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?



Monday, 8 June 2015

Elumbated - "Weakened in the Loins"

A gladiator getting kicked in the nuts
Elumbation can be caused by a number of activities, including getting kicked in the testicles during a gladiatorial contest.
(photo by Sentex64)


Adjective. Now jocular. Rare. Late 18th century.
[from Latin elumbis having a dislocated hip (from e out + lumbus loin).]

Weakened in the loins.

It's not very often that a word's definition confuses me more than the word itself, but I am a little puzzled by elumbated - what exactly does 'weakened in the loins' mean? Nor is it helped by the fact that there seem to be very few uses of this 'rare' and 'jocular' word - the OED only lists two: an entry in a lexicon from the 18th century, and from the Confess. of Medwin (1882) the rather perplexing quote "Our elumbated tailor came forward." Hmm.

Such scant use, therefore, leaves me to surmise at the exact meaning of 'weakened in the loins', and I must assume it has something to do with one's declining efficacity in the realm of procreation, perhaps as one ages. That's a good definition, right?

 Having declined in efficacity in the realm (art?) of procreation.

Good. I'm glad we've cleared that up.

Do please leave your most [insert inappropriate pun here] comments in the box below.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Élite - The Best of the Best (Unless on Film)

Imperial Stormtroopers: Quite possibly the most useless Elite force in the universe


Noun & adjective. Also elite. Late 18th century.
[From French élite 'selection, choice', from élire 'to elect', from a variant of Latin eligere.]

A1 noun. The choice part, the best, (of society, a group of people, etc.);
a select group or class. L18

A2 noun. (usually elite.) A size of type used on typewriters, having twelve characters to the inch. E20

B attrib. adjective. Of or belonging to an élite; exclusive. M19

Élite is a sorely abused word in the world of fiction. Take the Imperial Stormtroopers of the Star Wars universe, described in Wookieepedia as 'the elite soldiers of the Galactic Empire', and therefore the very best fighting force the Empire can muster - the best trained, the best equipped and the most highly motivated troops out there. Except there's a problem. If the films are anything to go by, Imperial Stormtroopers are completely and utterly useless: they can't shoot, they can't fight, they can't act on their own initiative, and they're encumbered by the most impractical, battle-rubbish armour ever designed in the history of warfare.

And there are hordes of Stormtroopers - an "endless supply" according to Darth Vader - which further calls their élite status into question; if the definition of élite means select, who in the galaxy was passed over during the selection process? Exactly how low could the bar for entry into the Imperial Stormtroopers be? Their famed ineptitude in battle has spawned a number of terms to describe their ingrained naffness, including the Stormtrooper Effect and the Principle of Evil Marksmanship, which state that the more outnumbered a hero is, the more likely his enemies are to miss their shots, even when the chance of all enemies missing is vanishingly small.

Star Wars isn't the only culprit in the abuse of élite, however - martial arts films misuse and abuse it in abundance. A shining example of this is the ninja, widely regarded as an élite fighter. Without a doubt, individual ninjas are often unfathomably powerful, and even a bevy of skilled heroes will struggle to defeat one. Collectively, however, these élite fighters descend to the depths of ineptitude that would make the Empire proud. In fact, the Inverse Ninja Law states that the more ninjas there are, the more useless they become, allowing a single protagonist to successfully tackle tens, if not hundreds, of élite ninjas simultaneously. Now, I'm no military strategist, but I'm pretty sure that's not how élite forces work ...

Successful applicants to the Imperial Stormtrooper and Evil Ninja Academies.

Do you know of any particularly egregious misapplications of the word élite?

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

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Eldritch - The Weird and Beyond

A monochrome drawing of black, hairy, grinning spider
Smiling Spider (1891) by Odilon Redon


Adjective. Originally Scottish. Early 16th century.
[Origin uncertain: perhaps connected with ELF noun.]

Weird, ghostly, unnatural; hideous.

The adjective eldritch calls to mind a number of otherworldy artists - H. P. Lovecraft, for one, whose genuinely unsettling tales of weirdness are often associated with the word. Another is the French artist Odilon Redon, who said that his drawings place us in "the ambiguous world of the undetermined." Even if you're not an arachnophobe, you will perhaps agree that Redon's Smiling Spider is an example of unsettling, eldritch art.

Do please leave your weirdest comments in the box below.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Einfühlung - I'm Just Not Feeling It

A German man in lederhosen
Some German bloke. And I bet he's lovely.
(photo by Miles Cave)


Noun. Early 20th century.
[German, from ein- into + Fühlung feeling.]


I'm going to word today's post very carefully. And let me start by stating that I love loanwords in English, and I love the German language (it's on my list of languages to learn before I die). That being said, however, I must admit that, were I searching for a synonym of empathy, German wouldn't be the first language I'd reach for. And neither would einfühlung. It just wouldn't. I'm sorry. I'm clearly racist.

A German woman at Oktoberfest
Ah, the Oktoberfest! Something else that's on my rather extensive bucket list.
(photo by Constant Progression)

Do please cause all sorts of Sturm und Drang in the comment box below.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Eejit - It's Anglo-Irish, Idiot

A tractor on its side in a trench
My guess is that eejit was uttered many a time on this day
(photo by Troy Bell)


Noun. Dialectical. (chiefly Scots & Anglo-Irish). Late 19th century.


I must admit, I'm a little bit disappointed with eejit. For a word I first heard when I came to Ireland, I was expecting some ancient Irish-Celtic-Gaelicky type root. But there's not - it's just a later variation of idiot. Like nidget and nidiot. Seriously. That's all there is to it. Yup. Off you go ...

Do please leave your most eejity comments in the idiot box below.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Edentulous - Gum and Gummer

How To Train Your Dragon poster
Toothless & Hiccup


Adjective. Early 18th century.
[from Latin edentulus.]

Having no teeth; toothless.

If the writers of the most excellent How to Train Your Dragon hadn't chosen Toothless as the name of the main dragon, they could have chosen Edentulous which, if you just think about it for a second, does rather sound like a classic Greek hero.

Do please leave your gummiest comments in the box below.