Because I have both a very dodgy spine and fibromyalgia, I frequently find myself overwhelmed by pain and fatigue. People can find things such as motion, loud noise, emotion or anxiety overwhelming.
Overwhelm is an old word with even older roots: it evolved from Old English, and from Proto-Germanic and Proto-Indo-European before that. The original Middle English sense of the word was quite physical, but it soon became less literal in its application.
In the mid-14th century, the word overwhelmen meant to turn upside down, overthrow, or knock over. This word was derived from the Middle English word whelmen, meaning to turn upside down“, which is the origin of the word whelm, meaning submerge or engulf.
Whelm was a Middle English blend of whelve and helm, which had evolved from the Old English words gehwelfan, meaning bend over and helmian meaning cover.
Overwhem had come to mean to submerge completely by the early 15th century, which made whelm rather redundant. It is evocative of a boat being thrown about and overcome by waves, or a person at the mercy of a current, waves or tide of a body of water.
By the 1520s, overwhelm had gained another sense: to cause complete ruin or devastation. Thus, one could be overwhelmed by a storm or by debt, rather than just by liquid.
Underwhelm is a relative newcomer to the party: it was not recorded until the mid-20th century as a somewhat derisory play on overwhelm. To underwhelm is to fail to gain approval or favour, while be underwhelmed by something or someone is to be less than impressed.
One of the biggest obstacles for people who have not previously watch or read Shakespeare is a perception that the language is hard to understand. While there are definitely some words that are unfamiliar because they are no longer used, the most commonly perceived challenge is understanding thee and thou, art and wert, and the like.
Before I ask my students to read or listen to Shakespeare, I teach them the basics of Early Modern English and what all those old-fashioned words mean. I give them a translation guide, and get them to practise speaking and writing basic sentences before moving on to the most fun lesson of the year: Shakespearean Insults!
Once they have played with the language, they are far more receptive to it in a film or written text.
Like anything in life, the path ahead is smoothed by breaking down barriers and removing obstacles.
This infographic is designed to present the basics of Early Modern English simply and directly, to serve as a memory aide and a translation guide as needed.
Understanding Shakespeare’s English #Shakespeare #English #infographic
This morning I made a to-do list in addition to the one I live by from day to day. The intent of this list is inherent in its title: When the Hurly-Burly’s Done
That is a quote from the opening scene of Macbeth, where the Wyrd Sisters chant in the midst of thunder and lightning:
When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
When the hurly-burly’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won.
That will be ere the set of sun.
In the context of war, treachery, the death of a king and the consequent struggles of a nation, it means they will get together again when the mayhem is over. Given their manipulation of Macbeth himself, it’s mayhem they are actively involved and interested in.
While I am not in any way playing with anyone’s life or ambitions, nor the future of the country, there is plenty of hurly-burly in my life at this point in time .
Hurly-burly or hurlyburly is a word from the early 1500s which means commotion or tumult, which grew out of the phrase hurling and burling which was used as early as the 1300s. Hurling time was the name applied by chroniclers of the time to the period of tumult and commotion around the Peasants’ Revolt against the young Richard II, led by Wat Tyler in 1381.
It is a wonderfully expressive word that is quite evocative of the chaos and tumult of its meaning, particularly when delivered with a Scottish accent as it might well be spoken in Macbeth.
Juggling a show, a job, a couple of blogs and a personal life takes some coordination and requires self-care as well as caring for the needs of those around me. It’s busy and demanding, and it definitely feels like hurly-burly to me. Consequently, there are some things that will simply have to wait until after the hurly-burly’s done. The new list should help me ensure they aren’t forgotten.
A semicolon provides a pause in a sentence that is longer than a comma but shorter than a full stop.
There are a number of ways in which one can use a semicolon to good effect; they are very versatile little punctuation marks.
A semicolon can be used to extend a sentence using two closely related ideas without using a conjunction. Therefore, a semicolon works differently than a colon does: they are not interchangeable. Examples:
A semicolon is a much misunderstood piece of punctuation; while many people avoided them, those who use them achieve greater eloquence and refinement in their writing.
You may have as many donuts as you like; however, the lemon meringue pie is all gone.
A semicolon can also be used to create a complex list in which each entry is accompanied by additional information before the list continues. Examples:
When editing, I have to remember many things: my punctuation, because that tells people how to read my work; my spelling, because words are often confusing; my paragraphs, because they enable me to organise my ideas; and my word choices, because some words are really similar!
The guests came from Melbourne, Australia; Paris, France; Montreal, Canada; and various other places.
April 20th is the anniversary of the birth of both my grandfather and my niece. While my grandfather is no longer with us to celebrate his birthday, we will have dinner and cake tonight in honour of my niece.
The word birthday dates back to the late 14th century, having come from the Old English word byrddæg which meant the anniversary or celebration of one’s birth. At that time, though, it was usually used to commemorate the birth of s very important people, such as kings or saints. Regular folk did not commonly speak of the day on which they were born as their birthday until the 1570s, and about fifty years later they also spoke of their birthnight.
Author’s note: I am disappointed that we no longer speak about our birthnight. I was born at 7pm on a Thursday, and I could really make a thing of saying “tonight is my birthnight!” all day, and “last night was my birthnight!” on the morrow.
By Shakespeare’s time, observation of one’s own birthday was far more commonplace. Not only does Cleopatra acknowledge her own birthday in Antony and Cleopatra, so does the Roman senator Cassius in Julius Caesar V.i: “This is my birthday; as this very day / Was Cassius born.” In Pericles II.i the first of three fishermen with whom Pericles discusses the king, Simonides, observes that it the king “hath a fair daughter, and tomorrow is her birthday, and there are princes and knights come from all parts of the world to joust and tourney for her love.” This shows that celebrating or at least making note of one’s own birthday was something understood by the regular folk who made up most of Shakespeare’s audiences in the late 1590s and early 1600s.
The tradition of birthday cake also came from Germany in early modern times: presumably as people started to observe their own birthdays, they started celebrating with special food as they had long done for kings’ and saints’ days. By the 1800s, the German tradition of Kinderfest was fully established. This involved presenting the birthday child with a cake topped with candles — one for each year of their life, plus one in the middle of the cake to represent life— which would be kept burning all day, and replaced as they burned down. This was done because they believed people were more vulnerable to evil spirits on their birthdays, and the burning candles would ward those spirits off. After dinner, the cake was presented again, with the candles still burning. The child would make a wish and blow out the candles, with the smoke rising to heaven to keep the evil spirits away once the candles had been extinguished. Then the cake would be shared among the family.
This is very similar to what many people do today, albeit without the religious superstition and all-day candle burning.
I remember reading, as a kid, a children’s storybook called ‘Amelia Bedelia’, in which Amelia got a job as a housekeeper without having any knowledge of how to keep house. It was memorable because of the humour involved in her being told to dust the living room, but having no idea how. She proceeded to cover every surface in the living room with the dusting powder she found in the bathroom. Obviously, the result was the exact opposite of what her employer had intended.
I still remember the experience of understanding for the first time that there are words that have opposite or contradictory meanings despite being exactly the same words. What a revelation! Words had just become automatically more interesting and exciting.
Dust is one of a small and interesting collection of words called contronyms. A contronym is more than just a homophone or homograph: it must have two meanings that are contrary to one another.
To dust can mean to remove the dust from a surface: Amelia Bedelia learned that to dust the furniture meant to polish or sweep the furniture in order to keep it clean. It can also mean to sprinkle the surface of something with a powdery substance:: a baker might dust a cake with sugar, a weightlifter dusts their hands with chalk to create extra grip, and snow can dust the landscape.
To cleave is to chop or cut through something. One can cleave a piece of wood in two with an axe, or cleave a piece of meat on two with a special knife called a cleaver.It is even possible to cleave through something figuratively: a swimmer might be said to cleave through the water, or a plane through the air. However, cleave can also mean exactly the opposite: to hold together.One can also cleave to one’s partner or spouse by holding them close, or by remaining faithful to them. In the same way, one can cleave to one’s faith or ideology by living faithfully according to its tenets and teachings.
Fast can mean with great speed: one can run fast, or a lab test might have a fast result if it happens quickly. It can also mean to not move at all: a tile might be held fast to the wall by strong glue, or a vine might cling fast to a tree.
Buckle can mean to bend or fold. A wall can buckle under the force of water or wind. Legs can buckle underneath a person who is carrying something too heavy for them, or as the result of a shock or impact. Buckle can also mean to fasten or hold something in place, just as a buckle on a belt or shoe does.
You could even say that someone who cleaves to something holds fast to it, while a buckle can hold a shoe fast to the foot wearing it!
Note that not all words that are contronyms have only those two meanings.
To bear can mean to carry, as in a burden or a grudge. To bear can also mean to give birth – meaning that the child is no longer being carried. These meanings make bear a contronym, regardless of its multiple other meanings and nuances.
Contronyms: Words that have two opposite meanings. #grammar #words #English
A butt-load has long been one of my favourite ways ton refer to a large amount, either physically or a figuratively— one might have a buttload of work, or have to carry or store a buttload of stuff. It amuses me, though, that butt-load can actually refer to an actual unit of measurement.
A butt is a large barrel for wine or spirits that holds roughly four times the size of a regular barrel or two hogsheads Butt came into English in the late 14th century from the Old French word bot which was the word for a barrel or wine-skin. This came from the late Latin buttis which also meant cask.
The butt used to be a legal measurement, but because the actual size and capacity tended to vary quite a bit — it could be anywhere between 108 and 140 gallons— it fell out of favour.
In Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’, the Duke of Clarence is drowned in a butt of malmsey wine. In terms of methods of execution, there are probably worse ways to go. Still, the references to the malmsey- butt never fail to make my students laugh.
This sense of the word is also used in ‘The Tempest’ where Stephano claims to have escaped the storm by floating “upon a butt of sack which the sailors heaved o’erboard”.
That’s because butt canalso mean one’s buttocks: the behind, the rump, the posterior. It first took this meaning from animal parts in the mid 15th century in relation to butchering and cookery, as a shortened form of buttocks, which was the name given to the meaty rear end of animals and people by about 1300. The application of butt to humans came later, as part of American slang in the mid 19th century.
Butt came to mean the the thick end of something or the extremity of a piece of land by about 1400, which is most likely how the term came to be used for the end of a rifle, and therefore a pistol, or of a smoked cigar or cigarette, which was first recorded in 1847.
Shakespeare’s Richard III uses this sense of the word when he responds to his mother’s invocation to “put meekness in thy breast, Love,charity, obedience and true duty” with “and make me die a good old man! This is the butt-end of a mother’s blessing— / I marvel that Her Grace did leave it out!” This is also a pun for butt as in his being on the receiving end of her insult.
By the early 1600s, butt had come to be used for the target of a joke or an object of ridicule. 1610s. This was derived from the Old French word but which meant an aim, goal, end, or a target in archery, which swans in turn the product of the Old French words bot for end and but for aim or goal which was used for a target for shooting practice or a turf-covered mound against which an archery target was set that dated to the mid 1300s.
It is this earlier sense of the word used by Richard, Duke of York in ‘Henry VI part 3’ when he tells his killer, “Come, bloody Clifford, rough Northumberland, I dare your quench.ess fury to more rage. / I am your butt, and I abide your shot.”
Othello also uses sense of this word in his final scene, where he says, “Be thou not afraid, though you do see me weapon’d; / Here is y journey’s end, here is my butt.”
The verb to butt meaning to hit with the head, as a goat, a fighter or a soccer-player might do, was in use by 1200 . This came from Anglo-French buter and Old French boter which meant to push, shove, thrust or knock. This came from either Frankish or another Germanic source which traces back to Proto-Germanic word butan, and before that to the PIE root *bhau which meant to strike.
In the banter between Katherine and Longaville‘Love’s Labours Lost’ V.ii, he admonishes her: “Look how you butt yourself with these sharp mocks, Wilt thou give horns, chaste lady? Do not so.” Katherine responds with a comment about he should die a calf before his horns grow, which is a witty little bit of innuendo as they part ways.
Another example of Shakespeare’s word play is the pun on butt in ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ where Gremio describes the clash of wits between Hortensio and Petruchio thus: “Believe me, sir, they butt together well.” Bianca responds with both pun and innuendo: “Head and butt! A hasty-witted body / Would say your ‘head and butt’ were ‘head and horn.”
To butt against, meaning to adjoin or sit right next to, dates back to the 1660s,p and comes from an abbreviation of abut.
To butt into a conversation by intruding without invitation came into American English at the turn of the 20th century.
While many people these days use ‘guys’ as a gender-neutral term, not everyone does. Some people have no problem with it, but others have a genuine and valid objection.
Guy is a masculine term with a masculine history. It began in 1605 and the Gunpowder Plot, in which a group of conspirators led by Guy- whose name was actually Guido- Fawkes planned to blow up the English Parliament. Guy Fawkes was tried, convicted, and put to death for his crime. Parliament instituted a yearly observation of the date in the ‘5th of November Act’ which encouraged remembrance and thanksgiving that the plot did not succeed. Commemorations of that plot being foiled, quite literally in the nick of time, involved effigies of Guy Fawkes being paraded through towns and then being burned in bonfires. Guy Fawkes Day is still celebrated today, often with bonfires and fireworks, although many people have no idea what they are celebrating.
Over time, the word guy came to be used for young men in general, a practice which became common in the 20th century.
It is, by comparison, very recently that people have been inclined to use guys as a gender-neutral term.
The risk of assuming that it is acceptable to use it inclusively is that it is not automatically an inclusive term: consequently, it can put up barriers for those who do not feel included by it, and even more so for those who feel actively excluded.
Some people may think it’s an overreaction or political correctness gone mad, but I would encourage those people to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and consider the question from a different point of view: perhaps a girl who is continually overlooked while her brothers or other male peers are favoured, a teenager who identifies as female and hates the fact that they have the body of a guy, or a girl who simply wants to be acknowledged as a girl. In each of these examples, the use of guys as an all-inclusive term is hurtful. To each of them, it is just as offensive as calling them anything else that they are not.
In social or close group settings such as family or friendship groups, there is probably more freedom to speak in any way that the members of each group are comfortable with. In more formal environments, or in groups where we are less familiar or intimate, there is less leniency in the way we address one another, and certainly less forgiveness for poor judgement.
In any structured environment, but particularly professionally, we need to speak and behave in ways that do not isolate or offend those we claim to serve or represent. As a teacher, the emotional well-being of each of my students is as important as their physical safety. I don’t want to do anything to harm them or to damage our working relationship. The same is true in my role as a director in a theatre company, and at other times as a cast member. People will learn and perform at their best when they feel valued, included, and respected. If not using a given term helps to achieve that, then not using it is the best thing to do.
Therefore, even though I am not personally offended when people include me in “guys” despite the fact that I am not a guy, I choose to speak otherwise to my students and to the cast and crew when I am directing.
There are other things one can say instead:
The year level/name, such as Year 9 or Grade 4, according to the conventions of the school and/or locale.
* Not an exhaustive list.
This can sound impersonal, so try moderating it by using various positive adjectives: happy, busy, friendly… there are many appropriate options. I often walk into my classes and say “Hello, beautiful people!” If anyone responds that they aren’t beautiful, I always say that there are different types of beauty, and inner ones are far more important than outer ones. It may have taken some of them a few days, but now they happily accept the greeting because they understand what I am communicating by it: I appreciate each of them for their own unique character.
I often mix this up with adjectives too. It’s actually an opportunity to give your students some affirmation while getting their attention. Try saying , “Okay, cool kids” or “Right-oh, groovy kids” and it’s not hard to see the difference in how they respond. Once, one of my students said, “We’re not kids anymore.” I apologised and said that I wouldn’t repeat that mistake again. The next time I wanted their attention, I said, okay, you incredibly mature and responsible young adults.” They applauded, so that is how I have addressed them ever since.
In more relaxed situations, you could also use:
* Also not an exhaustive list.
Sometimes I try to put a fun spin on things:
“Right, you rowdy lot!” I might say this when they are working hard and being anything but rowdy.
“Hello, unique individuals!” Again, it’s an opportunity for affirmative language that includes everyone.
“Whæt! Geats, Danes, Monsters and Dragons!” has been a favoured greeting while studying ‘Beowulf’, while “Aaaaarrgh me hearties!” Works when studying ‘Treasure Island’.
Finally, whatever you say, remember that tone is everything. The feeling in your words is what signals sincerity and positivity to the people around you. As the saying goes, it’s not what you say, but for how you say it that matters.
Why ‘Guys’ Is Not An Inclusive Term #ThingsToConsider #inclusion #vocabulary
All my life I have thought of mistletoe as a European thing, and associated it with images of druids cutting it out of trees with a sickle– most likely embedded by all the Asterix books I read as a kid.
Mistletoe is, in fact, a very old word that dates back to Old English. It had closely related words for the same plant in Old Saxon, Old Norse, Old Frisian, Old High German and Gothic languages.
The plant was venerated by the druids, especially when it was found growing on oak trees, which were seen as the most powerful and mighty of trees. The druids believed that mistletoe had powerful healing properties, and it has traditionally been associated with life, renewal, hope, magic, and love.
This accounts for my enormous surprise last Friday as we were driving through southern New South Wales and I discovered that the teardrop shaped plants growing on Australian gum trees were, in fact, a native variety of mistletoe. They were different enough in colour, leaf shape and habit to be distinct from the trees on which they were growing, and a quick search online confirmed what I had jokingly suggested to my husband as we drove: “Maybe it’s mistletoe!”
Photos: WordyNerdBird. Mistletoe growing in an Australian eucalypt at Wilbriggie, NSW.
As it happens, Australia has about seventy varieties of native mistletoe, and another twenty or so that have been introduced. While they live semi-parasitically on other trees, they don’t do any harm to them or the environment as some other parasitic plants do. (Yes, Golden Dodder, I’m looking at you, you nasty weed.)
So, next Christmas when certain family and friends laugh at me for singing ‘Meet Me Under The Mistletoe’ I’ll be able to inform them that it does grow here naturally, and therefore Australians are just as entitled to sing about it as anyone else.
Most of the time when we use the word passion, we are referring to either powerful emotion or a strong desire to do something.
However, when people talk about ‘the Passion’ of Jesus at Easter, the word has a different meaning altogether.
It doesn’t mean that He had a strong desire to die the way he did— even though he was absolutely committed to doing so— nor does it refer to His emotional state, even though he definitely would have experienced a plethora of powerful emotions.
Passion came into English from French around 1200 AD, meaning physical suffering. This came from the Latin word passionem meaning suffering or enduring.
Interestingly, passionem came from the past-participle Lati stem word pati- which meant “to endure, undergo or experience.” This means that passion is a cousin of patient and patience.
By the mid-13th century, passion had also come to mean an ailment, disease or affliction; rather than just the condition of suffering one. At about the same time, any emotion, feeling or powerful temptation to sin that might be considered as an affliction” might also be called a passion.
Therefore, when medieval theologians and teachers used the phrase ‘the passion of Christ’ they had no concept of how those words might cause confusion or be entirely misconstrued in the future.
It was another century or so before passion was used to refer to the intensity of an emotion or desire. Later again was the use of the word to refer specifically to sexual love or desire, which had developed by the late 16th century. By the 1630s, it had evolved again to include the sense of a strong liking, enthusiasm, or preference”, and by the 1730s, the object of that pursuit or desire was also referred to as one’s passion.
Because language continually evolves, old words often come to have several very different meanings. The beauty of etymology is that it explains the relationships and solves the puzzles that we might otherwise find very confusing.
And fhat, friends, why everyone needs wordy-nerdy people like me in their lives, ready to answer the tough questions and enrich your word power and vocabulary. You’re welcome.
Happy Easter. x
Why is Jesus’ suffering called ‘passion’? #Easter #GoodFriday #words Vocabulary