Category Archives: Words

Adventures in Grandiloquence: Laurence Urdang

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIf you are an avid reader, you have probably come across a few writers who possess a very large vocabulary and pepper their writing with big or fancy words when perhaps simpler words would suffice. So what do you call this use of big words (or what people call “SAT words”)? The best term is lexiphanicism, defined as the use of pretentious phraseology. Another term that word lovers like to use is “sesquipedalian loquaciousness.” That term is made up of two really big, fancy words: sesquipedalian (meaning “having many syllables, or use of long words”) and loquaciousness (meaning “excessive talking”). Of course these terms are technically archaic and, um, sesquipedalian. There are three other words that exists in most dictionaries: grandiloquence (or its adjectival form, grandiloquent), meaning “a lofty, extravagantly colorful, pompous, or bombastic style, manner, or quality especially in language.” The second is magniloquence, defined as the use of ornate, flowery language to convey simple things. Finally, the word fustian is defined as pompous or pretentious writing or speech.

Whether it reflects a genuine high level of erudition or simply showing off (let’s call it verbal pretentiousness), the effect is the same — it has you reaching for the nearest dictionary (which is not necessarily a bad thing — after all, that’s how you expand your vocabulary). Consider that the English language has more than one million words. The average high-school educated English speaker knows about 45,000 words (as high as 60,000 when including proper names and foreign words). David Crystal, a linguist and world-renown expert on the English language, provides these estimates of how many words people know: a person starting school: 500-6,000; a person without a formal education: 35,000; a high-school educated person: 50,000; a college-educated person 50,000 to 75,000. Thus, the grandiloquent speaker or writer is typically using words outside the more commonly used 75,000 words.

Case in point: Laurence Urdang (1927-2008), American lexicographer, editor and author of the Random House Dictionary of the English Language (1966). Over the course of his career, Urdand wrote and edited more than 100 dictionaries. Consequently, he developed an extraordinarily large vocabulary. In the introduction to The New York Times Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused & Mispronounced words, Urdang wrote a paragraph to summarize the book, to display (in a tongue-and-cheek fashion) his impressive vocabulary:

This is not a succedaneum for satisfying the nympholepsy of nullifidians. Rather it is hoped that the haecceity of this enchiridion of arcane and recondite sesquipedalian items will appeal to the oniomania of an eximious Gemeinschaftwhose legerity and sophrosyne, whose Sprachgefühl and orexis will find more than fugacious fulfillment among its felicific pages.

Can you translate this passage to simple English? What is your favorite grandiloquent author and specific passage?

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Read related posts:  What is the Most Beautiful-Sounding Word in English?
How Long Does it Take to Read a Million Words?
How Many Words in the English Language?
How Many Words Does the Average Person Speak in a Lifetime?
The Most Mispronounced Words
Common Latin Abbreviations
Words Invented by Dickens

What Are the Most Beautiful Words in the English Language?
Favorite Words of Dictionary Editors


What are the Most Beautiful Words in the English Language?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsThe English language is vast, containing more than a million words and growing at a rate of several thousand words each year. However, most English speakers have a vocabulary that is substantially smaller: generally between 20,000 to 35,000. Every once in a while, through reading or conversation, you come across a word that stands out; you think to yourself “that is such a beautiful word.” Many logophiles keep lists of what they consider to be beautiful words. For example, in 1932, to publicize the publication of one of Funk & Wagnalls new dictionaries, founder Wilfred Funk published a list of what he considered, after a “thorough sifting of thousands of words” the ten most beautiful words (in his words, “beautiful in meaning and in the musical arrangement of their letter”) in the English language. (Incidentally, there is a word for that: euphonious — a euphonious word is a beautifully-sounding word; interestingly, euphonious is itself… euphonious.) Here is Funk’s list of the top ten most beautiful words in the English language:

chimes
dawn
golden
hush
lullaby
luminous
melody
mist
murmuring
tranquil

More recently, the editors of BuzzFeed cast their net into the vast ocean of the Twitterverse to find out what people considered the most beautiful words in the English words. They came up with a great list of “32 of the most beautiful words in the English language.” The list should be published with some caveats. One of the words, hiraeth, is actually Welsh. A few are actually neologisms (relatively new words that are in the process of entering common use) and will not be found in traditional dictionaries. Nevertheless, read the list and see how many you know (the definitions will be added in a few days). The challenge is to start using them in conversation and in your writing. If you want a greater challenge: try writing a clever sentence using all 32 words.

aquiver
mellifluous
ineffable
hiraeth
nefarious
somnambulist
epoch
sonorous
serendipity
limerence
bombinate
ethereal
illicit
petrichor
iridescent
epiphany
supine
luminescence
solitude
aurora
syzygy
phosphenes
oblivion
ephemeral
incandescence
denouement
vellichor
eloquence
defenestration
sonder
effervescence
cromulent

What do you consider to be the most beautiful words in the English language?

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts:  What is the Most Beautiful-Sounding Word in English?
How Long Does it Take to Read a Million Words?
How Many Words in the English Language?
How Many Words Does the Average Person Speak in a Lifetime?
The Most Mispronounced Words
Common Latin Abbreviations
Words Invented by Dickens

For further reading: https://englishlive.ef.com/blog/language-lab/many-words-english-language/
https://www.buzzfeed.com/danieldalton/bob-ombinate


There’s A Word for That: Throttlebottom

alex atkins bookshelf words“What is a throttlebottom?,” you ask. No, it is not a type of fish — although you are close, since it is a type of bottom feeder. A throttlebottom is a wonderful-sounding (rich in consonance) derogatory term for a harmless incompetent person in public office. Think President Trump or just about anyone in his shit-show administration. Where should we begin to review the incompetence: the spectacular bungling of the COVID-19 pandemic that led to a sustained shutdown, bringing about the country’s worst recession, double-digit unemployment, the closing of thousands of businesses, nationwide protests over systemic racial injustice and police brutality, suppression of voting, allowing foreign powers to influence the Presidential election, the corruption of the news industry, obstruction of justice, the disregard and dismantling the Constitution’s system of checks and balances, the debasement of the presidency, disdain for immigrants and the poor, the general corrosive effect on democracy… we could go on. Come to think of, when you consider the 170,000+ deaths due to COVID-19 pandemic, one would have to disregard the adjective “harmless” in the definition of throttlebottom.

The word throttlebottom is an eponym, named after a literary character. It sure sounds Dickensian, doesn’t it? But nope, surprisingly, the character is an entirely 20th-century creation: Vice-President Alexander Throttlebottom from the musical comedy Of Thee I Sing by George Kaufman and Morrie Risking; score and lyrics by George Gershwin. Of Thee I Sing, opened on Broadway in 1931 and was the first musical comedy to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In this political satire, a presidential candidate, John Wintergreen, runs for office on the theme of love. As a publicity stunt, his political party sponsors a beauty contest wherein Wintergreen will marry the winner. However, Wintergreen falls in love with a staffer, Mary Turner, and marries her. The contest winner, Diana Devereaux, sues the president for breach of promise. The French ambassador declares that Devereaux is a related to Napoleon and that her jilting is an offense against France. Congress impeaches the president but then learns that Mary is pregnant. The Senate refuses to impeach an expectant father; however the French ambassador demands that President give up his baby or France will sever ties to the U.S. Mary delivers twins which compounds the offense against France. The ambassador is ready to declare war, when the President remembers Article 12 of the Constitution: if the President is unable to fulfill his duties, his obligations are assumed by the Vice-President. Consequently, VP Throttlebottom agrees to marry Devereaux. The chorus sings “Of Thee I Sing” and they all live happily ever after.

Commenting on the merit of Of Thee I Sing, the 1932 Pulitzer Prize Committee noted, “[The play] is not only coherent and well-knit enough to class as a play, but it is a biting and true satire on American politics and the public attitude towards them.” Fast forward seven decades when the drama critic of The New York Times wrote the following about the 2006 musical revival: “[It is] a trenchant little musical satire… the laughter that greets the show today is tinged with surprise at how eerily some of its jokes seem to take precise aim, from decades back, at current affairs.” You don’t say?!

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Read related posts: Words Invented by Dickens

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There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia

There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology


What is the Longest Place Name in the World?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIf you happen to live in the Village of Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan or Truth or Consequences, New Mexico — you are fully aware of the annoyance of having to write out these really long city names. But these names with about 20 letters are merely child’s play when you consider the longest place names in the world that have more than twice that number.

So what is the longest place name in the world? That distinction goes to a hill located near the tiny township of Porangahau, New Zealand: Taumatawhakatangi­hangakoauauotamatea­turipukakapikimaunga­horonukupokaiwhen­uakitanatahu — containing 85 letters! Imagine filling out an address form online. Translated from Maori, an Eastern Polynesian language (it originated as early as 1280), into English it means: “The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his loved one.” How romantic. Understandably, this mouthful of a name is often shortened to a name with only seven letters: Taumata. So how do you pronounce the township’s long name? Take a deep breath; here we go: “Toe-mah-tah-fah-kah-tah-ngi-hah-nga-kaw-oh-oh-aw-ta-ma-te-a-too-ri-poo-ka-ka-pee-kee-mow-nga-haw-raw-noo-koo-paw-kai-feh-noo-ah-kee-tah-nah-tah-hoo.”

The second longest place name in the world belongs to a small town (population: 3,107) located in in the Isle of Anglesey, Wales, United Kingdom: Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch — containing 58 letters. Try fitting that address on a business card. Translated from the Welsh into English it means: “Saint Mary’s Church in a hollow of white hazel near the rapid whirlpool of the church of Saint Tysilio with a red cave.” How religious. For practical reasons, the locals have shortened the long name to Llanfairpwll or Llanfair PG. The 58-letter name is a real challenge to pronounce; but if you want to give it a shot, here is the official pronunciation: “Lan-vire-pool-guin-gil-go-get-u-queern-drop-ool-lan-dus-ilio-go-go-goke.” The name was initially coined by a resident (a tailor, by trade) in 1869 as a publicity stunt so that the town would have the longest name of any British railway station. Clearly, he succeeded and much to his surprise, the name stuck.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

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Lost in Translation: Untranslatable Words 3

alex atkins bookshelf wordsAt the heart of clear communication is diction: choosing the right word. Many times we stumble in a conversation because we cannot find just the right word. We think or say out loud: “I wish there were a word for that.” Of course, the English language is always growing, a magpie that borrows a word from this language or that. But sometimes, foreign language words and phrases do not get absorbed into the English language for whatever reason. Bookshelf looks at some fascinating words and phrases from around the globe that express ideas in a very unique way or cannot be translated with one English word. Here is a tasty sampling of the global lexical smorgasbord.

flaneur: French – “a person of excruciating idleness who doesn’t know where to parade his burden and ennui” (from a dictionary of low language published in 1808); also, a man who saunters around examining society

Him il-utaat kullu firaan: Arabic – literally: “the dream of all cats is all about mice” which means that someone has a one-track mind.

Denizen dues yilanasarilir: Turkish – literally: “if you fall into the sea, hold onto a snake” meaning that if you are in a difficult situation, you will accept help from anyone.

Gonul: Turkish – literally: “heart” but it has a deeper meaning: it refers to the energy of your inner self, a part of which is shared with every human being that evokes concern for the welfare of others.

Shibui: Japanese – the aesthetic of a person or thing that is only revealed over time.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia
There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology

For further reading: In Other Words by Christopher Moore

 


Adventures in Rhetoric: Hypozeuxis

alex atkins bookshelf wordsYou are probably familiar with the hypozeuxis but just don’t know it. Don’t worry — it is not a medical condition. A hypozeuxis (pronounced “hi PUH zook sis”) is a rhetorical term for a series of brief parallel clauses, where each clause has its own subject and predicate. The word is derived from the Greek word hypozeugnynai that means “to subjugate or to put under the yoke.” Perhaps the most famous hypozeuxis is Julius Caesar’s proclamation to the Roman Senate, reporting his victory at the Battle of Zela (47 BC): “I came; I saw; I conquered.” If you studied Latin, you will recall that early lesson: “veni, vidi, victi.” In Ecclesiastical Latin, that phrase is pronounced “vee-nee, vee-dee, vee-kee”; however, in Classical Late Latin, the “v” is pronounced as a “w”, so Caesar would have pronounced it “wee-nee, wee-dee, wee-kee.”

Another well-known hypozeuxis is from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s famous speech to the House of Commons (often referred to as “We shall fight them on the beaches” speech) on June 4, 1940 regarding the successful evacuation of more than 300,000 soldiers during the Battle of Dunkirk in France (May 26 to June 4, 1940): “We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills.”

If you’re curious, the opposite of the hypozeuxis is the zeugma, also referred to an a syllepsis. In a zeugma (pronounced “ZOOG muh”), a single word is used with two other parts of a sentence that are understand differently in relation to each. An example of a zeugma is: “He took his hat and his leave.” The verb “take” is understood in two different contexts: “he took his hat” and “he took his leave.” Another example of a zeugma is: “He held his breath and the door for me.” Here the operative verb is hold and understood in two different ways: holding one’s breath, and holding a door open.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: Adventures in Rhetoric: Adianoeta
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For further reading: https://winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/1940-the-finest-hour/we-shall-fight-on-the-beaches/


The Best of Puns, the Worst of Puns 2

atkins-bookshelf-wordsThe pun, of course, is a much maligned form of humor. Noah Webster, in his first edition of the American Dictionary of the English Language (1828) defines the pun as “an expression in which a word has at once different meanings; an expression in which two different applications of a word present an odd or ludicrous idea; a kind of quibble or equivocation; a low species of wit.” Sigmund Freud, in his seminal work Wit and Relation to the Unconscious (1917), added: “Puns are generally counted as the lowest form of wit, perhaps because they are cheaper and can be formed with the least effort.” Sounds like the father of psychoanalysis suffers from pun envy. In an article for the New York Times, Joseph Tartakovsky posits: “Puns are the feeblest species of humor because they are ephemeral: whatever comic force they possess never outlasts the split second it takes to resolve the semantic confusion.” Punsters will counter that if the pun is the lowest form, then it is the foundation of all wit. Known for his razor-sharp wit, comedian Oscar Levant declared: “A pun is the lowest form of humor — when you don’t think of it first.” Take that, Noah and Siggy! 

For punsters, the internet, serves as a giant sandbox, where they can all step in, gluttons for punishment, and hurl puns at one another, howling with devilish glee (and not a single groan!) that only a true paronomasiac can appreciate. Here are the best of puns or the worst of puns, depending on your perspective (pun purists will note that some of these are not technically puns, but rather clever wordplay).

A punster sent ten puns to friends with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.

I have a few puns about unemployed people, but none of them work.

It’s hard to explain puns to a kleptomaniac because they always take things literally.

A backward poet writes inverse.

A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited by police for littering.

A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class — it was a weapon of math disruption.

A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: “Keep off the Grass.”

Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, “I’m sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.”

Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused novocaine during a root canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.

If you jumped off the bridge in Paris, you’d be in Seine.

“I have a split personality,” said Tom, being frank.

In a democracy it is your vote that counts. In a feudal system it is your count that votes.

I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.

I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.

No matter how much you push the envelope, it will still be stationery.

She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.

When life gives you melons, you’re dyslexic.

The fattest knight at King Arthur’s round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.

The midget fortune-teller who escaped from prison was referred to in the news as “a small medium at large.”

The soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana. Your fly might be open.

Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in it. Eventually it sank, proving once again that you can’t have your kayak and heat it too.

I dreamt I was swimming in an ocean of orange soda but I realized it was just a Fanta sea.

Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says “Dam!”

Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other: “You stay here; I’ll go on a head.”

Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, “I’ve lost my electron.” The other says “Are you sure?” The first replies, “Yes, I’m positive.”

Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.

The priest made holy water by boiling the hell out of it.

What’s your favorite clever pun?

Read related posts: Top Ten Puns
Best Pi Puns
The Best of Puns, The Worst of Puns

For further reading: www.nytimes.com/2009/03/28/opinion/28Tartakovsky.html?_r=0
http://www.sarcasmsociety.com/sarcasm.html
http://www.punoftheday.com


There’s A Word for That: Coulrophobia

alex atkins bookshelf wordsThere’s a memorable line in Stephen King’s novel It (published in 1986) that perfectly captures the junction between coming of age and facing mortality: “Being a kid is learning how to live and being an adult is learning how to die.” In the novel, and in the 2017 film adaptation, if you happen to come face to face with Pennywise the Dancing Clown you will quickly learn the latter. King’s horror novel taps into the uncommon fear of clowns; of course, Pennywise is not your typical birthday party variety clown — he is an outlier: a creepy, homicidal sociopath. This discussion leads to our question for the day: what is the word for fear of clowns?

Clownophobia is an acceptable word; however, the technical word is coulrophobia, defined as the irrational or extreme fear of clowns. The word is pronounced “coal RA fow bee ah.” The editors of Oxford English Dictionary (OED) determined that the base word coulro is of arbitrary origin combined with the Greek suffix phobia meaning “fear of.” The word was recently added to the OED in March 2020, citing the first use in a 1997 Usenet newsgroup article titled “34 Reasons Why You Should Hate Clowns.” Douglas Harper, editor of the Online Etymological Dictionary, agrees with the editors of the OED with respect to the base word. He writes: “Coulrophobia looks suspiciously like the sort of thing idle pseudo-intellectuals invent on the internet… perhaps it is a mangling of Modern Greek klooun, meaning “clown,” which is the English word borrowed into Greek.” So from this, can we conclude that coulrophobia is the sort of bastardized word that is formed when lexicographic novices clown around with the English language?

So now that we understand the etymology of coulrophobia, let us explore a new question: how prevalent is fear of clowns? According to a survey conducted in October 2016 by Chapman University, 7.8% of Americans are coulrophobic. Another study noted “Fear of clowns is a phenomenon known for more than several decades and related to the increased use of clowns as negative characters in horror movies and TV shows.” Thanks a lot Pennywise! A poll conducted by Vox in October 2016 found that people ranked their greatest fears in this order: (1) government corruption (2) clowns (3) terrorist attack (4) a family member dying (5) climate change (6) heights (7) dying.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: What is the Sword of Damocles?
There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia

There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology

For further reading: https://blogs.chapman.edu/wilkinson/2016/10/11/americas-top-fears-2016/
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00431-016-2826-3
https://www.sciencealert.com/americans-are-more-afraid-of-clowns-than-climate-change
https://www.etymonline.com/word/coulrophobia


There’s A Word for That: Blatherskite

alex atkins bookshelf wordsEver listened to a person talk at great length, and as you nod while listening politely, you realize none of what they say makes sense or is meaningless? Well, there a word for that kind of person: blatherskite. Pronounced “bla THUR skite” the word is a portmanteau of the English word blather, derived from the Old Norse blathr meaning “talking nonsense” and the Scottish word skite meaning “a contemptible person.” The word was popularized by the traditional Scottish song “Maggie Lauder” which was frequently sung by the soldiers in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. “Maggie Lauder,” a song about a piper, was written by Frances Sempill (1616-1685) and first published in 1729 in Adam Craig’s Collection of the Choicest Scots Tunes. Here are the first verses of the song (note that blatherskite was initially spelled “bladderskate”):

Wha wadna be in love
Wi’ bonnie Maggie Lauder?
A piper met her gaun to Fife,
And speir’d what was’t they ca’d her;-
Eight scornfully she answer’d him,
Begone you hallanshaker!
Jog on your gate, you bladderskate,
My name is Maggie Lauder.

The secondary meaning of blatherskite is foolish talk or nonsense. If you have watched a news clip of a Trump rally, you will instantly recognize blatherskite from um… a blithering blatherskite. There are many colorful synonyms for blatherskite, including the wonderful whimsical word “jabberwocky” introduced by Lewis Carroll in his classic work Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) published in 1871. Other euphonious synonyms include: babble, balderdash, claptrap, gabble, gibberish, gobbledygook, jabber, nonsense, poppycock, prate, prattle, and twaddle.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: What is the Sword of Damocles?
There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia

There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology

For further reading: https://tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:Maggy_Lawder


There’s A Word for That: Myrmidon

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIn the world of politics, a leader often surrounds himself with loyal subordinates who are unscrupulous and unquestioningly carry out whatever order they are given. These types of individuals are often referred to as henchmen. But there is an even better word: myrmidon. The word, pronounced “MER ma don,” comes to us from Greek mythology. In the Iliad, Homer describes the Myrmidons as soldiers that were commanded by Achilles on his adventure-filled journey to Troy. The Greek word myrmidons is derived from murkekes meaning “ants.” In Metamorphoses, Ovid describes Myrmidons as simple worker ants who toiled on the island of Aegina located near Athens.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: What is the Sword of Damocles?
There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia

There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology


Words That Illustrate the Irregularities of English Spelling and Pronunciation

alex atkins bookshelf wordsThe English language is fascinating for so many reasons. On the one hand, it has many rules for spelling, pronunciation, and grammar; on the other hand, it breaks those rules. For example, let’s focus on the irregularities of spelling and pronunciation. In the English language, due to major linguistic and social events over 1,000 years, spelling is not consistently phonetic: there are letters that are either not pronounced or pronounced. This irregularity in pronunciation affects about 25% of the million words in the English language; however, within that 25% subset are approximately 400 of the most frequently used words, known as sight words, because they cannot be spelled phonetically and thus have to be learned “by sight.” Examples include: been, come, could, does, enough, eyes, have, one, said, some, there, they, though, very, would, and you.

There have been many attempts to reform spelling in the English language, beginning with A Plea for Phenotype and Phonography by Alexander Ellis in 1815. Another notable work was the poem “The Chaos” by Gerard Trenite published in 1920. Writers who love words but are irked by the many irregularities of spelling have developed neologisms to illustrate the irregularities of English spelling and pronunciations. The most famous example is the word “ghoti” attributed to George Bernard Shaw in support of the efforts of the Simplified Spelling Society but actually introduced by Charles Ollier in a private letter, dated December 11, 1855. The word “ghoti” is pronounced “fish” when broken into its distinct sounds (known as phonemes): “f” from “touGH”; “i” from “wOmen”; and “sh” from “naTIOn.” Words like these are known as “absurd spellings” or graphological deviants in the world of lexicography. The most famous use of “ghoti” is by James Joyce in his inventive but inscrutable work, Finnegans Wake, published in 1939.

Another wonderful graphological deviant is the word “iewkngheaurrhpthewempeighghteaps” which is pronounced “unfortunates.” Here is the pronunciation of the word with each phoneme:
u from vIEW
n from KNow
f from touGH
o from bEAU
r from myRRh
t from PTHisis
u from EWE
n from coMPtroller
a from nEIGH
t from liGHT
e from tEA
s from PSalm

So devilishly clever. So the next time you use the word unfortunates in writing, go ahead and use the graphological deviant version to leave the reader scratching their head in bewilderment.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: What Rhymes with Orange?
The Most Mispronounced Words
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Difficult Tongue Twisters
Word Oddities: Fun with Vowels

For further reading: How to Torture Your Mind by Ralph Woods
https://theconversation.com/the-absurdity-of-english-spelling-and-why-were-stuck-with-it-44905
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English-language_spelling_reform


Adventures in Rhetoric: Epistrophe

alex atkins bookshelf wordsAn epistrophe (pronounced “uh PI struh fee”) is a rhetorical device that involves the repetition of a word or phrase at the end of a sentence or clause. If you listened to Reverend Al Sharpton’s powerful, poignant eulogy to George Floyd on June 4, 2020, you will have heard a masterful use of epistrophe: “you had your knee on my neck.” Sharpton delivered his eulogy from an all-white podium that was a replica of the pulpit that Martin Luther King, Jr. used when he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. Like King, Sharpton is a gifted orator who follows in the tradition of inspiring Baptist preachers who speak with commanding voices and fully connect with their audiences. Both men begin their speeches in a slow, measured pace to draw you in and then gradually build to a passionate crescendo, utilizing evocative language and rhetorical devices like repetition, alliteration, and metaphors. Here is an excerpt highlighting the use of epistrophe (italics added):

“People across economic and racial lines started calling and getting in and we flew out of here… and when I stood at that spot, reason it got to me is George Floyd’s story has been the story of black folks because ever since 401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed to being is you kept your knee on our neck. We were smarter then the underfunded schools you put us in, but you had your knee on our neck. We could run corporations and not hustle in the street, but you had your knee on our neck. We had creative skills, we could do whatever anybody else could do, but we couldn’t get your knee off our neck. What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country, in education, in health services, and in every area of American life, it’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say get your knee off our necks. That’s the problem no matter who you are. We thought maybe we had a complex, T.I. [referring to an American rapper who was in attendance], maybe it was just us, but even blacks that broke through, you kept your knee on that neck. Michael Jordan won all of these championships, and you kept digging for mess because you got to put a knee on our neck. White housewives would run home to see a black woman on TV named Oprah Winfrey and you messed with her because you just can’t take your knee off our neck. A man comes out of a single parent home, educates himself and rises up and becomes the President of the United States and you ask him for his birth certificate because you can’t take your knee off our neck. The reason why we are marching all over the world is we were like George, we couldn’t breathe, not because there was something wrong with our lungs, but that you wouldn’t take your knee off our neck. We don’t want no favors, just get up off of us and we can be and do whatever we can be!”

The words on the page do not do justice to the extremely uplifting and powerful delivery by Sharpton: it’s breathtaking to behold. You will note that the speech It is interrupted by several standing ovations. You can listen to the speech here.

Sharpton returned to the pulpit a few days later on June 9, 2020 to deliver another passionate eulogy for George Floyd’s final memorial service in Houston, Texas. Once again, Sharpton employed the epistrophe several times, for example: “wickedness in high places!”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: Adventures in Rhetoric: Adianoeta
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The Wisdom of Cornel West
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Martin Luther King and the Suicide Letter
The Singer Who Inspired Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream Speech
Quotes Mistakenly Attributed to Martin Luther King


What To Do When You Find a Typo in a Book

alex atkins bookshelf booksHave you ever been reading a book, perhaps a classic novel or a recently published book, and come across a typo? WTF? It’s annoying isn’t it? You just paid $18 to $30 for the book and the publisher clearly skimped on proofreaders (or should we say “poofreaders”?). Dedicated readers and book lovers have a few options. You can hurl the book across the room, sending it crashing into the wall. As it falls to the floor in a crumpled mess you curse the author and the publisher using an appropriate Shakespearean curse like “Thou paper-faced rampallians who have conceived of such wretched, weasel-like typos! Get thee to the blasted inferno of Hell!” Sure it feels good, but the sense of satisfaction is fleeting. The typo is still in there, taunting you, haunting you…

Another option is to photograph the page and email the jpeg file to the publisher along with a note pointing out the error. There is a deeper sense of satisfaction with this option because now, at least, you have the hope that it will be corrected in a future printing. And when you confirm that a later edition is corrected, you can take credit for it.

But there is a third option: you can visit the kindred souls at Book Errata (bookerrata.com) that keep a comprehensive list of book and their errors that really annoy readers and bibliophiles. Incidentally, errata (the plural of erratum, derived from the Latin word errare meaning “to err”) is defined as an error that occurs in printing or writing. In publishing an errata is a list of corrected errors that is appended to a book, either as an additional page or as an individual page that is slipped in (known as an errata slip). An erratum is also known as a typo, short for typographical error. The Book Errata community maintains the fascinating Corrigenda List, a list of every book that has been published with typos. Corrigenda, as you may have surmised is another Latin loanword: corrigendum (singular form) is derived from corrigere meaning “bring to order,” defined as something to be corrected, typically a typo in a printed book. When you click on the name of the book in the Corrigenda list, you can view every single typo listed by page number. Books are rated as: “single error, slightly sloppy, sloppy, very sloppy, and horrendous.” The best aspect of Book Errata is that book publishers actually pay attention to this website. Many books that are listed now have the rating of “no errors” because they have been corrected based on the eagle-eyed readers’ feedback.

Let’s take a closer look at a classic novel that is rated “very sloppy.” What’s truly surprising is that the novel is a classic that has been around for 400 years (in fact, since it was first published in 1620, 2020 is its 400th anniversary). The novel? Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes, specifically the edition published by Ecco in 2003 (translated by Edith Grossman). Here are some of the egregious typos:

Page 163, 170: “Accompanying them were two men on horseback and two on foot; the ones on horseback had flintlocks, and those on foot carried javelins and swords [versus] …for this was the man holding the flintlock…and those on horseback put their hands on their swords, and those on foot grasped their javelins” Correction: consistency

Page 172, 195: “…took the basin from his head and struck him three or four blows with it on his shoulders and smashed it an equal number of times on the ground until he had shattered it. [versus] I have the basin in the bag, all dented… they see it as only a barber’s basin, they do not attempt to obtain it, as was evident when that man tried to shatter it, then left it on the ground…” Correction: consistency

Page 281: “…even though he has no knowledge of [ ] wife’s adultery…” Correction: his wife’s

Page 824: “His large, dappled horse appeared to be a Frisian…” Correction: Friesian

Page 830: May may Barabbas go with you…” Correction: May appears twice

For crying out loud! Isn’t 400 years enough time to get a freaking proofreader to get this classic novel published correctly? Are we tilting at windmills, here?!

So why are there so many typos, especially in recently published books? The truth is, there are less proofreaders today in the digital world than in the good ol’ days when authors typed their manuscripts (with typewriters — remember those?). In short, books are published faster, skipping many steps in the traditional publishing process (manuscript, galley proofs, revised proofs, blue lines, etc.) As Virginia Heffernan explains in an article for The New York Times: “For readers who find humanity in orthographic quirks, these are great times. Book publishers used to struggle mightily to conceal an author’s errors; publishers existed to hide those mistakes, some might say. But lately the vigilance of even the great houses has flagged, and typos are everywhere…. Editors I spoke to confirmed my guesses. Before digital technology unsettled both the economics and the routines of book publishing, they explained, most publishers employed battalions of full-time copy editors and proofreaders to filter out an author’s mistakes. Now, they are gone.”

We should note that dedicated book collectors actually look for and want printing errors in the books they collect because they often establish the first edition and first printing of a book. Paradoxically, the more errors the first edition contains, the more valuable the book. Take, for example, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, that includes eight egregious printing mistakes. The value of a first edition?  As of this writing, there is one for sale on AbeBooks for $190,538!

So if you find a typo in a book, be an Errata Superhero: head over to the Corrections and Omissions page and type in the title, author, publisher, publication date, page number, error and submit the form. The website also includes the contact information for all the major book publishers and their many imprints in case you are really annoyed and want to give the publisher a piece of your mind. Either way, you can take great satisfaction of joining the ranks of the Book Errata warriors, dedicated to obliterating annoying typos from the pages of notable books. Onward!

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: Why Study Literature?
Why Read Dickens?
The Power of Literature
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What is a Classic Book?

For further reading: http://bookerrata.com/index.html
rarebooksdigest.com/2016/07/05/mistaikes-in-books/
opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/17/the-price-of-typos/


There Should Be a Word for That: Bingegrief

alex atkins bookshelf wordsYou know the feeling well. You find a fascinating series and you binge-watch it through however many seasons exist (six to eight if you’re lucky) on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Once you’re deep in the narrative you feel emotionally connected with the characters, and you are transported to another world, cherishing every moment, and anticipating every new episode to see where the story will take your cherished characters. You can’t wait to finish each season — but a funny thing happens as you reach that last season. You slow down, and want to cherish each episode, knowing full well that the show will come to its inevitable conclusion. After the show’s finale plays, and the credits begin to scroll, you feel the bliss draining from your body, replaced by a profound sadness. You can’t believe that the show is over and you have to say to those wonderful characters.

Interestingly, there is no word for this; however, clearly, there should be! Atkins Bookshelf offers a word for modern times: bingegrief. Bingegrief is defined as the sadness that you experience after binge-watching a show that you thoroughly enjoyed. The word, pronounced “binj GREEF,” is a compound word (combining the words “binge” and “grief”). The common evolution of compound words in the English language is that they begin hyphenated and then over time, the hyphen is dropped (do you remember “pigeon-hole”, “e-mail” and “chat-room”?). Consider that back in 2007, the Oxford English Dictionary dropped the hyphen from about 16,000 compound words for their two-volume print edition. So mate, let’s just dispense with the lexicological courtship and get right to the marriage of two words. And now, let’s use this new word in a sentence: “I was overwhelmed by bingegrief on Monday morning after binge-watching Money Heist over the weekend.” O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao!

Depending on the quality and length of a series, bingegrief can be very pronounced — like losing a friend or breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend. And just like real grief, bingegrief can paralyze you with sadness and ennui for days. If you are a fan of Netflix or Amazon Prime, especially during the extended quarantine imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, you know that bingegrief is a “thing;” but for the skeptics out there — there is actually science that explains this common feeling.

In an interview with NBC News, clinical psychologist Renee Carr explains, “When engaged in an activity that’s enjoyable such as binge-watching, your brain produces dopamine. This chemical gives the body a natural, internal reward of pleasure that reinforces continued engagement in that activity. It is the brain’s signal that communicates to the body, ‘This feels good. You should keep doing this!’ When bing-watching your favorite show, your brain is continually producing dopamine, and your body experiences a drug-like high. You experience a pseudo-addiction to the show because you develop cravings for dopamine. The neural pathways that cause heroin and sex addictions are the same as the addiction to binge-watching. Your body does not discriminate against pleasure. It can become addicted to any activity or substance that consistently produces dopamine.” This intense addiction to dopamine explains why 61% of viewers regularly watch between two to six episodes of a show in one sitting, according to a survey conducted by Netflix. People are sitting on the couch and shooting up with six hours of compelling series, like Money Heist. That same survey indicated that 73% of viewers reported positive feelings associated with binge-watching. So you can imagine what happens in the brain when the delivery of dopamine comes to a screeching stop: sadness, ennui, resulting in a mad scramble to go online and seek out the next series to binge — typing “Shows to watch like Money Heist…” into Google, like a junkie, trembling with withdrawals, waiting for the next hit. I can hear that haunting melody…. O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao!

Since humans are such social creatures, we also tend to bond with characters that we like or that we identify with; psychologists call this “identification” or “parasocial interaction.” This identification is stronger when both the character and their particular situation is similar to our own. In “wishful identification” the viewer is able to imagine being in the situation of the character and identifying with the protagonist’s success or power, and caring about what happens to the character. Thus, watching a show is both pleasurable and affirming, increasing the viewer’s self-esteem. Psychiatrist Gayani DeSilva explains that all of this experience becomes part of our life experience: “Our brains code all experiences, be it watched on TV, experienced live, read in a book or imagined, as ‘real’ memories. So when watching a TV program, the areas of the brain that are activated are the same as when experiencing a live event. We get drawn into story lines, become attached to characters and truly care about outcomes of conflicts.”

Naturally, after binging a show, viewers have to say goodbye to these characters, and that is when they begin feeling sad. Clinical psychologist Dr. John Mayer explains the science behind bingegrief, which is an example of situational depression — similar to the mourning we experience when we lose someone close to us: “We often go into a state of depression because of the loss we are experiencing. We call this situational depression because it is stimulated by an identifiable, tangible event. Our brain stimulation is lowered (depressed) such as in other forms of depression.” Interestingly, a study conducted by the University of Toledo found that binge-watchers reported higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression than those who were not binge-watchers. Part of the reason is that viewers are substituting virtual relationships for real human relationships as well as the isolation that comes from binge-watching alone.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

For further reading: Words for Emotions That Don’t Have Names Yet
How Many Emotions Are There?
There Should Be A Word for That: Bibliorts

For further reading: http://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/what-happens-your-brain-when-you-binge-watch-tv-series-ncna816991
mashable.com/article/why-we-feel-lost-after-a-tv-binge/
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-hyphen-1/thousands-of-hyphens-perish-as-english-marches-on-idUSHAR15384620070921


Is it Fate or Destiny?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsMost likely, you are familiar with the following phrases: “it was his or her destiny” and “his or her fate is sealed.” The key words here, of course, are fate and destiny. So what is the difference between fate and destiny, young Padowan? Aren’t they the same thing? Yes and no. Both words refer to what happens to a person in his or her life; however there is a subtle difference in meaning. Fate is an inevitable and often predetermined outcome, often a bad one resulting in death or destruction. For example: “The fate of the Titanic was sealed when its radio operator did not pass on a message warning about dense ice fields to the captain.” Destiny, on the other hand, suggests an invincible power that controls human life and the universe. For example: “The dedicated student triumphed over tremendous hardship, focused on his education, graduated from college with honors, and went on to be a successful writer, fulfilling his destiny.”

Socrates famously taught: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Taking a moment to reflect on your life, is it fate or destiny? Share your reflections in the comments section.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Meaning of Life by Peter Gay
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Experience is the Mother of Wisdom and Other Idioms About Mothers

alex atkins bookshelf phrasesOne of the most recurring themes in literature is motherhood. It represents birthing, the creation of new life, the profound love of and care for another, or the development of feminine spirituality. Motherhood is also an enduring symbol, especially in religion and mythology: mothers are depicted as beautiful, powerful goddesses of creation that are often associated with the ocean, moon, nature, and safety of children. In Christianity, some of the most important figures are mothers: Eve (the Original Mother), Sarah (mother of Isaac), Rebekah (mother of Jacob and Esau), Jochebed (mother of Aaron, Moses, and Miriam), and Mary (the Madonna). In Eastern mythology, the mother is a creation goddess: in one tradition, the oceans were created by her uterine waters. As a fertility goddess, she rules over nature and controls the harvests. Generally speaking, however, a mother’s love represents the apotheosis of love (although, don’t write that in a Mother’s Day card, because it sounds like a COVID-related illness; incidentally the word apotheosis is form the Greek word apotheoun which means “to make a god of”); that is to say, it represents love as the ideal form: unconditional, pure, self-less, wise, comforting, unwavering — and at times it can be fierce and protective.

The concept of motherhood is not only intertwined with literature and mythology, it is also part of the English lexicon. We find that the word “mother” in many idioms that evoke the symbols and meanings we have discussed. For example, when we talk wisdom, learning from our mistakes, we say “Experience is the mother of wisdom” not “Experience is the father of wisdom.”

To honor of the mothers around the globe and through the generations who have exemplified the ideals of love for their children, for their families, for their communities — especially through the troubling trials and tribulations unleashed by the deadly coronavirus, Atkins Bookshelfs presents the idioms about mothers that remind us of the eternal significance of their contributions:

at one’s/his/her mother’s knee

Diligence is the mother of good luck

everyone and his/their mother

expectant mother

Experience is the mother of wisdom

A face that only mother could love

He that would the daughter win, must with the mother first begin

Like mother, like daughter

mama’s boy

maternal instinct

mother country

mother hen

mother house

mother’s little helpers

mother lode

mother’s milk

mother of pearl

Mother Nature

The mother or all [something]

mother tongue

A mother has eyes in the back of her head

Necessity is the mother of invention

old enough to be one’s mother

swear on your mother’s grave

sweet Mary, mother of God

Tied to his/her/your mother’s apron strings

Tiger mother

You kiss your mother with that mouth?

Your mother!

What other idioms about mothers should we include?

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

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For further reading: Oxford Dictionary of Idioms
https://www1.cbn.com/family/six-amazing-moms-in-the-bible
https://science.jrank.org/pages/10304/Motherhood-Maternity-History-Religion-Myth.html
https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/mother

 


Test Your Creativity with This Clever Thinking Puzzle

alex atkins bookshelf wordsAfter weeks of sheltering in place you may have exhausted all the ways of killing time — binge eating, binge watching Netflix shows, binge watching silly pet videos on Youtube, scrolling through mind-numbing social media posts, and so on. You can practically count the cells in your brain dying by the hour. Would you like to kick-start your brain and test your creative thinking? Let me introduce you a really fun brain-building word game you can play and share with your friends. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the obscure and overlooked ditloid. A ditloid is a curious and clever puzzle — something that would have greatly amused Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter. Specifically, a ditloid is a word game in which a phrase, term, title, quotation, proverb, or fact must be deduced from numbers and abbreviations in the clue. Here are some examples (answers in parenthesis):
60 = S. in a M. (60 seconds in a minute)
99 = B. of B. on the W. (99 bottles of beer on the wall)
7 = A. of M. (7 Ages of Man).
You get the idea. 
The word game was named after the following puzzle: 1=D. it L. o I. D. (1 Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich), by the Daily Express, a London newspaper. This word game is also referred to as a “linguistic equation” or “numerical phrase.” 

The most famous ditloids — indeed, the ditloids that launched a thousand ditloids — were created by puzzle master extraordinaire Will Shortz, former editor of Games magazine and current crossword puzzle editor for The New York Times, puzzle master on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, and author of more than 100 books on puzzles. (Incidentally, he is an avid puzzle book collector, owning more than  20,000 puzzle books and magazines). Shortz introduced the word game, which he initially called an “Equation Analysis Test” , in the May-June 1981 issue of Game magazine. Since this was the time before the birth of the Internet, the puzzle was circulated the old fashioned way; Shortz elaborates: “Some anonymous person had retyped the puzzle from Games (word for word, except for my byline), photocopied it, and passed it along. This page was then rephotocopied ad infinitum, like a chain letter, and circulated around the country. Games readers who hadn’t seen the original even started sending it back to Games as something the magazine ought to consider publishing!” Interestingly, this “photocopied” list still gets forwarded, albeit as an image file in chain emails.

Shortz’s inspiration for the word puzzle came from Morgan Worthy’s AHA! A Puzzle Approach to Creative Thinking, published in 1975. Worthy introduced the Formula Analysis Test that had a slightly different construction: M. + M. + N.H. + V. + C. + R.I. = N.E. (Maine + Massachusetts + New Hampshire + Vermont + Connecticut + Rhode Island = New England) and 1 B. in the H. = 2 in the B. (A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush). Worthy, in turn, was inspired by obscene graffiti in a college bathroom; Worthy explains in his book, “I first became interested in aha! thinking ten years ago while a graduate student at the University of Florida. Part of the graffiti in the men’s room of the psychology building was a cryptic formula someone had written in large letters on the wall. I was intrigued by this little puzzle and, of course, had occasion to be reminded of it from time to time. Finally, one day, the answer (yes, obscene) suddenly came to me. It happened that I was studying creativity at the time and I realized that my response to solving the graffiti puzzle was very like the ‘aha! effect’ about which I had been reading… I constructed a test of times similar in principle to the one I found on the rest room wall.” In order to develop his Formula Analysis Test, Worthy followed this criteria: the puzzles do not require special information or a large vocabulary, the puzzles cannot be solved by step-by-step process, and each puzzle is relatively easy in that it is short and contains few items. Based on research by Worth, scores on solving these type of tests are not correlated significantly with I.Q. scores, but rather validated tests that measure creative thinking.

Without further ado, here are the original 24 word puzzles, the Equation Analysis Test, created by Shortz. Give it a shot, and see how many you can solve. The answers are presented below. And no cheating (i.e., using Google to solve the equations). Remember, solving the puzzles is not about being smart — it is about being creative. So clear your mind, put some music on, chill, and let the letters and numbers speak to you… and be sure to share this with your friends, to see how they do.

1 = W. on a U.
3 = B.M. (S.H.T.R.!)
4 = Q. in a G.
5 = D. in a Z.C.
7 = W. of the A.W.
8 = S. on a S.S.
9 = P. in the S.S.
11 = P. on a F.T.
12 = S. of the Z.
13 = S. on the A.F.
18 = H. on a G.C.
24 = H. in a D.
26 = L. of the A.
29 = D. in F. in a L.Y.
32 = D.F. at which W.F.
40 = D. and N. of the G.F.
54 = C. in a D. (with the J.)
57 = H.V.
64 = S. on a C.
88 = P.K.
90 = D. in a R.A.
200 = D. for P.G. in M.
1,000 = W. that a P. is W.
1,001 = A.N.

Let me know if you enjoyed these word puzzles and if you would like to see more of them.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: Words for Superior Persons
Rare Anatomy Words

Words Oddities: Fun with Vowels
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Words that Sound Naughty But Are Not
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For further reading: Aha! A Puzzle Approach to Creative Thinking by Morgan Worthy
Will Shortz’s Best Brain Busters by Will Shortz

http://thebiggamehunter.com/main-menu-bar/mechanical-puzzles/mechanical-puzzle-collectors/shortz-will/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ditloid
https://www.braingle.com/news/hallfame.php?path=language/english/meaning/equations.p&sol=1

http://www.greenleecds.com/rgbest/NumAKey.pdf
https://www.puzzlemuseum.com/singma/singma5/LANGUAGE/NUMPHRAS.DOC

Answers here.


What is a Barbarism?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsWhat is a barbarism? If you answered “anything that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth” you are pretty close. If you look up “barbarism” in the dictionary you will find the following definitions: “absence of culture or civilization” and “extreme cruelty or brutality.” However, in this case, we are interested in the definition of barbarism in linguistics. In this context, barbarism is defined as (1) an incorrect word; (2) a mispronunciation of a word; or (3) a badly formed word (eg, a word formed from elements of different languages). The Greeks used the term barbarism to describe foreign words that were incorporated into Greek speech or writing; they viewed these terms as a corruption of their language. (The Greeks would be apoplectic if their native language were English, which is a linguistic magpie, borrowing words from just about every language around the globe.)

A perfect example of a barbarism is when Kiarra, from the show everyone loves to hate, The Batchelor (Season 24), described what was in her goody bag: “…and inside of it [the bag] was like a cute pajama linger ree set.” What she meant to say, of course, was lingerie, which is pronounced “LAAN zher ay.” Makes you wonder how she would pronounce faux pas? Perhaps, the most famous barbarism was the tweet heard around the world on May 31, 2017. President Trump famously tweeted: “Despite the constant negative press covfefe.” The word “covfefe” was a mistyping of “coverage.” Unable to be accept responsibility for any mistake, Trump later claimed that the wording of that tweet was intentional. However, the word quickly entered the English lexicon: a covfefe is defined as a social media mistake. Adrienne LaFrance, a journalist for The Atlantic, wrote: “Covfefe remains the tweet that best illustrates Trump’s most preternatural gift: he knows how to captivate people, how to command and divert the attention of the masses.” Yeah, and look how that worked out with the coronavirus pandemic…

Here are some other examples of barbarisms [correct word in brackets]:

He putted the book on the shelf. [put]

Hand I the phone. [me]

The husband and wife had four childrens. [children]

Watching people die of COVID-10 is heart-wrenching. [heart-rending]

Breathalyzer [the combination of two different languages: English and Greek]

Very similar to a barbarism is a catachresis, which is defined as a word that is used in an incorrect way. Catachresis appear frequently as mixed metaphors (also known as malaphors) and wrong words in an idiom. For example, “The characters were like pawns on a checkerboard” [chessboard] or “That last comment was the straw that broke the elephant’s back” [camel].

Another similar term is solecism. While a barbarism is a mistake in morphology (how words are formed and their relationship to one another), a solecism is an error in syntax (the set of rules that define sentence structure). In other words, a solecism is a grammatical mistake. A double negative is a common solecism: “There aren’t no cups nowhere” [anywhere] or “I ain’t got no money” [don’t… any].

A related term is malapropism. A malapropism is the use of the wrong word for comedic effect; the mistake can be unintentional or intentional. The word is based on a fictional character, Mrs. Malaprop, from the play The Rivals (1775) by Richard Sheridan. Here is an example of a malapropism: “I have punctuation because I am never late!” [punctuality]. 

Another related term is spoonerism, named after William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930), the Warden of New College, Oxford, who often switched the corresponding vowels or consonants between two words in a phrase. For example, “The Lord is a shoving leopard” rather than “The Lord is a loving shepherd” or “Three cheers for our queer old dean!” rather than “Three cheers for our dear old queen!”

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Read related posts: What Rhymes with Orange?
The Most Mispronounced Words
Words with Letters in Alphabetical Order
Difficult Tongue Twisters
Word Oddities: Fun with Vowels
What is a Pangram?
What is a Malaphor?
What is a Semordnilap?

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For further reading:
http://www.newsbreak.com/news/0NtwFUR2/the-bachelor-season-24-hannah-ann-and-kiarra-mispronounce-fiasco-and-lingerie-fans-go-on-roasting-spree
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covfefe


There’s a Word for That: Filipendulous

alex atkins bookshelf wordsEach day you turn on the TV and hear the same grim news about the coronavirus pandemic: in hospitals across the nation, patients are fighting for their lives — they are hanging by a thread. On Main Street in cities across America, businesses are fighting for their survival — these businesses are hanging by a thread. You see the trend here? Hanging by a thread. Well, there’s a beautiful-sounding word for that: filipendulous (pronounced “fi li PEN duh luhs”) from the Latin filum (meaning “thread”) and pendulum (meaning “hanging”) from pendere (“to hang). The earliest use appear in 1743 in Accounts of the Thirteen Cities of Ememeer by J. Gingell: “Beneath the accumulated weight of gossamer the filipendulous city began to crumble, and so the lesson of the spiders was revealed, for indeed did it become obvious that all had been forever suspended over the chasm of their own destruction.”

Related terms: Sword of Damocles, hanging by a hair, at the end of his/her rope, barely clinging to life, barely holding on, running out of time, running on fumes

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Read related posts: What is the Sword of Damocles?
There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia

There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology

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There’s a Word for That: Meraki

alex atkins bookshelf wordsHave you ever been moved profoundly by a musical or theatrical performance and you turn to your companion and say, “Wow — that was so beautiful, she really put her heart and soul into that performance!” There’s actually a word for that: meraki, a modern Greek word, pronounced “mer EE ki” or “mer AH ki.” When one says that a person is doing something (a creative endeavor or even a mundane task) with meraki it means that it is being doing with intense passion, mastery, and pleasure — and in doing so, a person puts his or her soul into the product of that work. Such a person is a meraklides (male form) or merakloudes (feminine form). In colloquial modern Greek, a meraklis or meraklous is someone who is deeply interested and committed to an endeavor that is very difficult or unusual. The word meraki is derived from the modern Turkish word merak that means intense curiosity or passion to learn.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia
There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology

For further reading: http://www.quora.com/What-do-the-Turkish-loanwords-merak-and-meraklı-mean-in-your-language


What is Sealioning?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsWhen you initially hear the term sealioning, it evokes the image of a group of dedicate volunteers on a boat, somewhere in the ocean not too far off the coast, attempting to rescue sea lions or waving flags at passing ships raising awareness about the plight of sea lions. However the true meaning of sealioning is as noble: it is a form of online harassment or trolling. This is how sealioning works: the troll (the sealion) targets an individual (the target) and pretends to be ignorant about a specific topic or issue. The sealion repeatedly asks the target questions or to provide specific evidence, while remaining polite and pretending to be sincere. The goal is to provoke the target to lose his or her temper and write an angry response. At this point, the troll responds as the insulted or aggrieved party. And just like real sea lions, trolls often work together as a group. (Incidentally a group of sea lions is called a colony when they are on land; in the water, they are called a raft; during breeding season, they are known as rookery; a group of females in a male’s territory is called a harem.)

“So what’s the real harms in asking a lot of detailed questions?” you ask. In an enlightening essay titled “The Multiple Harms of Sea Lions” included in Perspectives on Harmful Speech Online (2017) published by the Berkman Kelin Center for Internet & Society, a research center at Harvard University, Amy Johnson elaborates: “[A long series of questions] may seem like a well-intentioned search for answers. It’s not—it’s a simplified example of a rhetorical strategy called sealioning. Sealioning is an intentional, combative performance of cluelessness. Rhetorically, sealioning fuses persistent questioning — often about basic information, information easily found elsewhere, or unrelated or tangential points — with a loudly-insisted-upon commitment to reasonable debate. It disguises itself as a sincere attempt to learn and communicate. Sealioning thus works both to exhaust a target’s patience, attention, and communicative effort, and to portray the target as unreasonable. While the questions of the “sea lion” may seem innocent, they’re intended maliciously and have harmful consequences. [The responses from the target range] from lengthy explanations to pointing to logical fallacies in the questions themselves, from calling out the sealioning to ignoring it. It is these responses that the sea lion seeks to shape — and it is here that multiple harms occur.” The multiple harms can be minor, like short-term annoyance, wasted energy, and the opportunity cost of time spent. But there are larger social harms, like when the target is now skeptical of all future questioners and is likely to engage in online discussions. This results in reduction of constructive discourse as well as reducing the opportunities of individuals to learn from one another. Johnson argues that sealioning attacks informal teaching; she writes: “Informal teaching undergirds mediated communication. Informal teaching is an unacknowledged foundation of technoutopian dreams from telegraphy to the present: by learning through iinteractions with each other, we will achieve universal understanding and eliminate conflict And to some extent, this happens. At any one moment, informal teaching — about everything from platform norms and literacies to life experiences — bridges the hugely diverse skill sets and histories of people online.”

So now you understand the harm of sealioning, but we are left with one question: how in the world did this form of trolling end up being called sealioning? The term is based on a specific comic strip titled “The Terrible Sea Lion” (published September 19, 2014) from the web-based comic book Wondermark by David Malki. In the six panels of that comic strip a couple is discussing marine mammals and the wife mentions that she doesn’t care for sea lions. All of a sudden a sea lion appears and requests “a civil conversation about your statement.” And the seal lion is persistent: he shows up repeatedly: at their dinner, at their bedside in the evening, and at breakfast in the morning. The sea lion says, “I have been unfailingly polite, and you two have been nothing rude.” So there you have it: the worst form of sealioning — from an actual sea lion. What is the world coming to?

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: What is the Borgesian Conundrum?
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What is the Meaning of Six Ways From Sunday?
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For further reading: cyber.harvard.edu/sites/cyber.harvard.edu/files/2017-08_harmfulspeech.pdf
http://wondermark.com/1k62/


It’s Greek to Me: From Pan to Pandemic

alex atkins bookshelf wordsOne of the most common questions that people search today is: what is the difference between an epidemic and a pandemic? If you are familiar with Greek roots, you know the key is in the prefix. An epidemic is an infectious disease that occurs in a community or specific area. Translated literally from the Greek, it means “upon a district” from the Greek roots epi (meaning “upon or among”) and demos (meaning “people or district”). A pandemic, on the other hand (hopefully one you have washed thoroughly for at least 20 seconds) is an infectious disease that occurs in an entire country or all over the world. Translated literally from the Greek, it means “all people” from the Greek roots pan (meaning “all”) and demos (meaning “people or district”). For example, the coronavirus began as an epidemic in Wuhan, China and as it spread across Europe and eventually all around the globe, it became a pandemic.

The prefix pan- is an extremely useful Greek root to know because it unlocks the meaning of so many words. Here is a list of some interesting words that use the root-word pan (some are not found in most printed dictionaries):

panacea: a cure of all illnesses

panarchy: a universal realm (chiefly poetic term)

panatheism: belief that god(s) do not exist and thus nothing can be correctly considered holy or sacred

pancratic: knowledge of all subjects

pandemonium: noisy and wild confusion; chaos

panegyric: a public speech that praises someone

pangender: encompassing all genders

pangenesis: A hypothetical mechanism of heredity proposed by Charles Darwin that states that each part of the body continually emits its own type of small organic particle (gemmules) that aggregate in the gonads, contributing transmissible information to the gametes

panharmonic: universal or general harmony

panhellenic: concerning or representing all people of Greek origin; concerning or representing all fraternities and sororities

panhumanism: the concept of an affiliation with all mankind through a legislative structure that allows all economic and technological development for the benefit of all people 

panjandrum: a person who claims to have great influence or authority

pansophia: universal wisdom

pantheism: belief that the universe is a manifestation of God

pantheon: a group of respected, important individuals

pantisocracy: a utopian society where everyone has equal position and responsibility

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: What Rhymes with Orange?
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For further reading: The Greek and Latin Roots of English by Tamara Green
Dictionary of Latin and Greek Origins by Bob Moore
en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:English_words_prefixed_with_pan-


There’s a Word for That: Brobdingnagian

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIf you are a fan of Jonathan Swift you will recognize this mouthful of a word and its meaning. The word brobdingnagian (pronounced “brab ding na GEE an”) means enormous or incredibly huge. The word was coined by Jonathan Swift in his famous novel Gulliver’s Travel, published in 1726, meant as a satire of travel tales and human nature. In the novel, Lemuel Gulliver sets off on a voyage on the sailing ship Adventure. On his second voyage he encounters Brogdingnag, a land that is populated by human giants, known as Brogdingnagians, who stand about 72 feet tall. Naturally, in a land of giants everything is, well… gigantic.

In an earlier voyage, Gulliver lands on the island of Lilliput, where the inhabitants, the Lilliputians, are tiny, standing  less than 6 inches tall. So the antonym of brobdingnagian is lilliputian, meaning very small or trivial. The word is pronounced “lile PYOO shen.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Do you agree or disagree; additional perspectives? I welcome thoughtful discussion via comment section or email. Be a part of the community. Cheers.

Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
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There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
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There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia
There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology


My Favorite Words – Dan Rather

atkins-bookshelf-words

Dan Rather is an American journalist who has won Emmy and Peabody awards for his work as news anchor for the CBS Evening News for 24 years. He initially ended his broadcast with the word “courage” but received a great deal of criticism, so he changed it to “That’s part of our world tonight.” Rather was also a frequent contributor to 60 Minutes. He has written eight books, including Rather Outspoken: My Life in the News (2013) and What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism (2017). Rather discusses his two favorite words that evoke memories of his parents:

My two favorite words carry strong associations with my parents. When you think about it, they were the first people to teach me the use of language, so I guess it stands to reason that my favorite words remind me of them. My father’s word was “courage,” a word that meant a lot to him beyond the dictionary meaning: coming from his mouth it was a one-word pep talk in tough times. A fine old word — ”take heart” — and a benediction I continue to invoke (but no longer on the CBS Evening News). My father tried all his life to give his children the things we’d need, not just dinner on the table but tools for the future. Courage — the word and the spirit — he gave us aplenty. On my best days, I hope I’m worthy of my father’s legacy, at least a little.

In the neighborhood where I grew up, there was a field or vacant lot that my mother always called a “meadow.” It was the most beautiful word she knew. Mother was strong and gentle, and “meadow” has a strong and gentle sound: the stretch of the short e and the long o clipped off. For my mother, the word conjured images of sunshine and peace, of nature that didn’t threaten even if it wasn’t altogether tamed. Those images fit my mother, too.

Read related posts: My Favorite Words – Robert Ludlum
My Favorite Words – Simon Winchester
My Favorite Words – Steven Pinker

My Favorite Words – David Foster Wallace

For further reading: Favorite Words of Famous People by Lewis Frumkes


How Many Ways Can You Pronounce -Ough?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsThe letter sequence “-ough” occurs many times in the English language; however, it is the one sequence that has the most number of pronunciations depending, of course, on the word. See if you can properly read this sentence: The wind was rough along the lough as the ploughman fought through snow that all the way up to his horse’s houghs, and though he hiccoughed and coughed, he thought only of his work, determined to be thorough. How did you do? Not as is easy you thought? Let’s find out why.

Although “-ough” consists of vowels and consonants, in most cases the “gh” is silent, producing a vowel sound. Incidentally, the word vowel is derived from the Latin term vocalis, meaning “vocal.” Vowels are critical, therefore, in the pronunciation of words. Over the centuries, as the English language evolved, how vowels were pronounced changed, playing havoc with the English language — this affected not only how a word was pronounced, but how it was spelled. The greatest period of change, the transition from Middle English to Modern English, occurred in England between 1350 and 1700; this period is known as the Great Vowel Shift, a term coined by linguist Otto Jespersen.

Below is a guide to how the ten words are properly pronounced:

rough: “ruff”

lough: “lock”

ploughman: “plowman”

through: “threw”

houghs: “hocks”

though: “thoe”

hiccoughed: “hik upped”

coughed: “coffed”

thought: “thawt”

thorough: “thur oh”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Do you agree or disagree; additional perspectives? I welcome thoughtful discussion via comment section or email. Be a part of the community. Cheers.

Read related posts: What Rhymes with Orange?
The Most Mispronounced Words
Words with Letters in Alphabetical Order
Difficult Tongue Twisters
Word Oddities: Fun with Vowels

For further reading: https://www.dictionary.com/e/s/ough/#ough


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