Saturday, May 20, 2017

Embarrass


Van from Petoskey was curious about the word embarrass. It seems to have come into English from the French, but it has cousins in Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. It now means to make a person or institution feel awkward or self-conscious, but that meaning evolved over time.

Originally, it meant to impede progress by putting up a barrier of some kind. The Portuguese equivalent, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, referred to restraining animals with a leash or cord. In 18th century England, a road would be embarrassed if it was blocked by fallen trees or an avalanche of rocks.

Being blocked, literally or metaphorically, would lead to confusion and uncertainty. It would stymie and perplex a person, and the inability to act would make him or her feel helpless, leading to a feeling of inadequacy.

These feelings often trigger the fight-or-flight response. The subsequent release of chemicals often causes an embarrassed person to blush as blood flow increases to the blood vesels in the cheeks.

The suggestion that embarrassment must involve exposed buttocks is not seated in reality.


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, April 30, 2017

Candidity


I know there’s no such word as candidity,  but I like the sound of it. A listener asked about the word candor. It now means openness, frankness, and outspokenness. Originally (14th c.), it meant brilliant whiteness. That’s no surprise, since it came from a Latin word that meant whiteness. It then (17th c.) expanded into innocence, integrity, and purity of character.

Other words share the same Latin root. One of them is candid. It, too, started out meaning whiteness, then morphed into innocent and pure, then into free from malice, then into open and straightforward. In photographic terms, it came to mean an informal or unposed photo.

The word candidate also stemmed from the Latin word for whiteness. This is because Romans running for office wore white togas. If their campaign caught on fire, it was positively candescent.

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.





Saturday, April 15, 2017

No Man Is An Island


The Latin word insula had two meanings, one dry and one wet. It meant a block of buildings separated from surrounding structures, and it also meant an island – a land mass completely surrounded by water.

It shows up in words like insulate, insulated, and insulation. In those words, it can mean much the same as isolation, but it can also refer to a protective covering or barrier. This appears in reference to electricity, sound, and heat or cold.

It takes on a negative sense in words like insular and insularity. The stereotype is that people who live on an island are cut off from mainlanders, and are thus prone to narrow or prejudiced feelings, ideas, or social expectations. Their minds allegedly close up, just as their island is closed off from the rest of society.

The Latin root also shows up in the word peninsula. I remember a student who was convinced that a peninsula was so named because it was shaped like a penis. I had a difficult time convincing him that it came from the words paene insula, almost an island. Replace the connection to the land mass with more water, and you would have a full-fledged island.

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, April 09, 2017

In Perpetuity


Frank from Suttons Bay came across the phrase in perpetuity, and he figured out from context that it means forever. In legal use, it means “not subject to termination.” The phrase is often used in documents granting an easement to a utility company. 

It tracks back to the Latin adjective perpetuus, lasting or permanent. There are a few words that use the same root, and these examples have been compiled from the Oxford English Dictionary.

·      perpetual:  Continuing or continued in time without interruption or remission; repeated frequently or without cessation; occurring in endless succession; persistent; continual; constant.

·      perpetuality:  The quality, state, or condition of being perpetual.

·      perpetually:  Without remission or intermission, unfailingly, incessantly; with constant recurrence, continually.

·      perpetualness:  Perpetuality.

·      perpetuation:    The action of perpetuating something; permanent continuation; preservation from extinction or oblivion; (in recent use) spec. continuation or preservation of an idea, myth, etc., by reiteration.

·      perpetuative:  Having a tendency or inclination to perpetuate something; that effects perpetuation.

·      perpetuator:  A person who or thing which perpetuates something.

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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