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Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Mar 14, 2011 12:05 am

• concatenate •

Pronunciation: kên--ti-nayt • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: To string together related objects, to connect a chain of items together.

Notes: Today's Good Word is connected to the image of a chain, a line of items, each connected to what precedes and succeeds it. This word comes with a panoply of the usual derivations from Latinate verbs. A person who concatenates is a concatenator. The noun is concatenation. This may refer to a concatenative (the adjective) process or the result, as a concatenation of rail cars.

In Play: Any string of things related to each other qualifies as a concatenation: "The elephants concatenated themselves into a train by each of them holding the tail of the one before it with its trunk." However loosely, any connected string of related objects makes up a concatenation: "Farley's presentation was less an argument for reducing everyone's salary except the president's than a series of loosely concatenated bits of data leading away from his intended conclusion."

Word History: Today's word comes from Latin concatenatus "linked together", the past participle of concatenare "to link together," made up of com- "together with" + catenare, a verb from catena "a chain". By the time catena reached Old French it had become chaeine, which English borrowed and polished into chain. The original Latin word, catena, seems to have developed from the sense of "rope" or "string", for the root appears to have been Proto-Indo-European kat- "to twist". The only other word that might be related is Latin cassis "snare, hunting net" (possibly from cat-sis). It is otherwise difficult to trace because kat- also meant "cat" in PIE and the two apparently got, well, twisted in the course of Indo-European history. (Let's concatenate here this note of exceptional gratitude to Paul Ogden, who has also edited the Good Word every day for the past five years.)
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Postby MTC » Mon Mar 14, 2011 4:28 am

Concatenate has a colorful first cousin, "catenary," with an interesitng "link" to American History. In physics and geometry, the catenary is the curve that an idealised hanging chain or cable assumes when supported at its ends and acted on only by its own weight. (Wikipedia) Take the curve of overhead power lines, for example, or the Gateway Arch (inverted catenary) in St. Louis, Missouri. According to OED2 Thomas Jefferson coined the term "catenary" in an exchange of letters discussing the design of a bridge with another American icon, Thomas Paine. (See The catenary is also known as a "funicular curve" from the Latin "funiculus" for a cord or rope. Is the linkage clear?

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Do the Twist!

Postby wsodonnell2 » Mon Mar 14, 2011 4:13 pm

...and, by rotating or twisting the catenary we get the catenoid, or, depending on the meaning of the P.I.E 'kat' , we get the cat annoyed.

(Sorry...I absolutely couldn't resist.)

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Postby Slava » Mon Mar 14, 2011 6:11 pm

Good one, both of them, wsodonnell2.

I always thought concatenate meant to bring all you felines together. I guess I was wrong, eh?
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Group behavior

Postby MTC » Tue Mar 15, 2011 4:31 am

That would be like herding cats!

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