Sat 22
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
to stay the course Added several more nautical terms now mainstream.
Sunday, Feburary 25, 2006
a cappella A nice mnemonic for a cappella from
a cappella - two words, two "p's", two "l's."
Sunday, September 25, 2005
Tom found another nautical term, cut and run, in an article on Iraq by Robert Fisk:
Later, no doubt, we'll blame those ungrateful Iraqis and then we'll declare victory and do what Defence Secretary John Reid claims we won't do: cut and run. And there again, we're in danger of forgetting the origin of such things. Faced with the imminent destruction of his vessel, a sailing ship captain would cut his anchor or sail ropes to allow his ship to move away from rocks or from being overwhelmed by the waves. Cutting and running was often an eminently sensible thing to do. But not for John Reid. We're not going to cut and run. We're going to be blown on to the rocks.
Wednesday, March 2, 2005
bee : a gathering of people for a specific purpose <quilting bee>

What makes some gatherings a bee and not others? What do spelling and quilting have in common?

From the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee site:

The word bee, as used in spelling bee, is a language puzzle that has never been satisfactorily accounted for.

A fairly old and widely-used word, it refers to a community social gathering at which friends and neighbors join together in a single activity (sewing, quilting, barn raising, etc.), usually to help one person or family. The earliest known example in print is a spinning bee, in 1769. Other early occurrences are husking bee (1816), apple bee (1827), and logging bee (1836). Spelling bee is apparently an American term. It first appeared in print in 1875, but it seems certain that the word was used orally for several years before that.

Those who used the word, including most early students of language, assumed that it was the same word as referred to the insect. They thought that this particular meaning had probably been inspired by the obvious similarity between these human gatherings and the industrious, social nature of a beehive.

But in recent years scholars have rejected this explanation, suggesting instead that this bee is a completely different word. One possibility is that it comes from the Middle English word bene, which means "a prayer" or "a favor" (and is related to the more familiar word boon).

In England, a dialectal form of this word, been or bean, referred to "voluntary help given by neighbors toward the accomplishment of a particular task." (Webster's Third New International Dictionary). Bee may simply be a shortened form of been, but no one is entirely certain.

Saturday, February 5, 2005
plu·vi·al 1 a : of or relating to rain b : characterized by abundant rain
2 of a geologic change : resulting from the action of rain
Friday, February 4, 2005
bi·par·tite 1 a : being in two parts b : having a correspondent part for each of two parties <a bipartite contract> c : shared by two <a bipartite treaty>
2 : divided into two parts almost to the base <a bipartite leaf>

And it's bi-PAR-tight, not BI-par-tight or bi-PAR-teet

Friday, January 28, 2005
You can hear the accent and cadence: "pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, and green clovers".
ab·struse : difficult to comprehend : RECONDITE <the abstruse calculations of mathematicians>
ob·tuse 1 a : not pointed or acute : BLUNT    b (1) of an angle : exceeding 90 degrees but less than 180 degrees (2) : having an obtuse angle <an obtuse triangle> -- see TRIANGLE illustration    c of a leaf : rounded at the free end
2 a : lacking sharpness or quickness of sensibility or intellect : INSENSITIVE, STUPID    b : difficult to comprehend : not clear or precise in thought or expression
a·cute 1 a (1) : characterized by sharpness or severity <acute pain> (2) : having a sudden onset, sharp rise, and short course <acute disease> b : lasting a short time <acute experiments>
2 : ending in a sharp point: as a : being or forming an angle measuring less than 90 degrees <acute angle> b : composed of acute angles <acute triangle>
3 a of an accent mark : having the form b : marked with an acute accent c : of the variety indicated by an acute accent
4 a : marked by keen discernment or intellectual perception especially of subtle distinctions : PENETRATING <an acute thinker> b : responsive to slight impressions or stimuli <acute hearing>
5 : felt, perceived, or experienced intensely <acute distress>
6 : seriously demanding urgent attention

Friday, January 14, 2005
Tom and I considered taint and tarnish. Taint, we decided, has a rotten quality, a corruption from within, while tarnish has a detracting quality which lessens that which it touches.

You wouldn't want to eat something tainted, but if it's tarnished there might still be something worthwhile there.

taint 1 : to contaminate morally : CORRUPT <scholarship tainted by envy>
2 : to affect with putrefaction : SPOIL
3 : to touch or affect slightly with something bad <persons tainted with prejudice>
tarnish 1 : to dull or destroy the luster of by or as if by air, dust, or dirt : SOIL, STAIN 2 a : to detract from the good quality of : VITIATE <his fine dreams now slightly tarnished>   b: to bring disgrace on : SULLY
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