Sunday, September 25, 2016

In the Clink


Adam asked about a phrase that now sounds a bit old fashioned, “When we were kids,” he wrote, “we’d say that so-and-so’s father was in the clink, meaning in jail.” Sounds like he grew up in a tough neighborhood.

There’s some uncertainty about the origin. One school of thought says that clink is onomatopoeia, the sound of a cell door slamming shut. I would suggest that clink is too soft a sound for that. Cell doors clank or clang shut; cocktail glasses clink. A refinement says that it might be the sound a prisoner’s chains make, but again, that’s a bit too delicate.

Others believe that clink derives from the name of an actual jail. It was located in Southwark, England, and somewhat surprisingly, it was owned by the bishop of Winchester. The thought is that the slang word for jail evolved as The Clink was genericised and applied to any prison.

Another explanation is that clink is a variation of clench, to secure firmly or to hold tightly in one’s grasp.

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.





Sunday, September 18, 2016

Suppression and Repression


Sybil asked about the words suppression and repression. Both are based on a Latin verb that meant to press, to weigh down, to stifle. The word compression shares the same root.

Based on the tone of her email, I think that Sybil was considering both words in their psychological sense. From that perspective, suppression is the conscious act of stifling unacceptable thoughts, memories or desires, while repression is the unconscious act of stifling unacceptable thoughts, memories or desires.

Both words have other meanings, too. Originally, suppression meant to keep an individual or an entire community in a state of subjection. It is also an act of censorship. Keeping a secret is another element. In medicine, it once meant to check the flow of bodily fluids.

Repression also originally referred to keeping an individual or an entire community in a state of impotence. Stamping out an idea or action antithetical to authority is another meaning. Another action involves blocking natural growth or development.

So both words overlap in meaning in several areas.


Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a year’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.





Saturday, September 10, 2016

Exculpatory

Exculpatory

Myron from Big Rapids asked about the word exculpatory. It is usually found in the phrase, exculpatory evidence. In a criminal trial, that would be evidence that tends to excuse the defendant from guilt – witness testimony, physical evidence, video, etc. Its opposite is inculpatory evidence, proof that the defendant did commit the crime.

Both words are built on the Latin word culpa, guilt or fault. The ex- prefix means to take away. The in- prefix means to bring in.

The culpa root shows up in other English words.

·      culpability: the quality of being guilty
·      culpate: to find fault with
·      culpation: a finding fault with
·      culpatory: expressing blame
·      culpose: characterized by criminal negligence
·      culprit: a person guilty of a fault
·      disculpate: to absolve from blame
·      disculpation: exoneration
·      disculpatory: exonerating from blame

Liturgically, there are two classical uses of culpa. St. Augustine of Hippo wrote, O felix culpa (Oh, happy fault!) in reference to the original sin of Adam and Eve, since it led to redemption. The other use shows up in a Mass prayer called the Confiteor. It contains the lines
            mea culpa (through my fault)
            mea culpa (through my fault)
            mea maxima culpa (through my most grievous fault)


Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.





Monday, September 05, 2016

Living Daylights


Scott asked about the origin of the threat, “I’ll beat the living piss out of you.” It actually started out as, “I’ll beat your daylights out” or “I’ll darken your daylights.” Over the centuries, additions and substitutions sprang up.

Somewhere in the mid-1800s, daylights (the plural form) was a colloquial expression for the eyes. The Oxford English Dictionary gives this citation with a questionable date of 1747: “I shall see my jolly old Codger by the Tinney-side, I suppose with his Day-Lights dim, and his Trotters shivering under him.”

Green’s History of Slang translates Tinney-side as fireside. Trotters was a humorous reference to human legs, though it properly designated quadrupeds.

An 1873 entry makes it quite clear that daylights referred to the eyes: “Why, hang me,” said Tom Parton, “his daylights are out!” Quite true – he was blind as a mole.

As daylights receded as slang for eyes, it was replaced by other terms, especially bodily excretions, for shock effect: “I’ll beat the tar/stuffing/hell/piss/crap/shit out of you.” Living was inserted as an intensifier. It shared the honor with many other participle forms: “I’ll beat the blinking/everloving/bleeding/living/f*cking crap out of you.”

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.





Thursday, August 25, 2016

Oneth, Twoth, Threeth


Judy from Elk Rapids asked why we use the adjectives first, second, and third instead of oneth, twoth, and threeth. After all, the rest of the numerical adjectives (fourth, fifth, sixth, etc.) routinely end in –th or –eth.

First of all, we need to make a distinction between types of numbers. When you add up and proclaim the actual number of units involved (one. two, three . . .), you are dealing with the cardinal numbers. Cardinal in this sense means a hinge. The choice of the adjective to describe a particular number hinges upon how many items are involved. For instance, if we are focusing on the numbers six, seven, and eight, we wouldn’t choose ninth, tenth, and eleventh to represent them. It would be sixth, seventh, and eighth.

Now, those adjective forms ending in –th or –eth are called ordinal numbers. They show the spatial or chronological order or sequence involved—the fifth window from the left, the eighth person to come through the door.

Back to oneth, twoth, threeth. The reason why they don’t exist, logical though they might be, was that they were preceded by different well-established forms. First was firmly set in place in Germanic and Old English. Second was locked in by Latin/French words that meant next after the first. Third was also set in stone by Latin/Germanic words, and unlike first for one and second for two, at least third and three bear some resemblance to each another.

And there’s another reason why one/first, two/second, and three/third aren’t all that unusual in English. There are many adjectives that look nothing at all like their nouns. That’s because they don’t share the same root. Technically, such an adjective is called a collateral adjective.

The animal kingdom is rife with such disparities.  Consider the following animal names (nouns) and the adjectives that represent them:

cat (feline)
dog (canine)
cow (bovine)
dove (columbine)
gerbil (cricetine)
pig (porcine)
sheep (ovine)
wolf (lupine)


The absence of tightly woven resemblances (no cat/catine or dog/dogine in that list) makes one/first and two/second look a lot less exotic.


Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.



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