Showing posts with label Wordology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wordology. Show all posts

Jul 11, 2020

Wordology, Draw a Blank

According to 'English Language Centres', “draw a blank” originated in Tudor England when Queen Elizabeth I set up the first national lottery in 1567.

For this lottery, there were two pots. One pot contained slips of paper with the names of all of the participants. The other pot contained the same number of slips, only some bits of paper had prizes written on them while others were blank. One slip of paper was pulled from each pot at the exact same time and if the person matched with a prize, then they would win the prize. However, if the person’s name was drawn with a piece of paper with no writing, then they would not win anything. They were unsuccessful and “drew a blank.”

Pronounce This

Route, The pronunciation of the word "route" is a little bit complicated. Though Northeasterners tend to pronounce it so it rhymes with "hoot" and Midwesterners tend to pronounce it so it rhymes with "out," just over 30 percent of respondents in the Harvard Dialect survey noted that they can (and do) pronounce it both ways.
Get, "The word get does not rhyme with yet here in the South," writes Sarah Johnson, a South Carolina native and Southern accent specialist. "We say it like 'git.' There is a common rhyme teachers use at school when students complain about not getting their first choice. In the North, you might say: 'You get what you get, so don't be upset.' We say, 'You git what you git, so don't throw a fit.'"

Can't, according to Johnson, "the word can't in many small towns in the South rhymes with paint."

Jul 4, 2020

Wordology, Under the Weather

Originally, sailors used the phrase “under the weather bow,” referring to the side of the ship that would get the brunt of the wind during storms. To avoid getting seasick when the waves got rough, they would bunker down in their cabins, literally under that bad weather, to let the storm pass.

Jun 29, 2020

Wordology, Ineffectual vs. Ineffective

Both refer to failure, but only ineffectual refers to the kind of failure that happens when the effort was weak, impotent, and/or incompetent without satisfactory or decisive effect. An ineffectual person does not have the ability or confidence to do something well.
Ineffective means not producing intended results and there is no effect.  For example, ineffective communication includes talking instead of listening actively.

Likely ten percent of people will notice or care when one of these words is used instead of the other.

Jun 19, 2020

Wordology, Altitude vs. Elevation

Altitude is used to describe a point above sea level in the air. Pilots use altitude. Elevation is a point above sea level on land.

Jun 5, 2020

Wordology, Chronophobia

As the population ages, an old phobia is getting some news lately. Chronophobia is the fear of time. It is characterized by an irrational persistent fear of time and of the passing of time.

Chronophobia is related to the rare chronomentrophobia, the irrational fear of timepieces, such as watches and clocks. Chronophobia is considered a specific phobia.

Wordology, Disgruntled

Back in the 1600s “gruntling” meant “grumbling.” So if someone was gruntling, they were even more upset if they were disgruntling. The first known use of “gruntled” as an adjective to mean “in good humor” or “pleased” in the Oxford English Dictionary is attributed to P.G. Wodehouse, who included this sentence in his 1938 novel The Code of the Woosters: "He spoke with a certain what-is-it in his voice, and I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled."

Instead of being negative, the “dis-” prefix in “disgruntled” is an intensifier. It means “utterly” or “completely” and adds emphasis to the root.

Gruntled” is a back-formation that people derived from “disgruntled.” In other words, so many people thought “disgruntled” should have the corresponding positive word, “gruntled,” that it emerged and was accepted.

Wordology, Pronounciations

Crayon - Some people pronounce it cray-awn, rhyming with "dawn," and others pronounce it cray-ahn, rhyming with "man." According to Crayola, the correct way to say it is cray-awn, but even they admit that there are too many regional differences to try and implement a single pronunciation.

Coupon - You do not pronounce the word "cool" with a /q/ sound, so you would not think to pronounce the word "coupon" with a /q/ sound either. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Though the word's accepted pronunciation is the simple koo-pon, many an educated individual pronounce the first syllable of the word like "kyoo," as if they are sounding out the letter q.

Poem - Wherever you travel to in the United States, you will find people who pronounce the word "poem" as both pome (rhyming with "home") and po-emme. The pronunciation of this word is not limited to regions, but to personal preference.

Bowie Knife - Bow-ie knife, or Boo-wie knife, depends on who you are talking to. In the Harvard Dialect Survey, researchers found that approximately 19 percent of respondents, most of whom lived in the Northeast region pronounced it the second way.

Monday - Most people will say the days of the week—Monday, Tuesday, etc.—and pronounce the second syllable so that it rhymes with "day." A small portion of the population, however, primarily in the South and Midwest, will say this syllable so that it rhymes with "dee."

Huge - A majority of Americans pronounce the letter "h" in words like "huge. In the Harvard Dialect Survey, though, approximately 3 percent of respondents, mostly people in the Northeast, do not pronounce the "h" sound when saying words like "huge," "humor," "humongous," and "human."

Quarter - Most Americans pronounce the word "quarter" so that it has a [kw] sound at the beginning. However, some people in the Northeast and Midwestern regions pronounce this word so that the first syllable is more of a [k] sound.

Roof - There are actually two common ways to pronounce this four-letter word. While people born and raised in the West tend to pronounce the word as if it rhymes with "hoof," those from the East see it as rhyming with "poof."

Six Words That Changed Meaning

Fun was first a verb meaning "to cheat or hoax." It came from fon, an old word for "fool." It still retains some of that sense in “make fun of,” but now also means a good time.
Fond also goes back to fon, and it once meant "foolish and weak-minded." It came to then mean over-affectionate in a negative, cloying way. Now it is positive. At its root, being fond of something is basically being a fool for it.
Terrific root is terror, and it first meant terror-inducing. It then became an exaggerated intensifier (“terrifically good!” = so good it is terrifying) and then a positive term.
Tremendous has its roots in fear. Something tremendous was so terrible it caused trembling or shaking. It also became an intensifier (“tremendously good!”) before it became positive.
Awe originally referred to “immediate and active fear.” It then became associated with religious, reverential fear, and then to a feeling of being humbled at the sublime. While awful retains the negative sense, awesome took on the positive one.

To grin was to bare the teeth in a threatening display of anger or pain. It then became the term for a forced, fake smile, before settling into an expression of happiness.

Wordology Idiom, Metaphor, and Simile

Idiom: An idiom is an expression that conveys something different from its literal meaning, and cannot be guessed from the meanings of its individual words. "Between a rock and a hard place" is an idiom that means “in a difficult or bad position with no good way of getting out of it.” What makes an idiom different from a figure of speech is that its non-literal meaning is already familiar to speakers of the language.

Metaphor: A metaphor is a word or phrase typically used to describe one thing, but unexpectedly used to describe something different. Metaphors make language interesting and help create imagery. "He was drowning in paperwork" is a metaphor that makes a connection between having to deal with a lot of paperwork and drowning in water.

Simile: A simile is an expression that uses the words like or as to describe something by comparing it with something else. A simile is like a metaphor except that a simile uses the words like or as to signal that a comparison is being made. “She is as fierce as a tiger” is a simile, but “She is a tiger when she is angry” is a metaphor.

May 29, 2020


Continuous and Continual - Continuous and continual are not the same, although they are similar. As Grammarist notes, things that happen without any interruption (like the flowing of a river) are continuous, while things that happen regularly with breaks in between (like bus departures) are continual.

Farther and Further - The difference between farther and further might be subtle, but it is important. Though both words mean "more distant," farther refers to physical distance, and further refers to figurative distance.

Allusion and Illusion - An allusion is a reference, most often one made in literature. An illusion, on the other hand, is a mirage or some other sort of deceptive appearance.

Evoke and Invoke - Evoke and invoke both come from the Latin word vocare for "call," so it makes sense that they are two of the most commonly confused words in the English language. These verbs are not interchangeable.
Evoke means "to call forth" and is typically used in reference to memories or emotions. Invoke, meanwhile, means "to call upon" and is most often heard in a court of law.

Data vs. Dayta

Data is technically the plural of datum, so, the “correct” pronunciation is dayta. This is also the most widely used pronunciation.

It is also pronounced Dah-tah in Australia and Boston area.
In modern non-scientific use it is generally not treated as a plural. Instead, it is treated as a mass noun, similar to a word like information, which takes a singular verb. So as long as you are not using it in a scientific context, it is usually fine to use “this data is”.
Strictly-speaking, data is a plural term. For example, if we are following the rules of grammar, we should not write "the data is" or "the data shows" but instead "the data are" or "the data show".

As usage has changed over time, Oxford Dictionary indicates both pronunciations are now acceptable.

Mold and Mildew

These are types of fungi; typically, mold is black or green, and mildew is gray or white. Mold tends to grows on food, whereas mildew grows on damp surfaces, like bathroom walls, basement walls, or fabrics.

Mold grows in the form of multicellular filaments or hyphae, while mildew has flat growth. Mildew is often referred to as a kind of mold and is classified as powdery (under the order Erysiphales) and downy (under the family Peronosporaceae).
Mildew is a specific kind of mold, usually with a flat growth habit. Mold is a fungi that contains multiple identical nuclei. It grows in the form of hyphae of filaments.
Mildew could be downy or powdery: Downy mildew starts as yellow spots that first become brighter in appearance and then the color changes to brown. Powdery mildew is whitish in color and that slowly turn yellowish brown and then black. Mold has a fuzzy appearance and can be an orange, green, black, brown, pink or purple in color and can be found in several shapes.
Some molds are used in food production, for example, Penicillium is used in the production of cheese, Neurospora in the production of oncom, which is made from the by-product of tofu.
To prevent mildew at home, keep all the areas moisture-free. There are mildew removers available at stores to eliminate mildew. To protect crops from mildew use mildew-resistant seeds, remove infested plants, avoid overhead heating.     To prevent mold in your home, you need to keep all the areas dry and moisture-free.
Prolonged exposure to mold spores can cause health problems such as allergic reactions and respiratory problems, due to the toxins (mycotoxins) it produces.

Mildew can cause damage to crops and other plants it infests. Inhalation of mildew can cause coughing, headache, scratchy throat and lung problems. Mildew can also start growing in lungs and cause other serious health problems.

Some molds are used in food production, in the production of bread, soya sauce and so on. Mildew has no uses as such in food production.


Adapt and Adopt - Adapt and adopt are not synonyms
The words adapt and adopt are only similar in spelling and style. According to Merriam-Webster, adapt means "to make fit (as for a new use) often by modification." Animals adapt to their environments.

Adopt means "to take up and practice or use." Parents adopt a stern tone when their children are being naughty.

Especially and Specially - It is easy to understand how adverbs especially and specially are commonly mistaken for each other. Not only do they look the same, but they also have very similar meanings. While especially means "in particular," specially means "for a special purpose."

Specially and especially can sometimes be used interchangeably, for instance, you can say you bought a snack both specially and especially for after work, but generally, they are not the same.
Amoral and Immoral - Something or someone that is amoral is neutral from a moral standpoint. Something or someone that is immoral, meanwhile, is not moral and knows that their behavior is wrong. If you ever get these words confused, just remember that an amoral person is apathetic and perhaps even unknowing, while an immoral person is unethical.

Emigrate and Immigrate - Emigrate and immigrate are commonly confused words. The difference between these two words is subtle, but significant. When you emigrate, you leave one country to live in another. When you immigrate, you go to another country to live there permanently. So, if you are a resident of Germany moving to the United States, you are emigrating from Germany and immigrating to the United States.

Tinder vs. Kindling

Tinder is the smallest. Tinder ignites into flame with the smallest spark. Types of tinder include: cotton balls. dry grass, Cattail fluff,  and Birch tree bark.

Kindling is slightly larger. It refers to any ignitable material that is larger than tinder, but smaller than firewood (fuelwood). Most people use small sticks, cedar bark, and dry leaves for kindling, which ignite more quickly than the firewood and burn for longer than the tinder.

Wordology, Ennui

(on wee) This is especially appropriate during this virus time to know. It is the feeling you get when you are simultaneously bored and annoyed. It describes a feeling that combines tiredness and boredom. You were expecting more, but did not get it. You are not depressed exactly, but you would definitely rather be anywhere but here. Cheer up. Better days are coming - hopefully soon.

May 8, 2020

Wordology, Slang

Non-standard, slang or colloquial terms used by English speakers are sometimes alleged not to be real words, despite appearing in numerous dictionaries. Irregardless is sometimes dismissed as not a word. All words in English became accepted by being commonly used for a certain period of time; thus there are many informal words currently regarded as "incorrect" in formal speech or writing, but the idea that they are not words is a misconception. Examples of words that are sometimes alleged not to be words include "conversate", "funnest", "mentee", "impactful", and "thusly", all of which appear in numerous dictionaries as English words.

Incidentally, slang is a type of language that consists of words and phrases that are regarded as very informal, are more common in speech than writing, and are typically restricted to a particular context or group of people, such as grass is slang for marijuana.

Wordology, Quarantine

You have probably heard the word quarantine too often in the recent COVID-19 coverage. It derives from the Latin word for forty.

The word was coined in Venice to describe the forty day period ships had to be isolated before they would be allowed to dock. The Venetian word for forty is quaranta, which has a Latin root.

Mar 9, 2020

More Wordology

Words sometimes seem similar, but have different meanings.
Infamous and famous are not the same words. You really do not want to mix up these commonly confused words. While famous means "widely known" with no positive or negative connotation, the adjective infamous is defined by Merriam-Webster as "having a reputation of the worst kind." People who are infamous are usually also famous, but people who are famous are not necessarily infamous.

Adverse and Averse are not the same words. Adverse is an adjective synonymous with unfavorable and harmful. Averse is an adjective used when someone strongly dislikes something. You can have an adverse reaction to a medication and you are averse to taking it again.

Accept and Except are not the same and are not interchangeable. Accept is a verb meaning to believe or receive something, and except is a preposition used to refer to something being excluded.
Entitled and titled are not synonyms. Per Merriam-Webster, entitled is an adjective meaning "having a right to certain benefits or privileges" or "showing a feeling of entitlement." A piece of literature is titled, meaning that it has a title.
Bemused and amused are not synonyms. People who are amused are not usually also bemused. While amused is synonymous with entertained, bemused is synonymous with confused and befuddled.

Disinterested and uninterested are synonyms and similar adjectives, but are not exactly the same. To be disinterested is to be unbiased. To be uninterested is to simply not care.

Incidentally, according to Merriam-Webster, the meanings of these words used to be reversed. Disinterested used to mean "not interested," and uninterested used to mean "unbiased."

Feb 14, 2020

Wordology, Quit Rent

Most quit rents are relics of medieval agreements. A few examples include: Some English landowners must produce a variety of quit rents: a bucket of snow on demand, three red roses, a small French flag, a salmon spear. Some rents only kick in if the king or queen visits: the renter must provide the crown with a bed of straw, in another the renter must offer a single white rose.

There is a quite recent one in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, USA. It started when the city imported a bridge from London (which had spanned the Thames river) and was auctioned off in the late 1960s. Robert McCulloch, Lake Havasu City’s founder, bought the bridge, and by the early ’70s, the bridge had been reinstalled in Arizona.

As a gift to London, during the dedication ceremony, McCulloch offered an acre of Arizona land and years later, when the city wanted to use that land for a visitor’s center, London agreed to lease it back to Lake Havasu. They settled on a token quit rent: a Kachina doll (a carved Hopi figure representing an immortal being).