Monday, 15 June 2015

Time for another rest!

Photo by Spirit-Fire

Taking Some Zzzzzzzzzz's ...

Lexicolatry (or, more accurately, me) is taking a little break for two weeks.

Lexical geekery will resume on the 29th June 2015 20th July 2015 (sorry!).

Yes, yes, I know. And I'm very sorry. Didn't someone once say that having a child is incredibly hard work, time-consuming, takes over your life and basically just ruins everything? Well if they didn't they should have, and I just said it because it's true (although they ruin everything is an incredibly wonderful way). So I'm really sorry that I haven't got back to writing Lexicolatry, and as this month I'll be returning to university, it might be a little while yet. If you really need your word fix, do please browse through the old posts, and if you follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Blogger's email alert system, you'll be notified when I start writing again. Thank you all again for your readership.


Twitter: @Lexicolatry

Friday, 12 June 2015

Emulate - The Imitation Game

Children are master emulators.
(photo by Jen Hampton Photography)


Verb. Late 16th century.
[From Latin aemulat- 'rivalled, equalled', from the verb aemulari, from aemulus 'rival'.]

1 verb trans. Compete with; rival or equal in some respect. L16

2 verb intrans. obs. Strive in a spirit of rivalry to be or to do. L16-M17

3 verb trans. Imitate zealously; try to equal or excel. L16

4 verb trans. obs. Wish to rival (a person); to be envious or jealous of. E-M17

5 verb trans. (Of a computer etc. or its user) reproduce the action of (a different computer or software system)
with the aid of hardware or software designed to effect this;
 run (a program etc.) on a computer other than that for which it was written. M20

Emulate is often used as a raw synonym for imitate, particularly with regards a role model or admired person. However, an examination of the word suggests something a little more sinister - while imitation might indeed be the highest form of flattery, beware of emulation, as that might just be someone who covets your crown. If you have a crown. I don't have a crown. Sigh ... 

Do please copy down your most emulatory comments in the box below.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

What's the Difference Between Empathy & Sympathy?

A blonde woman crying
Crying Girl by Roy Liechtenstein

What's the Difference Between Empathy & Sympathy?

Empathy and sympathy are often used interchangeably in everyday English, which is a shame because there is a definite and very useful distinction between the two. If you're writing and come to a point where you want to use one of these words, it's worth taking the time to really consider which is most appropriate for what you're describing.

So What Is Empathy?

To be empathetic is perhaps the harder (or the rarer) of the qualities. According to the OED, empathy is defined as 'the power of mentally identifying oneself with (and so fully comprehending) a person or object of contemplation.' In layman's terms, being empathetic means being able to put yourself in another's shoes, either because of some inherent quality or because you've experienced something before.

So What Is Sympathy?

Sympathy is slightly different, and has a broader set of definitions to empathy. At its most basic, sympathy is a feeling of sorrow or pity for someone else's misfortunes. Thus, one can sincerely write a card marked With Deepest Sympathy, even if you've never experienced whatever it is the other person is suffering.

Some Examples of Empathy & Sympathy

When choosing between empathy and sympathy, it's a good idea to think about exactly what it is that's being felt: if it's sorrow or pity, than sympathy is likely the best option; however, if one is actually able to feel the other person's pain, either because of a natural empathetic quality or because of having experienced it personally, then the best choice is probably empathy.

To illustrate, I've never broken a bone in my entire life, and yet I can have the utmost sympathy for someone that has; real empathy, however, is a little harder, because it's just not something I've ever experienced. I have, however, smashed all of my teeth out (eek!), and thus when a friend has a dentally-related mishap, I am in a position to both sympathise and empathise.

On a far less serious (but perhaps more memorable) note, one might think of the poor zombies in a series like The Walking Dead. Those poor walkers! I have the utmost sympathy for them. But do I have empathy for the undead? Can I put myself in their shuffling shoes and imagine what it must be like to crave living flesh above all else? Umm ... no, not really. But I do feel sorry for them. Poor chaps! They have my deepest sympathies.

A young girl shuffling like a zombie
A shuffling zombie girl. Just because it's really cute.
(photo by Pietro Bellini)
Do you have any less bloody examples of sympathy and empathy?

Do please leave your most feeling comments in the box below..

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Why Is Ireland Called 'The Emerald Isle'?

A lustrous emerald
Although they're found all over the world, no emeralds (so far) have been discovered in Ireland
Photo by Michael Summers


Noun & adjective. Also emeraude obsolete. Middle English.
[Old French e(s)meraud, ultimately via Latin from Greek (s)maragdos, via Prakrit from Semitic
(compare with Hebrew bāreqeṯ, from bāraq 'flash, sparkle'). ]

The connection between Ireland and emeralds is quite obvious to anyone who has ever visited - Ireland is exceptionally beautiful and green, as are the gemstones. That Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle, however, as opposed to some other viridescent adjective, is thanks to a rather remarkable Irishman named William Drennan, who referred to it as such in his 1794 poem When Erin First Rose:

Alas! for poor Erin that some are still seen,
Who would dye the grass red from their hatred to green;
Yet, oh! when you're up, and they're down, let them live,
Then yield them that mercy which they would not give.
Arm of Erin, be strong! but be gentle as brave;
And uplifted to strike, be still ready to save;
Let no feeling of vengeance presume to defile
The cause of, or men of, the Emerald Isle.

Born in Belfast in 1754, Drennan was a physician, poet and political activist, being one of the founding members of the Society of United Irishmen, an organisation that sought parliamentary reform and greater independence from Britain. What's particularly interesting about Drennan, however, is that although he was vociferously pro-independence, he was an advocate of separation through peaceful means, a conviction that can be seen clearly in his poem (you can read the full text of it by clicking here). As time went on, however, the Society of United Irishmen began to embrace more violent methods of revolution, causing Drennan to distance himself from it. On Drennan's death in 1820, his coffin was carried as per his wishes by three Catholics and three Protestants, a final symbolic gesture to demonstrate his desire for peace and reconciliation.

Green fields and blue sea in Ireland
Dingle, Ireland
(photo by Ollierb)

Do please leave your greenest comments in the box below.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Embracive - Living the Hug Life

Two women hugging, one with a 'Free Hugs' sign
And now people are offering free hugs in public! It's just so brazen.
(photo by Matthew G)


Adjective. Mid-19th century.
[from embrace.]

1 Given to or fond of embracing. rare. M19

2 Embracing or tending to embrace all; inclusive. L19

We are living in increasingly embracive times. As an old-fashioned Englishman, I am not happy about this. Where once a cordial 'Good day, sir,' sufficed, a hug is now de rigeur; where a professional handshake was as physically close as one ever needed to be, a full embrace is now expected, nay, demanded. Mark my words: it's overbearing, unhygienic and a veritable minefield of social awkwardness. I therefore implore you to lay down your arms and reject this embracive erosion of the social norms that have loyally repressed us for centuries. Bring back the stiff upper lip, the aloof nod of acknowledgment, and (for when things get really raucous) the friendly shoulder punch. I thank you.

This why, people. This is why.
(Also: I don't watch American's Top Model)

Are you embracive?