11/12/13 Sleight of Umbrage
Some words seem to only exist as part of a phrase. The word sleight comes up in "sleight of hand" if it comes up at all. What exactly the umbrage is one takes when one "takes umbrage" is something of a mystery. And now... the r-r-rest of the story.
Sleight – Not to be confused with slight (no 'e'), sleight is from Middle English meaning cunning or trickery. As height is to high, sleight is to sly. Thus "sleight of hand" means "slyness of hand." The word slyness has supplanted sleight these days. On the other hand, we haven't replaced height with highness. Nor does anyone refer to Queen Elizabeth as "Her Royal Height."
Another term for sleight of hand is legerdemain, from the French léger de main, literally, "light of hand." This implies deftness more than trickiness. While "light touch" smacks of "slight touch" there's no connection since "slight of hand" is nothing but a misspelling.
Umbrage – The Old French ombrage (shade, shadow) was once used to talk about actual shade from the sun. The word took on various figurative meanings about doubt and suspicion. Think of "a shadow of a doubt." It also had figurative meanings of giving and taking offense. Think of how some comment might "cast a shadow" on someone's character.
These days people are rarely said to give umbrage, but many take umbrage. Maybe folks are more easily offended now-a-days, they take umbrage at the slightest slight. In which case Her Royal Height might say, "We are not amused."
10/25/13 All Write, Right, Wright Already
Some words aren't spelled as we might expect because the derivation isn't what we might expect. Here's a couple:
The strait in straitjacket doesn't come from meaning something flat without curves or bends. Strait, no 'gh', is an old word nobody uses any more meaning tight, snug, restricting. So a straitjacket is a tight, restricting jacket, and not an flat, non-curved jacket.
This explains the spelling of "on the strait and narrow", and straitlaced. As is why a narrow waterway between two larger bodies of water is called a strait and not a straight. A strait doesn't have to be straight.
A screenwriter writes for the screen, movies or TV. The spelling reflects that, screen + writer. However it's not a playwriter, or even a playwrite, but a playwright, play + wright with a 'gh' and no 'e' at the end. What gives?
Wright has nothing to do with write. Wright means builder or maker. As in boatwright, a boat builder; cartwright a cart maker; wainwright, a wagon maker. So a playwright is a play builder or maker. That's right, a playwright both wrights and writes a play. Still, a lot of what happens on stage isn't written but is done by the director and actors. Though within the framework built by the playwright.
To add a little confusion, we have copywriter and copyright which are two different things altogether, though related. You can copyright a play, but you can't playright it. Past tense of copyright is copyrighted, not copywritten. So get it straight, alright?
7/18/13 Whence Went
As you wend your way through the English language you'll run across many an irregular verb. Some of them very irregular. But we don't think about it much because they're usually very common words and we're used to them. Still, in many cases you can spot how they have the same root. For instance: write, wrote, written. On the other hand, 'be' might be the most irregular verb of all: be, am, is, are, was, were, been. Hard to see a linguistic connection there.
None of this is news to you, I'm sure. Just a way to get to go. That is: go, goes, gone, went. One can easily see the connection among the first three which all start with g-o. Then we come to 'went'. Huh? Where'd that come from? That's what I'm here to answer.
Old English speakers had two words for 'go'. 'Go', of course, and 'wend'. We still use 'go' all the time, but 'wend' turns up rarely. And usually with a 'way' added. Just like in the first sentence of this bit, "As you wend your way through the English language..."
Back in the day the past tense of 'go' was 'gaed'. The past tense of 'wend' was 'went'. Some time around the 15th century 'go' became the preferred verb, except in the past tense where 'went' replaced 'gaed', leaving us with the cross-bred irregular verb we use today.
Now-a-days wend is used to mean 'wander' more than simply 'go'. Plus, the past tense of 'wend' isn't 'went' any more. On the rare times it's used, people now employ 'wended'. But they invariably add the 'way'. As in, "I wended my way through the article and I decided I'd had enough." I guess that means it's time to wend.
5/10/13 Snoop Doggerel
"It's raining. It's pouring. The old man is snoring."
A silly old rhyme we used to chant as kids. I don't recall ever hearing it out of the mouths of adults. Where did it come from? Is this little bit of doggerel passed on from one generation to the next within the child community, as it were? I wonder. Just like, "Hey, Joe. Waddaya know? I just got back from the rodeo show."
doggerel (DAW ger-rul) noun, Verse of a loose, irregular rhythm or of a trivial nature.
A favorite use of the word was a description of rap music being rhythmic doggerel. I suppose you could say the same thing about a lot of pop music. Anyway, nothing more to add. Just an entry of a trivial nature. A rainy day activity of my own.
12/4/12 Fauxcabulary Word #7
If you've visited terrycolon.com before you may notice things are a little different. The navigation matrix has been redone. But still with all the fun, or annoying, bells and whistles you've come to enjoy, or bemoan, as before. Whether this improves your interweb browsing experience or not is debatable. I just hope the change is not a...
dimprovement (dim PROOV ment) noun. An improvement that makes something worse.
I have heard the Germans already have a word for a bad improvement, schlimmerverbesserung. Though some say it's not a real word. Whether my made-up word dimprovement is an improvement over the possibly made-up schlimmerverbesserung is another question. Maybe one not worth answering.
10/2/12 Can a Loop Not Have a Hole?
You likely know what a legal loophole is. It's pretty much a way to evade a law legally. Slip through the cracks, as it were. But why is this called a loophole? Where did that come from? One might guess a lasso has a loop which defines a hole. You use a lasso to catch animals. If the animal slips through the lasso's loop, its hole, the animal escapes capture. Or if a loop has a gap, a hole, it won't work. Is that how loophole got its meaning? Makes sense, sort-of. But that's not it. Which only shows how good guessing is.
If you are familiar with military history or castles you might know what else a loophole is. It's a small opening in a castle wall, fortification, or bulwark, usually a vertical slit or cross-shaped, from which a defending archer or crossbowman can shoot at attackers.
Now we have another possible explanation. A loophole is a small opening in an otherwise impregnable wall through which, if you could squeeze through, you can defeat the wall. That's where the term legal loophole comes from. It's a simile. Or is it an allusion? Whatever it is it's a gap in the defense. A chink in the armor. (A phrase harkening back to days of loopholes, appropriately enough.)
Now then, most actual castle loopholes were much too small for a man to squeeze through. You'd have to be pretty slippery, able to contort yourself to extremes to weasel your way through one. Sounds like a lawyer to me.
9/7/12 Fauxcabulary Word # 6
Here's how to know your mindset has been taken over by the computer age. You're doing something away from your computer, and you make a mistake, and the first thing that comes to mind is "hit command undo". Needless to say there is no command undo when you spill your drink or say something really stupid. Be nice if there were. Anyway, there's a word for that. Or at least I'm coining one right here, right now.
und’oh (un d-OH) noun, The impulse to hit "command undo" whenever you make a mistake, then realizing you're not working on your computer and that won't work.
3/19/12 Why There are no More Depressions Even Though There are
Words change meanings from time to time. Slang often throws a monkey wrench into the linguistic works. Euphemisms also can do the trick. Sometimes words morph into a similar meanings away from their original meanings.
Take the words recession and depression, for instance. In the past the word recession described the period when the economy declined. The lull in the middle was the bottom. Recovery was when the economy went up to where it was when the recession started. The three parts together, recession-bottom-recovery were a depression.
You can visualize it as a depression on a graph. If this were a cross-section of a landscape there is a section that looks like a dip down, a depression in the ground. If this were a graph of the economy where there was a recession-bottom-recovery it looks like… a depression. I don't know when they started calling them depressions, but you can see how the word fits.
This changed some time after the Great Depression. The powers that be are desperate to avoid another Great Depression, or any depression no matter how mild or not. There are still recession-bottom-recovery episodes, they just stopped calling them depressions and started calling them recessions.
I guess that's one way to avoid a depression, call it something else. That may seem like a load of crap, but not if you call it a unit of feces.
1/27/12 More Fauxcabulary Words
People generally speak differently depending who they talk to. At work you use industry jargon. At the bar with your buds you curse like a sailor. At a family gathering you don't curse like a sailor. Unless maybe you come from a family of salty-talking sailors. The point is, our speech is flexible, we adjust for who, when and where. For this I have coined some bits of fauxcabulary...
flexicon (FLEKS e-kon) noun, words one uses tailored to the audience or social setting.
Within our flexicon there are any number of subsets. Following my usual formula of combining two words into a single portmanteau word, here are a few more using synonyms for lexicon like lingo, argot, and patios. Here are but a few.
gobble-degeek (GAH bul dee geek), tech terms you sort-of know used to impress people who don't know.
Texicon (TEK se kon), words used to sound like a Texan, y'all.
ar-r-rgot (ARRR go), words used to sound like a pirate, ye matie.
phatois (fah TWA), words used to sound like a gansta, dog.
badda-balingo (bah dah bah LIN-go), words used to sound like an Italian gangster, capice?
libberish (LIH-ber ish), politically correct terms used in politically correct society.
bluephemism (BLOO fem iz-um), substitute term for a sexual act or naughty bit. Sometimes more polite versions, sometimes more raunchy. 'Naughty bit' is an example of the former, an example of the latter I leave to your imagination.
brocabulary (bro KAB yoo lar-ree), words used among male friends. Often as not a lot of bluephemisms and no libberish.
hocabulary (ho KAB yoo lar-ree), female version of brocabulary.
That's all I got. Yar, I'm out, y'all fuggitabouddit.