's riding toy, consisting of a stick with the shape of a horse's head on the front. It was called hobbyhorse, probably from the name Robin or Hobin usually given to a small horse. The word is often used in a metaphorical sense as "to ride one's hobby-horse" meaning to pursue a pet topic.

Also see cheval de bataille.

USAGE: "Charleston was my father's ministry, his hobbyhorse, his quiet obsession, and the great love of his life." Pat Conroy; South of Broad; Nan A. Talese Books; 2009.

Trojan horse
PRONUNCIATION: (TRO-juhn hors)
MEANING: noun: Something or someone placed in order to subvert from within

ETYMOLOGY: In the legendary Trojan War, the Greeks left a large hollow wooden horse at the gates of the city of Troy. The Trojans took it inside. Greek soldiers hidden in the horse came out at night and opened the gates of the city, allowing the Greek army to enter and conquer the Trojans. In computing, a Trojan horse is a program that, while seemingly useful, steals passwords or does other damage to computers.

USAGE: "Ministers appear determined to use the Coroners and Justice Bill as a Trojan horse with which to smuggle authoritarian measures on to the statute book."

Verbs are special words. They describe action. Nothing would ever get done if it were not for the verbs. Look at a sentence on your screen or on paper -- it just lies there listless, a mere collection of random words until a verb comes to infuse life into it. This week we'll feature five unusual verbs - words for a few things you most likely don't do every day.
homologate
PRONUNCIATION: (huh-MOL-uh-gayt, ho-)
MEANING: verb tr.:
1. To approve officially
2. To register a specific model of a motor vehicle to make it eligible to take part in a racing competition

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin homologare (to agree), from Greek homologein (to agree or allow).

NOTES: Some auto racing competitions require participating vehicles to be available for sale to the general public, and not be custom made for racing. The process of homologation verifies this. The initials GTO listed after some auto names (Ferrari, Pontiac, etc.) mean "Gran Turismo Omologato", Italian for "Grand Touring, Homologated".

USAGE: "Mr Jimmy Gray said: 'We've major issues which appear to be discussed in the press. Decisions are made and then we're asked to homologate these decisions." Labour Group Leader Hits Out; Aberdeen Press & Journal (UK); Jul 9, 2007.

"What was needed was a more streamlined street car to homologate for racing." Malcolm Gunn; Parked on the Showroom Floor; Chicago Daily Herald; Oct 18, 2009.

convoke
PRONUNCIATION: (kuhn-VOHK)
MEANING: verb tr.: To call together for a meeting

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin convocare (call together), from con- (together) + vocare (to call), from vox (voice).

USAGE: "They insist that Mr Zelaya violated the constitution by trying to convoke a constituent assembly which they fear might have prolonged his term." Post-coup Honduras; The Economist (London, UK); Jul 9 2009.

expiate
PRONUNCIATION: (EK-spee-ayt)
MEANING: verb tr.: To atone, to make amends for

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin expiare (to atone for), from ex- (thoroughly) + piare (to atone), from pius (dutiful).

USAGE: "Is she expiating her guilt for being a neglectful daughter?" Mark Schilling; Tossing Cash Round Like Confetti; Japan Times (Tokyo); Oct 30, 2009.

subserve
PRONUNCIATION: (suhb-SURV)
MEANING: verb tr.: To help to further something

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin subservire (to serve under), from sub- (under) + servire (to serve), from servus (slave).

USAGE: "The decisions were ad hoc in nature and were taken to subserve political expediency." H.N. Das; Ethnic Aspirations; The Assam Tribune (India); Apr 19, 2009.

nettle
PRONUNCIATION: (NET-l)
MEANING: verb tr.:
1. To irritate
2. To sting

ETYMOLOGY: The verb senses of the word are derived from the name of the plant, any of the various plants of the genus Urtica whose leaves are covered with stinging hairs. The word is ultimately from the Indo-European root ned- (to bind) that is also the source of node, noose, annex, and connect. There's a British and Australian idiom, grasp the nettle, meaning to tackle an unpleasant or difficult task.

USAGE: "My questions about the wisdom or otherwise of disbanding the Iraqi army visibly nettled him [General David McKiernan]." Mark Urban; When Generals Become Unstuck; BBC News; May 12, 2009.