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.




Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Mantle


The word mantle and its many meanings came up on the program recently. It originated with the Latin word mantellum, a cloak. One way or another, the divergent meanings of mantle all include the idea of something that encloses or protects. Here’s a rundown of the meanings that are not obsolete.

·      a protective garment or blanket
·      a guise or pretense
·      a position of authority or leadership
·      in crustaceans, a layer of covering epidermal tissue
·      in birds, the plumage of the back and the folded wings
·      in mammals, the layer of striated muscle below the skin
·      the scum formed on fermenting liquids
·      the bloom of algae that forms on stagnant ponds
·      the mesh covering used to contain a flame in a propane lantern
·      the region of the earth’s interior between the crust and the core

Mantel, the piece of timber or stone supporting the masonry above a fireplace, now has a different spelling, but originally it was spelled mantle and came from the same Latin word that meant a cloak.

Finally, dismantle – to take something apart – started out meaning to strip a cloak right off a man’s back.


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.





Sunday, January 29, 2017

Horn


Matthew from Cadillac asked if the horns of a goat, say, and the horns played in an orchestra are connected etymologically. The short answer is yes.

The English word derived from various Germanic and Scandinavian words. In turn, they owed their existence to the Latin cornu, horn. Originally, the word designated a bony appendage on the head of certain mammals.

It then branched out to mean something shaped like an animal’s horn. That applied to the musical instrument (which early on was constructed from an animal’s horn) and to certain containers; think horn of plenty, which is technically called a cornucopia. That makes the Latin origin quite obvious.

The word branched out into other meanings, too. It was used as a biblical symbol of strength, might, and power. It designates the device attached to motor vehicles that is sounded as a warning signal. It is the name of the high pommel of a saddle, and in colloquial use, it was a telephone. In logic, it is each of the alternatives of a dilemma.

In the 18th century, it began to be used to name an erection. That explains the word horny, and it all comes together in horny as a goat.


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.





Friday, January 13, 2017

Tend


Tend is a word all by itself. It means to bestow attention, to have a purpose, or to advance. It is based on the Latin word tendere, to stretch. That verb also contained the senses to strain or to strive.

Worth noting is that –tend was frequently used as a word part in combination with various prefixes. Some of the words in the following list are now obsolete, but they demonstrate the usefulness of this word part through the centuries.

·      attend:  To watch over something. [L. ad-, towards, + tendere, to stretch]
·      bartend: To serve drinks in a bar.[OF. barre, rigid piece of wood, + L. tendere, to stretch]
·      circumtend: To stretch around something.[L. circum-, around, + tendere, to stretch]
·      contend: To strive earnestly. [L. con-, with, + tendere, to stretch]
·      detend: To reduce the tension or the intensity of something. [L. de-, undo, + tendere, to stretch]
·      distend: To swell out. [L. dis-, away and out, + tendere, to stretch]
·      extend:  To expand or prolong.  [L. ex-, out, + tendere, to stretch]
·      intend:  To have a purpose. [L. in-, onward continuance, + tendere, to stretch]
·      mistend: To fail to give proper attention to something.  [L. mis-, badly, + tendere, to stretch]
·      obtend:  To proffer or put forward.  [L. ob-, in front of, + tendere, to stretch]
·      ostend:  To indicate directly.  [L. ob-, in front of, + tendere, to stretch]
·      portend:  To forecast or give warning. [L. por-, forward, + tendere, to stretch]
·      pretend:  To feign.  [L. pre-, before, + tendere, to stretch]
·      retend: To return.  [L. re-, again, + tendere, to stretch]
·      subtend: To form an angle; to underlie.  [L. sub-, under, + tendere, to stretch]
·      tend: To bestow attention; to have a purpose; to advance.  [L. tendere, to stretch]

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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