Friday, November 17, 2017

Shakespeare: The King OF PUNS

(Published originally in Lexpert Magazine-Nov/Dec 2017)
                        The Man for All Ages

                                        by

                               Howard Richler

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the death of perhaps the most immortal of all writers. It is fitting that the phrase “We all make his praise” is an anagram of William Shakespeare.
Moreover, the “all” in the phrase refers not only to native speakers of English but to all literate people on the planet. Shakespeare’s works have been translated into more than 100 languages and it has been calculated that almost half of the world’s students have studied parts of his oeuvre. Ben Jonson’s comment about Shakespeare in the Preface to the First Folio in 1623, “He was not of an age, but for all time” has been vindicated by time.
Literary critic Harold Bloom titled his tome Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human because Shakespeare “went beyond all precedents (even Chaucer) and invented the human as we know it.”  Bloom argues that the Bard can be singularly credited for creating the modern person not only in the Western word but throughout all cultures, and he views the Shakespearean characters Hamlet and Falstaff as representing “the inauguration of personality as we have to recognize it.”
Shakespeare’s contribution to our phraseology is ubiquitous. Observe:  We all cite him “without rhyme or reason.” If you are “in a pickle” because you’ve been “eaten out of house and home” by your own “flesh and blood,” or by a “stone-hearted”  “blinking idiot” or by ”strange bedfellows,” you are quoting Shakespeare.  Small wonder you’ve been “hoodwinked” and are “playing fast and loose” and haven’t “slept a wink” and are probably “breathing your last.” Methinks you’ve been “more sinned against than sinning.”  While it may be “cold  comfort,” it’s also a  “foregone conclusion” you are quoting Shakespeare.
The story is told (probably apocryphal) of an adolescent’s response upon seeing a performance of Hamlet stating that the play is “merely a collection of clich├ęs.” Of course when Shakespeare coined expressions such as “brevity is the soul of wit,” “primrose path,” “dog will have its day,” “the lady doth protest too much,” “sweets for the sweet” and “cruel to be kind,” they were newly minted gems.
We sometimes forget because of Shakespeare’s transcendent phraseology that he may also rate as the greatest word creator of all time. To wit, the OED shows that the first evidence of a word is found in his works 1504 times and the first sense of a word appears in his works on 7698 occasions.  Examples of the latter are the verbal use of elbow and cow to mean “jostle” and intimidate” respectively and  admired to mean “praiseworthy “ (especially as previously it had meant “wondered about”. The total of the above two categories exceeds his nearest competitor Chaucer by almost 2000. George Gordon, In Shakespeare’s English congratulations Elizabethan writers for their willingness to use “every form of verbal wealth.”
 Shakespeare was fortunate to live an era when the language was very fluid. Gordon explains that Shakespeare was able to do what he liked with English grammar because it had no fixed rules and he “drew beauty and power from its imperfections.”
Many words were created by the addition of prefixes and suffixes. Arouse first appears in Henry VI, Part II; premeditated was first used in A Midsummer Night’s Dream; uncomfortable in Romeo and Juliet; useful and useless in King John and The Rape of Lucrece respectively. Lonely first appears in Coriolanus and reclusive makes its debut in Much Ado About Nothing. Amazement, first found in Titus Andronicus, is one of the first uses of the suffix  -ment to form a noun from a Teutonic verb.
As a language with deep Germanic roots, English had a long tradition of creating new words through compounding, as German still does. Some of the Bard’s contributions here are barefaced, hot-blooded, lackluster, dewdrop, foregone, still-born, and skim-milk.
But if English lacked a word that could enhance his writing, Shakespeare invented it, invariably with a Latin root.  Because many of these words were polysyllabic with a proclivity to sounding mellifluous, Shakespeare employed them to enhance rhythm. For example, frugal comes from the Latin frugalis and is first seen in The Merry Wives of Windsor: “I was then frugall in my worth.”  Castigate derives from the Latin castigare (to correct) and makes its stage entry in Titus Andronicus:  “If thou didst put this soure cold habit on to castigate thy pride, ‘twere well.” Courtship is first seen in Love’s Labour’s Lost with the sense of the behaviour befitting the court: “Trim Gallants, full of Courtship and of state.” Besmirch is first seen in Hamlet: “And now no soyle… doth besmirch the virtue of his will.”  Shakespeare also borrowed from other Romance languages. Examples here are bandit crafted from Italian bandito and torture fashioned from the French torturer.
Professor Victor Margolin summed up Shakespeare’s linguistic genius succinctly with this pun:  “Shakespeare was great shakes and without peer.”
Richler’s latest book Wordplay: Arranged & Deranged Wit was published in April 2016



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Hebrew Acronyms

(Published  October 11, 2017 in Jewish Boston)

                                  Acronyms- recent in English ; ancient in Hebrew

                                                            by

                                                     Howard Richler


On a recent trip to Israel I was struck by the great use of acronyms (called rashey teivot in Hebrew) both in print and in vernacular usage. This is done by using the initials and between the last two letters adding inverted commas (two apostrophes) to show that it’s an acronym rather than an ordinary word. Often (and especially when they describe a noun), Hebrew acronyms are pronounced by the insertion of a vowel sound, usually (a), between the letters. As one would expect there are many government related acronyms such as Tzahal which is shorthand for Tzavah Hahaganah Le Yisrael (Israel Defense Force) and Shabak which truncates Sherut HaBitahon HaKlali (Israel Security Agency), responsible for internal security.

Surprisingly, the word “acronym” is of relatively young vintage. It marries the prefix acr-, “outer end, tip” (from the Greek akros) with the -onym suffix found in words such as homonym and synonym. The first Oxford English Dictionary citation of the word in 1940 informs us the word comes from the German akronym. This German provenance is demonstrated by the term Gestapo, an acronym of Geheme Staatspolizei (Secret State Police) that was first used in1933 and the terms Schupo short for Schutzpolizei (uniformed police) and Kripo, a shortening of Kriminapolizei (criminal investigation department) both used by Nazis in the 1930s. Russian also had some administrative acronyms that were first employed in the 1920s and 1930s including Komsomol, an acronym of Kommunisticheski Soyuz Molodahi (organization of Communist youth) and Narkomprod which shortened Narody Commisariat Prodovolsviya (People’s Commisariat of the Soviet Union) that was responsible for food distribution and industrial goods.

One of the earliest English acronyms, snafu (1941) was popularized by profane WW2 American soldiers. It refers to a chaotic situation and stands for situation normal, all fouled up.  This type of word shortening existed before the coining of the word acronym, but only to a limited extent. Examples here are the military term AWOL,(1894) absence without leave that constituted a punishable offence and Anzac, (1915) a term used to refer to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. There, however, is little evidence that English words were often created in this fashion before the 20th century. John Ayto, in 20th Century Words, speculates that “the proliferation of polynomial governmental agencies, international organizations, and military units as the century has progressed (the last particularly during World War II) has contributed significantly to its growth.”  Also, many words from technological fields are actually acronyms such as radar (radio detection and ranging), sonar (sound navigation and ranging) scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus and laser (light amplified stimulated electronic radiation).

The difference between an acronym and an initialism is that the latter isn’t pronounced as a word, rather you say the individual letters such as USA (United States of America) whereas  an acronym such as POTUS (President of the United States)is pronounced as a word.


While in Israel I noticed countless acronyms that shorten many mundane everyday expressions. Here’s a sampling:
Acronym                Full Hebrew Expression              Translation

Chavlaz                 Chaval al Hazman               wow, stunning or awful
(This can be a term of approval or disapproval and the speaker conveys the desired sense with intonation and facial expression)

Chul                        Chutz La’aretz                       outside the country (abroad) 
(This term highlights the centrality of Israel in Jewish life and refers to anywhere outside of Israel).

Chuch                   Chas Ve  Chalilah                    heaven forbid

Dash (Dush)         Drishat shalom                      greetings and regards
(When addressing a man one says timsor lo dash mimeni, “send him my regards”, and a woman with timsor la dash mimeni, “send her my regards.” Warm regards can also be expressed as dash cham.)

Gavnatz                 Gvinah Tzehuba                     yellow cheese

Kalab                      Karov Lebayit                         close to home

Lelat                        Leilah Tov                                good night

Luz                          Luach Zmanim                        time schedule            

Sakash                    Sak Sheinah                             sleeping bag

Shnatz                 Sheinat Tzohoraym             afternoon sleep

Sofash                     Sof Shavua                               end of the week

Zabshechem          Zu B’aya Shelachem           that’s your problem

Hebrew has also provided us with a number of acronymic surnames. To wit, we have Baron, bar aron  (son of Aaron),  Beck, bene kedoshim (descendants of martyrs), Getz, gabbai tsedek (righteous synagogue official), Katz, kohen tsedek (righteous priest), Metz, moreh tsedek (teacher of righteousness), Sachs, zera kodesh shemo (his name descends from martyrs),  and Segal, se gan levia (second-rank Levite).

In fact, acronyms have been widely used in Hebrew since at least the Middle Ages. We read every year in the Hagaddah at Pesach after the enumeration of the ten plagues the following notation: “Rabbi Judah used to refer to the ten plagues by their Hebrew initials – d’tzach, adash, b’achav.” In addition, certain iconic rabbis are referred to with acronyms of their names. For example, Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzchak is known as Rashi (1040-1105), Rav Moshe ben Maimon (Maimonides- 1135-1204) is commonly known as Rambam, Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman (Nachmanides-1194-1270) is likewise known as the Ramban, and Baal Shem Tov is called Besht (1698-1760). Also the word Tanakh refers to the Hebrew Bible and is an acronym for Torah (Five Books of Moses), Nevi'im (Book of Prophets), and Ketuvim (Hagiographa). So the question remains, why does Hebrew both present and past have such a proclivity towards acronyms?  I believe this facility is due to the Hebrew alphabet being comprised only of consonants so that readers are used to inserting the vowels and can do so at will within any string of initials to form a pronounceable word.

Howard Richler’s latest book is Wordplay: Arranged and Deranged Wit










Monday, October 2, 2017

PUNS


                      (Originally published in Lexpert-Oct 2017)    
                      To Pun or Not to Pun?

                                        by

                                Howard Richler



If you are a reticent punster be aware that you represent the not-so-silent majority. It has been calculated that two-thirds of the jokes in a typical language collection rely on puns. The humour in language is often deliberate but many have posed this ludic question: To pun or not to pun? 



Puns have been much maligned by a host of commentators. Freud described puns as “cheap,” and Oliver Wendell Holmes assailed them as “verbicide.” Many writers in 17th and 18th century England, such as John Dryden, Daniel Defoe and Joseph Addison believed that the English language approached perfection and that the inherent ambiguity in puns created confusion and impoliteness. In an article in the Tatler in 1710, however, Jonathan Swift mocked this “affectation of politeness,” because he realized, as Shakespeare did, that individual words possess multiple interpretative possibilities. Puns have had other defenders. Three hundred years ago, Henry Erskine countered the statement that “a pun is the lowest form of wit” by adding that “it is therefore the foundation of all wit,” and Oscar Levant opined that it is the “lowest form of humor – when you didn't think of it first.”



Punning has been a language fixture through the ages. In Homer's Odyssey,

Odysseus introduces himself to the Cyclops – as Outis, which means “no man” in Greek. He then attacks the giant, who calls for reinforcement from his fellow monsters with the plea “No man is killing me!”  Naturally, no one rushes to his aid, proving that the pun is indeed, mightier than the sword. Cicero was another habitual grave punster. When a man plowed up the burial ground of his father, Cicero couldn't resist interjecting, “This is truly to cultivate a father`s memory.”



In the Bible there are many puns on names. In Hebrew, adamah means ground and edom means red. The name Adam may derive from the red earth whence he came. The name Jacob is derived from the Hebrew word for heel (ah'kev), because he held onto the heel of his older twin brother Esau at birth.  However, award Jesus the prize for best Biblical pun. We read in Matthew 16:18: “Thou art Peter (Greek Petros), and upon this rock (Greek petra), I will build my Church.” Pope Gregory, one-time guardian of the Rock, punned when he stated that English slaves were Non Angli, sed angeli; “not Angles, but angels.”



The heyday of English language puns was the Elizabethan era. This type of wordplay was enjoyed by all strata of society with people differentiating among all sorts of wordplay, such as “pun,”  “repartee” and “double entendre,” to name  but a few of these categories and wordsmiths adhered to a rigid separation among these terms. For example, according to the OED a pun refers to “the use of a word in such a way as to suggest two or more meanings or different associations, or the use of two or more words of the same or nearly the same sound with different meanings, so as to produce a humorous effect; a play on words.” The OED defines the term double entendre as “a double meaning; a word or phrase having a double sense, esp., as used to convey an indelicate meaning.” It is usually reserved for puns with sexual content such as this ditty: Did you hear about the sleepy bride who couldn’t stay awake for a second?



The creation of puns was facilitated by the many recent borrowings from the Romance languages in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Also, the revolutionary changes in English pronunciation at the beginning of the fifteenth century created many new homonyms, the building blocks of puns. Queen Elizabeth1 herself puns doubly when she declares,“You may be burly, my Lord of Burleigh, but ye shall make less stir in my realm than the Lord of Leicester.”



Typology of Puns

Puns can be divided into a discrete number of categories. First we have homophonic puns that treat words that are homonyms as synonyms.  Example -Why is it so wet in London?  Because so many kings and queens reign there. Another form is the homographic pun which uses words that are spelled the same but possess different meanings and sounds. Example - Did you hear about the optician who fell into a lens grinder and made a spectacle of himself? These two forms can be combined, and when this is done it is usually referred to as a homonymic pun. Example - She was only a rancher's daughter, but all the horsemen knew her.  Still another genre is the compound pun in which a word or string of words forms another word or string of words. Example - Where do you find giant snails? On the end of giants' fingers.  The final type is the recursive pun where the second part of the pun depends on understanding the first part. Example - A Freudian slip is where you say one thing and mean your mother.



Next month, I’ll look at some of the verbal wit from the greatest punster of all time– William Shakespeare.



Adapted and excerpted from Richler’s book Wordplay: Arranged and Deranged Wit.


Friday, September 29, 2017

Words Stay Alive Within Idioms


       Death of some words; half-lives of others



                             by



                    Howard Richler



According to biologists, most species that have ever existed are extinct. Likewise, words are organic; they are born, have lives and often disappear, albeit not at the catastrophic level of species. They don’t actually die, but many become obsolete and the OED records tens of thousands of these words with the notation “obs.” or “obsolete.”



There are, however, two mood-related words relegated to lexicographic antiquity that I’d like to resurrect ; mubble-fubbles and chantepleure. Tahe former refers to a state of mild depression in the 16th and 17th centuries; the latter was used in the 14th and 15th centuries to denote an e to an tnigmatic mixture of happiness and sadness. But in the case of both words, after two centuries of use, people stopped employing them and they obtained lexicographic obsolescence.



One calculation shows that of the 231,000 entries in the OED, at least 20% are obsolete. These defunct words range from aa, a stream or watercourse, macilent, lacking in substance, and end in zymome, a name for a constituent of gluten that is insoluble in water.



English has a large vocabulary by dint of its history which might explain this fallout. England was conquered by the Vikings in the 8th century and then  Norman French in the 11th century and prudently concluded  many centuries later  that it was better to be a hammer than a nail by proceeding to invade  peoples in Asia, Africa and North America. In the process English added multitudinous words to its lexicon, but truth be told, not every added word need remain in our vocabulary. An example is respair used both as a noun and a verb that referring to fresh hope after a period of despair. It was listed but once in the 15th century then quickly forgotten. Also, numerous words were fashioned by scholarly writers in the 14th century that employed Greek or Latin roots. Many of these new coinages (dubbed inkhorns because ink originally was stored in horns) were unknown or uncommon in ordinary speech. Two examples here are ingent that meant “ very great” and illecebrous that meant “attractive.” Both these words however were in use for only 100 years. Another reason words disappear is because they get superseded by synonyms. For example, the words roetgenogram, radiogram and x-ray were all born towards the end of the 19th century but only x-ray is used today.



A word, however, can avoid the ignominy of obsolescence and enjoy at least a half-life by burrowing its way into an idiomatic expression.



For example, have you ever espied a caboodle sans a kit? According to the OED it was last recorded “kitless” in 1923.  Caboodle appears to be a corruption of  boodle, which developed in the 1830s in America and was used to mean  “a lot” or “a crowd,” but by the end of the 19th century this usage was all but extinct. Similarly kith only exists nowadays in the expression "kith and kin.” In Old English, however, it referred to knowledge, acquaintance or your native land in which you had enjoyed great familiarity. Another of these vestigial words is fettle. Nowadays, it is almost always found in the expression “in fine fettle” which designates a very good condition. Fettle was born as a Lancashire dialect word in the 18th century meaning dress, case or condition and originally there were varieties of fettles such as “poor,” “good” or “frustrated.”   However, by the beginning of the 20th century the word seems only exist when wedded with the adjective “fine.”



Another little word in this category is dint, (used by me at the start of the fourth paragraph). In Old English, the word referred to a blow struck with a weapon and came to represent subduing something by force, Nowadays the word is only used in the expression “by dint of” and can represent any quality that allows you to accomplish a task.



There are also several words found in idioms that while familiar, their meanings in expressions don’t correspond with the sense one usually associates with the word.



For example, if you’re a gentle soul, you might never again be able to “cut someone to the quick” once you’re aware that quick designates that tender flesh below the growing part of a toenail or fingernail.  Also, the word boot as in “to boot” has been loitering since the year 1000 with the sense of  “good,” “advantage” or “profit,” but it had died out in these senses by the 19th century, although it enjoys a half-life in its contemporary idiomatic form  Similarly, the word hue as in “hue and cry”  doesn’t refer to a shade, but derives from the Old French hu meaning clamour and is most likely onomatopoeic like the word “hoot.”



So let us hope that English retains these idiomatic usages. Better a half-life than no life at all.



Richler’s latest book Wordplay:Arranged and Deranged Wit was published in 2016.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

FACEBOOK PUZZLES- 1801-1900


FACEBOOK WORD PUZZLES -1801-1900

1801-a)Name an actress/singer whose surname is a synonym to her first name.

b)Name an actor whose surname is the past tense of his first name.

1802-Discern the convergent words: minute-long-maiden   power-wave-fog      ice-barrel-war

1803-Split Definitive Puzzle- average connections (7) (p) These “split definitive” are now featured in my recently released book Wordplay:Arrangedand Deranged Wit in the chapter “Word Defini tions.”The book is now available in bookstores like Barnes & Noble and online at Amazon

1804-Name a phrase that is an ANAGRAM to  witch walked

1805-Discern the convergent words: day-cob-flying    rail-jail-brain      step-eat-Indian

1806-Split Definitive Puzzle     exactly undulating   (10)  (p)

1807-What do these words have in common?   screw-slow-wider 

1808-Discern the convergent words: nigh-black-up   dressing-tea-ball  line-string-wax

1809-Split Definitive Puzzle an idiotic pace    (9)     (d) 

1810-What do these words have in common?   drive-latter-onanistic

1811-Discern the convergent words: course-boo-sun   board-colony-skin    ban-fiddler-bet

1812-Split Definitive Puzzle agitation chime (7)   (  r ) 

1813-Name a phrase that is an ANAGRAM to    new  middle

1814-Discern the convergent words:  victory-sing-dog    lazy-over-fish         candling-bud-outer

1815-Split Definitive Puzzle Massacre  pile land plot  (8)    (m)

These “split definitive” are now featured in my recently released book Wordplay:Arrangedand Deranged Wit in the chapter “Word Defini tions.”The book is now available in bookstores like Barnes & Noble and online at Amazon

1816-What do these words have in common?      cop-tip-shit

1817-Discern the convergent words: acorn-racket-lemon    seed-golden-love   sap-altar-cellar

1818-Split Definitive Puzzle      fast all over   (8)  (r)

1819-Name a phrase that is an ANAGRAM to sound change

1820-Discern the convergent words:  man-backwards-ail   man-trench-flat      man-hot-mutton

1821-Split Definitive Puzzle what a theater critic gives   (10)   ( c )

1822-What do these animals have in common?  trout opossum-sow

1823-Discern the convergent words:   loading-north-leaf     blood-harass-hell   circus-flicker-bag   

1824-Split Definitive Puzzle    hijacking by prisoners   (10)   (p)

1825-What do these words have in common?     stranger-growing-peasant     

1826-Discern the convergent words: dye-blue-bad     pear-green-dressing    spice-seed-eater

1827-Split Definitive Puzzle directed by a procurer (7)  (l)

1828-Name a phrase that is an ANAGRAM to  coarser pragmatist  

1829-Discern the convergent words: trick-wounded-deep      swap-yellow-tuck      dew-ping-over

1830-Split Definitive Puzzle  Utahn sovereign  (9)    (p) These “split definitive” are now featured in my recently released book Wordplay:Arrangedand Deranged Wit in the chapter “Word Defini tions.”The book is now available in bookstores like Barnes & Noble and online at Amazon

1831-What do these words have in common?   arrest-sentient-heretic 

1832-Discern the convergent words: jack-goat-American    jack-soda-animal    jack-bearing-less

1833-Split Definitive Puzzle seed cover performers  (7)   (p)     

1834- Name a phrase that is an ANAGRAM to  oath  not totally done for love; not totally done for money

1835-Discern the convergent words: band-pussy-pin    French-raspberry-blue    blue-sun-car

1836-Split Definitive Puzzle ripped bother (7)  (a)   

1837- What do these words have in common?   finish-fiance-blitz

1838-Discern the convergent words: top-bread-palm    top-raga-pumpkin   top-baby-juice

1839-Puzzle Split Definitive vocal display of obstreperous nationalism  (8)  (f)

1840-Name a phrase that is an ANAGRAM to  minors on edge

1841-Discern the convergent words: ball-elbow-minute         ball-art-up    ball-kidney-soup

1842-Split Definitive Puzzle   night before sloping beam            (9) ( r)

1843-What do these words have in common?   forging-housecat-hovering 

1844-Discern the convergent words:  ante-night-hot        deer-eggs-fish      baking-cracker-jerk

1845-Split Definitive Puzzle   what you must do during a beer shortage  (9)  ( r)

1846-What do these words have in common?    today-bumblebee-logjam   

1847-Discern the convergent words: pit-up-express   man-pearl-season     snapping-neck-box

1848-Split Definitive Puzzle       contort narrow way (8) (l) 

1849-What do these words have in common?   dependable  ill-fated  self-satisfied   gynocracy

1850-Discern the convergent words: string-hot-up    blasting-white-on       pioneer-rain-blue

1851-Split Definitive Puzzle cow sound sound (7) (r)

1852-What do these words have in common?   syllabus    adder   sneeze  sittybas  naedre    fnese 

1853-Discern the convergent words: branch-speed-let    room-grease-guard     tag-steel-pigeon

1854-Split Definitive Puzzle     fish go in (9)    (e)

1855 Palindrome Quiz a)2 US Open Champions    b)Oscar Best Actor Nominee  c)White House Press Secretary

1856-Discern the convergent words: dive-island-dove     one-trader-iron   call-pack-cry

1857-Split Definitive Puzzle     redden bother  (8)  (c)

1858-Possible palindromic slogan for an anti-acne medication  

1859-Discern the convergent words: chef-cutter-filo    bowl-operator-hole   nut-sea-split

1860-Split Definitive Puzzle means of transporting very large animals to a zoo (11)   (h)

1861-Name a phrase that is an ANAGRAM to ran faster than a teacher 

1862-Discern the convergent words: patch-pat      brain-green-skin        hole-nose-dog

1863-Split Definitive Puzzle   remains of a naturally occurring mineral (6)  (a)

1864-What do these words have in common?   tangled-bolster- last    

1865-Discern the convergent words summer-bread-blood   Texas-time-towel   crisp-brown-mustard

1866- Split Definitive Puzzle   legendary man connection (6)  (h)   

1867-Name anpalindromic description of screw-up enthusiasts   

1868-Discern the convergent words: game-coal-of     cream-magazine-drum     cad-tar-tap

1869-Split Definitive Puzzle   bounder claims (8)  (a)   cad

1870-possible name for rowdies who get intoxicated by water lilies     lotus louts

1871-Discern the convergent words  holy-atlantic-fisher   right-oil-blue  emirates-over-super

1872-Split Definitive Puzzle  iron (8)   ( c) These “split definitive” are now featured in my recently released book Wordplay:Arrangedand Deranged Wit in the chapter “Word Definitions.”The book is now available in bookstores  like Barnes & Noble and online at Amazon

1873-Name a President who named his dog after his initials   

1874-Discern the convergent words:  day-less-blue   under-harem-knee           sun-money-way

1875-Split Definitive Puzzle   gloomiest person (10)  (g)

1876-Name an anagrammatic phrase that describes someone hooked on a patronizing instructor

1877-Discern the convergent words: break-weak-black   break-rat-park   break-machine-sweet

1878-Split Definitive Puzzle   popular garments for priests  (11)  (v)

1879-Name a palindromic visitor at a pit stop

1880-Discern the convergent words: gear-some-comb   cliff-type-inter   mistress-out-hammer

1881-Split Definitive Puzzle   dashed fire (7)  (s)

1882-Name an anagrammatic phrase that describes an unexpected extra for an officer of a ship    

1883- Discern the convergent words: glory-wild-whole   flop-cold-vulture    mimic-fever-fish

1884-Split Definitive Puzzle   haggard permit (8) (g)

1885-Name an anagrammatic phrase that refers to being on a ship in another country 

1886-Discern the convergent words: down-rain-book    moon-car-hill  salary-lens-ability

1887-Split Definitive Puzzle   bury government member (8)  (p)

1888-Name an anagrammatic phrase that means dogmatist gasped for breath

1889-Discern the convergent words: wild-stick-soup    submarine-knuckle-islands  per-ping-ahoy

1890-Split Definitive Puzzle   curtail girl (7) (l)

1891a)-Name a resident of a South American country that is an anagram to a fruit.

b)Name a resident of a European country that is an anagram to an article of clothing.

c)Name a Canadian or American town that is an anagram to an animal.

d)Name an Asian city that is an anagram to a part of the body.

1892-Discern the convergent words  fly-fry-colored flesh-golden-bay   gun-on-bet

1893-Split Definitive Puzzle   totally unpaid   (8)   (a)

1894-What do these words have in common?   discuss-appalling-gallon 

1895-Discern the convergent words  chops-up-chaps  news-night-eye      water-pea-as

1896-Split Definitive Puzzle     dog devoured (6)  (a)

1897-Name an anagrammatic phrase that can describe  a resident of Molenbeek who was born in Dhaka

1898-Discern the convergent words  fresh-book-off      cone-office-mast          fish-cola-envy

1899-Split Definitive Puzzle   finest debtor    (8)    (b)

1900-Name a famous person whose first name and surnames total at least 15 letters where all the letters used are 1 pointers in Scrabble.  e.g. Composer Antonio Salieri and actress Lillian Russell  would both total 14.
















Tuesday, September 5, 2017

HOW SOME OBSOLETE WORDS SURVIVE


       Death of some words; half-lives of others



                             by



                    Howard Richler



According to biologists, most species that have ever existed are extinct. Likewise, words are organic; they are born, have lives and often disappear, albeit not at the catastrophic level of species. They don’t actually die, but many become obsolete and the OED records tens of thousands of these words with the notation “obs.” or “obsolete.”



There are, however, two mood-related words relegated to lexicographic antiquity that I’d like to resurrect ; mubble-fubbles and chantepleure. Tahe former refers to a state of mild depression in the 16th and 17th centuries; the latter was used in the 14th and 15th centuries to denote an e to an tnigmatic mixture of happiness and sadness. But in the case of both words, after two centuries of use, people stopped employing them and they obtained lexicographic obsolescence.



One calculation shows that of the 231,000 entries in the OED, at least 20% are obsolete. These defunct words range from aa, a stream or watercourse, macilent, lacking in substance, and end in zymome, a name for a constituent of gluten that is insoluble in water.



English has a large vocabulary by dint of its history which might explain this fallout. England was conquered by the Vikings in the 8th century and then  Norman French in the 11th century and prudently concluded  many centuries later  that it was better to be a hammer than a nail by proceeding to invade  peoples in Asia, Africa and North America. In the process English added multitudinous words to its lexicon, but truth be told, not every added word need remain in our vocabulary. An example is respair used both as a noun and a verb that referring to fresh hope after a period of despair. It was listed but once in the 15th century then quickly forgotten. Also, numerous words were fashioned by scholarly writers in the 14th century that employed Greek or Latin roots. Many of these new coinages (dubbed inkhorns because ink originally was stored in horns) were unknown or uncommon in ordinary speech. Two examples here are ingent that meant “ very great” and illecebrous that meant “attractive.” Both these words however were in use for only 100 years. Another reason words disappear is because they get superseded by synonyms. For example, the words roetgenogram, radiogram and x-ray were all born towards the end of the 19th century but only x-ray is used today.



A word, however, can avoid the ignominy of obsolescence and enjoy at least a half-life by burrowing its way into an idiomatic expression.



For example, have you ever espied a caboodle sans a kit? According to the OED it was last recorded “kitless” in 1923.  Caboodle appears to be a corruption of  boodle, which developed in the 1830s in America and was used to mean  “a lot” or “a crowd,” but by the end of the 19th century this usage was all but extinct. Similarly kith only exists nowadays in the expression "kith and kin.” In Old English, however, it referred to knowledge, acquaintance or your native land in which you had enjoyed great familiarity. Another of these vestigial words is fettle. Nowadays, it is almost always found in the expression “in fine fettle” which designates a very good condition. Fettle was born as a Lancashire dialect word in the 18th century meaning dress, case or condition and originally there were varieties of fettles such as “poor,” “good” or “frustrated.”   However, by the beginning of the 20th century the word seems only exist when wedded with the adjective “fine.”



Another little word in this category is dint, (used by me at the start of the fourth paragraph). In Old English, the word referred to a blow struck with a weapon and came to represent subduing something by force, Nowadays the word is only used in the expression “by dint of” and can represent any quality that allows you to accomplish a task.



There are also several words found in idioms that while familiar, their meanings in expressions don’t correspond with the sense one usually associates with the word.



For example, if you’re a gentle soul, you might never again be able to “cut someone to the quick” once you’re aware that quick designates that tender flesh below the growing part of a toenail or fingernail.  Also, the word boot as in “to boot” has been loitering since the year 1000 with the sense of  “good,” “advantage” or “profit,” but it had died out in these senses by the 19th century, although it enjoys a half-life in its contemporary idiomatic form  Similarly, the word hue as in “hue and cry”  doesn’t refer to a shade, but derives from the Old French hu meaning clamour and is most likely onomatopoeic like the word “hoot.”



So let us hope that English retains these idiomatic usages. Better a half-life than no life at all.



Richler’s latest book Wordplay:Arranged and Deranged Wit was published in 2016.