Carry Coals to Newcastle: to do something unnecessarily. The expression stems from Newcastle-upon-Tyne located in northeastern English. Henry III granted Newcastle a charter to mine coal. Becoming a major coal center, they would not be in need of coal as it would be unnecessary. Similar sayings are found in other countries, such as in French it is said to “carry water to a river.”
Cold Comfort: of little consolation. Although it is not known the origination of the expression, Shakespeare liked it enough to insert in a few of his plays such as The Tempest and The Taming of the Shrew.
Cold Hands, Warm Heart: just because someone seems unresponsive, that does not men they can’t express emotions. It’s thought Vincent Lean contributed the saying in a 1902 collection of sayings. Another interpretation is a person can be both rational and compassionate.
To Pour Cold Water On: to discourage enthusiasm or pleasure. This saying dates back to Roman times from Plautus who said “They pour cold water on us.” Cold water can definitely dampen an otherwise good time.
Come Off It: be realistic, no fooling around. This American slang term comes from the 1900s and stem from the action of coming down from a higher place, such as dismounting from a horse, with the idea of being on the same level as the other person standing on the ground.
Cool As A Cucumber: composed, not rattled. It’s true: cucumbers are cool. It’s believed the inside of a cucumber is 20 degrees cooler than the outside air. Since this expression can be dated to 1732 writer John Gay, who wrote “I…cool as cucumber could see the rest of womankind,” one wonders how they figured, or even decided, to see if a cucumber was really all that cool.
Crazy As A Loon: unconventional behavior noted. There are different thoughts on this saying. Granted, the cry of a loon is quite unnerving. There is also the idea that the behavior of a loon is considered unconventional when flocks of loons seemingly fly erratically at each other over a frozen pond. This gives way to the expression of being “loony,” but in fact this loony refers to “lunar” or the phases of the moon. And we all know how a full moon can influence behavior.
Cry One’s Eyes Out: weep in extremity. Although it is not possible to actually cry until one’s eyes fall out, it may seem so in the throes of an emotionally draining situation. In a 1705 play, The Careless Husband, a line stated, “I could cry my eyes out.” The saying is sometimes referred to as “Crying one’s heart out.”
To Curry Favor: attempting to extract a means of getting ahead. In the sixteenth-century there was a satirical romance involving a horse named Fauvel who represented cunning. To groom or curry the horse indicated someone was hoping to enlist its use. Fauvel became “favel” and eventually became “favor” over time.
Cute As A Button: appealing in appearance. “Cute” is derived from the 17th century “acute” which meant, shrewd, ingenious, and even clever. Somehow, the word transferred to meaning “attractive in a dainty manner” perhaps being associated with buttons which are small and for the most part, attractive.
Stay tuned as the “D” section is set for next time another batch of clichés are explored.
I was quite chuffed, having received quite a positive response from my Kangaroo Words post.
And there it was—another strange lexiconical usage of a word. You see “chuffed” (British slang) can mean one is pleased or displeased. It becomes its own antonym. These words are known as “contronyms.”
Some say (including the hubs) “nerd” is derogatory. I’m of the opinion a nerd is less of an insult and more of an endearment, or at least an acknowledgement of pursuing a passion with zeal, that others might not embrace. For instance, the movie The Nutty Professor, had the singular inventor trying to prove his “flubber” invention. Deemed eccentric, the professor for all his nerdy qualities became a hero. All those computer geniuses (now CEOs and billionaires) were no doubt shuffled into the nerd nomenclature in their tinkering phase. I see “nerd” as an alternate spelling of “clever,” besides the assonance of “Word Nerd” is cool sounding.
Onward to this month’s batch of words—although if you want to jump in with your thoughts about nerds, I am much interested.
1. bight: a bend in the river or the shore of the sea.
2. limb: to portray with words; describe.
3. comity: mutual courtesy; civility
4. sobriquet: nickname
5. epizeuxis: a literary or rhetorical device that appeals to or invokes the reader’s or listener’s emotions through the repetition of words in quick succession. An example:
6. inanition: lack of vigor, lethargy
7. juberous: uncertain; undecided;dubious
8. aroint: begone as in “Aroint thy, scalawag!”
9. legerity: physical or mental quickness; agility
10. doddle: something easily done. Fixing the flat tire wasn’t a problem at all—it was a doddle.
11. blatherskite: someone given to empty talk.
12. spang: directly; exactly
13. butyraceous: containing or resembling butter.
14. cachinnate: to laugh loudly or immoderately.
15. illation: an inference; a conclusion
16. totis viribus: with all one’s might
17. ambivert: a person between an extrovert and an introvert*
18. caduceus: dropping off early as in The leaves were noticed to have a caduceus departure this autumn.
19. mardy: grumpy, sulky
20. clement: mild in disposition; compassionate
*this word, ambivert, solves the puzzle of designation. A few within my circle have often contemplated how to most accurately describe our situation of being known as social, even boisterous, yet reluctant at joining large gatherings. Suggestions have included “high-functioning introvert” or “gregarious hermit.” The classification of “ambivert” seems acceptable, although the desire to write with either my left of right hand suddenly becomes immediate.
What words leapt out at you as keepers this month?
May I get personal? An ambivert perhaps you are? (Yoda syntax is less intrusive)
Traditionally the month of September signifies the end of summer vacation and the return to school. September 2020 is the year of trying to attempting to educate during a pandemic. This month’s list seems to reflect an opinion on that essential issue. It’s indeed peculiar how the words happened to line up in this theme.
barmecidal: giving only the illusion of plenty
operose: done with or involving much labor
elide: to suppress; omit; pass over
slubber: to perform hastily or carelessly
outre: passing the bounds of what is usual or considered proper; unconventional; bizarre
horripilation: a bristling of the hair on the skin from cold, fear; goose bumps
strepitous: boisterous; noisy
chutzpah: audacity; nerve
peripeteia: a sudden turn of events
mythomane: a person with a strong or irresistible propensity for fantasizing, lying, or exaggerating
fettle: state; condition
blench: to shrink; flinch
cacoethes: an irresistible urge; mania
moil: to work hard; drudge
muzz: to confuse (someone)
moue: a pouting grimace
fardel: a bundle; a burden
succedaneum: a substitute
lassitude: weariness of body or mind from strain, oppressive climate; lack of energy; listlessness
stonking: used to emphasize something remarkable, exciting, or very large (thanks to Fiction Fan’s Book Reviews inspiring use)
Affect or effect? Is it all right or alright? Was it a blatant or flagrant mistake?
Using the right word correctly is part art and part science. Knowing the word’s definitions is a start.
Affect: transitive verb 1. simulate, as in “He affected a suave demeanor with his knowledge of lexicon usage.” 2. to show a liking for, as in “She affects huckleberry gelato.” 3. to tend by nature, as in “We read how the weather affects health.”4. to imitate or copy: “Spenser, in affecting the ancients, writ no language (Ben Jonson, Timber) 5.to have an influence on as in “The rain affects the tourist economy.” 6. to attack or infect, as in “Pollen can affect allergies in spring.”
Affect: noun 1. feeling or emotion, as in “The music was selected for its thrill of affect.”2. obsolete
Now that affect is squared away, let’s get effect squared away:
Effect: noun 1. a result, as in “Every negative comment has a lasting effect on the final vote.” 2. influence, as in “The child’s laughter had an immediate effect on the crowd.” 3. advantage, as in “The teacher used the rainbow as a positive effect of the rainstorm.” 4. a scientific law 5. a condition on full force, as in “The hands free cell phone policy goes into effect July 1.” 6. creating an impression, as in “The tall ceiling effects the sense of dimension.” 7. basic meaning, as in “He said he would never return, or words to that effect.”
Why are affect and effect confused and misused? For one, they sound the same and are nearly spelled the same. However, affect is a primarily a verb, while effect is primarily a noun (it can be used as a verb as in producing a result: “The change is primarily effected by the mixing of breeds.”
No wonder there is confusion. Try to remember if it is an action (affect/verb) or a noun (effect), as in “The abundant harvest affected the workers in a way of relieving them of worry for the upcoming winter, which created an lasting effect of peace and assurance.”
Affect/effect is a major contender for the confused and misused category. Here are a few other entries:
All right/Alright. All right is the correct and accepted spelling, at least formally. Some confusion may arise since words like, altogether and already are in use and accepted, which seems to clear the usage of alright—but it’s not correct. We don’t say “meese” for the plural of moose because we say geese for the plural of goose.
Blatant/Flagrant. These are not interchangeable. Blatant means noisy or fail to hide while flagrant focuses on the intended wrongdoing. While blatant is often used to mean “obvious,” this is not an accepted usage. The sentence, “Sam admitted to his blatant lie” should be changed to “Sam admitted to his flagrant lie” since flagrant refers to being offensive rather than it being unpleasantly loud. Although if Sam screamed his lie at the top of his lungs maybe it is a case for being a blatantly flagrant fib.
Capital is the official recognized city government.
Capitol is a building where the state legislature convenes.
Complement completes, as in “The added mushrooms complements the stew ingredients.”
Compliment is to praise, as in “The diner complimented the chef’s ability to create a sumptuous lamb stew by adding mushrooms.
A council is an assembly of people who deliberate, while counsel is advice. I imagine those involved in the council receive counsel regarding their decisions.
Fewer/less. Ah, the quick checkout dilemma. Fewer is used when counting things, as in “There were fewer than five pizza slices.”Less is used in reference to mass of measurable content, as in “There is less than a quart of ice cream left.” So when at the grocery store and you are looking to quickly checkout with your handful of items, select the line that has the sign stating, “15 items or fewer.”
PET PEEVE ALERT
A. Hopefully it won’t rain on Saturday’s picnic.”
B. “It’s hoped it won’t rain on Saturday’s picnic.”
Which is the correct sentence? If you chose B you would please the lexiconical folk. If you selected A, you are among the majority. While A is most frequently used, it is not considered acceptable by grammarians—not really clear on why, but as in the way of most of our language. Note:once it becomes widely used it becomes accepted, just look at how “their” is now embraced as a singular pronoun instead of a plural one. I had to finally let my teacher red ink dry on that one.
Inflammable/flammable both mean easily ignited. Nonflammable indicates not being able to catch on fire. Don’t let the “in” prefix fool you.
Irregardless—don’t go there. This is a blunder. It might be a blend of irrespective and regardless but it is nonstandard, so walk away. Stay with regardless.
UPDATE: Webster’s Dictionary has acquiesced and has recently added irregardless to the dictionary—I wonder if usage or peer pressure is the deciding factor.
Lay/Lie. Quick and easy: lay is a transitive verb and takes a direct object (noun) (think what was laid)—“He laid the letter (what) on the desk.”
Lies is an intransitive verb and does not take a direct object, as in “Auntie lies down after working in the garden.” There is no noun, direct object—lie is the stated verb of action. *Sigh* I’m still working on this one.
PET PEEVE ALERT
“I could literally scream until I am red in the face the way people pop literally into their sentences.“
Nope. Literally used as an intensive is incorrect since it means to be taken in truth. If I screamed until my face turned red I best be heading to the ER for a possible heart attack commencing, because that is a fairly intense reaction. I should be using virtually or figuratively instead. The next time you hear a sentence like, “I laughed so hard I literally thought my insides would burst” I suggest one of the above substitutes or maybe a dust pan.
And last of all is the old favorite: A principle is a statement or belief of truth and a principal is the leader of the school—think of him as your pal, who wants to impart truths while you are at school.
Hopefully this cleared up some of the confusion; irregardless if I muddled up the explanations, I literally tried so hard to make it clear that my brains nearly fried.
I wouldn’t lay, um, lie about my intended affect on your attaining greater knowledge.
[Ha—Wordpress has yet to perfect their auto correct].
Learn by heart: Think back–are there any poems that you had to learn in school, ones that you still remember and can recite? That, my friend, is an example of memorizing, which the Greeks considered learning by heart since they thought the heart, not the mind, was the seat of thought. Learn by mind, doesn’t quite have the same ring, does it? Maybe it’s because the heart is the seat of emotion and when we learn something with our heart, we feel it more.
Lick into shape: Summer is here, I’ve got some time off from work, so I’m going to take on the weeding and really lick the yard into shape. Getting something that is somewhat messy, into a more acceptable form is the usual connotation behind this expression. In actuality? It was once thought that bear cubs were born shapeless and in order to form them up into respectable bear, the mother had to literally lick them into shape. No–I am not going to apply that particular technique to beautifying my yard.
Lily-livered: To be called a coward is one thing, but to be called a lily-livered coward–oh, the shame. The Greeks, once again, possessed an interesting anatomically belief. They believed the liver, not the heart, held passion [see above about learn by heart], and the bile produced indicated a person’s disposition: dark bile indicated strong passion; light bile indicated weakness. However, white bile or lily colored bile meant the person had no courage at all. My question is: how did a person produce the bile? Maybe I don’t want to know. Actually, I don’t want to know at all.
Lock, stock, and barrel: When something is completed this expression is often shared, as in, “I packed up the camper for the trip–everything’s ready to go–lock, stock, and barrel. This expression goes back to the days when depending on a gun being ready to go, as in the three parts: the lock (firing mechanism), the main piece (stock), and barrel, had to pass a readiness check.
Lump it: “You can like it or lump it.” If you have participated in a quarrel, sibling quarrels are a good example, this expression might get tossed out. It refers to how faces are a bit misshapen after crying. If someone doesn’t get their way, they might have a good cry or pout, making their face look lumpy. Basically, accept the situation or get bent out of shape (which is probably another Why We Say investigative entry).
Which expressions are in your vernacular range?
Are they all too old-fashioned?
Is there an expression that you are ever so glad the puzzle of meaning has been revealed?
It’s been flung about how Shakespeare created around 1,700 words, some which we still use today, such as luggage, eyeball, and alligator. Unfortunately, many of the words used in Shakespeare’s time have changed meaning over time. And some of his words simply make no sense to our modern ears.