3/11/11 False Opposites
The way people use the terms now-a-days you'd get the idea that liberal and conservative are total opposites. But when you look them up in the dictionary it just ain't so.
liberal (LIB er-al) adj. Having views or policies favoring the freedom of individuals to act or express themselves as of their own choosing.
conservative (kun SER-va tiv) adj. Tending to favor the preservation of the existing order and to regard proposals for change with distrust.
Liberal is about individual rights and liberty, no mention of the desire for change. Conservative is an attitude supporting the establishment and resisting change, nothing there about individual freedom. Liberal and conservative address different issues. To say the opposite of liberal is conservative is like saying the opposite of free is same.
Thing is, you can be both conservative and liberal at the same time. For instance, say you want to keep the first amendment guarantee of free speech. This would be both conservative (against change) and liberal (pro free speech). There is no contradiction whatever.
The opposite of free is controlled. Liberal's true opposite would say the individual's actions or expressions are restricted or controlled. In other words...
authoritarian (aw thor ih TARE ee-un) adj. Characterized by or favoring absolute obedience to authority, as against individual freedom.
The opposite of same is different. Conservative's opposite prefers sweeping changes to the existing order. In other words...
radical (RAD ih-kul) adj. Favoring or effecting revolutionary changes.
This is not to say there is no divide between people who call themselves liberal and people who call themselves conservative. It's just the conservative and liberal labels they use are muddled up and don't mean what they really mean. When conservatives call for change they aren't being conservative. When liberals want to ban, run, or regulate something they aren't being liberal.
Forget what people call themselves, the proof is in the pudding. Radicals want different pudding, conservatives want the pudding as is. Liberals let you choose your pudding, authoritarians tell you what pudding you must and must not have whether you like it or not. That's the bottom line, both pudding-wise and otherwise.
2/16/11 Around Revolutionary Circles
revolution (rev-oh LOO shun, rev-uh LOO shun) noun. 1. a. Orbital motion about a point. b. A single complete cycle of such orbital motion. 2. A sudden political overthrow brought about from within.
While it may not be obvious, the second meaning is derived from the first. Though we tend to think a revolution overthrows the old order and establishes something new or radically different it was first used to mean almost the oposite. That is, a revolution was a restoration of a previous regime or order, a return to the past rather than a leap into the future. That's what happens when something makes one revolution, it comes full circle and winds up where it began.
Revolution as a political term was first used describing the installment of William of Orange, husband of Mary Stuart, on the throne of England in 1688. This was called the Glorious Revolution where England returned to a Constitutional Monarchy after the dictator Cromwell and the absolute monarchists Charles II and James II.
Later revolution came to mean changing the existing order to a new form. Like, for instance, the French Revolution or the Russian Revolution. Which were more like 180 degree rotations rather than 360 degree full circles. So in a way revolution went from being conservative, pro old establishment, to being radical, against the old establishment.
1/4/11 Czech Mate
robot (ROH bot) noun. 1. An externally manlike mechanical device capable of performing human tasks or behaving in a human manner. 2. A person who works mechanically without original thought. 3. Any machine or device that works automatically or by remote control. [Czech, from robota, compulsory labor, drudgery.]
Not exactly an obscure word, but one with an interesting derivation. After all, how many english words come from Czech? Did Czechs invent the robot or what? Well, they came up with the word robot.
Our common use of the word comes from a 1920 play RUR by Czech playwright Karel Capek. RUR meaning Rossom's Universal Robots (in Czech, Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti). Robot simply meaning laborer, or maybe something closer to servant. Sometimes words don't have exact translations from one language to another. In the play the laborers alluded to in the title were machines, what we now call robots.
12/3/10 Fauxcabulary Word #5
addage (AD ej) noun. The ten pounds of fat you put on at the start of winter.
Yes, another word I made up. Not to be confused with adage, an old saying, which I didn't make up. Now, some may blame holiday feasting for the added pounds, but I suggest there's more to the story. Call it winterizing yourself with an on-board emergency larder of lard for the cold and food scarce days of winter.
Bears and squirrels fatten up for winter, why not people? We're mammals just like them. Not exactly like them, people don't have fur. On the other hand bears don't have grocery stores. Though grocery stores have dumpsters and bears are inveterate dumpster divers. And why not. I've heard about half the fresh produce offered by grocery stores doesn't sell and gets tossed into dumpsters. I imagine for a bear a dumpster is one great big pic-a-nic basket. And a landfill is Yogi's smorgasbord.
One might wonder why grocery stores don't order less produce since they know so much will be thrown out. I'm just guessing here, but stores would rather have too much than too little and run short. That wouldn't please customers. Maybe there's a psychological angle. Customers like fully stocked shelves and bins and don't trust a store with scant pickings. Just seems shabby, somehow.
11/3/10 Homeric Language
d'oh (doe) interjection. Exclamation indicating frustration, disappointment, failure, and/or pain, often used sarcastically or in jest.
D'oh is like a combination of oops and darn, two other interjections. When you consider them, interjections are a little odd as words go. What do they really mean, after all? They're things we say which are shorthand exclamations for something else. An interjection is kind-of a sentence all in itself. 'Ouch!' pretty much means "That hurts." 'Golly!' often as not means, "I'm surprised" or "I'm impressed."
Thing about interjections, can you use them in a sentence at all? Or rather, can you use an interjection in a sentence without a comma? Gosh, I can't. Gee, can you? Try using any of the following: ow, gosh, wow, gee, golly, jeepers, ouch, ooh, oops, sheesh, zowie, gadzooks. And of course we mustn't forget, d'oh!
Then there are words that can be both interjections and something else. Take the word 'rats' for instance. As in, "Rats, my lunch was eaten by rats." Though I imagine the most common interjection, one we use daily on the telephone is 'hello.'
Though an interjection is a self-contained sentence people sometimes elaborate on them. Like they'll say, 'hello, there.' Though why there and not here or yonder is a puzzle. Then there's, 'bye, now' or 'bye, then', but no 'bye, later' or 'bye, soon.' What putting a time frame on bye does is another conundrum.
Hate, detest, revile, despise, abhor, and loathe all mean about the same thing. Is there an order of degree to them? I don't suppose it matters, though hate seems the least extreme. Still, which seems strongest, detest or revile? Or despise? Or loathe? Does one mean really hate, and another mean really, really hate? How many reallys can you add? All that aside, we now move onto the related word of this entry.
anathema (ah NATH e-ma) noun. Someone or something cursed, reviled or shunned.
I imagine we all have our anathemas. Sports fans certainly have their players and teams they love to hate. Think of all the NY Yankee haters. Well, the Yankees are anathema to them. Or is that an anathema? If it's only a single player they despise that player can be anathema or another phrase could be used:
persona non grata (per-SONE ah non GRA-tah) A person who is not acceptable or is unwelcome.
In any case, the fan may decide for themselves whether they hate, detest, revile, despise, abhor, or loathe the team or the player. Or maybe even all the synonyms can be used if the Yankee hater hails from Boston.
9/4/10 Fauxcabulary Word #4
duhjustment (duh JUST ment) noun. The act of altering, repairing, or replacing the wrong part of a system which wasn't the problem in an attempted repair.
Like replacing a perfectly good car battery when the alternator was the problem. Or repacking the bearings when it was the brakes that were squeaking. Or replacing the light bulb and then finding the reason there was no light was the lamp wasn't plugged in. Or cutting down the already too short leg of a wobbly table.
Which reminds me of what my dad would say, "No matter how many times I cut it down, it's still too short."
It's related to proper diagnostics. If you don't know what's wrong you can't fix it. Moreover, if you don't know how it works at all you have a hard time trying to figure out what's wrong with it.
It's the downside of modern technology and modern life. I mean, how many of us really know how all the hi-tech stuff we use works? Like a computer, for instance. I don't know about you, but I've had problems with mine before. And have made many a duhjustment trying to get it to work properly again.
Should all else fail I resort to the old standby remedy employed on all misbehaving machinery. I bang on it. Of course, like the old gag goes, you have to know where to hit it.
7/29/10 Spikey Clean
spick-and-span (spik en SPAN) adj. 1. Neat and clean; spotless. 2. Brand-new; fresh.
So then, spick-and-span means neat and clean. Nobody ever uses only one, as in "This room is so spick" or "This room is really span." They always go hand in hand like Siamese twins, which one guesses might account for the hyphens.
Though one wonders if one means neat and the other means clean. Can your house be span without being spick as well? I mean, if you're neat and not clean, organized and dirty, are you spick or span?
Now I suppose we might learn something from the word's derivation which comes from the Dutch spiksplinter nieuw meaning "spike-splinter-new". How that means neat and clean, your guess is as good as mine. Better, if you're Dutch and get how spikes and splinters are neat and clean.
6/24/10 Antsy Beaver
Here's a pair of words often used interchangeably which perhaps shouldn't be.
eager (EE ger) adj. Intensely desirous of something, impatiently expectant.
anxious (ANK-shus, ANG shush) adj. 1. Worried and strained about some uncertain event, uneasy. 2. Eagerly or earnestly expectant.
Notice that eager is always looking forward to with relish while anxious isn't. Anxious is more like nervous, though not so far as dread. While in the second definition anxious means eager, the careful writer might wish to distinguish the two for separate and more distinctive usages.
The way I see it, you are anxious before going to the boss for a raise, but eager to get the extra pay. To remember the difference, for eager think of beaver, for anxious think of angst. Or if angst doesn't do it for you, try antsy. Or maybe anxious is angst in your pants. Maybe that's going too far. And too silly.
5/25/10 The People’s Choice
demagogue (DEM eh-gog) noun. 1. A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace. 2. A leader of the people in ancient times. [Greek demos, common people + agogos, leading.]
This word, like the type of politician it defines, goes way back. In fact, Aristophanes (446-386 B.C.) defined demagogue thusly: "A political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument."
Of course, one man's demagoue is another's leg-tingling inspirational speaker, and one man's prejudice is another's "we hold these truths to be self-evident." But for my money the best definition comes from my favorite acid-tongued curmudgeon, H.L. Mencken, who wrote a demogogue is...
"…one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots."
4/26/10 Fauxcabulary Word #3
Fauxcabulary: words and terms coined to be amusing or satirical and not found in a dictionary.
predundant (pree DUN dant) adj. When a prefix which should change a word's meaning doesn't change the meaning at all.
You've likely gotten junk mail from a bank saying you've been pre-approved for a credit card. What exactly does pre-approved mean? The prefix 'pre' means prior to or 'not yet.' So pre-approved means not yet approved. Notice the word 'not.' Which would make it not approved rather than already approved. Wouldn't approved before applying simply be approved, not pre-approved?
Which leads us to another confusing term, pre-fabricated. Seems to me something fabricated is already built. So what is pre-fabricated? Wouldn't something 'pre' being fabricated be not yet fabricated, in other words unfabricated? I mean, built is built and done is done. Then there's flammable and inflammable which mean the same thing, combustible.
This mightn't apply to flooring where finish has another meaning, a protective coating. In which case pre-finished is meaningful as it is customary to apply the finish after the floor is laid. So then pre-finished is flooring finished prior to laying. Though really if you just called it finished it would mean the same thing. After all, furniture without a finish is called unfinished. Furniture with a finish isn't called pre-finished, just finished. Or actually it's usually not mentioned at all, it's simply furniture.