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Posts Tagged ‘word meaning’

Hello,

Today the CAO results come out in Ireland. The what? Students, aged about 18, sit exams in eight subjects to complete their second level education. They found out last week how they did in those exams. Since then the Central Applications Office (CAO) have taken those results, looked at their applications for university (and other third level establishments), and worked out if the students earned enough points from their exams to study their top choice.

Image from pexels.com

If a particular course is only run in one place and only 20 students can enter then the points are likely to be high. If it’s run in several places and hundreds of students can enter, the points are lower. Then they factor in what’s popular with students this year and that skews the points too. It’s complicated and very stressful for the students.

As a result (pun intended) I’m thinking about the word result today. I expected it to be a fairly modern word, thinking it related to results-driven office work, but it’s another one the Romans gave us.

Classical Latin has a verb resultare (a frequentative of past participle of resilire, to rebound, if you really need to know). This verb, as you might guess from the spelling, also relates to resilience in English. Resultare edged its way into medieval Latin with the meaning to spring back, and hence to late Middle English as a verb.

By the 1620s it was being used, still as a verb, to mean springing back, but by the 1640s it had transformed into a noun meaning outcome or effect. You’d have to wait until 1771 to see it used in the mathematical sense of a result being an answer or solution.

I love that result started life as something springy. It’s wonderful that it was less about a definitive answer and more about resilience, springing back, and finding another jumping off point. I hope anybody disappointed with their CAO results today can take that meaning instead.
Until next time happy reading, writing, and springing,
Grace (@Wordfoolery)
p.s. Regular readers will know I take part in National Novel Writing Month each November. This year I’ll be drafting another non-fiction book inspired by this blog “Words The Sea Gave Us”. I’m currently researching nautical words and would love input from my blog readers. If you’ve got a fun sea-related word, stick it in the comments below and I’ll try to include it (and will put you in the acknowledgements, of course). Thank you!

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Hello,

this week’s word is hoodwinked (pronunciation here) which most will know as a evocative way of saying tricked or deceived. But its word origins are a little more unusual.

Falconry Centre at Alliwee Caves

Falconry Centre at Alliwee Caves

The Masonic Dictonary explains that hood comes from Old German and meant a head covering like a hat or helmet. You then add on wink, from the same language origins, meaning to close the eyes (so the next time a small child describes their blink as a wink, they’re actually correct). The combination of hood and wink described a headdress which covered the head and closed the eyes, and it came from the ancient sport of falconry where the trained bird of prey wears a hoodwink until the falconer wants to let it fly after prey.

It’s easy to see how the idea of not seeing truthfully could turn into the idea of deliberately stopping the truth being seen.

But why the Masonic connection?

Those being initiated into the order wear a hoodwink. It heightens their senses and is used as a representation of mystical darkness. So now you know.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace

p.s. if you ever get a chance to visit a falconer, grab it. I’ve been lucky enough to see these amazing birds, and their handlers, at Alliwee (Co. Clare), and at the Bird Control Unit at Baldonnell airport (Co. Dublin) where they are used to keep down local bird life around the runways, thus limiting bird-strike issues.

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Hello,

This week’s word is tsundoku (pronunciation advice here – basically it is tsoon-doh-coo). I came across this in an article by Hector Tobar. Tsundoku is a Japanese word for someone who hoards books, specifically buying them, piling them up and not reading them.

I mentioned this in passing to the man who shares my life and he snorted with laughter while gesturing at our book-cases and  looking pointedly at me. I have no idea what he’s getting at. Most people reading about this term will feel sorry for a person who is compelled to hoard. But a true reader will wonder how many books you have to own in order to qualify for this badge of honour. Well, shelfari will let you join the Compulsive Book Hoarders Community if you own more than a thousand books.

The To Be Read Pile

The To Be Read Pile

Did I zip off to count the books in my house? Oh yes. I can report that we have 1540 books in our home. This includes 726 children’s books, 30 recipe books, 100 technical computing books, 20 craft books, and my To Be Read pile – currently running at 49, with some of them hidden under the bed to avoid my other half’s mocking. We also use the library, borrow books from friends, and regularly donate books to charity (because the wood-worker in the house is refusing to build me more book-shelves now that we have them in basically every room of the house).

So I guess I am a tsundoku and my children are well on their way too. I’d love to know if it’s just us. How many books are in your home?

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace

Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads, and LinkedIn or sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.

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Hello,

Today I have three words for you inspired by a recent Writing Excuses podcast which discussed when and how to use handwavium in sci-fi and fantasy writing.

But what is handwavium? Well, if you’ve ever watched Alec Guinness wave his hand and say “These are not the droids you’re looking for” you’re on the right track. It’s the idea of a writer, or jedi, telling their audience that “this detail is not important” or simply not explaining how something works in their imagined world. This is actually OK at times. The details might be mundane, or to be revealed later in the plot, or simply be unimportant. But don’t over-use handwavium. Yoda would remind us that it’s unlikely to work on those strong in mind.

Unobtainium in engineering, fiction, and thought experiments is a fictional or theorised material which is rare, costly or impossible. It is often used in jest. It was probably coined in aerospace engineering c. 1950 and has been likened to titanium (which is real, in case you’re wondering). The term went mainstream in 2010 when it was used to describe ores which we’d love to have for industry but which are so rare and hence so costly as to become unaffordium. It was also name-checked in the sci-fi movie “Avatar”. The second meaning of handwavium is the same as unobtainium.

Dysprosium is the name of the rare earth magnetic compound Element 66 on the periodic table. The name comes from the Greek for “hard to get”. “Playing dyprosium” isn’t as catchy a term as “playing hard to get” though. The name Dyprosium dates from 1886 and you’ll find a pronunciation here.

Only dysprosium features in Webster’s dictionary so it can be argued that only it is real. Personally I like all three words and that’s real enough for me.

Until next time, happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace

Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads, and LinkedIn or sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.

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Hello,

Today’s word, Über, comes as a guest post from my online critique partner Ashlinn Craven. Ashlinn is an Irish woman, now living in Switzerland, who has just published her first novel “Maybe Baby”. Congratulations Ashlinn and over to you.

Ashlinn Craven

Ashlinn Craven

I’ve seen this trendy German-borrowed word pop up in recent years, mainly as a modifier to adjectives: uber excited, uber rich, uber connected, uber lame, but also as a prefix to nouns: ubercar, uberfic, ubervamp, the uberleft. The original German umlaut gets lobbed off for typographical convenience and the u is spoken the English way.

Über means above/over or via in German. Indeed, a German speaker might well use the “Denglish” super or total if translating English uber back into German (uber excited = super aufgeregt or total aufgeregt) .

You’d wonder why English with its uber-abundance of modifiers for nouns and adjectives (super, over, hyper, mega) has even adopted it? Wikipedia says the crossover goes back to Nietzsche who coined the term “Übermensch” in 1883 to describe the higher state to which he felt men might aspire. This notion of “super-man” found its way into nazi claptrap and then satirical literature, and maybe explains the word’s connotation of invincibility.

Others, me included, think it was the punk band the Dead Kennedys who truly popularised it with the brilliant song “California uber Alles“. It takes off the first stanza (no longer sung) of the German national anthem “Deutschland über Alles”. Although, in this example, über is used with original German diacritcs and prepositional meaning intact, and not the transformed meaning discussed above.

I’m uber confused.

Either way, it’s a handy little word with semantic flavours that a plain old “super” doesn’t quite embody—a kind of manic intensity, singularity, or over-the-topness. It hasn’t yet made it into many dictionaries, but I’m uber-confident it’ll get there in time.

So now we know how to go over the top, in English or German. Ashlinn’s novel “Maybe Baby”, a fast paced, witty, rom-com about what happens when an IVF egg donor falls for the sperm donor, launched yesterday and we’re the second stop on her blog tour.

Maybe Baby Cover

Maybe Baby Cover

Uber-organized Polly Malone leaves nothing to chance. Running her web design company on a shoestring, she’s determined to make it a success. Her career plan doesn’t include a man or a family. When she’s approached by a stranger with an unusual request, she hasn’t the heart – or the bank balance – to refuse.

Sexy, wealthy, top London games entrepreneur Julian Ripley is battling for control of the company he built and picking up the pieces of his post-divorce life. But his sister makes a plea he can’t refuse.

When Polly and Julian meet in a dusty post office, feelings spark to life, but each harbors a secret – one that both binds and repels.

Caught between family and commitments, can their love survive or is it inconceivable?

If you’re on Goodreads check out the rave reviews. You can buy the book for your Kindle here (UK) or here (USA). I’ll be back, fooling with words, next Monday, Grace

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Asgard II at Howth with Baggywinkles

Asgard II at Howth with Baggywrinkles

Hello,

This week’s word is baggywrinkle which I found on the forums of my favourite writing site – Critique Circle. I loved the word on sight. Unfortunately I was unable to locate any origins or even date of first use for this term, but I like it even more now that I know it’s a nautical term and hence legitimate research for my coastal novels series (a.k.a. I had an excuse to browse sailing Web sites).

A baggywrinkle is a soft cover placed over a rope on a sailing vessel to stop the sails being chafed or damaged. You can see a picture here. I love the fact that the baggywrinkle is a seaman’s improvisation because they use old frayed ropes to protect the new ones. Very clever.

If you’re a boat owner and want to make one – there’s a great step-by-step with photos here.

Now if you’re strolling around a harbour or marina and spot a shaggy rope cushion strapped to some rigging, you can point knowledgeably and say – “See that? That’s a baggywrinkle” and wait for your companion to burst out laughing.

Until next time, happy reading, writing, and wordfooling by the sea,

Grace

Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn or sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.

 

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Hello,

This week’s word is chivalry and it comes with thanks to a friend who treated me to more Edmund Crispin novels for my birthday. If you enjoy classic British detective fiction, I can heartily recommend his Gervase Fen mysteries featuring a witty, quotation-dropping Oxford professor as amateur sleuth.

Professor Fen points out in “The Case of the Gilded Fly” that chivalry originally denoted an affection for horses and it caught my eye. I’d learned about the code of courtly love in English class long ago so this was a shock to me. But he’s right. Chivalry comes from chevalier (horseman or knight) in 11th century Old French or callabarius in Latin. The word cavalry comes from the Italian of the same word.

So while the knightly code encompassed gallantry, honour towards ones enemies, and kindness to the vulnerable in society, I guess that first of all a knight always loved his horse.

Until next time, happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace

Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn or sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.

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