Conversations with my friend Tom Chappell
|2005 2004 2003 2002 2001|
synecdoche: (suh-NECK-duh-key) : 15th century |
: a figure of speech by which a part is put for the whole (as fifty sail for fifty ships),
the whole for a part (as society for high society), the species for the genus
(as cutthroat for assassin), the genus for the species (as a creature for a man),
or the name of the material for the thing made (as boards for stage).
John had never met this delightful word, though Tom, smiling, said he had.
eft: NEWT; especially : the terrestrial phase of a predominantly aquatic newt
Interesting facts about miners learned on an underground tour at Sutter Gold Mine:
Reader and fellow pedant Ron Traver, who you'll remember recently introduced us to semordnilap,
stumbled across another odd genre: the mondegreen.|
eaves: : before 12th century |
1 : the lower border of a roof that overhangs the wall
2 : a projecting edge (as of a hill)
Eaves is a noun plural. You cannot point a roof's corner and say "eave".
Well, you can, but you'd be wrong.
gravamen: (gruh-VAY-men) : 1647 |
: the material or significant part of a grievance or complaint
tannoy: chiefly British: a public address system (after the Tannoy company, the leading maker of loudspeakers in the U.K.)
Voiceless Stop Insertion
remonstrate: (REM-mun-strayt, ri-MON-strayt)|
calumny: 15th century (KA-lum-nee)|
1 : a misrepresentation intended to blacken another's reputation
2 : the act of uttering false charges or misrepresentations maliciously calculated to damage another's reputation
contumely: 14th century (kon-TOO-muh-lee)
: harsh language or treatment arising from haughtiness and contempt; also : an instance of such language or treatment
saturnine: 15th century|
1 : born under or influenced astrologically by the planet Saturn
2 a : cold and steady in mood : slow to act or change
b : of a gloomy or surly disposition
c : having a sardonic aspect <a saturnine smile>
coeval: circa 1662 : of the same or equal age, antiquity, or duration
Reader and fellow pedant Ron Traver introduced Tom and John to semordnilap.
A palindrome is a string of letters that reads the same backwards and forwards.
And semordnilap is nicely self-referential!
illustrative: (ill-LUS-truh-tiv, ILL-lus-tray-tiv)|
jeremiad: (jer-ruh-MY-id) : Date: 1780
Etymology: French jérémiade, from Jérémie Jeremiah, from Late Latin Jeremias
: a prolonged lamentation or complaint; also : a cautionary or angry harangue
Languages multiply the power of words by combining roots with other roots,
as well as with prefixes and suffixes (collectively, affixes), which modify the
root in predictable ways, such as changing it to a plural, or from a verb to a noun, or modifying
Affixes can be inflectional (which serve an essentially grammatical function, and are quite old, and extremely
attachable, or productive), or can be derivational, which may change the
word's meaning and/or part of speech.
Suppose that arranging objects in diagonal lines became so popular that a new word was coined...
glab: To arrange objects in diagonal lines.
Let's start with a few important bound derivational affixes to create other parts of speech.
Armed with those, we can check the productivity of the inflectional affixes:
Returning for some more bound derivational affixes:
How many derivational affixes can we use in one word? Plenty!
You can also combine glab with bound roots...
...or with free roots:
Karen and John pondered the differences between mist and fog. |
mist: Date: before 12th century
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English; akin to Middle Dutch mist mist, Greek omichlE
1 : water in the form of particles floating or falling in the atmosphere at or near the surface of the earth and approaching the form of rain
2 : something that obscures understanding <mists of antiquity>
3 : a film before the eyes
4 a : a cloud of small particles or objects suggestive of a mist
b : a suspension of a finely divided liquid in a gas
c : a fine spray
5 : a drink of liquor served over cracked ice
fog: Date: 1544
Fellow pedant Chris Ravenscroft stumped Tom and John with hypothecate.|
hypothecate: Date: 1681
: to pledge as security without delivery of title or possession
perforce: (per-FORCE) Date: 14th century|
1 obsolete : by physical coercion
2 : by force of circumstances
1 a : a space that intervenes between things; especially : one between closely spaced things
b : a gap or break in something generally continuous <the interstices of society> <passages of genuine literary merit in the interstices of the ludicrous... plots—Joyce Carol Oates>
2 : a short space of time between events
Both: 34:59 (Best casual time—3 laps)|
Two fundamental formulas about the behavior of exponents are:
n^a / n^b = n^(a-b)
n^a * n^b = n^(a+b)
These can be used to prove the meaning of n^0, n^(-2), and n^(1/2):
|Sat 31||Leaving dunderheads to flounder—Tom came up with this lovely phrase in conversation. The combination of leaves, heads, and flounder was striking. Tom immediately considered changing flounder to founder, but we agreed that the mental image of flounders flailing, heads thrashing in the water, strengthened the phrase's power considerably. Leaving and dunder may have also contributed to the impression: leaves flail in the wind, while dunder maps aurally to thunder, linking wind and water nicely.|
Responses ranging from stilted to wilted: |
Nor do I.
Neither do I.
I don't either.
Product names which play up the normally downplayed: |
Tom and John: "Little Nicky" would also make an excellent cigarette name.
(eeks-TAH-pa)/(see-whah-tah-NEH-ho), (Meh-hee-ko) |
Where John's gone for a week to research the distinctions between saber and conocer, pedir and preguntar. That these subtleties will be considered over margueritas and beach towels shall doubtless add to their enjoyment.
For the next week, all nuances of meaning will be savored, but not recorded.
Recognizing a pedant can be difficult. Sure, you hear someone work "punctilious" into a conversation, you have your suspicions, but "punctilious"
might pop up in a business meeting with Swiss bankers, after all. Being certain is difficult. No, for definite identification you must
remain alert for true telltale markers of pedantry. Discussing women, for example:
tutorial: Date: 1923 |
1 : a class conducted by a tutor for one student or a small number of students
2 : a paper, book, film, or computer program that provides practical information about a specific subject
lesson: Date: 13th century
1 : a passage from sacred writings read in a service of worship
2 a : a piece of instruction b : a reading or exercise to be studied by a pupil c : a division of a course of instruction
3 a : something learned by study or experience <his years of travel had taught him valuable lessons> b : an instructive example
1 a : the sudden appearance of the commonplace in otherwise elevated matter or style b : ANTICLIMAX
2 : exceptional commonplaceness : TRITENESS
3 : insincere or overdone pathos : SENTIMENTALISM
stingy implies a marked lack of generosity <a stingy child, not given to sharing> |
close suggests keeping a tight grip on one's money and possessions <folks who are very close when charity calls>
niggardly implies giving or spending the very smallest amount possible <the niggardly amount budgeted for the town library>
parsimonious suggests a frugality so extreme as to lead to stinginess <a parsimonious life-style notably lacking in luxuries>
penurious implies niggardliness that gives an appearance of actual poverty <the penurious eccentric bequeathed a fortune>
miserly suggests a sordid avariciousness and a morbid pleasure in hoarding <a miserly couple devoid of social conscience>
busker: Date: 1857 |
chiefly British : a person who entertains especially by playing music on the street
Early/middle 20th Century novels with a fine sense of time and place:
Tom notes that Language Myths contributor Edward Carney attributes many odd spellings in English to a regularization known as constant spelling:
Reader and fellow pedant Chris Ravenscroft wrote in after reading the earlier reference to peruke to point out that one of the
most famous brand of wigs sported by Lords in session is called 'Ravenscroft'.
Tom notes that the discussion of titles of nobility started with Lord and Lady. |
Karen and John noticed that words beginning with "dw" are fun to say. |
Words beginning with "dw" retain the Old-World air of their origins:
dwarf: Date: before 12th century. Middle English dwerg, dwerf, from Old English dweorg, dweorh; akin to Old High German twerg dwarf
dwell: Date: 13th century. Middle English, from Old English dwellan to go astray, hinder; akin to Old High German twellen to tarry
dwindle: Date: 1596. probably frequentative of dwine to waste away, from Middle English, from Old English dwInan; akin to Old Norse dvIna to pine away, deyja to die
"dw" words are rare, making even more delightful a recent coinage: dweeb.
An earl's wife is a countess. (Count is a Continental title.) |
Other (more alliterative) combinations:
Tom: 30:57 (New personal best—3 laps)|
John: 31:41 (New personal best—3 laps)
Date: 15th century
1 archaic : DEAR, TREASURED
2 : discreetly cautious: as a : hesitant and vigilant about dangers and risks b : slow to grant, accept, or expend <a person very chary of compliments>
hassock: Date: before 12th century|
1 : TUSSOCK
2 a : a cushion for kneeling <a church hassock>
b : a padded cushion or low stool that serves as a seat or leg rest
Tom quoted Larry Niven's Ringworld:
"...the Kzin dropped heavily onto an inflated hassock. Under his weight it should have exploded like any lesser balloon. Man's second-oldest enemy looked curious and ridiculous balanced on a hassock too small for him."
The Kzin stood up.
'He's right,' said Louis. 'Sit down, Speaker. You don't stand to profit by murdering a Puppeteer.'
The Kzin sat down. Again his hassock did not collapse.
Entries for 2001 are now available on the 2001 page, also linked below.
height: (HYTE, HYTEth)
The odd alternate pronunciation probably stems from the pre-12th century Middle English heighthe.
It complements "width" nicely too.|
polite: Date: 1501
1 a : of, relating to, or having the characteristics of advanced culture
b : marked by refined cultural interests and pursuits especially in arts and belles lettres
2 a : showing or characterized by correct social usage
b : marked by an appearance of consideration, tact, deference, or courtesy
c : marked by a lack of roughness or crudities <polite literature>
courteous: Date: 13th century
1 : marked by polished manners, gallantry, or ceremonial usage of a court
2 : marked by respect for and consideration of others
tirade: (TIE-raid, TIH-raid)|
The Philadelphia Story: Cary Grant played C. K. Dexter Haven
Watership Down: Tom likes General Woundwort's blind bravado:
Ferrets are entirely domesticated; they do not exist in the wild.
plenipotentiary: Date: circa 1656: a person and especially a diplomatic agent invested with full power to transact business|
famulus: Date: 1837: a private secretary or attendant
New Oxford American Dictionary adds: "especially one working for a magician or scholar".
peruke: circa 1573 : WIG; specifically : one of a type popular from the 17th to the early 19th century
deplore: to dislike greatly and often with disgust or intolerance : DETEST
sly: Date: 13th century
commentator: Date: 14th century|
use: Date: 13th century
utilize: Date: 1807: to make use of : turn to practical use or account
Why use utilize? It sounds awkward and can usually be replaced with the more euphonious use.
obelisk: (AH-be-lisk, OH-be-lisk)|
hubris: source of envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth.
Derek's Bistro, Pasadena. Recommended.|
Reader and fellow pedant David Norton corrected an earlier reference to A.E. Houseman's [sic], "Terrence, this is stupid stuff"[sic] with this wry observation:
"You would convey an even more persuasive impression of pedantry, in the positive sense, if you would spell the name of either the poem or the poet correctly."
callow: lacking adult sophistication : IMMATURE <callow youth>|
propensity: an often intense natural inclination or preference
proclivity: an inclination or predisposition toward something;
especially : a strong inherent inclination toward something objectionable
|Sun 7||The "l" in "talk" is subtle: neither omitted (tock) nor emphasized (tall-k). It's just there.|
What's the word for a word borrowed from another language?
Top 5 cooking smells: fresh bread, bacon, fried chicken, grilled steak, cinammon rolls
Four stunning photographs from Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
|Wed 3||BookCrossing.com — Leave a book in public to be found and read by others, who then pass it on. A sticker on the book tells readers how to document the book's passage on the Web site.|
|Mon 1||inure: (in-NEW-r, in-YUR)|
|Sat 29||archetype: The adjectival form is archetypal, though archetypical is also used.|
Pyrrhic victory - a victory so costly as to be ruinous. When Pyrrhus of Epirus defeated the Romans at Heraclea
and Asculum in 281 BC, he said of his own devastating losses: "One more such victory and I am lost".
King Croesus of Lydia marshaled his troops on the frontier with Persia in 589 BC but held back his army until he consulted the Oracle at Delphi, who prophesied, "March, and you will destroy a great empire." Croesus marched, and the Oracle was correct; however, the empire destroyed was his own.
: expressing or characterized by reverence : WORSHIPFUL|
1 : expressing or having a quality of reverence <reverential awe>
2 : inspiring reverence
If labels warned of fatality rates...
Karen says reticent 3 is commonly used in Britain:|
1 : inclined to be silent or uncommunicative in speech : RESERVED
2 : restrained in expression, presentation, or appearance
3 : RELUCTANT
synonym see SILENT
: feeling or showing aversion, hesitation, or unwillingness
also : having or assuming a specified role unwillingly <a reluctant hero>
synonym see DISINCLINED
fecund: (FEH-kund, FEE-kund) |
Defending Your Life (and French Rationalism)
John says he's noticed people beginning sentences with "so" more frequently.|
Some canonical uses have long been accepted, such as "So there I was minding my own business...", but recent use appears random. No hard data yet, but something to be watched.
So Tom says "to tuck into" is British rather than American; John disagrees.
1 a : of or relating to the senses or sensible objects b : producing or characterized by gratification of the senses : having strong sensory appeal
2 : characterized by sense impressions or imagery aimed at the senses
3 : highly susceptible to influence through the senses
1 : relating to or consisting in the gratification of the senses or the indulgence of appetite : FLESHLY
2 : SENSORY
3 a : devoted to or preoccupied with the senses or appetites b : VOLUPTUOUS c : deficient in moral, spiritual, or intellectual interests : WORLDLY; especially : IRRELIGIOUS
A particular blend of intelligence, irreverent humor, and humanity:|
A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
Sewer, Gas, and Electric, Matt Ruff
Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
The Princess Bride, William Goldman
Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift
Tom: 32:07 (New recent best—3 laps)|
John: 32:19 (New personal best—3 laps)
1 : to wear off the skin of : ABRADE
2 : to censure scathingly
1 : of, relating to, or written in a simplified form of the ancient Egyptian hieratic writing
2 : POPULAR 1 <demotic idiom>
3 : of or relating to the form of Modern Greek that is based on everyday speech
Reader and fellow pedant Paul Hopper wrote in to challenge |
the spellings of "ad verecundiam" and "ad ignorantiam". He was right.
one that forms opinions on the basis of reason independently of authority;
especially : one who doubts or denies religious dogma
mores: noun plural (MORE-aze, MOE-raze, MORE-eeze)
Date: circa 1899
1 : the fixed morally binding customs of a particular group
2 : moral attitudes
3 : HABITS, MANNERS
dour: (DOO-er, DOW-er)|
doer: (DOO-er) one that takes an active part <a thinker or a doer>
1 : the part of or interest in the real estate of a deceased husband
given by law to his widow during her life—compare CURTESY
2 : DOWRY 2, 3
1 : a widow holding property or a title from her deceased husband
2 : a dignified elderly woman
Tom: 33:30 (New recent best—3 laps)|
John: 33:31 (New personal best—3 laps)
placate: (PLAY-cate, PLA-cate)|
Inferential fallacies (from a class Tom attended recently):
1 : the original pattern or model of which all things of the same type are representations or copies : PROTOTYPE; also : a perfect example
2 : IDEA 1a
3 : an inherited idea or mode of thought in the psychology of C. G. Jung that is derived from the experience of the race and is present in the unconscious of the individual
1 : a plate cast from a printing surface
2 : something conforming to a fixed or general pattern; especially : a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment
systemic: of, relating to, or common to a system : as |
a : affecting the body generally
b : supplying those parts of the body that receive blood through the aorta rather than through the pulmonary artery
c : of, relating to, or being a pesticide that as used is harmless to the plant or higher animal but when absorbed into its sap or bloodstream makes the entire organism toxic to pests (as an insect or fungus)
1 a : belonging or native to a particular people or country
b : characteristic of or prevalent in a particular field, area, or environment
2 : restricted or peculiar to a locality or region
Both: 36:12 (New recent best after cold weather—3 laps)
deleterious: (dell-uh-TEAR-ee-us) harmful often in a subtle or unexpected way
pabulum: Date: 1733
pabulum: Date: 1733