Category Archives: Words

Adventures in Linguistics: Clitic

alex atkins bookshelf words

Every day in your writing and speech you use clitics. “Hold on there,” you respond indignantly, “that’s a word that sounds really lewd. I’m not sure what clitics are, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never used them.” I hate to sound accusatory, but you just used four of them. You see, a clitic is a morpheme that functions like a word but is not spelled or pronounced completely. The morpheme is always phonetically attached to a word, either before (known as a proclitic) or after (known as a enclitic). The word clitic is derived from the Ancient Greek word klitikos meaning “inflectional” from enklitikos meaning “lean on.” For the purient-minded or linguistically curious, you might be asking: “Hmmn, is klitikos also the origin of the word clitoris?” The word clitoris is actually derived from another similar-sounding Ancient Greek word kleitoris, from klieo (“shut, to encase”) or from kleis (“a latch or hook” used to close a door).

One of the most famous proclitics appears at the beginning of Clement C. Moore’s poem, “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” published in 1823. The first line of the poem is considered the best known verse ever composed by an American poet: “‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house.” ‘Twas, of course, is a contraction of “it was.” Other examples of proclitics are: c’mon (come on); d’you (do you); ’tis (it is); and y’all (you all). Enclitics are far more common. Examples are: can’t (cannot); haven’t (have not); he’ll (he will);  I’m (I am); I’ve (I have); they’re (they are); and we’ve (we have).

So there you have it — this fascinating, arcane linguistic gremlin that is lurking in everyday speech and writing. Unlike you — now that you have been enlightened — people who use them are blissfully oblivious to its name, nuances, and etymology. So the next time you encounter a person using clitics, casually ask him or her “Are you aware you use a lot of clitics?” You will be pleasantly amused by the bewildered expression on their face. And if you are feeling devilish, you can add, “Speaking of clitics, have I ever told you about the etymology of clitoris?”

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

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Read related posts: Adventures in Rhetoric: Adianoeta
What is a Pleonasm?
What is a Rhopalic?


There’s A Word for That: Hypocorism

alex atkins bookshelf wordsYou probably aren’t aware of this, but you have engaged in hypocorism — not just once, put hundreds or thousands of times in your life. “No way!” you respond indignantly, “I confess I don’t know that means, but it sure sounds like something really terrible — and I am not guilty.” Chill. The definition of a hypocorism, pronounced “hi POK uh riz uhm,” is a pet name (formally known as a hypocorisma). The secondary definition is the practice of using a pet name. So if you have a loved one, like a spouse, partner, child, or a pet, you have indeed engaged in hypocorism — using terms like “Honey,” “Sweetie,” “Babe,” “Darling” “Mom,” “Dad,” and so forth. Another form of hypocorism is a diminutive; for example taking a name like Robert and turning it into Bobby or William into Billy. The third definition of a hypocorism is speaking in baby talk. So if you have a baby or a pet, chances are high (as in 100%!) that you have engaged in hypocorism. And just like you can use baby talk to name things (e.g. “woof woof” for dog or “yum yum” for food), you can also use baby talk to create pet names like “Nana” for Grandma, or “Papa” for Grandfather.

Hypocorism is one of those fascinating words in the English language that sounds really bad (it sounds very similar to “hypocrisy”), but actually represents something very sweet. You can blame the harsh sound of the word on the Greek word forming elements. The Late Latin word hypocorisma is based on the Greek word hypokorisma from hypokorizesthai meaning “to call by a pet name or endearing name” that, in turn, is derived from hypo- meaning “under, less than, or beneath” and korizesthai meaning “to caress.” Related words are hypocorisma (a pet name), hypocoristic (descriptive of someone who uses pet names; endearing), and hypocoristically (descriptive of the use of pet names).

So what are some of the most common pet names that people use? Excellent question. In 2012, a UK poll asked 1000 Brits to share the pet names of their spouse or partner. Over 60% respondents admitted to using pet names. Here is their top ten list of pet names:

1. Darling
2. Babe/Baby
3. Love
4. Sweetheart
5. Gorgeous
6. Honey/Hun/Honeybunch
7. Sweetie/Sweetie pie/Sweets
8. Angel
9. Sugar/Sugarplum
10. Boo

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Words Invented by Dickens
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://11points.com/11-popular-pet-names-couples-not-actual-pets/


The Best of Puns, the Worst of Puns 3

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! On the other hand, legendary British film director, Alfred Hitchcock (“Master of Suspense”) believed just the opposite: “Puns are the highest form of literature.” Proving that you don’t have to be a psycho to take a stab at a good pun!

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. In 2014, Benjamin Branfman published a book of 250 puns titled The Little Book of Giant Puns. The following year, he published a sequel, The Rather Large Book of Puns containing 515 puns. Here are some of 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). Some have been edited for brevity.

I just ate a liver sausage — it was literally the wurst.

Balloon prices have increased recently due to inflation.

If aromatic candles irritate you then you might become incensed.

There was once an artist who made sculptures out of electric cords because he needed a creative outlet.

My friend painted a fish that was hundreds of feet long. But since the canvas was small, the fish wasn’t to scale.

Two horses got married. Their friends gave them a bridal shower.

Never go to war with apes because they are masters of guerrilla tactics.

The other day I saw a monk’s apprentice working in a fast-food kitchen. He was a friar.

The ocean is slowly eroding many beaches. Sadly the future of the coastline is not a shore thing.

Japanese carp are very shy fish — they’re koi.

Illiterate people have a hard time playing the clarinet because they cannot reed.

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: The Rather Large Book of Puns: Over 500 Excellent and Original Pieces of Wordplay by Benjamin Branfman,  CreateSpace, 2015.


Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Coronavirus Edition

alex atkins bookshelf wordsGerman, like English, can create long compound words from many parts of speech; however, the difference is that English words tend to be short and hyphenated (eg, “fact-check”) while German words tend to long and combined without any hyphens or spaces (eg, “Trittbrettunsterblichkeit”, which translated means “immortality achieved by riding on someone’s coattails.”) But it is German’s basic structure that encourages words to be formed by combining several words together without any connectors. A German reader simply  breaks down each part to derive its figurative or literal meaning. For example, in English you would write, “the card from the automat of the steam-powered ship traveling on the Rhine.” However, in German, you would simply write “Rheindampfschiffautomatenkarte.” Since necessity is the mother of invention, every language around the globe has has had to introduce new words to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and related topics. According to Christine Mohrs, a researcher at the Leibniz Institute for the German language, Germans have coined more than 1,200 new coronavirus-related words. Many languages grow by using loanwords, words borrowed from another language. German, for example, borrows words from English that will be evident in some of these neologisms. Here are some of the interesting words that Germans uses to discuss coronavirus related things (literal translation in parentheses), although not all will make it into the official German dictionary:

Anderthalbmetergesellschaft: social distancing (“a meter and a half society”)

Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung: certificate of disability

Ausbruchsgeschehen: outbreak events

Ausgangsbeschränkung: lockdown (“exit restriction”)

Behelfsmundnasenschutz: face mask (“makeshift mouth nose protection”)

Coronatestzentrum: corona test center

Coronasuperverbreiter: corona super spreaders

Ellenbogengesellschaft: elbow society

Frischluftquote: fresh air quota

Fussgruss:  safe hello (“foot greeting”)

Gesichtskondom: face mask (“face condom”)

Impfstoffnationalismus: vaccine nationalism

kontaktlose Zustellung: contactless delivery

Mindestabstandsregelung: social distancing (“minimum distance regulation”)

Mundschutzmode: face mask (“mouthguard fashion”)

Notfallkinderzuschlag: emergency child allowance

Onlineparteitag: online party conversation

Präsenzveranstaltung: face-to-face event

Salamilockdown: partial lockdown, a lockdown that happens in slices (“salami lockdown”)

Spuckschutzschirm: face mask (“anti spit screen”)

telefonische Krankschreibung: telephone sick leave

Wirtschaftsstabilisierungsfonds: economic stabilization fund

Zoomfatigue: burnout from overuse of zoom conferences (“zoom fatigue”)

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Will you help me reach 10,000 followers? 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:
https://www.owid.de/docs/neo/listen/corona.jsp
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/germany-words-pandemic-long/2021/02/26/6f73330e-7835-11eb-9489-8f7dacd51e75_story.html


What’s the Difference: Information vs. Knowledge

alex atkins bookshelf wordsConsider these two sentences: “The Internet is a great source of information” and “The Internet is a great source of knowledge.” Although some people use the terms information and knowledge interchangeably, there is a definite distinction. Information (from the Latin informatio meaning “concept, outline, idea” and informare meaning “to instruct, educate; give form to”) refers to facts or data (in the form or words, numbers, or symbols) that is obtained through written works (books, magazines, newspapers, Internet, etc.) listening (conversations, interviews, lectures, etc.) or direct observation (experiment, documentary, etc.). Facts can be presented in a specific way (organization, structure, context, etc.) to be useful for a specific purpose (e.g., census data). The salient characteristics of facts are availability, relevance, completeness, accuracy, and validity. Note the last two, while something can be considered information, it may not necessarily be true (e.g. consider the following information: “The Earth is flat” or “Men did not land on the moon in 1969” or “The recent election was stolen via fraudulent mail and absentee ballots and manipulation of voting machines” or “A cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles plotted against former President Trump.”)

On the other hand, knowledge (from the Middle English knowlechen meaning “admit or show one’s understanding” and Latin gnoscere meaning “get to know” and Greek gnosis meaning “understanding, inquiry”) refers to the conclusions, insights, or skills discovered, deduced, or distilled from experience, education, intuition, or the study of information — or all four. These insights, in turn, can assist in making appropriate decisions and taking specific actions.

Expressed in simpler terms, while information is the presentation of facts and figures, it is the processing of those facts and figures that leads to knowledge, specifically the understanding of a subject. Although it is easy and inexpensive to transfer information (through any printed or digital presentation of facts), it is more difficult and more costly to transfer knowledge (it is difficult to replicate insights gained from intuition, experience, and study). And finally, all information is not necessarily knowledge; however all knowledge is information.

Let us explore some related terms:

erudition: Profound learning beyond the understanding of most people.

genius: A person possessing extraordinary intelligence or skill.

intellectual: endowed with the ability to reason and understand objectively, particularly abstract or academic matters.

learning: Knowledge that is acquired by study.

pansophy: Universal knowledge.

sage: A wise person.

sapient: The possession or ability to possess wisdom.

savant: A person of learning, especially someone versed in literature or science.

wisdom: Superior understanding and judgment based on broad knowledge.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Plato on Idiots and Ignorance
Plato’s Warning: Ignorance Will be the Source of Great and Monstrous Crimes
Plato’s Warning: If You Don’t Vote, You Will be Governed by Idiots
Isaac Asimov: There is a Cult of Ignorance in the United States

For further reading: When is a Pig a Hog? by Bernie Randall
http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/01/19/which-republicans-think-election-was-stolen-those-who-hate-democrats-dont-mind-white-nationalists/
http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2020/12/why-do-so-many-republicans-believe-the-election-was-rigged-the-answer-isnt-hard/
http://www.bbc.com/news/53498434


There’s A Word for That: Lychnobite

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIf you know someone who works in the medical profession or public safety (like a nurse, doctor, EMT, police officer, fireman, etc.) then you probably know a lychnobite. A what? Although it sounds like a pejorative term, a lychnobite is simply a person who works at night and sleeps during the day. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 15 million Americans work the dreaded night shift.

The word is pronounced “LICK no bite” It is derived from the Ancient Greek word lukhnos (meaning “lamp”) and bios (meaning “life”). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word is considered obsolete; the first recorded use of the word was in 1727.

So if lychnobite is obsolete, what is the modern term for a person who works during the evening and sleeps during the day? Excellent question. The most common term is “night owl,” based on the fact that owls that are nocturnal creatures, sleeping by day and hunting for food at night. Although the night owl is perfectly adapted by evolution for nocturnal living, the human being is not. Numerous studies indicate that the night shift interferes with the human body’s circadian clock. This leads to fatigue, decreased attention (ADHD), decreased cognitive abilities, sleepiness on the job, crankiness, disruption with the body’s metabolic process, and increased vulnerability to disease (like heart disease and cancer). And if that isn’t enough, people who work night shifts are more likely than day-shift workers to get into car crashes and become victims of caffeine, alcohol, and smoke abuse.

Other options for lychnobite are: night worker, night-shift worker, night person. Urban Dictionary lists a related term, vampire hours: when a person is awake all night and sleeps all day.

What other synonyms can be added to this list?

NOW AVAILABLE: If you love the blog, you will love the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. More than 100 essays in 400+ pages, including inspiring quotes about literature, reading, and books; eloquent passages from famous novels; valuable life lessons; and filled with witty and insightful observations.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Words Invented by Dickens
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: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/01/night-work
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=vampire%20hours


What is a Tautonym?

atkins bookshelf wordsWords like wishy-washy or mumbo-jumbo, or any words that contain two identical or similar parts (a segment, syllable, or morpheme), are called tautonyms. In linguistics another term for these is rhyming compounds, a subclass of a larger class of words known as reduplicatives. A reduplicative is a word created by reduplication, defined as the process in which the entire word or the stem or root of the word is repeated exactly or with a small change. There are three classes of reduplicatives: (1) Full reduplication of the base word (e.g., “bye-bye,” “goody-goody,” and “bunny-wunny”; with respect to the last word, linguists refer nonsensical words as “motherese,” “caregiver speech,” “child talk,” or “child-directed speech”).  (2) Partial reduplication of the base word, with only a change in the first consonant (e.g., “boogie-woogie” and “fuddy-duddy”). (3) Partial reduplication of the base word, with only a change in the root vowel (e.g., “ding-dong” and “flip-flop”). 

In many cases, the first word of a tautonym or rhyming compound is a real word while the second part (often nonsensical) is invented to create a rhyme and to create emphasis. Most tautonyms begin as hyphenated words and through common usage eventually drop the hyphen to become single words. Regardless of their hyphenation, they underscore the playfulness of the English language. Below are some common tautonyms (many function as nouns and verbs). If you enjoy writing challenges, try writing a single sentence that uses many or all of these words; however, it cannot turn out to be mumbo-jumbo.

argle-bargle: nonsense; heated argument

argy-bargy: heated argument

arsy-varsy: head over heels

boob-tube: television

boogie-woogie: blues-style music with a strong, fast beat; a dance to pop or rock music

chick flick: a movie primary for women

chiller-killer: a refrigerated heat exchange system

crisscross: intersecting straight paths or lines

dilly-dally: to waste time through indecision or loitering

ding-dong: the noise made by a bell; in the UK, slang for a woman’s breast; a noisy argument; an idiot

ding-a-ling: a foolish person

fancy-schmancy: elaborately decorated to impress

fiddle-faddle: a trademarked name for popcorn

flimflam: nonsense; to swindle

flip-flop: a light sandal; backward handspring; abrupt reversal of a position or policy

fuddy-duddy: a fussy or old-fashioned person

gewgaw: cheap, showy jewelry or thing

hanky-panky: improper behavior, typically sexual in nature

harum-scarum: impetuous

heebie-jeebies: a state of nervous fear, anxiety

helter-skelter: disorder or confusion; in disorderly haste

higgledy-piggledy: in a disorderly manner

hobnob: to mix socially, particularly with those of high social status

hocus-pocus: meaningless activity or talk, often to draw attention away from something

hodgepodge: a motley assortment of things

hoity-toity: snobbish

hokey-pokey: trickery; a song that describes the movements of a dance performed in a circle

hotchpotch: a motley assortment of things; a mutton stew with vegetables

hubba hubba: a phrase to express enthusiasm or approval

hubble-bubble: a hookah, an oriental tobacco pipe with a long flexible tube connected to a container where the smoke is cooled by passing through water

hubbub: chaotic noise created by a crowd of people; a busy, noisy situation

hugger-mugger: disorderly; secret

hullabaloo: a commotion

hurdy-gurdy: a musical instrument that makes music by rotation of a cylinder that is studded with pegs

hurly burly: busy or noisy activity

itty-bitty: very small

jingle-jangle: the sound that metallic items make

knickknack: a small object, often a household ornament, of little or no value

lovey-dovey: extremely affectionate or romantic

mishmash: a random assortment of things

mumbo jumbo: language or ritual causing, or intending to cause, confusion

namby-pamby: weak in willpower, courage or vitality

niminy-piminy: very dainty or refined

nitty-gritty: the most important details about something

okey-dokey: OK

pall-mall: a 16th century game in which a wooden ball was drive through an iron ring suspended at the end of an alley

pell-mell: in a rushed or reckless manner

ping-pong: table tennis

pitter-patter: the sound of quick light steps; to move or make the sound of quick light steps

prime-time: the time period when most people watch television

razzle-dazzle: showy, noisy activity designed to impress

riffraff: undesirable people

roly-poly: plump

shilly-shally: failing to act decisively

singsong: the repeated rising and falling of a person’s voice as they speak

skimple-skamble: senseless, gibberish

so-so: neither very good nor very bad

super-duper: very good

teeny-weeny: very small, tiny 

teeter-totter: a seesaw

tick-tock: the sound of a clock ticking; making a ticking sound

tighty-whities: snug white briefs worn by males (variant: tight-whiteys)

tittle-tattle: light informal conversation for social occasions

tohubohu: utter confusion, chaos

tootsie-wootsie (also toots-wootsy): a term of endearment

topsy-turvy: upside down; in a state of confusion

voodoo: followers of a religion that involves witchcraft and animistic deities

walkie-talkie: portable two-way radio

wigwag: to move to and fro

willy-nilly: whether one likes it or not; haphazardly

wishy-washy: weak, feeble, lacking character

yada yada (or yadda yadda): used as a substitute for a longer predictable story; boring language

zigzag: a line or course with abrupt right and left turns; veering alternatively to right and left

Are there any other tautonyms missing from this list?

Read related posts: What is the Longest Word in English Language?
Word Oddities: Fun with Vowels

What is an Abecedarian Insult?
Difficult Tongue Twisters
Rare Anatomy Words
What Rhymes with Orange?

For further reading:
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/254220098_Just_a_Load_of_Hibber-Gibber_Making_Sense_of_English_Rhyming_Compounds


Synonyms for Book Lover

atkins bookshelf wordsMany book lovers are also word lovers. Or expressed another way, most bibliolaters are also epeolatrists. Naturally, the largest share of synonyms for book lovers are based on the Ancient Greek root word biblos, meaning “book,” and biblion, meaning “paper” or “scroll.” Below are some delicious words that bibliophilists and logolepts can savor:

abibliophobia: the fear of running out of things to read

biblet: a book or library

bibliobibuli: someone who reads too much

biblioklept: a person who steals books; a book thief

bibliolater: a person who loves books

bibliolatry: the love of books; book worship

bibliomane: a person who loves books and reading

bibliomaniac: a person who is obsessed with collecting books

bibliophagist: a voracious reader

bibliophile: a person who loves books or collects books (or both)

bibliophilist: a book lover

bibliopole: a person who buys and sells rare books

bibliosmia: the aroma of a book; the act of smelling books

bibliotaph: a person who hoards books (often unread); books are stored, keeping them from use

bibliotecha: a list of books in a catalog

book-bosomed: a person who always carries a book

bookman: a person who loves books or reading

booktrovert: a person who prefers the company of fictional characters to people in real life

bookworm: a person devoted to reading and study

epeolater: a person who loves words

epeolatry: worship of words

fascicle: a volume; one of a number of books forming a set or series

finifugal: dislikes endings; someone who avoids reading the end of a novel

incunabulum: a book printed before the year 1500

introuvable: a holy grail book; a book that cannot be found

librocubicultarist: a person who reads in bed

logolept: a person who is very interested in words; person obsessed with words

logolepsy: a fascination or obsession with words

omnilegent: having read everything; characterized by encyclopedic reading

philobiblist: a lover of books

princeps: a first edition of a book

rarissima: an extremely rare book or manuscript

scripturient: an author; a person who has a passion for writing

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Will you help me reach 10,000 followers? Cheers.

Read related posts: Words Invented by Book Lovers
How Many Words in the English Language?
Words with Letters in Alphabetical Order
What is the Longest Word in English?
There’s a Word for That: Epeolatry


There’s A Word for That: Parvanimity

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIt sounds like a disease, doesn’t it? Parvanimity, however, is defined as small-mindedness or meanness (the antonym, in this case, would be magnanimity). It is derived from the classical Latin root words parvus (from parvi-, meaning “small”) and animus (meaning “mind” or “soul”). The word is pronounced “PARVE ah nim e tee.”

The word was introduced by Robert Boyle (162-1691), an Anglo-Irish natural philosopher, physicist, and chemist; he was also fascinated with theology. Boyle is considered one of the founders of modern chemistry. Published in 1661, The Skeptical Chymist is a seminal work in the field of chemistry. Boyle introduced the word parvanimity in his work A Free Discourse Against Customary Swearing; and a Discursive from Cursing (1647): “To all this I must add, that when once it is noted, that the apprehension of being derided for retracting is the sole obstacle that stands between your reaction and of great important a change as your conversion, they will justify your parvanimity of great, that you deserve derision for so poorly fearing it; and so you will fall into that contempt you would decline, by your very shunning of it.” [Also found in The Works of the Honorable Robert Boyle, Volume 6, published in 1772.]

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Read related posts: Words Invented by Dickens
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


Choosing the Exact Word (Le Mot Juste)

alex atkins bookshelf wordsI had the incredible opportunity to meet the great British writer and intellectual John Fowles many years ago. We discussed our shared fascination with the English language and the writer’s search for the exact word — le mot juste, as the French express it (incidentally, the phrase is pronounced “luh moh ZHYST”). You don’t have to read very far into a Fowles novel to quickly recognize he possesses an expansive vocabulary — far beyond the average vocabulary of 50,000, common to a high-school/college educated speaker. So if you read Fowles, you will want a dictionary by your side; by the end of the novel, you will have learned several dozen fascinating and fancy words (some, from different languages, since Fowles readily draws from all the romance languages). No doubt, Gustave Flaubert, a very precise writer who introduced the term “le mot juste,” would be suitably impressed.

I love words. As proof of this profound lexicological affection, I own over a 1,500 word reference books (adding several each month; the more obscure, the more treasured). One of my favorite thesauri is the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus (now in its third edition) which happens to contain one of my favorite essays on choosing the exact word. The essay, titled “In Search of the Exact Word” is written by Richard Goodman, an assistant editor at Random House and teaches creative nonfiction writing. The essay is also found in his book The Soul of Creative Writing, published in 2008. With a bit of sleuthing in the Flaubert corpus, Goodman finds that Flaubert first introduced the term le mot juste in a letter to Sainte-Beuve, a critic, that can be found in a collection of his letters, La Correspondance de Flaubert; Etude Et Repertoire Critique (1968), edited by Charles Carlut. Goodman writes:

“I found Flaubert uses the expression just twice. He writes the critic Sainte-Beuve, “If I put ‘blue’ after ‘stones,’it’s because ‘blue’ is le mot juste, believe me.” In the other instance, he says there has to be a rapport between le mot juste and le mot musical, that is, between the meaning and the music of a word…

Flaubert does say, though, that, “all talent for writing consists after all of nothing more than choosing words. It’s precision that gives writing power.” He also says that, “perfection has everywhere the same characteristic: that’s precision, exactness.” He says he spends hours looking for a word. He expressed the struggle this way: “I am the obscure and patient pearl-fisher, who dives deep and comes up empty-handed and blue in the face.” And at another point, he writes a friend that he spent three days making two corrections and five days writing one page. Practically anything Flaubert says about writing and art is interesting, even if you disagree with him, though you are constantly reminded, as Henry James points out, that “he felt of his vocation almost nothing but the difficulty.”

Mark Twain was memorably good at seizing the exact word, too. Most humourists are… Their humour often depends on a choice of word; in fact the whole laugh can rest on a single word choice. When someone interviewed Evelyn Waugh for the Paris Review, they asked him about the process of creating a character. He said, “I regard writing not as an investigation of character, but as an exercise in the use of language.” If you read the books of the comic writers just with this idea in mind — S.J. Perelman, Thurber, Twain, Waugh, even Woody Allen — you’ll see how often the laugh comes from a single, well-chosen word placed exactly where it’s liable to generate the loudest laugh. Of course, Twain wrote perhaps the most famous line about this particular topic ever written, “The difference between any word and the ‘right’ word is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

What is the exact word? I think what we usually mean by that is a word that not only conveys precisely what you, the writer, want to say, but also does it in an unforgettable way, a dramatic way, either because of its juxtaposition to its surrounding words or because it’s employed in a fresh way, or both. Something else, too, I think: when it surprises, it’s usually a surprise that doesn’t come out of a vacuum. It communicates resoundingly, because somewhere the reader understands the word well enough to appreciate its use.”

If you have an opportunity, you should read Goodman’s entire essay (it runs about seven full pages). It is full of wonderful and pithy insights that are sure to delight any logophile.

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

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

For further reading: Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus compiled by Christine Lindberg
The Soul of Creative Writing by Richard Goodman 


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?

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?
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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?!

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 Invented by Dickens

What is the Sword of Damocles?
There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
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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.

Read related posts: Unusual Town Names in America
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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?
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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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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?
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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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Where to Find the Meaning of Life
Life’s Most Important Questions


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