Tonight on the news, state Senator Stacey Campfield of Tennesee mixed his metaphors remarkably when he said, ‘We aren’t asking the kid to be a rocket surgeon, we are just asking . . . .” He failed to make the choice between rocket scientists and brain surgeons quickly enough. Senator Campfield was defending his bill to tie a family’s welfare payments to the grades its children make in school.
Archive for January, 2013
Oddvar Jakobsen pointed out (from the shores of Lake Tanganyika) a logical error in my interpretation of the word pilgrim this past Thanksgiving. In particular he wrote:
“It gives a non-English speaker some consolation to notice the occasional stumbles a word professor may experience. Or am I wrong in finding it funny that those of the pilgrims who did not survive the first winter in America, actually survived and multiplied and built a nation.”
He goes on to quote the offending passage from the Good Word as it was mailed out: “Only half the 102 original Pilgrims survived their first winter at Plymouth. The remainder, with strong support of local Native Americans, survived to multiply and, joined by many others over the succeeding years, spread across the continent to build a nation.”
He goes on to say, “What I mean to say is that, if a portion of a population survives, the word remainder would logically refer … to the portion that does NOT survive. That population that did not survive, has NOT multiplied, but nevertheless been joined by very many others who died in quite different circumstances, but they did most likely NOT build a nation.”
Point well taken. I confused remainder with “those remaining” which, of course, is not the meaning of the word. I have since corrected the error as a result of Mr. Jakobsen’s keen sense of logic.
By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item
MOUNT CARMEL — A 5-year-old kindergartner who told classmates she was going to shoot them, and then herself, with her pink [Hello Kitty] bubble gun, was grilled for three hours by Mount Carmel school officials without her mother’s knowledge, then suspended, a family attorney said.
The girl was initially kicked out for 10 days in what the school categorized as a terroristic threat,” according to the kindergartner’s mother and confirmed by the family attorney. That suspension was reduced to two days and labeled as a “threat to harm others.”
You’ll have to read the entire article to believe it.
We received two responses to our Good Word tucker back in mid-December that fell between the cracks until now. Brian Peretti wrote, “Just an addition to the tucker post. My mother was from West Virginia, and she would use the phrase: “best bib and tucker”, as in, “We’re goin’ to church, so put on your best bib and tucker” (otherwise known as your Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes).”
Well, Brian, both these expressions were prevalent in North Carolina when I was growing up and I’ll bet they are still in use today, at least among the older population. In fact, “bib and tucker” was used in England as early as 1747, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, so the use must have been wide-spread at one time. A bib is the front of a false shirt and a tucker was one you tucked into your pants. Originally referred to a lace front that women wore, but later on came to refer to the false-front shirts men wore as well.
Graham Thomas then wrote from South Africa:
“Regarding you comments today about tucker, I was born in South Africa of British heritage, and we often used the work tuck to refer to food and the shop supplying food at school was referred to as a tuck shop. So I think that the reference to it being uniquely used in Australia is a bit misleading. It does sounds that it could have originated in England with the two countries common heritage.”
It seems I underestimated the both the geographic and the semantic extent to which tucker is currently used. The word was printed in a London newspaper in 1858, so it must have been current was before that. However, as the citations in the Oxford English Dictionary make clear, it continued to be used only in Australia and New Zealand—and South Africa, as you write. It was never prevalent in the US or Canada nor England after the mid-19th century.
Part of Speech: Article, Conjunction
Pronunciation: dhê (before consonants: the dog), dhee (before vowels: the apple).
Meaning: 1. (Article) The definite article marks nouns referring to things the speaker expects the listener to be familiar with. “A dog” refers to any mutt, while “the dog” refers to one the listener sees or knows about from a previous conversation. 2. (Conjunction) Comparative conjunction: “The more the merrier.”
Notes: An interesting fact about the is that it is used differently in different dialects. Everyone says “in school” and “at work” without the, but the British also drop it from “in hospital”, “in future”, and elsewhere. If you watched the popular British television series All Creatures Great and Small, you probably noticed that in Yorkshire people also say things like, “I’ll go to kitchen and put kettle on.” Actually, there is a barely audible glottal stop where we expect the, the remnants of the final [t] in that.
In play: When an object is unique, the is usually required: “the sun”, “the moon”, and others. In German the equivalent of the is used before proper nouns under certain circumstances, e.g. der Hans “(the) Hans”, die Grete “(the) Grete”. Greek does the same. In Swedish, the definite is expressed by a suffix on nouns: en dag “a day”, dagen “the day”. Bulgarian does the same: student “student”, studentêt “the student”. That [t] at the end of the Bulgarian word is not coincidental; it comes from the same root as English that.
Word History: Relatively few languages in the world have definite (the) and indefinite (a) articles. English a is a reduction of Old English an “one” (compare German ein “one, a”) and the is a reduction of that (compare German das “that, the”). In French (le, la), Italian (il, lo, la), and Spanish (el, lo, la) all come from Latin ille “that”. The equivalent of a in all these languages also comes from the word for “one”. (Great gratitude today is due Paige Turner for not overlooking the fascinating world of the minuscule.)
Mike Lim sent in a question that might be of interest to a wider audience. Mike wrote:
“Why do licences and contracts use the phrase ‘terms and conditions’? The two words terms and conditions seem to be almost identical in meaning.”
The meaning of term has probably taken on the meaning of condition because of its association with condition in this phrase. The original meaning of term was “limit in time or space, or limits on conditions”. Contracts by definition set limits on applicability of its conditions in terms of time and jurisdiction (space).
The term term (I had to do it) is confusing because is also refers to any specialized definition(s) of a word, e.g. “scientific terms”, “legal terms”, etc. This definition is also applicable in the phrase “terms and conditions”, and this sort of ambiguity often causes speakers to lose control of the meaning of a word in a given context. This allows the word to pick up the meaning of another word commonly associated with it. The fact that legal terminology is so alien to most speakers only exacerbates the tendency.
So these two terms have discrete meanings which have merged by association with one another—guilt by association?