Archive for the ‘Etymology’ Category

More for the birds

September 5, 2020

Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky arrived this morning with a collection of astonishing bird-related birthday presents for me: a ground-hugging bird bath, a Water Wiggler for the bird bath, and a hanging metal mesh bird feeder in the shape of a penguin. (There’s always something penguin-related.)

None of these is a standard item for the yard or patio, but Elizabeth has been cultivating birds in her own backyard and now knows a lot about bird gear. (Oddly, though she lives only about six blocks from me, she has bird visitors I do not: hummingbirds, chickadees, and parakeets, in particular).

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tantrum

August 30, 2020

Today’s morning name. So obviously Latin, a 2nd-declension neuter noun. But apparently not; instead it’s a mystery.

OED2 on tantrum:

Etymology: Origin unascertained.
colloquial.
An outburst or display of petulance or ill-temper; a fit of passion. Frequently in plural. Now often spec. a fit of bad temper in a young child.
[1st cite: 1714 E. Verney Let. 30 Oct. in M. M. Verney Verney Lett. (1930) II. xxi. 18 Our lady has had some of her tanterums as Vapors comeing out etc. Then: 1754 S. Foote Knights  ii. 41 None of your Fleers!..Your Tantrums! You are grown too head-strong and robust for me.]

fleers? From NOAD:

verb fleer: [no object] literary laugh impudently or jeeringly: he fleered at us. noun archaic an impudent or jeering look or speech. ORIGIN late Middle English: probably of Scandinavian origin and related to Norwegian and Swedish dialect flira ‘to grin’

Etymology occasionally throws up mysteries like this one. If someone now wants to search collections of texts from the period, they might find some clues as to its source. It’s even possible that the noun doesn’t have an ordinary etymology, but was a mock-Latin invention. Whatever; ya gotta know the territory.

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Zippy philaconfusion

August 9, 2020

(There will be a brief dip into a mansex-steamy Tom of Finland drawing, which might offend some readers.)

Today’s Zippy, in which philandering and philately are confounded:

(#1)

Word confusions are very common; sometimes they are momentary failures to retrieve the intended word; sometimes they are misapprehensions about the target. Zerbina’s error is apparently of the first type, but she nevertheless has a complaint about Zippy’s attentions to her, though the cause isn’t philandering but philately.

The two words share an etymological component, the phil(a)- (originally ‘love’) part, seen also in philosophy, philodendron, pedophilia, Philadelphia, and much more. But this is scarcely obvious to modern speakers of English.

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The shoe in the toilet

May 22, 2020

Today’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro “Writer’s Block”, with a plumber coming to the rescue:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 6 in this strip — see this Page.)

The plumber’s explanation alerts us to the fact that this is about a pun (involving homonyms), but it doesn’t locate the responsible item. He’s holding out a shoe, indicating that this is the relevant object. Crucially, it’s not just any shoe, but a specific type of shoe, known as a … clog.  Ah, and the plumber’s job was presumably to clear a clog in the toilet. (But ya gotta know your shoes.)

Further ah: the clog in the toilet was a clog.

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The goblet with the hobbit has the wine that is fine

May 13, 2020

Yesterday’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro, about gobs and goblets:


(#1) Wayno’s title: “Liquid Economics” (if you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 3 in this strip — see this Page.)

Start with the straightforward stuff: goblet vs. gob, with goblet playfully treated here as if it were gob + diminutive –let.

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Tod und Verklärung

April 18, 2020

Yesterday’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro takes a literary and anatomical turn:


(#1) literary: Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” / anatomical: the uvula, a tissue structure in the oral cavity (relevant here because of its involvement in snoring)

To make the allusions even denser, on his Facebook page, Wayno supplied the title “Mystery and Respiration” for #1, echoing the Paschal [that is, Easter] Mystery and Resurrection [of Jesus Christ], and alluding to the apparent resurrection of the body buried beneath the floorboards. And then this Death and Resurrection theme led me to Richard Strauss’s tone poem Tod und Verklärung, a secular (but still transcendent) story of death and transfiguration. Meanwhile, “Mystery and Respiration” also, of course, echoes the snoring theme.

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Chez Le Fourmilier II

March 27, 2020

The Wayno/Piraro Bizarro of 3/25 returns us to Restaurant Row in Anteaterville:


(#1) The chef of Chez Le Fourmilier brings an ant farm to the table for the delectation of an enthusiastic diner wearing an ant bib (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 3 in this strip — see this Page.)

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Morning tum

March 3, 2020

(There will be penis allusions, but nothing actually raunchy.)

My morning names of 2/26, which arrived three in a bunch, all tum-words, all body-related, but in two different ways:

(a) noun tumor, a tissue growth

(b) adj. tumid, enlarged or distended (as applied to erect penises in particular, but to other things as well)

(c) adj. tumescent, ditto, but more strongly evoking penises

(a) has a somewhat medical tone, but has been taken into everyday usage. The other two are elevated in tone, distanced from carnality; they sound literary or technical. When I came fully to consciousness, I realized that all three traced back to the Latin tum– stem in tumere ‘to swell’. It’s all about swelling; (a) has gone in one direction of semantic specialization, (b) and (c) in another.

And then, of course, there turned out to be more, stuff I hadn’t anticipated at all: the nouns tumulus ‘ancient burial ground’ (they are mounds) and tumult ‘loud noise, disorder’ (the sound rises).

Where will it end? Is a tummy so called because the bellies of babies are often rounded and the bellies of pregnant women are distended? (No. So the antacid Tums is irrelevant to this story.) What about the bodyparts scrotum and rectum, or even the proper name Tatum, suggesting Channing Tatum and his impressive endowment? (No, a thousand times, no. And you should be ashamed of yourselves for having suggested it.)

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Toadsuck catfish

November 16, 2019

Today’s Zippy, with a catfish buffet in the Toad Suck / Toadsuck AR area:


(#1) Buffet at the Toadsuck Catfish Inn (in Choctaw AR, on US 65 South), obviously of keen interest to Mr. (The) Toad

As is so often the case with establishments in Zippy strips, this one closed a few years ago — though alternatives, like Eat My Catfish in Conway, flourish in the area (which is prime catfish territory).

And, well, yes, there’s the name Toad Suck.

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The verb of the American moment

October 12, 2019

The verb is depose — actually two homophonous verbs, with very different senses (though they share a history). Currently in the US news in one sense because of Helmet Grabpussy’s shrieks that movements towards impeaching him are attempts at a coup, attempts to overthrow him, depose him from office; and in another sense because House committees have been summoning witnesses to give sworn testimony, to be deposed formally.

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