Monday, 31 December 2012

Algebra

The man himself on a Soviet stamp commemorating his 1200 birthday
I think his book could have had a punchier title, but then what do I know?  

 ALGEBRA

Noun. Late Middle English.
[Italian, Spanish, medieval Latin, from Arab al-jabr, from AL- +jabr reunion of broken parts, from jabara set broken bones, reunite, restore. The term achieved currency in the title of a book, 'ilm al-jabr wa'l-mukabala' 'the science of restoring what is missing and equating like with like', by the mathematician al-Kwarizmi (cf. ALGORISM).] 

1 obsolete. The surgical treatment of fractures. LME-M16

2 The part of mathematics which investigates the relations and properties of numbers or other
mathematical structures by means of general symbols; a system of this based on given axioms. M16

Algebra, for anyone not interested in mathematics, has a horrible reputation. I speak from experience, having failed maths in school, and not having had a proper grasp of even the most basic mathematical principles until my late twenties. However, when I did attack mathematics as an adult, I must say that I found algebra damned interesting! And that was before I had even discovered the etymology of the word!

It's takes a bit of thought to make the connection between the mathematical meaning of the word and its etymology, but if you think of an algebraic equation (2x + 10 = 20, for example), it is, in a sense, fractured because the x represents a break in the normal run of numbers.

When I was in school, I considered maths to be about as fun as a fracture. Oh the irony!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Album

Yes I used to collect these, and this was my favourite player

 ALBUM

Noun. E17. 
[Latin = blank tablet, use as noun of neut. of albus white; first in English from German use of Latin phr. album amicorum album of friends, and in Latin forms.]

I A blank book for the insertion of collected items.
1 A blank book in which people other than the owner insert autographs, memorial verses, etc. E17.
2 A blank book for the insertion of stamps, photographs, etc. 

II 3 A holder for a set of discs or tape recordings; an integral set of discs or tapes; a disc or tape comprising several pieces of music etc. E20. 

A familiar word with an interesting etymology; I had never made the connection between an album and the Latin word for white, albus. As for the album amicorum, that's very, very sweet.

Orbital's In Sides
The first album I ever bought on CD
Even after all these years, it still sends tingles down my spine

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Alacrity

Cheerful, Reader, Eager, Keen,

ALACRITY

Noun. Late Middle English.
[Latin alactritas, from alacr-, alacer briskness] 

Briskness, cheerful readiness, liveliness. 

Also:
alacritous adjective (rare) brisk, lively, active L19
alacritously adverb (rare) L19

Friday, 28 December 2012

Al-

لكسيكولاتري

AL-

Prefix (not productive).

The Arabic definite article al, forming an essential element of many words of Romance (esp. Spanish, and Portuguese) origin adopted in English, as alcohol, alcove, algebra, alkali.

The many and varied influences of the English language always fascinate me, and are an inextricable part of the beauty and richness of the language. I also got to discover a supposed transliteration of Lexicolatry into Arabic's beautiful script. Score!


Thursday, 27 December 2012

AK-47

AK-47

Noun. M20.
[Abbreviation of Russian Avtomat Kalashnikov 1947, the designation of the original model designed by Mikhail T. Kalashnikov (b. 1919).]

A type of assault rifle originally manufactured in the Soviet Union. 

I've chosen to include the AK-47 in Lexicolatry due to its iconic status both as a weapon and a word. As a word, someone that knows the name of no other weapon will have heard of an AK-47. As a weapon, it has an unrivaled place in human history and culture. In the West, we know when watching a film that if someone is carrying an AK, they're almost definitely a bad guy; in other parts of the world, it's seen and revered as the weapon of freedom fighters and revolutionaries. It's famed for its rugged construction, low production cost and ease of operation. It has appeared on national flags and emblems. It commands an enormous illicit trade, both in smuggled weapons and counterfeit variants. Its ease of use, cleaning and disassembly is often said to have changed the face of modern warfare, allowing poorly trained militias to command the firepower of a professional military unit. It's so easy that a child can operate it, and children often do. The AK-47 is one of the outstanding icons of the 20th century, both as a scourge and an emblem of our bloody history.

The flag of Mozambique

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Aitch

Haitch

 AITCH

Noun. Also ache (obsolete). Mid-16th cenutry.
[Old French ache, perhaps from Proto-Romance word exemplifying the sound.] 

The letter H, h. 

Aitch, bless it, is one of the more controversial letters in the English language, and people can become very passionate about whether it's pronounced with an initial h sound or not (as in haitch rather than aitch), and it's often very much looked down upon in accents and speech patterns that drop the aitches, as in meeting someone that says they're from 'erefordshire rather than Herefordshire. Personally, I don't give a fricative. What really bugs me is when people don't believe that letters have spellings too, usually manifested during a game of Scrabble when they challenge a word like aitch or ess or any other such letter. Grrr. Drives me mental it does. Such people should be banned from playing Scrabble. For life. And be forced to to wear a placard that says 'I Challenged Aitch in a Game of Scrabble.'
Haitch

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Ailurophobia

Poe's The Black Cat  ... a favourite of mine for reading to young nieces and nephews

AILUROPHOBIA

Noun. Early 20th century.
[from Greek ailouros cat + -PHOBIA.]

Irrational fear of cats. 

While we're on the subject of cats, here's ailurophobia for you. The poor creatures just can't win! Whether you're a deranged ailurophile or a cowering ailurophobe, cats are shown in a negative light. I've scoured the ailuro- words for one that means "A balanced view of cats that casts neither feline nor human in a pejorative light," but alas! I cannot find one! I do seem to have stumbled upon a need in the English language however, as one occasionally does. Let's hope that this void can be filled soon. One can but dream ...

Please post any suggestions as to what this word might be below.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Ailurophile

AILUROPHILE

Noun. Also -phil. Mid-20th century.
[from Greek ailouros cat + -PHILE

A lover of cats. 

There has long been the stereotype of the mentally unstable ailurophile, unable to form proper human connections and almost definitely a spinster, as epitomised by Crazy Cat Lady, a recurring character in The Simpsons.

Is this a stereotype without foundation?

Is an ailurophile just someone that really, really loves cats?

Feel free to leave any comments or elucidating links on the subject below. 


Sunday, 23 December 2012

Agent provocateur

AGENT PROVOCATEUR

Noun phr. Pl. -s. L19.
[French = provocative agent]

An agent employed to tempt suspected persons into committing an incriminating act. 


Saturday, 22 December 2012

Agelast

AGELAST

Noun. Rare. Late 19th century.
[Greek agelastos, from gelan to laugh.]

A person who never laughs. 

We all know one.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Affluenza

AFFLUENZA

Noun. Late 20th century.
[Blend of AFFLUENCE or AFFLUENT and INFLUENZA]

A psychological malaise supposedly affecting (esp. young) wealthy people,
symptoms of which include a lack of motivation, feelings of guilt, and a sense of isolation.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Affiant

AFFIANT

Noun. US. Early 19th century. 
[Old French afier, (later aff-) from medieval Latin affidare to trust]

LAW. A person who makes an affidavit. 

I always like finding out I'm something that I didn't know I was. Specifically, I didn't know I was an affiant. As someone that worked closely with the legal profession for ten years, I regularly had to make affidavits; therefore, I was an affiant. It also has a rather charming etymology. Nice.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Advertorial

ADVERTORIAL

Noun. Orig. US. M20. 
[Blend of ADVERTISEMENT and EDITORIAL noun] 

An advertisement offering information about a commercial or industrial product or activity in the style of an editorial comment.

I hate advertorials. I mean, I really hate them! Fortunately most respectable magazines and papers write "ADVERTISEMENT" or, even more honestly, "ADVERTORIAL" at the top of the page when printing them, but even so I do think they're horrible pieces of advertising. Probably what annoys me more is that I still find myself being caught out by them. "Ooh!" I think, "Millions of people adopting a new dietary program that's clinically proven by experts from all over the world!" And then my eyes, starting to dart suspiciously because of the fantastic claims, catch that horrible word at the top of the page: ADVERTORIAL

When thinking about a picture to accompany this entry, I decided not to print an example of an advertorial because I didn't want to advertise any product that uses them. Instead, I'm chosen a baby covered in logos. Personally, I think it's rather cute. 




Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Adultescent

ADULTESCENT

Noun. Colloq. L20. 
[Blend of ADULT & ADOLESCENT] 

A middle-aged person whose clothes, interests, and activities are typically associated with youth culture. 





Monday, 17 December 2012

Adroit - Doing It Right

Adroit, Left-handed prejudice, Traffic sign, Road sign

ADROIT

Adjective. Mid-17th century. 
[Old & modern French, from adverb phrase à droit according to the right, properly.] 

Physically or mentally resourceful; dexterous, skilful.

Also:
adroitly adverb M18
adroitness noun M18

A curious and rather politically incorrect word, reflecting our odd prejudicial attitudes toward direction; for whatever reason, right is better than left. Regardless, I like it, and I'm going to use it more often.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Ad nauseam

AD NAUSEAM

Adverbial phrase. Mid-17th century
[Latin, lit. 'to sickness', Cf, earlier USQUE AD NAUSEAM

To a disgusting or tiresome extent.

This is probably my favourite Latin phrase because it's so easy to understand. If you're told that you're harping on about the rules of correct grammar ad nauseam, you know exactly what's being said, whether you're familiar with Latin phrases or not. It's also used in the phrase argumentum ad nauseam, when an argument is made so frequently or with such sickening repetition that everyone ceases to care in the end; completely and utterly sick of it. 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Administratrix

ADMINISTRATRIX

Noun. Pl. -trixes, -trices. M16
[Cf. French administratrice]

A female administrator, spec. of an estate in default of an executor. 

There's a touch of BDSM to this rather curious word.





Friday, 14 December 2012

Ad hominem

AD HOMINEM

Adverbial & Adjectival Phrase. L16.
[Latin = to the person] 

Of an argument, etc: directed to the individual, personal; appealing to feeling not reason.

When I was in my teens, I was involved in a debate regarding whether creationism should be taught in schools. The opposing team was called 'The Wild Boars' and, I must say, their lead debater was cleverer and better prepared than me. 

I was asked to write the team names on the blackboard, together with FOR or AGAINST underneath respectively. In doing so, I pretended I had misheard the team name and wrote 'The Mild Bores' on the blackboard instead. Later in the debate, when the captain was referring to displaced apes moving out of Africa, I retorted 'You're a displaced ape!' 

The thing is, I won that debate, and won it from a trailing position according to the pre-debate ballot. So was I right to use ad hominem so flagrantly? Both examples certainly got good reactions from the audience in terms of laughter, and I was able to apologise for both as just joking. Without a doubt, though, both damaged their lead debater, as it gave the impression that he was someone who lacked a sense of humour and took himself too seriously (of course, neither of these "failings" should sway an intellectual debate, but they do). While it's intellectually lazy, ad hominem can be a useful debating tactic if your only aim is to win a debate. If you value intellectual rigour and integrity, however, it's really a very, very lazy and stupid tactic to employ

Oh, it's also very stupid (you big fat stupid face, you!) to protest ad hominem when it isn't. So, if you come to my house asking to borrow my car and level the charge that you have neither license nor insurance and you're drunk, that's not ad hominem. 

Do you have any examples of ad hominem? Have you ever used it successfully? Do you prefer it as a debating strategy and thinking pattern because you're too lazy to put sound thought into constructing your arguments and opinions? Please feel free to leave a comment. 





Thursday, 13 December 2012

Addle

ADDLE

Noun, adjective & verb. 
[Old English adela = Middle Low German adele, Middle Dutch adel (Dutch aal), German Adel mire, puddle, Old Swedish -adel in koadel cow's urine. Addle egg translating medieval Latin ovum urinae egg of urine, alt. of ovum urinum repr. Greek ourion oon wind-egg] 

A Noun
Stinking urine or liquid filth; mire.
Obsolete exc. dial. (after Old English in literary use only in the north). OE.

Attrib. or as adjective
 1) Of an egg: rotten or putrid; producing no chicken. ME.
2) fig. Empty, idle, muddled, unsound. L15.

Verb
 1) Verb trans. Make addle; confuse; make abortive. L16.
2) Verb intrans. Grow addle (lit. & fig.). E19. 

This word and everything about it is weird. That's it. I've nothing more to say on the matter. 

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Acharnement

ACHARNEMENT

Noun. Mid-18th century. 
[French, from acharner give taste of flesh (to dogs etc.)]

Bloodthirsty fury; ferocity; gusto


I find this word, its etymology and its imagery quite disturbing. Its French pronunciation only serves to accentuate this sense of unease I feel toward it.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Acerebral - It's a No-Brainer


A poster for The Matrix movie

ACEREBRAL

Adjective. Mid-20th century.
[from cerebral adjective] 

Brainless; unintelligent; unthinking.

I think I was one of the few people that wasn't blown away by the Matrix when it came out. I found the acting wooden, the plot contrived and the style pretentious. On expressing this to a friend and devout Matrix fan, she retorted: "Was it too cerebral for you?" If only this word had been in my arsenal at the time. I could have replied, with utter disdain: "Actually, I found the whole thing to be positively acerebral." Ha! That would have shown her. I wonder if there's any way I can engineer a re-run of that conversation ...

Monday, 10 December 2012

Abysmal

A completely random picture of Justin Bieber

ABYSMAL

Adjective. M17.
[Old French abisme from Latin abyssus from Greek abyssos bottomless, from byssos depth, bottom] 

1. Of, pertaining to, or resembling an abyss. Now rare in a literal sense. M17.
2. fig. Bottomless; colloq. extremely bad. E19.

I had never thought of this word as related to the word abyss; it's kind of obvious when one thinks about it. I like it all the more now, in that it carries a sense of something being so utterly terrible and beyond bearing that it's worthy of being cast into the abyss itself. Cool. 




Sunday, 9 December 2012

Abstruse

A complicated mathematical equation
To someone out there, there's nothing remotely abstruse about this illustration.

ABSTRUSE

Adjective. Late 16th century. 
[French abstrus(e) or Latin abstrusus pa. ppl. of abstrudere conceal, formed as ABS- + trudere thrust]

1. Obsolete. Hidden, secret. L16-M-18 
2. Difficult to conceive of or apprehend; recondite. L16

Abstruse is a useful word; I like it. However, its effective use can be scuppered somewhat if the person you're talking to doesn't understand it, therefore rendering your keenly considered rhetoric ... well ... abstruse. 

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Absterge

ABSTERGE

Verb trans. Now rare. E16.
[Old & mod French absterger or Latin abstergere, from ABS- tergere wipe] 

Wipe away. Cleanse. 

This word stood out to me because the shadowy multinational in the Assassin's Creed franchise is called Abstergo. Mere coincidence? You may write me off as a paranoid conspiracy theorist, but once they find out that I've made the connection, it's only a matter of time before they reach me and try to silenksdjfhsdkfjhs
Related words:
ABSTERGENT 
Adjective (cleansing) & Noun (cleansing substance)

Friday, 7 December 2012

Abstemious

ABSTEMIOUS

Adjective. E17
[from Latin abstemious, from ABS- base of temetum intoxicating drink: see -OUS]

Sparing, moderate, not self-indulgent, esp. in food and drink.

Once, a long, long time ago, I was working a security job, and a very pretty girl came out from the office and offered me a cup of tea. I politely declined, she asked if I was sure, and I declined again. As she walked away, she said playfully "I do hope you're not just being abstemious." 

This is lodged in my memory for several several reasons: 

1) She was very, very, very pretty.
2) I really did want a cup of tea.
3) I didn't know what abstemious meant.
4) When I went home and looked it up, she was right! I was being abstemious! Dammit.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Absquatulate

"We're too late ... the enemy has already absquatulated!"
"Huh!?"

ABSQUATULATE

Verb intrans. Jocular. Originally US. Mid-19th century.
[After abscond, squattle (depart), perambulate, etc.]

Depart, decamp.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Abnormous

An abnormous, and rather cute, carrot

ABNORMOUS

Adjective  M18
[From Latin abnormis, from AB- + norma rule + -OUS] 

Irregular; misshapen.

My suspicion is that if you used this word correctly (eg. "You, sir, have an oddly abnormous head!"), you would be corrected and possibly laughed at. Try it, and report back in the comment section.



Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Abecedarian

An Afghan abecedarian

ABECEDARIAN

Noun & Adjective. E17

A noun. A person learning the alphabet or the rudiments of a subject.
2 A person teaching these arch.

B adj. 1 Pertaining to the alphabet; arranged alphabetically. 
 2 (Pertaining to a person) learning the alphabet.

As someone who is currently learning another language, I am a proud abecedarian. This word also caused me to find this rather beautiful picture of an Afghan girl learning her alphabet. You can see more of this photographer's work by clicking here.






Monday, 3 December 2012

Abdominous

Fat, Corpulent, Obese, Overweight, Obesity epidemic
"I'm very sorry, sir. The tests are back in ... you're abdominous ... very, very, very abdominous."

ABDOMINOUS

Adjective. Mid-17th century.
[formed as ABDOMEN + -ous]

Corpulant.


Sunday, 2 December 2012

Abbey-lubber - A Man of the Sloth

Monk, Lazy, Resting, Work-shy, Friar,

ABBEY-LUBBER

Noun (used after the Reformation)
A lazy monk 

It's impossible to read a word like abbey-lubber without smiling. And besides, why was such a word needed? Was there really such a problem with work-shy monks after the Reformation? Were abbey-lubbers the equivalent of modern-day hoodies? I must confess that there's a personal angle to my affection for this word. Having been schooled in Abingdon, Oxfordshire (a town named after its abbey), and having been thoroughly lazy throughout the process, I think that perhaps I can apply this word to myself. Indeed, abbey-lubber need not be such a discriminatory word at all, and I suggest that it also apply to any particularly lazy person from Abingdon. Wow. That's a great idea. I'd start a petition ... but ... nah ... I really can't be bothered. Let's just enjoy the word: abbey-lubber.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Abature

ABATURE

Noun. L16.
[Old & mod. French]

HUNTING. A trace left by a stag in the underwood. Usually in plural.

All I know is this: if one day we're lost and starving in the woods, and I exclaim "By Jove! We've happened upon an abature! Follow me people! This way to food and water!", suddenly my dictionary reading won't seem such a geeky thing to do, will it?