Fibbing Friday – Ivy

Well, here we are sports fans, at the famed Non Sequitur Speedway.  Today’s race will be when we take the English language, which the Brits claim to have invented, and prove that many of them don’t speak or write it as well as most Americans…. and that’s a low bar

Where Happy Hour is from 6 to 7 PM.  All drinks half price.
Mimosas are free to any guy, man enough to order one.
You ask – We promise not to tell
.   😉

After we give thanks for Pensitivity101 and her pit crew of collaborators, we’ll be off to the race for the Lies of the Century – or at least this afternoon.  The pole lineup for today is as follows….

  1. What’s the difference between “going on holiday” and “taking a vacation”?
    What are you vacating when you go on a “Vacation?” As I said, your desk, your chair, your employer, your house, your municipality, and often your better judgment. And yet, especially with COVID, a vacation might be a staycation, while going on holiday,” more strongly indicates a trip, but not with a “caravan,” which is a line of vehicles, not a pull-along, camper trailer.
  2. What’s the difference between a “rubbish bin” and a “trash can”?

    Many English people talk rubbish, while Americans have raised trash talking to a performance art. Brits must talk considerable rubbish.  They require an entire bin to contain it, where Americans get their trash in a can.  There’s no mention of a dust-bin, which contains no dust.  I think it’s all garbage, anyway.
  3. What’s the difference between the “boot” of a car and the “trunk” of a car?

    Two nations, separated by a common language – and by how the moldy upper crust treated the lower classes. When British Milord and Lady went on a carriage trip, they sat inside, protected from dust and weather.  At the rear of the carriage was a small shelf where a couple of servants, or Boots, gamely clung on, till they were needed.  Americans, being a tiny bit more egalitarian, forewent the dangling servants, and used the space for storage of necessary things that they packed in a steamer Trunk, and strapped to the back of these new horseless carriages.  Eventually, these automotive areas were enclosed, and they both became the same thing, only different.
  4. What’s the difference between a “nappie” and a “diaper”?

    ‘Nappie’ is short for ‘napkin’, the thing that the usually persnickety Hercule Poirot uses to create an etiquette faux pas, by tucking in at his neck when he eats. A diaper is used to catch stain-causing food matter at the other end.  The word comes from the Greek di aspros – meaning pure white.  It’s called a diaper for short, but not for long.
  5. What’s the difference between the “pavement” and a “sidewalk”? Pavement is the usually-black-stuff that covers roadways – tarmac, or Macadam – The stuff that a Scotsman invented so that the English moneyed class could smoothly, comfortably re-invade drive north to vacation – or holiday – however their wealth entitles them to describe it, in Scotland. Sidewalk is a place, often made of concrete, to ‘walk’, at the ‘side’ of the pavement portion where the cars drive.  No wonder Brits are confused by these terms.  They already drive, and probably walk, on the wrong side of the roads and the language.
  6. What’s the difference between “chips” and “French fries”?
    Chips are what are confused for French fries, at chip wagons and fish and chips shops, especially British ones, and England has a plethora of them. They now shout, “We’re number 2!” because they’ve been supplanted by Curry in a Hurry.  England has yet to emerge into the 20th century, and admit that ‘potato chips’ is the American development of the language.  They call them ‘crisps,’ which might well also be crisp Cheese Crunch-Its.  My brother visited a roadside restaurant on a trip to Yellowstone Park, and requested a hamburger, and an ‘order of chips.’  He was quite distressed when the server tore open a bag of Hostess “chips” and poured them on his plate.
  7. What’s the difference between the “bonnet” of a car and the “hood” of a car?

    A bonnet would be on the front of a woman-owned car, or on the head of the woman who owns it. She’s probably named the car – something cutesy, like Peaches.  On the other hand, a Hood (sometimes) covers the turbo-charged power-plant of a manly-man’s performance car…. Which he isn’t using to compensate for anything.  😉
  8. What’s the difference between a “rubber” and an “eraser”?
    If you use a rubber at every conceivable opportunity, you won’t require the services of an eraser, which are still illegal in many districts, especially Texas, and now, Florida, as well.
  9. What’s the difference between a “flannel” and a “washcloth”?

    Flannel is what is used to make my Canadian formal shirts. My washcloths are made from soft, absorbent terry cotton.
  10. What’s the difference between a “pram” and a “stroller”?

    Pushable child transporters with wheels were invented during the Golden Era, when everybody who was somebody (as long as he was a man), spoke much Latin, and a little Greek. The device was given the pretentious Latin name, perambulator meaning ‘inspector, or surveyor,’ but coming to mean ‘ramble, or stroll’ and finally ‘to walk with.’

The common man – or more often, the common woman – had no time for all that, and it quickly shortened to pram.  The stroller – the person walking – soon added that name to the device being walked with.  Prams used to be more commonly lie-down carriers, while strollers tend to have the baby sitting upright.  My mother transported my brother in a baby buggy.  Being a bit older, she dragged me around with a travois.

Things I Learned While Researching Other Things

I give all credit for the idea of this post to the late journalist Sydney J. Harris, who would occasionally include something he called “Things I Learned While Looking Up Other Things” in his syndicated column.

This is a post about words and phrases. These are my building blocks, so they’re something I’m always interested in.  You understand the sometimes frustrating task of trying to find the correct word or phrase.

Occasionally, I’ll read or type words that I may understand in the context in which I’m seeing or using them, but will suddenly realize that I’m not certain where the words or phrases originated.

In this amazing Computer Age, I can afford a few minutes of distraction to investigate them further.

Right off the bat — As expected, the phrase “right off the bat,” meaning “immediately; at once; without delay” is a sports metaphor that has been traced back to the late 1880s with that usage. I just made the assumption that the sport was baseball—and it probably is—but some suggest that it may have originated with cricket (as baseball did).

Nitpicker — The word nitpicker means someone who finds faults, however small or unimportant, everywhere they look. We all know someone like that. If we don’t, it’s probably us. The word itself is relatively new, from about 1950 or so. It comes from the idea of picking nits (or lice eggs) out of someone’s hair. A nitpicker is as meticulous about finding faults as a literal nitpicker should be at finding each louse egg. Yes, it’s kind of a disgusting word origin, which is why nitpicker has negative connotations.

Top-notch — We know that top-notch means “excellent” or “of the highest quality.” But, what are its origins? It seems that no one really knows. It first appeared suddenly in its current usage in the mid-19th century. It has been suggested that it originated from one of several tossing games imported from Scotland that required a player to throw a weighted object over a horizontal bar. The best score would be when the bar was in the “top notch,” naturally. This sounds reasonable, but it’s really just a guess. Other guesses have it relating to logging, with the best lumberjacks able to cut from the highest notches, or some such thing. Another had something to do with candles and courting, but that’s been mostly debunked. Bottom line: we don’t know.

Since Hector was a pup* — Meaning “for a long time.” I can’t say this is exactly a regional colloquialism, although I heard it the first (and only) time from some guy in South Carolina. He said that it was something his dad always said, and, in the context it was used, the meaning was obvious.  Best guess, according to Internet sources, is that it is referring to the Trojan War hero Hector, since the phrase originated during a time when people were more well-versed in the classics. And that was, indeed, a long time ago.

Hemming and hawing — The phrase means to hesitate to give a definite answer. It dates back to the 1400s and is echoic in nature. A more modern interpretation would be “um-ing and er-ing” probably, with “um” and “er” being common filler sounds in hesitant speech. I always assumed it had something to do with either sewing or sailing. I was mistaken.

Gamut — I used the word “gamut,” knowing that its definition meant the complete range or scope of something. My actual sentence began “our entertainment choices run the gamut from …” But, where did the word “gamut” come from? It turns out that gamut originally meant “lowest note in the medieval musical scale” and it was a contraction of Medieval Latin gamma ut, from gamma, the Greek letter indicating a note below A, plus ut (later called do (as in “do re mi”), the low note on the six-note musical scale. So the word gamut was originally all about music, but later morphed into meaning “the whole musical scale,” or, figuratively, “the entire range or scale” of anything. Its first usage in this manner can be traced to the 1620s.

Honeymoon — The word and concept of the honeymoon owes more than a little to alcohol (as do some weddings: but, I digress—). The medieval tradition of drinking honeyed wine for a full moon cycle after a wedding was supposed to ensure a fruitful union between the new bride and groom. I guess Champagne is a modern-day analogue to honey wine.

Throwback — It means a person or thing that is similar to something of an earlier type or time. It was already in use with more or less the current definition in the mid-19th century. It is a combination of the verb “throw” and the adverb “back.” I can’t find a more pithy origin story for the word, even apocryphal stories that have been debunked. I was sure it would have its origin in the sport of fishing.

Venting your spleen — This particular idiom means “to express your anger.” From medieval times until the 19th century, the spleen—an organ in the body near the stomach—was thought to be the source of the “humors” that caused the emotion of anger. This is a colorful and archaic phrase. I contracted hepatitis as a 12-year-old.  (My mother called it jaundice, because I turned a lovely yellow/orange color from all the excess bile in my system.  I couldn’t keep food or drink down for two weeks, and lost 20 pounds – not a good thing on a skinny, stick-thin kid.)  But, I digress— anyway, my spleen was swollen while I had jaundice. I don’t recall being angry, but I did throw up a lot.

One to grow on — I thought an origin for this idiom would be easy to find, but it remains mostly a mystery.  When you had a birthday, it was a tradition to receive your birthday spanking by your friends or family, with the flat of the hand or with a paddle or belt. One person on-line said the birthday person would be “lightly paddled.” They didn’t live anywhere near me. Anyway, you’d get one swat for each year of your age, and then one extra swat, called the “one to grow on.” It’s like the baker’s dozen of birthday-themed beatings. I still don’t know the origins. Here’s one guess: you say something “grows on” you to mean that you become accustomed to it. Is the birthday punishment tradition meant for you to get used to pain because that’s all adulthood has to offer you in the future? That’s a little bleak, but it will serve as a placeholder until someone can offer me a better explanation.

* * * * *

Things I Learned While Researching Other Things = TILWROT
Remember that!  
As a lover of words, I know I’ll keep collecting these. Plus, I’ll keep posting them, I’m sure.

*Actually…. My Mother used to say, “Since ‘Towser’ was a pup.”  Now I’m off to research ‘Towser.’  Lord knows what I’ll find.

 

’20 A to Z Challenge – W

 

 

 

I recently told a reader that I spoke/wrote all my Scottish Gaelic in English.  I told another that I did the same thing with the Spanish that he contributed.  It seems so simple, yet it’s harder than it seems, because there is no English language.  Every word in the language came from somewhere – everywhere – else.

The English language imports words from other languages wholesale, and then claims them as its own.  Some words are ‘naturalized’ – accepted and commonly used – more, and more quickly than others.  Then there are words that only pretentious wordnuts (with the accent on Nuts) like me, are even aware of, much less occasionally use.  This brings us to today’s (and yesteryear’s) social-commentary word

WEISSNICHTWO

wise-nicked-woe

Its meaning in the original German was, not clear where.  It came into English with the more substantial, definitive meaning of know not where.  In almost two-hundred years, I’m sure it must have been used a few times.  It was dragged, kicking and screaming, into English in 1833 by the British writer, Thomas Carlyle.  It was made famous – or infamous – by its use in his Latin-titled book, Sartor Resartus.

Even back then, he used it to describe a First-World problem.  World cities, especially those in Europe, were losing their visual culture, and were becoming homogeneous, indistinguishable, one from another.  There were Jews in Belgrade, Arabs in Marseilles, and Irish in London.  If you roused from a drunken stupor and wandered into the streets, you wouldn’t know where you were, until you fell into the Thames, or the Seine, or the Moscow River – and with the state, or lack of, municipal sanitation, even not then.

He used the word Weissnichtwo as the name of an indefinite, unknown, or imaginary place, like Utopia, Brigadoon, or Shangri-La.  The problem situation has only got worse over the years.  With the ubiquitous McDonalds, Domino’s, and Starbucks, and rampant, often war-driven immigration, a traveler might be anywhere.

I imagine that you’re just over there, shaking your head at this word.  You could be much closer to my next post soon, if you pop back in a couple of days.  I promise not to use any of those big, foreign words.  Might even offer up a few chuckles.   😀

Tell Me If You’ve Heard This One – III

Why did the chicken cross the lexicon?  To get to the other side of the dictionary.
What’s the good word?  All of them.  Look out vocabulary, here they come.

Adjutant – Adjutant is a military appointment given to an officer who assists the commanding officer with unit administration, mostly the management of human resources in army unit.

Argute – Sharp, perceptive, shrewd. Origin: from Latin argutus, past participle of arguere ‘clarify’….

Bamboozle – to deceive or get the better of (someone) by trickery, flattery, or the like; humbug; hoodwink (often followed by into): to perplex; mystify; confound.

Bamboozle is one of those words that has been confounding etymologists for centuries. No one knows for sure what its origins are. One thing we do know is that it was originally considered “low language,” at least among such defenders of the language as British satirist Jonathan Swift, who hoped (and predicted) that it would quickly fade from the English lexicon.
The earliest meaning of bamboozle was “to deceive by trickery, hoodwink,” which is why some believe that it arose among the criminals of the underworld.

Clusterfist – First found in the 1600s, clusterfist can refer to a few types of disappointing individuals. In one sense, cluster means clumsy, and a clusterfist is a type of oaf or boor.  Clusterfist in Community Dictionary is someone who is “tighter than Kelsey’s peanuts” regarding parting with a buck; a parsimonious peckerhead.

A young Black woman recently wrote about how shocked and embarrassed she was to find that her name, Ebony, was a porn category.  😯  EVERYTHING is a porn category.  The modern definition of clusterfist is a fisting of someone simultaneously by over 6 individuals usually leading to severe pain and hilarity at just what a muppet that individual had been for agreeing.

Coracle – (especially in Wales and Ireland) a small round boat made of wickerwork covered with a watertight material, propelled with a paddle.

Frangible – fragile · breakable · brittle – easily broken · easily damaged · delicate · flimsy · insubstantial

Friable – easily crumbled – powdery – dusty – chalky

Futz – Informal futz (around) with, to handle or deal with, especially idly, reluctantly, or as a time-consuming task

Glassine – Glassine is a smooth and glossy paper that is air, water, and grease resistant.  Another Technological obsolescence term, while still available, almost every use of glassine has been replaced by ubiquitous plastic.

Insouciant – free from concern, worry or anxiety – carefree – nonchalant

Intrepid – resolutely fearless, dauntless, daring, bold
If you haven’t, you can read a book titled A Man Called Intrepid, about which, several historians claim that he fudged the facts about his intrepid WWII British Intelligence career.

Keloid – an area of irregular fibrous tissue formed at the site of a scar or injury.

Lieutenant – a deputy or substitute, acting for a superior – from French, lieu – in place of, tenant – holding

Logorrhea – pathologically incoherent, repetitious speech – incessant or compulsive talkativeness – wearisome volubility  Therefore, a Logo is a symbol which constantly ‘speaks’ for its corporation.

Melmac – For those of you TV snobs and binge-watchers, who thought that Melmac was only the home planet of ALF, it is actually a brand of dinnerware moulded from melamine resin, popular in the mid-twentieth centuryThat’s the stuff that the Chinese tried to poison us with, by putting it baby formula and pet food, before they unleashed COVID19 on us.

Rapacious – practicing pillage or rapine, greedy or grasping, (of animals, esp. birds) subsisting by catching living prey, ravenous, voracious  (Does it remind you of any politicians you know?)

Scree – a mass of small loose stones that form or cover a slope on a mountain.  That is the normal definition, but since the word was found in a poem which included screeching seagulls, it is onomatopoeia for their cries.

Scritch – Speaking of seagulls and onomatopoeia, depending on how and where it is used, it is a dialect form of either screech, or scratch.
It’s also something that my cats and dogs climb into my lap, to demand from me.

Scumble – Verb: To modify (a painting or color) by applying a very thin coat of opaque paint to give a softer or duller effect.  Noun: a thin, opaque coat of paint or layer of shading applied to give a softer or duller effect.

Shambolic – Shambolic, “disorganized; messy or confused,” is a colloquial adjective, used mostly by the British. The word is a combination of shambles and symbolic. Shambolic is a fairly recent coinage, entering English about 1970.

Tartuffery – religious hypocrisy, or pretention to excellence in any field

Truculent – adj: eager or quick to argue or fight, aggressively defiant

Varlet – a knavish person; a rascal, a menial servant, a knight’s page
Origin of varlet: 1425–75; late Middle English < Middle French; variant of valet

Whose Using The Dictionary?

This is it boys and girls!  This is the post about English language usage and misusage that I’ve been threatening for a year.  I don’t know if it’s the fact that I decided to do one, and have paid more attention, but the last month or so the mistakes have just been leaping off the pages at me.  I have to do a bitch post about them, or I’ll smack somebody with a thesaurus.

Despite the high rate of literacy in North America, there’s a difference between can read, and do read.  There’s a disturbing percentage of the population, for whom English is a spoken language.  They cannot make the mental connection between the random grunts that fall from their face, and the magic marks which appear on paper or computer screen.

Even among the more intelligent and educated, the professionals, paid to use the language, there is too much attention and thought given to the information being broadcast, and too little given to the words used to convey those stories.

I think of it as a young man who has proposed to his sweetheart, and now has to go to meet her family.  After a shit, shower, shave and shampoo, he splashes on some nice cologne, dresses in his best clothes and sets off to drive to see them.  He knows exactly where they live, and exactly which streets and roads he will take to get there.  He rolls into their driveway, and they see that, instead of his shiny Audi coupe, he has somehow taken the neighbor kid’s rebuilt ’73 VW Bug, with the flowers and peace symbol.  Everyone knows he made the effort, but he still looks like a fool.

Other words cause problems for the inattentive, but homonyms seem to be the most numerous problem.  Pairs of words with similar pronunciation, but vastly different meanings.  It sounded like what I wanted to say!  Restricted vocabulary sometimes means the speaker/writer doesn’t know both words, and uses one for all cases, but that’s a mute point.

I’ve got a list of doozies I’ve seen recently.  I’m going to put them down and make fun of them.  Pay attention please.  Even the best of us may learn something.

I don’t know whether to be more irked or amused when a columnist writes about something they know nothing about.  A recent article by a female about archery, enjoying a resurgence because of movies like Brave, and The Hunger Games, contained this line.

this bow and arrow, with a bendy piece of wood with one sharp end held taunt with a piece of string

So few words – so many mistakes!  I could taunt her by telling her that the correct word is taut – tight.  A bendy piece of wood??  There’s a crisp descriptive passage.  With one sharp end?  Is she writing about the arrow?  It’s an unusual bow that doesn’t have symmetrical narrow ends.  The word taunt I’ve already dealt with, but you can’t hold one end taut, it requires two, and the string doesn’t hold the bow taut.  The bow holds the string taut.

I do crossword puzzles.  There’s a lot more to them than a large vocabulary.  It’s like The Mentalist on TV.  It’s a guessing game, a long-range mind-reading act.  What was he thinking when he wrote this clue?  I have to guess not only what he meant, but what he meant when he used the wrong word.

Overly verbose – gregarious.  Gregarious means being part of a large group.  You may talk a lot when you do that, but gregarious has nothing to do with being verbose.  You may be the quiet one in the crowd.

Opposite of none – some.  The opposite of none is all.  Some is in the middle.

Day before a holiday – eve.  Eve is short for evening, perhaps from 6 PM till midnight.  It’s not the entire day.

Reared – bred.  Bred is producing offspring, reared is raising them to independence.

Between – amid.  Between is two.  Amid is more than two.  It’s that simple, and precise.

Retainers – fees.  Retainers are what you pay to ensure that a professional will work for you when you need him/her.  Fees are what you pay when the work is done.

Withered – sear.  Sear is what you do to a steak.  This one needs the word sere.

Like dandruff – itchy.  A dry scalp, which produces dandruff, is itchy.  Dandruff is dead.  It has no feelings.

Timidity – fear.  Timidity is lack of bravery or self-confidence.  One can be timid without fear.

Discus or javelin – event.  Discus or javelin throwing are events.  Discus and javelin are projectiles.

Nasty laugh – sneer.  A sneer, like a smile, or a frown, is a facial expression which makes no sound.  It can’t be a laugh, nasty or otherwise.

Restricted vocabulary can produce some interesting, though irksome, word usages.

We need to reign those politicians in

Even with lots of local Mennonites on the road with their buggies and wagons, people forget about horses and reins.

Raccoons don’t really watch their food

No, they eat it with their eyes closed, after they scrub it under water.

I don’t want to be one of thoughs.  And he worked so hard to be wrong.

Hallink, a plastic bottle dye maker.  What color were the bottles that came from the forming die?

A Wiccan experienced a right of passage, and low and behold.  Well, Wiccans don’t read much Bible, or they’d know the words were, “rite” and “lo.”

A golf cart for sale, with fancy weels and ect.  This one sets my teeth on edge.  Weels is bad enough, but the “and ect” is becoming too common.  The spelling is “etc”, an abbreviation of Et Cetera, which means, “and other things”.  And Ect is redundant, with incorrect spelling of a three-letter word.

The local car columnist, writing about station wagons, reported that they evolved from depot hacks, which were pulled by a handsome team of horses.  What he meant was that they were pulled by a pair of hansom horses, a hansom being a two-horse cart.

A woman fell and broke her tibula.  That might mean eyebrow, because the two bones in the leg are tibia, and fibula.  Even if the bones were jammed together when one broke, the words shouldn’t have been.

Wrist dramatically to forehead, Oh, whoa is me!  Well stop doing that, and use woe!

He pulled a slingshot from beneath his robe, placed a stone in the cup and whirled it around his head.  A slingshot is a Y-shaped object with an elastic band to propel objects.  Like David against Goliath, what he had, was a sling.

I could go on all day, but I’m already over quota.  Thanx for reading my rant.  Perhaps more another time.