Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Paraprosdokian


Joan from Torch Lake reminded me of a figure of speech that is delightful to encounter. It involves a sentence in which the last half presents a twist in meaning – an unexpected conclusion – that causes the listener to go back to the first half to reinterpret the meaning of a term.

This is a good example: “Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.” In the first half, we immediately interpret change as alteration or transformation. But when we get to vending machine, we are forced to shift the meaning of change to coins.

This figure of speech is called paraprosdokian. It comes from the Greek παρά (para-), against, and προσδοκία (prosdokia), expectation. Let me share some examples.

·      Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.
  • A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
  • Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
  • Light travels faster than sound. That’s why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
  • War does not determine who is right - only who is left.
  • You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  • Hospitality: making your guests feel like they're at home, even if you wish they were.
  • I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.
        Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.

 

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.





Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Vowels in a Row


 Bill from Merritt, Michigan, asked if there are any words that contain all five vowels in order. The answer is yes. Helping matters greatly is the existence of the common suffix –ious/-ous, meaning characterized by or full of. That leaves us the task of frontloading words with the letters a and e. I used a wildcard search in the online Oxford English Dictionary to find the following examples. The ones marked with an asterisk are now obsolete or rare.

·      abstemious (moderate)
·      abstentious (self-denying)
·      acedious (slothful)
·      acerbitous (bitter or harsh)
·      acheilous (lipless)
·      adventious (variant of adventitious, extraneous or by chance)
·      aerious (airy)
·      affectious* (loving)
·      alpestrious* (mountainous)
·      anemious (growing in windy conditions)
·      annelidous (pertaining to a worm)
·      arsenious (containing arsenic)
·      arterious (arterial)
·      arteriosus (prolongation of the right ventricle in mammals)
·      caesious (bluish-gray)
·      fracedinous (producing heat through putrefaction)
·      materious (composed of matter)
·      parecious (proximity of reproductive organs in mosses)
·      placentious* (complaisant
·      tragedious* (tragic)

Remember that –y is sometimes used as a vowel, so if you want to expand the list, add –y to the words that sustain an adverb form, such as facetiously, abstemiously, and tragediously.

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.





Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fach


 My wife and I have been attending the Saturday Live from the Met series at the State Theater in Traverse City, Michigan. One of the intermission features is an interview with the cast.

During the course of his interview last weekend, Eric Owens, who played the Water Gnome in Dvorak’s Rusalka, said something like this: “I once auditioned for a role even though it was barely in my fa.” Neither of us had heard the term before.

It turns out that it’s spelled fach, and it’s a German word meaning classification, specialty, or category. In the 19th century, to make auditions and casting more efficient, German opera houses created a system of distinct voice categories, called the Fach System.

Each singer was assigned to a category (traditionally, there are 25 of them), and each role in every opera was tagged with a category. It prevented the frustration of auditioning for a role not in your voice range, and it gave the casting director access to precisely the voice ranges that he or she needed.

For the uninitiated, here is an understandable explanation of the Fach System:     https://www.ipasource.com/the-fach-system


Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.





Saturday, February 18, 2017

Assure, Ensure, Insure


Nicole from Traverse City asked about the difference between insure and ensure. Then, later that week, at a meeting of the Michigan Commission on Services to the Aging, the same question came up, this time with assure added to the mix.

Approximately 700 years ago, insure and ensure were synonyms, but in the 1600s, insure took on a commercial meaning that it has retained to our day. It refers to paying for a policy that protects against loss or damage by providing financial compensation. So we insure our car, our house, and other valuable possessions.

To ensure is to guarantee something. It is the act of making something happen or of making a situation safe. A letter of recommendation from a famous public figure will ensure that a job seeker will at least get an interview. A stoplight at an intersection ensures that drivers will have a cue when to proceed safely.

To assure is to speak positive, encouraging words to someone in order to boost confidence or trust. During a violent thunderstorm, we assure young children that everything will be OK. I assure my client that I will represent her in court to the best of my ability. Sometimes assure bleeds over into ensure territory: we do the math carefully to assure accuracy.


Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.




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