Beginning with GA..
GE and Beyond
GI and GO
GO and GR
GU to HA
Review-So You Think
So You Think...I
So You Think...II
So You Think...III
So You Think...IV
Seattle Bee I
Seattle Bee II
Open Worlds I
Open Worlds II
Open Worlds III
So You Think You Can Spell? II
Bill Long 3/24/11
Five More Words
5. I made a few errors in the quiz beginning on p. 205 (Field Test 3: Natural Sceinces). The first was barretter, an "early type of radio detector or controller." More specifically, the OED defines it as "an early device for detecting radio waves by means of the change in resistance in a metal filament," but it only gives examples for the second definition: "a modern adaptation used to stabilize an electrical current." Pictures abound online but, since electrical engineering is one subject of which I know nothing, I can't take this any further...
6. Then there is mention (p. 205) of glasses of Hungarian Tokay. The word goes back to the early 18th century in English and is used to describe a region in Hungary where a "rich sweet wine of aromantic flavor" is made. The word has since become applied to a California wine made in imitation of this. Yet, the times are a changin' and the Wikipedia entry for the wine is spelled Tokaji, meaning "of Tokaj," or the region of Tokaj-Hegyalja. And, apparently to snuff out the California competition, "since 2007, only authorized wine producers from this Hungarian region are permitted to use the Tokaj brand name." As that article goes on to show, there are many grapes used in Tokaji wine, and many types of wine produced. This word could lead one endlessly to Hungary, Hungarian geography, wine-making, the history of appellation control of names and so forth. In other words, an entire world is opened by this word...and the spelling given us in the book may be a spelling that is fading away.
But while one is catching one's breath, we realize that there is a second, and completely unrelated definition of Tokay... it is derived from the Malay word toke (with alternate spellings) to stand for a species of Gecko, or lizard of the family Geckonidae of Myanmar. Maybe then there is virtue in deciding to call the wine Tokaji, lest someone who asks for a bottle of Tokay be given a present of geckos.
7. When we enter the world of gabbroic, we are in rocks. The word gabbro is Italian, entering English in the mid-19th century and defined as follows: "Gabbro, the name given by the Italian artists...to a rock essentially composed of felspar and diallage, called by the French geologists euphotide." Now that definition will make a hungry learner even hungrier. First there is the question of the proper spelling of felspar/feldspar. Then is the meaning of the word "diallage." Finally there is reference to "euphotide." Space (and my interest!) doesn't allow time for all three, but I did focus on diallage. Actually, this word, pronounced di ALL uh je, was first used in English in 1706 as a rhetorical device. Derived ultimately from the Greek diallage (interchange), diallage is a figure of speech where "arguments, after having been considered from various points of view, are all brought to bear upon one point in mind" (OED). This definition, though initially seemingly helpful, actually isn't very clear.
In order to probe the definition, let's take the example of the death penalty. Does diallage mean, according to the OED, that one would take arguments both supporting and opposing the death penalty and then, in some way "bring them to bear" on yet another point one is making? You see how quickly we get into murky waters. It sems to mean that one would list arguments on both sides of the issue, give reasons for and against and then assess the arguments by reaching one conclusion (for or against). That is, my "reading" of it is an attempt to come up with a conclusion after assessing, or giving the impression of assessing, all relevant arguments. This can be rhetorically satisfying since it seems carefully to go through all the evidence before reaching a conclusion.
But this has nothing to do with the rock diallage. It is defined as "a grass-green variety of pyroxene..." Well, this gets us into mineralogy, differences between and among diallage and hypersthene, bronzite and other rocks. I think the best thing at this stage is to refer to pictures of gabbro, which abound online and then realize that this study also could take us into a career in rocks...
8. I didn't realize that poise could mean a "unit of dynamic viscosity." In fact, the word has nothing really to do with our English word "poise" (more below), and everything to do with the Frenchman Jean-Louis-Marie Poiseuille (1799-1869), a French physician and physiologist who studied fluid flow. Thus, poise is an abbreviation of his name; the OED gives entries for Poiseuille's formula, Poiseuille's law and Poiseuille's equation. While issues surrounding fluid flow no doubt have their appeal, I am more interested in the development of the word "poise," which we know as "the way in which the body, head, etc., is held; bearing, carriage, esp. graceful and elegant bearing." But this definition is only 6b. in the OED, and this usage was only introduced in 1771 (spelled poize in that entry); the usage going back several hundred years prior to that was derived from the word peise, which itself is a variant of the French peise--meaning a measure of weight or balance. Thus, elegance or "poise" has something to do with "weight." The avenue from peise to our modern meaning of poise as elegance goes through "equipoise" or "equal weight." If something is "in equal weight" it has balance or equilibrium or stability. Hence, one has "poise" in our sense of the term.
It looks like for several of these words that we have completely different meanings, based on completely different sources of knowledge...
9. Let's conclude these two essays with the word quaquaversal, a word that I got right but which wasn't, until today, a part of my working vocabulary. Something quaquaversal (pictures online) is "dipping, pointing or occurring in every direction." It is especially used in geology and architecture to describe an archlike structure, with a point or cupola up top, tapering on all sides to the next level. It is a quaquaversal structure. The derivation is interesting. Quaqua is the feminine ablative of quisquis, which means "whoever" or "whatever." The versal is taken from "versus," which means "on all sides." Thus, it suggests "whatever from all sides.." One might have a quaquaversal structure in order to drain a hill..perhaps a hog farm is set atop a hill so that things might drain downhill.
So these are nine of the few thousand good, sophisticated and difficult words explored by Grambs and Levine in their book. I applaud them for the effort that went into putting the book together and coming up with exercises for us. Certainly anyone who takes some time with the book will be a clearer thinker and a more knowledgeable person. And, indeed, it makes me want to write a few more essays....