I’m pretty sure that, several hundred years ago, “mean” meant miserly and “nice” connoted a picky little detail.
I like the way Brits use the word “nice” to mean “pleasant.” Having your back scratched can feel nice. Popsicles can taste nice. We’d use “good” rather than “nice” in the US, where “nice” is mostly reserved for people and the occasional “have a nice day,” although I think “great” has supplanted “nice.”
“Great” and “awesome” are losing their punch through overuse. But if I tell people not to use these words, I just sound mean.
Someone liked my use of the term “current self” a couple of weeks ago. I meant that sometimes our inner lives have such sea changes (another favorite phrase) that our feelings and actions would hardly be recognizable by the 2002 or 2010 versions of ourselves. I like “current” in the sense of “up-to-date,” but “current” is not static. It is running, shifting. It is a current event, an ocean current, related to “courier” and “courant,” always moving and chasing and striving. Au courant= trendy. Hartford Courant= a newspaper with a beautiful name in a city I know nothing about.
My gut feeling is that “courage” and “courant” are not etymologically related, that the former is related to the cord- and card- words having to do with the heart, but I’m not sure.
When I came to Boston, I learned that people sometimes go out after work for drinks and apps. I don’t know why no one in New York called appetizers “apps.” Since I like an actual dinner after work, I might not have known the word “apps” because the whole concept didn’t seem filling enough.
Anyway, I’m wondering whether the use of “app” for appetizer predated or followed “app” for computer application.
Blessure= French for injury. I learned this by reading multilingual product safety manuals.
Gift=German for poison. It is etymologically related to the English meaning, because both gifts and poison are things you give to others.
Well, maybe not you.
Welcome to etymoloblog.com or etymoloblog.wordpress.com. I used to have a Blogger (f/k/a Blogspot) account, and the interface wouldn’t allow me to edit for a month. These are the items I collected while I was waiting.
It’s funny that the online invitation website is called Evite. “Evite” (eh-VEE-tay, not EE-vyte) means “s/he avoids” or “you avoid” in Spanish.
The Cambridge Insight Meditation Center is one of the loveliest places in the Boston metro area and one of the only ones that uses the word “insight” correctly. Most of the time, the word is used to denote a bright idea, not clarity about the inner life/inner being.
I didn’t know that the Hebrew “mi-tachat” means “below” or “under” until recently. As soon as I learned the word, I realized that it’s the source of the Yiddish “tuchus,” meaning “backside.” I had this realization during a religious service and had a little chuckle. Also, the Yiddish word for “drunk” is “shikker,” and this too comes from Hebrew. It’s funny because Yiddish is heavily derived from German, but some of the earthier words come from the language of prayer and study.
“Debride” is a word that you probably know if you have looked at a peroxide bottle recently. Peroxide usually says on the bottle that it is an oral debriding agent. Debride= “get the gunk out” or “remove debris.” I was using it one day in my own thought to mean that all my painful thoughts were rising to the surface and shaking loose. I was saying to myself that I felt debrided, and then I thought the word should have something to do with divorce, i.e., the opposite of becoming a bride.
“Excoriate” brings to mind the mental image of someone being hollered at severely or verbally shamed. But it’s not that different from “exfoliate” (to strip off the leaves–think of foliage, folio, portfolio). Literally, to excoriate someone is to strip off his/her skin. “Cura” in Spanish is leather. I can’t think of other cor- or cur- cognates that mean “skin.” When I was a dramatic sixteen-year-old overly worried about something, I would say to myself, “My skin is falling off my bones.” And now, half a lifetime later, I realize that what I was doing was excoriating myself.
If cor- means “skin,” then cord-or card- means “heart.” There’s cardiologist, echocardiogram, Sursum Corda. Sursum Corda was the name of a house in Larchmont, NY, about 20 miles from where I grew up. I don’t know whether the house is extant. The name probably is not. It’s the name that Marie and Jimmy Killillea gave their house, and you can read about their family in Karen and With Love From Karen, two wonderful memoirs set in the 1940s and 1950s when they were a pre-Vatican II Catholic family with tremendous love and a little girl who worked bravely to overcome the limitations of cerebral palsy. Anyway, Sursum Corda means “Lift up your heart.”
“Cordial,” as a drink, was probably originally thought of as a tonic for the heart. “Cordial” as an adjective really does not mean “heartfelt” anymore. It carries a connotation of politeness, a genial approach, but not a warm or loving approach.
1. “A greenstick fracture on a growing limb”
2. “lived at a high pitch in a minor key”
I was hoping to use these in a song (not the same song) at some point. #2 actually has a tune. #1 is five iambs and surely could fit somewhere. The problem with #1 is that the CK in greenstick and the FR in fracture are bumping against each other. You can’t have four consonants in a row and expect to enunciate. Here’s what the song WOULD be about if I could write it: the way in which a mind can break along the fault lines caused by an earlier (adolescent) episode of mental pain. I’d probably put some neat facts about bone growth in there to underscore that joy is always a regenerative faculty, and innocence probably is too.