Saturday, December 02, 2017

Pig Latin


 Tom from Bellaire asked who invented pig latin. The current version of pig latin involves moving the first letter or digraph of a word to the end of the word and adding –ay. “First things first” becomes “Irstfay ingsthay irstfay.” It is a form of humorous word play, albeit somewhat silly, and is often used by youngsters as a code.

Pig Latin, far from actually being a form of Latin, is a parody of Latin, a deliberate corruption, a sound-alike deception. Throughout the centuries, it has taken various forms and has been called dog latin, hog latin, thieves’ latin, and pig latin. It is not clear when it started, but we find it in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labor Lost, Act v, scene 1:

            Costard: Go to; thou hast it ad dungill, at the fingers’ ends, as they say.
            Holofernes: O, I smell false Latine; dunghill for unguem.

Pig latin was particularly popular in movies made in the 1930s. Here is a prime example. The pig latin kicks in around 2:40.



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 two year’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.






Monday, November 20, 2017

Tergiversation


Wally from Elk Rapids asked about a word that he hopes he never has to say out loud: tergiversation.

It comes from the Latin tergum, the back, and vertere, to turn. Literally, the word means to turn one’s back on something. While a person can turn his or her back on something attractive but evil, the word has taken on negative connotations. Thus, synonyms would be to desert, to be a renegade, to abandon one’s duties, and to apostatize.

Here is an example: “Rudoph Guiliani had himself changed positions over the years, having been prolife and then pro-choice, and he knew the pain and punishment of tergiversation. But after all, he was elected mayor, and like so many others, concluded that to oppose abortion is politically more dangerous than to tolerate it.” [William F. Buckley, “Temporizing on the Abortion Issue,” Buffalo News, 08/03/1994.]

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 two year’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.






Friday, November 03, 2017

Deprecate/Depreciate & Averse/Adverse



Debbie from Elk Rapids called in two word pairs that can confuse a hasty reader. They are deprecate/depreciate and averse/adverse.

At the core of the word deprecate is the Latin word for prayer. Originally, deprecate meant to pray for deliverance from something undesirable. In a short time, it grew to mean expressing disapproval.
  • He deprecates greed, but he never donates to charity.
  • Even when we made mistakes, Coach Baker never deprecated us.

Depreciate is built around the Latin word for price. To depreciate is to lower the market value of a commodity. Beyond money, we can also think less of a person and depreciate the value of his or her work.
  • Age and neglect have depreciated the value of this house.
  • Critics often depreciate sitcoms as being aimed at simpletons.

Averse literally means turned away. It is used when we are opposed to something. It also implies that we are unwilling to do something, that we are reluctant. Think of it as an internal emotion.
  • I take a risk-averse stance when it comes to investing.
  • I am averse to gerrymandering by either political party.

Adverse literally means turned towards, but in opposition or hostility, not in admiration. It is used to identify unfavorable conditions or circumstances. Aside from antagonistic opponents, it can be applied to the harmful side effects of a drug or medical treatment. Think of it as an external condition.
  • Adverse weather conditions make me less likely to drive.
  • Delores is highly sensitive to adverse criticism.

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 two year’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.






Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Fraught



Tim from Old Mission Peninsula asked about the word fraught. It is often used in an ominous sense: fraught with danger or fraught with anxiety. On the other hand, a situation can be fraught with possibilities.

The word is related to freight, and it shows up in a maritime context. Freight is the cargo assigned to a ship. Thus, the word fraught is equivalent to loaded with or full of.

Earlier on, fraught was used as a noun meaning a burden or load, based on the cargo of a ship, and as a verb meaning to store or convey. In our day, we are left with the adjective form.


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 two year’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.





Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Grammatical Analysis: The Second Amendment




"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." 

I’m aware that jurists have split into two camps when it comes to the second amendment – those who argue that it refers to collective rights (the militia, or our modern National Guard), and those who argue that it refers to individual rights (each and every single American). I’m not a lawyer, so I won’t cite the many contradictory court decisions through the ages concerning gun ownership.

But I am a retired Professor of English, so I intend to approach the meaning of the second amendment through its grammar. First of all, let’s dump a couple of commas that make no sense in modern grammar. We end up with a sentence containing two parts:

(1) A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State,
(2) the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed."

(1) The Latin predecessor of the first half of this sentence was called an ablative absolute; by itself, it was an incomplete sentence. The same is true in English, where it is now called an adverbial phrase or, more technically, a truncated dependent clause.
(2) The second half of this sentence is called the main clause; it is a complete sentence all by itself.

An ablative absolute is a phrase used as part of a sentence, but somewhat detached from the main clause of the sentence in the sense that it does not modify a particular word in the main clause. Rather, it modifies and sets the scene for the idea of the entire main clause.

The way that an ablative absolute modifies the idea of the main clause can vary. It can set up a condition for the main clause. It can establish a cause/effect relationship. It can refine the time element. It can modify the attendant circumstances. It can offer opposition to the idea of the main clause in order to set up a clarifying contrast.

The point to take away is this: the ablative absolute is not irrelevant in its sentence. Rather, it is absolutely essential to the total sentence. In fact, if you don’t factor it in, it is easy to distort the import and force of the idea of the main clause. The ablative absolute is an anchor, a pointer, a stabilizing bracket.

So let’s return to the wording of the second amendment. The main idea is this: the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. But the first part of the sentence tells us why people have a right to keep and bear arms and why that shouldn’t be infringed. It sets up a cause/effect relationship. People have a right to keep and bear arms because a well-regulated militia is necessary to keep the state secure and free.


Conclusion: grammatically, the ablative absolute limits the extent of the main clause. Able-bodied citizens were able to own weapons in case they were called up to serve as citizen soldiers in an emergency. Unless our Founding Fathers were grammatically ignorant, they weren’t giving carte blanche to individual civilian gun ownership as an absolute right in and of itself. It was conditional, and these days, the National Guard has supplanted civilian militias.

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 two year’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.






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