11. Pages 81-90
Bill Long 4/28/05
Today's words take me all the way from the "au's" to the early "ba's." I have the feeling of making great progess when I see I am getting out of the "a's." But there are lots of interesting words, and words that can trip up the unwary, in these pages.
Beginning with the Au's
The "au's" may, in my mind, be further divided into the "non auto's" and "auto's." For example, the word autoecious (aw TEE shus) could make more than one person slip. It concerns parasitic fungi and means, either, "inhabiting the same host throughout life" or "having both sexual organs in the same plant." Seems to me that the definitions might be somewhat unrelated or even mutually exclusive, but who am I to say? The word for the study of mosses, which are autoecious apparently, is bryology. If Waldo Emerson had known this, would the title of his book had been "The Bryology of the Old Manse"? Ignore that. Well, I KNOW they will ignore the next word in the dictionary--"autoeroticism." Sometimes I wish we weren't so prudish.* Autogamy, meaning self-pollination, is a good word, but I was
[*I smile when I recall the 2004 Oregon Bee. For some reason the words included a lot of 'negative' words about women--things like trollop and termagant and some others I can't recall now. If my experience proves right, it probably was a woman who found those words...]
fascinated by taking the word apart. "Auto" means "self" and "gamos" is a "marriage." So, it suggests something about being married to oneself. The concept of self-pollination is contrasted with a plant that is anemophilous (pollinated by the wind) or entomophilous (pollinated by an insect). Aren't you glad you know these, too?
I think that people who have an inordinately high view of themselves or who are excessively omphaloskeptic (omphaloskepsis is in the Collegiate) are probably drawn to "auto"-words. Something autologous involves the same person as donor and recipient while autotelic is something that has a purpose in and not apart from itself. Surprisingly, however, autotelic is neither in the Century nor the OED. How does that work? I thought the OED had everything. Guess not.
The Non-Auto's and Other Words
I wanted to make sure I knew that an auk was a diving seabird and an auklet is, predictably, a small one. The only way that aurar was defined was as the plural of eyrir. That didn't help me much, since neither word is part of my working vocabulary. But, it turns out, an aurar is one hundredth of the Icelandic krona. Shame on me for not being up on Icelandic currency. But, then again, my name is not Bill Kjell Long.
After dispensing with aurochs very quickly, I managed to settle into auscultation for a minute. The word isn't difficult to spell, though I could see how someone could slip on it, but the concept is interesting. The "easy" definition is "the act of listening," but in pathology it is a method of distinguishing the state of the internal parts of the body either through immediate auscultation, by direct application of the ear to the adjacent external surface, or mediate auscultation, through a stethoscope. But this definition came from the Century, a dictionary more than 100 years old. I don't think doctors put their ears to stomachs anymore to figure out what is happening. Auspex and auspices have fascinating histories relating to the reading of entrails in Roman religion, but there isn't enough space here to describe every fascinating thing in life.
Make sure you don't misspell the mineral autunite, thinking it an "auto" word. Then, let's pause for a second on avellan. It is a cross with the ends being filberts or hazelnuts. On p.298 of the Collegiate is a great diagram of 20 crosses of different shapes and extremities. One of them is a formee and one a fourchee (words I will get to), but one of them is an avellan. Why would anyone have developed such a cross? I don't know, but there it is. Oh, maybe from now on I will refer to it as the "Oregon cross" since filberts are the state nut, I think. But, since hardly anyone in Oregon attends Church, such a cross might go unattended.
Running Through the List
Avens, pronounced AH vans, is a perennial herb, and avgolemono is a Greek soup. I first had it in 1976 when my friend at seminary, John Palafoutas, invited me over to sample some of his first batch of it. It was tasty but I don't believe that the Hellenic world would have sat up to take notice. Then there is an avocet, the bird, an axil, a branch, and axilla, an armpit. I wonder where people would smear deodorant if the label on the container said, "apply it to the axilla"? I mean, people dump vending machines over on themselves if there is no warning sign on them, so I think my question is actually a serious one. Then there is an axolotl, a Mexican salamander, and an azole is a chemical compound. Make sure you distinguish between axon, axion, and axiom. And, be sure you put enough "o's" in azoospermia, a word that means that there is no spermatoza in the seminal fluid. Even though this term is highly clinical and scientific, I think the Methodists of Wyoming might avoid it.
I have known the word axiology ever since my early days in philosophy and theology, but have never had the need to use it in my life. Axenic is quite a suggestive word, and is defined as an organism that is free from all other living organisms. It comes from two Greek words, the alpha privative and the word for "alien." Thus, such a creature is apart from all other living things. I wonder, sometimes, if this describes many people as they go through their lives in the world. An ayah is an Indian nurse. Now if I can only keep my Japanese divers (amah), Chinese nurses (ama) and Indian nurses straight, I should be OK. The words ayurveda and azulejo finished the "a's" for me.
Finally a word on the first five "b's" that I listed. I wrote down baas, which means "boss" in someone's dialect, because I knew I would blow it if given the chance. Then there is the babassu, a palm of Brazil, and babirusa, swine from Indonesia. I feel I am taking a world tour with these words, though I cannot remember them all. When it doubt, sound it out. Didn't Johnny Cochrane say something like that?
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long