The Latin verb pugnare, to fight, has given us a number of interesting and useful words, among them pugnacious and repugnant. Most of them, though, don't necessarily involve actual fisticuffs. Of the following five related words, for example, only one implies physical battle.
All of them, though, belong in your lexical arsenal if you're preparing for a fight — or at least for a good argument. Some of them are nearly synonymous, but there are subtle differences that you should recognize if you hope to wield them effectively.
If a small group of people roamed the streets singing songs on Valentine's Day, the Fourth of July, or Talk Like a Pirate Day, they might be called street performers, revelers, or a public nuisance. Only in the month of December does such public music-making get its own word — and in fact, it gets two.
Today, more often than not, people use the words celibate and celibacy to refer to an abstention from sex. This has some language "purists" calling foul.
From its earliest written use in the mid-17th century, celibacy, from the Latin caelibatus, meant simply a choice not to marry. Only as a consequence of that unmarried state would a celibate person remain sexually pure. What's more, a person could enter celibacy later in life, even after having children.
Word nerds (like yours truly) love to delve into the hows, whys, and whos of word coinages, coincidences, and evolutions, which makes Allan Metcalf's new book, From Skedaddle to Selfie: Words of the Generations, irresistible. It gives readers a look at how different generations of Americans added or altered and popularized more than 130 words in the English language.
Though you probably recognize both noisome and odious as something you don't want to be called, they might not mean what you or your writers think they mean from the way they look. Take note of these deceptive epithets to avoid future malaprops.
Mark Peters's new book plopped onto bookstore shelves yesterday, and it's full of BS.
Bullshit: A Lexicon explores the vocabulary of prattle, twaddle, and gobshite in all its forms. As the author states, "The lingo of bullshit is earthy, silly, bonkers, and fun. And (at the risk of mansplaining) it's a lot bigger than you think."
Anyone who has suffered the utter horror of a gritty mouthful of undissolved sugar from the bottom of a glass of iced tea* will find it fitting that the Sanskrit word from which sugar is derived, śarkarā, also means "gravel." That same Sanskrit word also led to two homophones whose spellings can be confused by even the most diligent proofreaders: saccharine and saccharin.
There is never a bad time to contemplate kindness. But today —when millions in the U.S. are remembering the shocking loss that occurred fourteen years ago on 9/11 and since — today seems like a particularly good day for it.
The local mayoral election is a dead heat between two candidates. The week before election day, representatives of both sides hit the streets, knocking on doors and talking politics with the people who actually answer.
One petitioner knocks on the door of an elaborate, expensive-looking home, interrupting its occupants while they prepare to spend the next six months at their second home, where the politics aren't so heated and the weather isn't so cold.