Word of the Day for January 9th!


verb

 1. to make a crackling sound; crackle. 

Quotes

Kate could hardly remember now the dry rigid pallor of the heat, when the whole earth seemed to crepitate viciously with dry malevolence; like memory gone dry and sterile, hellish.
– D. H. Lawrence, The Plumed Serpent, 1926

When she came into the room, shaking rain-pearls from the hem of her black coat, I could feel her excitement–when she was like that the air around her seemed to crepitate as if an electric current were passing through it.
– John Banville, Athena, 1995

Origin

Crepitate derives from Latin crepitātus, the past participle of crepitāre “to rattle, rustle, chatter,” a frequentative verb from crepāre and having the same meaning. The word entered English in the 17th century and meant “to break wind, fart,” a meaning that crepitāre had in Latin; the word’s politer senses date from the 19th century. 

Word of the Day for July 5th

  • noun

1. the art of writing words with the proper letters, according to accepted usage; correct spelling. 

 2. the part of language study concerned with letters and spelling. 

 3. a method of spelling, as by the use of an alphabet or other system of symbols; spelling. 

 4. a system of such symbols: Missionaries provided the first orthography for the language. 

 5. an orthographic projection, or an elevation drawn by means of it. 

  • Quotes

… at bottom I disrespect our orthography most heartily, and as heartily disrespect everything that has been said by anybody in defence of it. Nothing professing to be a defence of our ludicrous spellings has had any basis, so far as my observation goes, except sentimentality.
– Mark Twain, “Chapters from My Autobiography,” North American Review, Volume CLXXXV, 1907

“Pardon me, sir. An urgent message just come on the despatch cart.” “‘Came,’ Constable.” The inspector examined the note. “Extraordinary. It seems, Constable Thackeray, that someone is asking me to release you from my class. I shall not refuse. Since the finer points of orthography have eluded you for so long, I am sure that they can wait another week.
– Peter Lovesey, Abracadaver, 1972

  • Origin

Orthography stems from the Greek word orthós meaning “straight, upright, correct.” It entered English in the early 1400s. 

139 Old Norse Words in the English Language

139 Old Norse Words That Invaded The English Language

13_700_139-Old-Norse-Words-that-Invaded-the-English-Language

When I say “Old English” what comes to mind? The ornate, hard-to-read script? Reading Beowulf in your high school English class? The kinds of figurative compound nouns – or kennings – like “swan of blood” and “slaughter-dew” that have sustained heavy metal lyrics for decades?

Old English, also known as Anglo-Saxon, was a language spoken by the Angles and the Saxons – the first Germanic tribes to settle the British Isles. They were not the first inhabitants, as any Welsh or Gaelic speaker will tell you, but their language did form the basis for the Angle-ish we speak today. But then why can’t we modern-day English speakers understand Old English? In terms of vocabulary, grammar and syntax, Old English resembles its cousins Dutch and German more than it does modern English. So how did English change so drastically?

The short answer is that the English language changed forever after the Norman invasion brought a new ruling class of French speakers to the British Isles in 1066. French was the language of the nobility for the next 300 years – plenty of time for lots of French words to trickle down to the merchant and peasant classes. For example, the Anglo-Saxons already had words for “sheep” and “cows”, but the Norman aristocracy – who usually only saw these animals on the plate – introduced mouton (mutton) and boeuf (beef). Today, nearly thirty percent of English words come from French.

As a result, modern English is commonly thought of as a West Germanic language with lots of French and, thanks to the church, Latin influence. But this history of English’s development leaves out a very important piece of the linguistic puzzle – Old Norse: the language of the Vikings.

How To Speak Viking

The Old Norse noun víking meant an overseas expedition, and a vikingr was someone who went on one of these expeditions. In the popular imagination, the Vikings were essentially pirates from the fjords of Denmark and Norway who descended on medieval England like a bloodthirsty frat party; they raped, pillaged, murdered, razed villages and then sailed back across the North Sea with the loot.

But the truth is far more nuanced. The earliest Viking activity in England did consist of coastal raids in the early ninth century, but by the 870s the Danes had traded sword for plow and were settled across most of Northern England in an area governed by treaties known as the Danelaw. England even had Danish kings from 1018 to 1042. However, the more successful and longer-lasting Norman conquest in 1066 marked the end of the Viking era and virtually erased Danish influence in almost all aspects of English culture but one: its effect on the development of the English language.

Traust me, þó (though) it may seem oddi at first, we er still very líkligr to use the same words as the Vikings did in our everyday speech. Þeirra (their) language evolved into the modern-day Scandinavian languages, but þeir (they) also gave English the gift of hundreds of words.

[A note on the letter þ: the Old Norse letter, called thorn, makes the same sound as the “th” in “thin”.]

Names of Days

The most obvious Viking influence on modern English is the word Thursday(Þorsdagr), which you can probably guess means “Thor’s day”.

“Tuesday”, “Wednesday” and “Friday” are sometimes also attributed to the Norse gods Tyr, Odin and Freya, respectively; but the days are actually named for the Anglo-Saxon equivalents of these gods, Tiw, Wodan and Friga. The similarity of these names points to the common ancestry of the various Germanic tribes in prehistoric northern Europe – centuries before their descendants clashed on England’s shores.

War & Violence

If the Vikings are famous for one thing, it’s their obsession with war. They didn’t just bring death and destruction to England in the Middle Ages, they brought really cool words for death and destruction. They were certainly a rough bunch. Just look at a Viking the rangr way, and he might þrysta (thrust) a knifr into your skulle.

  • berserk/berserker – berserkr, lit. ‘bear-shirt’. A berserkr was a Viking warrior who would enter battle in a crazed frenzy, wearing nothing for armor but an animal skin.
  • club – klubba. People have been bashing each other with heavy things since time immemorial, but not until the Danes started bringing this weapon down on English heads did this blunt weapon receive its fittingly blunt name.
  • ransack – rannsaka (to search a house)
  • These days, the adjective scathing is reserved for sharp criticism, but in the context of the original meaning of scathe (to injure), skaða takes on a much more visceral quality.
  • slaughter – slatra (to butcher)
  • Even though the gun wasn’t invented until centuries after the Viking era, the word comes from Old Norse. The most common usage was in the female name Gunnhildrgunn and hildr both can translate as “war” or “battle”. Only truly badass Vikings named their infant daughters “Warbattle”.

Society & Culture

But life in the Danelaw wasn’t all murder and mayhem. Ironically, these savage berserkers also gave us words that are central to our “civilized” culture:

bylaw – bylög (village-law) sale – sala
heathen – heiðinn (one who inhabits the heath or open country) skill – skil (distinction)
Hell – In Norse mythology, Loki’s daughter Hel ruled the underworld. steak – steik (to fry)
husband – hús (house) + bóndi (occupier and tiller of soil) = húsbóndi thrall – þræll (slave)
law – lag thrift – þrift (prosperity)
litmus – litr (dye) + mosi (lichen; moss) tidings – tíðindi (news of events)
loan – lán (to lend) troll
saga yule – jol (a pagan winter solstice feast)

Animals

Although most English animal names retain their Anglo-Saxon roots (cow, bear, hound, swine, chicken, etc) the Vikings did bring certain animals names into the vernacular:

  • bug – búkr (an insect within tree trunks)
  • bull – boli
  • reindeer – hreindyri
  • skate – skata (fish)
  • wing – vængr

Some words associated with hunting and trapping also come from Old Norse. Sleuth now means “detective”, but the original slóth meant “trail” or “track”. Snare, on the other hand, retains the original meaning of O.N. snara.

The Landscape

Old Norse is good at describing bleikr landscapes and weather. This was especially useful in the Vikings’ adopted northern England, where flatr or rogg (rugged) terrain can be shrouded in fok, and oppressed by gustr of wind and lagr (low) ský(clouds).

Much of the Danelaw bordered swamps and alluvial plains, so it’s no surprise that many Norse words for dirty, mucky things survive in English:

  • dirt – drit (excrement)
  • dregs – dregg (sediment)
  • mire – myrr (bog)
  • muck – myki (cow dung)
  • rotten – rotinn

The Norse Legacy in English

Thanks to the cross-cultural fermentation that occured in the Danelaw – and later when England was temporarily absorbed into Canute the Great’s North Sea Kingdom – the English language is much closer to that of its Scandinavian neighbors than many acknowledge. By the time that the Norman conquest brought the irreversible influence of French, Old English had already been transformed beyond its Anglo-Saxon roots.

This is still in evidence today; modern English grammar and syntax are more similar to modern Scandinavian languages than to Old English. This suggests that Old Norse didn’t just introduce new words, but influenced how the Anglo-Saxons constructed their sentences. Some linguists even claim that English should be reclassified as a North Germanic language (along with Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Swedish), rather than a West Germanic language (with Dutch and German). The Viking influence may be most apparent in the Yorkshire dialect, which uses even more Norse words in daily speech than standard English does.

English is probably too much of a hybrid to ever neatly classify, but its Old Norse rótis clearly there among the tangle of Anglo-Saxon, French and Latin roots. The language of the Vikings may have become subdued over the centuries, but make no mistaka about it – from byrðr (birth) undtil we deyja (die) – Norse’s raw energy simmers under the surface of everything we say.

More Norse Words

VERBS
bark – bǫrkr rid – rythja (to clear land)
bask – baðask (reflexive of baða, “to bathe”) run – renna
billow – bylgja scare – skirra
blunder – blundra (to shut one’s eyes; to stumble about blindly) scrape – skrapa
call – kalla (to cry loudly) snub – snubba (to curse)
cast – kasta (to throw) sprint – spretta (to jump up)
choose – kjósa stagger – stakra (to push)
clip – klippa (to cut) stain – steina (to paint)
crawl – krafla (to claw) stammer – stemma (to hinder or dam up)
gawk – ga (to heed) sway – sveigja (to bend; to give way)
get – geta take – taka
give – gefa seem – sœma (to conform)
glitter – glitra shake – skaka
haggle – haggen (to chop) skip – skopa
hit – hitta (to find) thwart – þvert (across)
kindle – kynda want – vanta (to lack)
race – rás (to race, to move swiftly) whirl – hvirfla (to go around)
raise – reisa whisk – viska (to plait or braid)
OBJECTS
axle – öxull (axis) loft – lopt (air, sky; upper room)
bag – baggin mug – mugge
ball – bǫllr (round object) plow, plough – plogr
band (rope) raft – raptr (log)
bulk – bulki (cargo) scale (for weighing) – skal (bowl, drinking cup)
cake – kaka scrap – skrap
egg seat – sæti
glove – lofi (middle of the hand) skirt – skyrta (shirt)
knot – knutr wand – vondr (rod)
keel – kjölr window – vindauga (lit. “wind-eye”)
link – hlenkr
ADJECTIVES THE BODY
aloft – á (on) + lopt (loft; sky; heaven) freckles – freknur
ill – illr (bad) foot –fótr
loose – lauss girth – gjörð (circumference)
sly – sloegr leg – leggr
scant – skamt (short, lacking) skin – skinn (animal hide)
ugly – uggligr (dreadful)
weak – veikr
PEOPLE EMOTIONS
fellow – felagi anger – angr (trouble, affliction)
guest – gestr awe – agi (terror)
kid – kið (young goat) happy – happ (good luck; fate)
lad – ladd (young man) irk – yrkja (to work)
oaf – alfr (elf)

Here is Saturday’s Word of the Day…

  

groggery 

  • noun

 1. a slightly disreputable barroom. 

Quotes

P. Dusenheimer, standing in the door of his uninviting groggery, when the trains stopped for water, never received from the traveling public any patronage except facetious remarks upon his personal appearance.
– Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner, The Gilded Age, 1873

A volleyball court seemed to occupy the confectioner’s shop, the confectioner was nearly on top of the bridal shop, and the bridal shop had insinuated itself into the groggery next door.
– Lawrence Millman, “The Bay Islands,” Islands, February, 1994

Origin

Groggery is an Americanism formed on the basis of the word grog meaning “a strong alcoholic drink.” It entered English in the early 1800s. 

Word of the day for Friday, 29th of January 

  

noun

 1. a highest point or state; culmination. 

 2. the point on the celestial sphere vertically above a given position or observer. 

Quotes

And at the zenith of his fame, how he would suddenly appear at the old village and stalk into church, brown and weather-beaten, in his black velvet doublet and trunks, his great jack-boots, his crimson sash, his belt bristling with horse pistols, his crime-rusted cutlass at his side, his slouch hat with waving plumes, his black flag unfurled, with the skull and crossbones on it, and hear with swelling ecstasy the whisperings, “It’s Tom Sawyer the Pirate!–the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main!”
– Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1876

Hence it can hardly be wondered at that as his learning accumulated his practice dissolved, until at the very moment when he had attained the zenith of his celebrity he had also reached the nadir of his fortunes.
– Arthur Conan Doyle, The Mystery of Cloomber, 1889

Origin

Zenith comes from the Middle English cenith, which in turn traces back to the Old Spanish zenit. The lineage continues to the Arabic samt meaning “road” as in samt ar-rās, “road above one’s head.” 

Today’s Word Fact is Whom

  

Over the last 200 years, the pronoun whom has been on a steady decline. Despite its waning use in speech and ongoing speculation about its imminent extinction, whom still holds a spot in the English language, particularly in formal writing. Understanding when and how to use this embattled pronoun can set your writing apart.

Whom is often confused with who. What’s the difference between these two pronouns? Who is a subjective-case pronoun, meaning it functions as a subject in a sentence, and whom is an objective-case pronoun, meaning it functions as an object in a sentence. Who, like I, he, she, and they, performs actions, as in Who rescued the dog? (who is doing the rescuing in this sentence). Whom, like me, him, her, and them, is acted on, as in Whom did you see? (whom is being seen here, not doing the seeing). Whom more commonly appears when it follows a preposition, as in the salutation To Whom it may concern (Does it concern he? No. Does it concern him? Yes.) or in the title of Ernest Hemingway’s 1940 novel For Whom the Bell Tolls.

How do you decide which one to use? When in doubt, substitute him (sometimes you’ll have to rephrase the sentence) and see if that sounds right. If him is OK, then whom is OK. If the more natural substitute is he, then go with who. For example: You talked to whom? It would be incorrect to say You talked to he? but saying You talked to him? makes grammatical sense.

That said, in informal speech and writing, speakers will often opt for who where whom has traditionally been used. This choice sounds more natural and less formal to most native English speakers.

Do you ever use whom?

Please let me know if you’ve had trouble with whom in the past, I know I did! 

Does this help with when and where to use it?

Have a wonderful day!

All My Best, 

Jill

Word of the day for 27th of January 

  

adjective

 1. inclined to quarrel or fight readily; quarrelsome; belligerent; combative. 

Quotes

Pugnacious people, if they did not actually terrify Oscar, were at least the sort of people he could not control, and whom he feared as possibly able to coerce him.
– George Bernard Shaw, “My Memories of Oscar Wilde,” Oscar Wilde: His Life and Confessions by Frank Harris, 1916

In addition, Rose, in retirement, had often resorted to the headfirst, pugnacious style he displayed as a player, not always seeming contrite about what he had done wrong.
– Michael S. Schmidt, “Dear Pete Rose: It’s Still a No. Sincerely, Baseball,” New York Times, December 14, 2015

Origin

Pugnacious stems from the Latin pugnāre meaning “to fight,” and shares ancestry with English word pugilism meaning “the art or practice of fighting with the fists; boxing.” Pugnacious entered English in the mid-1600s. 

Word of the Day for 25th of January 

  

noun

 1. eager or excessive desire, especially to possess something; greed; avarice. 

Quotes

“Now Jonah’s Captain, shipmates, was one whose discernment detects crime in any way, but whose cupidity exposes it only in the penniless. In this world, shipmates, sin that pays its way can travel freely…”
– Herman Melville, Moby Dick, 1851

But the chevaux-de-frise of branches now lay within reach of his arm, and the very appearance of precaution it presented, as it announced the value of the effects it encircled, tempted his cupidity, and induced him to proceed.
– James Fenimore Cooper, The Prairie, 1827

Origin

Cupidity can be traced to the Latin word cupidus meaning “eager, desirous” from the Latin verb cupere “to desire.” 

Here’s the Word of the Day this New Year’s Eve 2015!

  

adjective

 1. glittering, especially with tinsel; decked with garish finery. 

noun

 1. imitation gold leaf; tinsel; false glitter. 

Quotes

Sharp perfumes stabbed the nostrils, clinquant finery flashed and glittered in a tinsel maelstrom…
– Arthur Cheney Train, The Needle’s Eye, 1924
Jubilation is the dominant mood when- and wherever a Christo/Jeanne-Claude project is realized. I have witnessed it time and again—32 years ago, in Loose Park, Kansas City, overlooking its Wrapped Walk Ways, every inch of the winding itinerary paved with bright clinquant stuff, of which Christo remarked: “When the sunlight falls on that nylon and sets it sparkling, it’s very beautiful.”
– Leo Steinberg, “Christo’s ‘Over the River’: An Act of Homage,” New York Review of Books, December 3, 2010

Origin

Clinquant entered English in the late 1500s and ultimately derives from the Dutch klinken meaning “to sound.” 

An Emoji for Word of the Year?

I found this post on Grammarly’s blog and had to share it here with all of you. Let me know your thoughts on this and if after reading the article you agree. 😂

More than words. 😂

The Oxford Dictionaries word of the year for 2015 is 😂. It’s an emoji. The reaction to this news has varied from 😱 (it’s the death of language!) to 😏 (it’s a lame publicity stunt). Emojis are not words. That’s something Oxford itself agrees on, defining the word as “a single distinct element of speech or writing.” We don’t speak in emojis or write in emojis, at least not the old pen-in-hand way. But in real-world conversation, we don’t rely solely on words; body language is said to make up 55% of communication . So perhaps the emoji is the digital equivalent, enhancing the tone of our message beyond words. If so, is it possible to distill the huge gamut of complex human emotion into a series of comic faces?

And why the “face with tears of joy” emoji? Oxford said it “best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015.” Is this the same 2015 defined by climate change talks, terrorist attacks, and a migrant crisis? These seem at total odds. However, together with Swiftkey, a mobile tech company, Oxford found 😂 was the most frequently used emoji of 2015. Could it be our tears of a collective clown? Or perhaps it is no reflection of our moods at all. Instead, emoji-speak is a self-contained discourse and we tailor our conversations and emotions to fit its limits. And this is the crucial shift that Oxford has acknowledged with their choice.

Seeing comes before words.

Using images in communication is nothing new. The first sentence in John Berger’s Ways of Seeing proposes that we understand images before words. “Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognises before it can speak.” So the popularity of emojis in digital conversations is not so surprising. Perhaps it allows us to return to a pre-linguistic form of expression and understanding.

This return to the dialogue of images is clear from the rise in photographic platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat. Berger goes on to say that “It is seeing which establishes our place in the world; we explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it.” It’s always a challenge to explain our world with words. But even a photograph is taken from an angle chosen by the photographer. Emojis are constructed by a certain group of people and used by people in a certain way. They are not as pure and simple a medium as they appear.

A picture paints a thousand words.

Emojis are loaded with meaning beyond the sum of their parts. Almost a century ago, Ferdinand de Saussure, a pioneer in the field of linguistics, wrote that language is a system of signs, and words are only part of this system. For Saussure and other semioticians (studiers of signs), anything at all that forms meaning is language. Meaning is coded in so much, from the clothes we wear to traffic lights changing color.

A word is a string of letters that is assigned a meaning, and this meaning is arbitrary to the word. In English, the word for a canine is dog. In French, it is chien. But both words signify the same object. However, images have a more natural relationship to what the are signifying. A photo of a house reflects the image of the house. In this way, emojis can transcend words and be understood across all cultures.

However, as emojis increase in popularity, their meanings become more layered. Roland Barthes, critical theorist, explored these layers of meaning and the idea of connotation. He used the example of a dove. A picture of a dove is the sign, while the bird itself is what is being signified or denoted. We link the image of the dove with its connotation: the concept of peace. This is as arbitrary a relationship as words have with their meanings.

In emoji land, new connotations are emerging. For example, the eggplant 🍆, has become more than a picture of a vegetable. It is now the phallic emoji. And not to be used in the wrong contexts.

Liberation through limitation.

The limited choice of emojis is inextricably linked to their success and personalities. We are confined to the images available in order to express ourselves. How often do we actually laugh so hard that we cry? Probably not enough in real life, but apparently we are digitally hysterical. As Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries, explained in announcing the decision, “Not only did we see a dramatic spike in usage of ‘Face with Tears of Joy,’ we felt the character captured a sense playfulness and intimacy that embodies emoji culture itself.”

The same images are reproduced over and over again, like emoji clichés or speaking through kitsch. Out on an emoji farm called Unicode in California, new crops of emojis are grown and their limits are established. Anyone is able to suggest new emojis to Unicode. Each proposal must include a case for the new creation and is then put to a committee who decides its fate.

The medium is the message.

This well-known phrase was coined in 1964 by communications philosopher Marshall McLuhan. Although the quote is often misunderstood as meaning that the vehicle is everything and the content is irrelevant, McLuhan actually meant something quite different. He used the example of a news story about a crime. The message, he says, is not the story itself, or the delivery, but the sense of fear that evolves from hearing the story. It’s noticing these “messages,” or shifts in culture (the “ground,” as he put it), that is crucial.

So perhaps Oxford Dictionaries, in naming an emoji as the word of the year, has noticed the McLuhan message—the shift in our discourse. Acknowledging this shift allows us to monitor and check the effect it may create, good or bad. Once viewed as juvenile and left to the kids, emojis have now been adopted by politicians. In a recent tweet, Hillary Clinton called for people to describe their feelings on student loans in three emojis. Even so, few politicians would use an emoji on a matter of serious public concern. Even Clinton’s emoji attempt received criticism for treating the topic of debt with flippancy. Emojis are light and playful, and can imbue an otherwise serious message with irony or wit.

Esperanto reincarnated?

It’s strange that these emojis, which have been around since 1999, have surged in popularity in 2015. This year, we have seen global political upheavals and threats, a huge migrant crisis, and the effects of climate change. But, as in any time of trouble or war, escapism is sought through art and culture. During World War II, musical films surged in popularity; Hollywood produced seventy-five musicals in 1944. So perhaps it’s not surprising that we are adopting this universal discourse in an effort to lighten the mood. The language of emojis allows us a certain tone that we cannot grasp through words or other imagery. And what’s more, in its transcending of cultures, emojis are a unifying language. This digital expression can fuse together cracks in failing traditional systems: a reincarnated Esperanto.

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