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SPATE

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SPATE

Postby Dr. Goodword » Thu Feb 14, 2013 11:02 pm

• spate •


Pronunciation: spayt • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A flash flood; a deluge, sudden flood or enormous gush. 2. A huge downpour, a gully-washer capable of producing a flash flood. 3. A huge amount or number.

Notes: We frequently use today's Good Word figuratively without knowing its literal sense. Now we do. Of course, if we don't use this word in its literal sense any more, does it even retain that meaning? The original, literal sense of a gully-washer or deluge is still alive in Great Britain and other English-speaking lands, so we should maintain it here in North America.

In Play: Let's begin with the original meaning of today's word: "When the dam broke, the resulting spate carried away all the bridges for 100 miles downstream." In the US it is only used now to indicate a large number or amount: "Our merger with the Doolittle and Slack Consulting firm brought a spate of new work for me."

Word History: Today's Good Word came originally from Scotland in the sense of a sudden flood or flash flood. We are not certain of its actual origin, but it seems related to Dutch spuiten "to flow, spout". English contains several other words related to moving water beginning on SP and ending on T, such as spurt, spatter, spit and spattle, an archaic form of spit. They all may be related, but none carry the sense of great quantity associated with today's word. (We have received a spate of suggestions for Good Words from Lew Jury this year, all words as good as today's.)
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Re: SPATE

Postby MTC » Fri Feb 15, 2013 8:25 am

With respects to Noah & Co., the grandaddy or grandmommy (as the case may be) of spates is the Ice Age Megaflood discussed here:

"About 15,000 years ago, in the waning millennia of the Ice Age, a vast lake known as Glacial Lake Missoula suddenly burst through the ice dam that plugged it at one end. In the space of just 48 hours, geologists believe, the collapse sent 500 cubic miles of water cascading across the Pacific Northwest, creating overnight such unusual landscapes as the scablands of eastern Washington State."

(http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/earth/mega ... e-age.html)
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Re: SPATE

Postby Slava » Sat Feb 16, 2013 1:55 am

This Good Word has applications to the Agora, too. From time to time, I log in, look up the New Posts, and find a veritable spate of thoughts. At times, within said spate, I will encounter a somewhat smaller spate of posts from one or more of my colleagues. The outpouring of thoughts and commentary is truly a worthy spate.
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Re: SPATE

Postby gailr » Sat Feb 16, 2013 4:07 pm

So you're just calling a spate a spate...

:wink:
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Re: SPATE

Postby Slava » Sat Feb 16, 2013 7:13 pm

I hope you dig what's going on at the Agora.
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Re: SPATE

Postby MTC » Sat Feb 16, 2013 7:21 pm

gailr wrote:So you're just calling a spate a spate...

:wink:


Ha!
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Re: SPATE

Postby Philip Hudson » Fri Feb 22, 2013 12:41 am

I have long marveled at the many words beginning with sp that mean an expulsion. Many of these refer to expulsion from the mouth. There is also a long list of words starting with sn that have to do with the nose. As an oddity, I often introduce my ESL students to these two word lists. Even if we cannot explain the reason for these words, they are still interesting.
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Re: SPATE

Postby Perry Lassiter » Fri Feb 22, 2013 3:40 pm

Perhaps related to onomotopea?
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Re: SPATE

Postby Philip Hudson » Fri Feb 22, 2013 5:27 pm

If these words are all onomatopoeic, what is the natural sounds they are mimicking? Perhaps they are the sound of one spitting and the sound of one sneezing. Then spate would perhaps derive from spit, and Durante's schnozola would perhaps derive from sneeze. I can buy that, even gladly, but do we have scholarly justification? I like these words because they form alliterative strings. I don't think the words "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers" hark back to an onomatopoeic p sound.
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Re: SPATE

Postby Perry Lassiter » Fri Feb 22, 2013 10:50 pm

The tongue twister was specifically selected not onomotapea. I just thought sp uses the same lip motions as spitting, and sn mimics a snort. Scholarly justification. Someone mistakenly called me a scholar once. Will that do?
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Re: SPATE

Postby Philip Hudson » Sat Feb 23, 2013 2:02 am

I have also been mistakenly called a scholar. So I guess it will have to do.
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