word wednesday: nostalgia

we all feel nostalgic from time to time, remembering events past or traditions or things that happened when we were younger. the halcyon days. days we remember fondly and look at through our rose colored glasses.

the word itself has greek origins (surprise surprise). it comes from the greek nostos, meaning homecoming, and algia, or pain. it was coined in the late 1600s from a translation of the german word heimweh for homesickness by johannes hofer. he was describing the depression he witnessed in swiss mercenaries who were longing to get home after service abroad. so there was always some pain involved in nostalgia.

which, when you think about, is probably true in the modern definition. it might not be as acute as the swiss were feeling, but there is always a sense of sadness when we think about the good old days. nostalgia really is a two-edged sword, combining the happy days and the knowledge that they’re in the past and not coming back.


word wednesday: sycophant

today’s word of the day probably needs a definition for some people as well.

sycophant: a person who acts obsequiously toward someone important in order to gain advantage.

aka, a brown-noser. 

we have another greek background word today (like clew’s greek myth background).

it comes from the greek word sykophantes, which is a false accuser or slanderer, but is literally translated as someone who shows the fig.

showing a fig was probably akin to doing the ol’ 👉👌 emoji combination (or in real-life combination, as i remember witnessing for the first time on the dance floor at first street station on 18+ night in 1998. someone was trying to get lucky.) (yes, liz, that emoji combination is inappropriate. 🙄 ) showing a fig was sticking your thumb between two fingers (think “got your nose”), which resembles a fig. a fig in those days was symbolic of the female nether regions (for help, sykon also meant vulva).

of course the politicians of the day were too good for such gestures (if only DT held himself to such standards) but lustily urged their followers to taunt their opponents with them (well, that’s something DT would obviously do). so in modern day french and greek, it means just slanderer, but in english it means an insincere flatterer. this shift happened over time, mostly because it’s portrayed as a kind of parasite, speaking untrue things or accusing for the gain of the approval of another. 



word wednesday: clue

colonel mustard with the candlestick in the parlor! 

the word clue has its origins in some greek mythology! remember theseus and the labyrinth? he went in there to find the minotaur, but daedalus told him he should make sure to get out again, so bring a spool of thread so he can find his way.

that spool of thread? it’s called a clew. hence, clue! 


an etymology break

i KNOW i wrote a post on the term jury-rig (aka jerryrig), but i think it got lost in the great blog migration of 2012. so i’ll repost since megan asked me about it, and i think it’s interesting!

jury-rigged goes back to the late 1700s when ships were out and about sailing the seas. when you’re out there, you only have so much to work with.


photo courtesy http://www.fineartemporium.com/. i put the duct tape on.

i’ve seen a couple backgrounds, one referring to a jory sail, from middle english for makeshift sale. it’s also referred to as a jury mast, which is a temporary mast after one’s been lost. by lost, i assume been torn off by the unforgiving sea. yarrr.

either way, seems like sailors had to do a lot of fixing on the fly, whether it’s the sail or the mast, and had to rig it up pretty quick, and i’d guess, a little haphazardly using what they had o hand to get things going. hence, jury-rig. 


ash wednesday etymology

this is not a true etymological post – more like an origin story. well, also some etymology.


thanks http://www.al.com/living/index.ssf/2016/02/what_is_ash_wednesday_and_why.html

being the good catholic girl i was, before i became a heathen, i made sure to make my way to ash wednesday, even though it is not a holy day of obligation (bet you didn’t know that!). i’d always assumed that ashes on your forehead were symbolically there because it was like dust, which is what they say when they cross the ashes. “remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” somehow this translates to “ashes to ashes; dust to dust” in my mind, which actually is an anglican prayer and never was in the bible.

the dust to dust thing comes from genesis: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

and ashes to ashes comes from the anglican prayer in this form: “Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life…” etc. etc. 

so really, there is no mention of ashes during ash wednesday – just dust. so where did the ashes come from?

a nice catholic website says they symbolize our mortality – somehow ashes=dust (hmmm). also that the tradition stems from the OT when sinners performed acts of public pennance. (were the ashes to let others know that these people were pennancizing?? not sure…)

but i like this explanation:

back in the early days of the bible, societies were pretty dependent on wood fires for everything – cooking, heating, etc. you have to keep the ashes in check when this is such a huge part of life. if a person was preoccupied with something big, say, a death or sickness or something pretty awful, the ashes and keeping clean of them were the least of their concerns. 

ashes became a sign that you were in mourning or remorse or repentance. this is actually written more than once in the bible:

 2 Samuel 13:19? “Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornate robe she was wearing. She put her hands on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.”

Esther 4:1-3: “When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly.

Jeremiah 6:26: “Put on sackcloth, my people, and roll in ashes; mourn with bitter wailing as for an only son, for suddenly the destroyer will come upon us.

(there also seems to be a trend of sackcloths, as well, but i don’t see that making its way into ash wednesday services.)

so, it makes sense that during lent, when you are supposed to be subdued, fasting, repenting, and thinking about jesus dying for the sins of the world and all that jazz, that you start off by being remorseful with this traditional symbol.

i guess now the question is why does this need to be a public proclamation? from the background of this, the ashes were on your forehead because you were preoccupied. i’d guess you weren’t aware that you left the house covered with ashes, IF YOU WENT OUT AT ALL. those in mourning probably tended to stay at home. if you are truly remorseful, wouldn’t it be something personal and private instead of parading it around like a badge of honor? maybe that’s something to dig up another day.

you’re a real fashion plate

i’m reading a book set in the late 1800s, and i ran across “fashion plate” yesterday, but not in any way i’d ever heard it used. she wrote that the subject was as still as a fashion plate. which, when i thought about what a fashion plate probably was, then it made sense. so i had to etymologize it and see what the deal was.

Fashion plate (1851) originally was “full-page picture in a popular magazine showing the prevailing or latest style of dress,” in reference to the typographic plate from which it was printed. Transferred sense of “well-dressed person” had emerged by 1920s. 

which makes sense now!


here’s a link to a fashion plate museum page with a history: http://www.charlestonmuseum.org/exhibits-fashionplates

what's in a name?

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet;”

“The only three things a guy should want change to about his girl is her last name, address, and her viewpoint on men.”
-kid cudi [whoever he is]

Marie de Medici's wedding-sm

it’s hard for me to articulate exactly why i kept my last name instead of changing it to match nate’s. part of me loves my last name; part of me thinks it’s an archaic tradition; part of me thinks it’s unnecessary and there are really baseless reasons to change it. and then there’s the whole gender equality thing on top of all that. it’s really an amalgam of reasons in my head.

today one of my friends on fb (more like acquaintance) asked what  people would start calling her once her name changes, since they use her last name to address her. someone commented she could keep it, and she replied, ” I know I can. I just consider it an honor that he wants to share his with me.”

to which i wonder: would he consider it an honor if she wanted to share HER last name with HIM?

(my guess is no. some guys are horrified at the thought of taking their wives-to-be last names.)

but first, i’d like to explore the archaicness, the absolute medievalness of the term MAIDEN NAME.

maiden (adj.) “virgin, unmarried,” c.1300, from maiden (n.). The figurative sense of “new fresh, first” (cf. maiden voyage) is first recorded 1550s. Maiden name is from 1680s.

maid (n.) late 12c., “a virgin, a young unmarried woman,” shortening of maiden (n.). Like that word, used in Middle English of unmarried men as well as women (cf. maiden-man, c.1200, used of both sexes, reflecting also the generic use of man). Domestic help sense is from c.1300. In reference to Joan of Arc, attested from 1540s (cf. French la Pucelle). Maid Marian, one of Robin Hood’s companions, first recorded 1520s, perhaps from French, where Robin et Marian have been stock names for country lovers since 13c. Maid of Honor (1580s) originally was “unmarried lady of noble birth who attends a queen or princess;” meaning “principal bridesmaid” is attested from 1895. Maydelond (translating Latin terra feminarum) was “the land of the Amazons.”

a couple takeaways: maiden is a term from 1300. maiden name is from 1680. in 1200, unmarried men were known as maiden-man. why don’t men have a pre-marriage label these days while women still do? we don’t call young men “master” anymore. so really, not too far off from being medieval.

i propose we strike maiden name and start using first lastname. using maiden name just conjures up visions of showing up on a doorstep with 12 cows and a bag of gold after an arrangement made by two fathers, never to see her family again. women were property! we are no longer property, so why do we continue to use terms that harken back to that?

ok. this is going to be extremely disjointed, only because my thoughts are so disjointed about this subject.

it’s assumed that women will assume their husbands-to-be last names. society expects it; little girls dream of it; high school crushes scribble it (guilty!). only eight percent of women keep their last names these days compared to 23% in the 90s , according to one article. another states that 35% are keeping their last names. what? let’s get the numbers straight here people. both articles were written in 2013 – perhaps a more aggregated and random national sample should be polled. but the article with the 35% had a good point – people are getting married later in life and establishing an adult identity well before getting married.

next point: “it’s just a name.” i had a friend’s wife say that to me. “i’m still me. i’ll still be XXX, but it’s just a name.” ok, so juliet had her say, but if it’s just a name, WHY CHANGE THE ONE YOU HAVE?

i have heard some weird stuff regarding last name changings. one, working in kmart. a coworker was wondering why some celebrity still goes by her maiden name when she was married to another celebrity. oh, he mused, maybe it says it on the marriage certificate and she just goes by her other name. the thought NEVER crossed his mind that she may have kept her last name.

next point (see? disjointed as crap!): if women are happily willing to change their names, go through the short-term trouble of getting name changes sorted out, and men in general aren’t… what does that say about men and marriage? why are women willing to change for men but not vice versa? (i know; i know; there are some men out there who are willing to change –  my cousin was. there are some men out there who just don’t care – like nate – but i’d be willing to bet that most men out there are like “uh, no way i’m changing my name. you have to change yours.”) does it just “confirm” that women are the weaker sex? why should i be expected to change my name while men won’t even consider it?

another point: ok, so some ladies out there really do have crappy last names, and i can understand wanting to get rid of a beast when the getting’s good – one of my friends has a very long polish last name. understandable she’d want to drop that. olson? smith? nelson? brown? i’d probably change it.

point: kids. ok, ok, so you’re having kids and you want the kids to all have the same last name and you want to be a family. why is the name thing such a huge ordeal? there are so many split families and different last names out there as it is, that i wouldn’t think it would be that huge of a deal these days to have a mom whose last name is different that that of the kids she’s picking up.

point: i feel like when a person changes her last name, it’s like she’s turning her back on her past, growing up, and other family members. yes, it’s a new life, but you don’t just drop your old life like they did back mid-millennium. i think this is the rub of my beef with changing my last name. it ties me to my mom, dad, sisters, and brother. while getting married brought nate into the fold, nate does not have the background and history with me like those other peeps do. perhaps my family experience growing up is non-traditional in the sense that we all really like each other and our dysfunction is one grown from and into love, but if that’s the alternative to wanting to throw the past away with a walk down the aisle, i’ll take it.

one thing i’ve seen lately that i really like the idea of is adopting a new last name – a combining of the last names of the two people getting married. THAT i think is a perfect solution. it shows you are committed to each other and willing to share the best of each other while keeping the past alive.

NOTE: i judge the crap out of ladies who change their last names, and i’m sorry. i know i have regular readers who changed their last names. in fact, i only know ONE reader who KEPT her last name (hi liz). like i had my reasons to keep my last name, i realize others have reasons to change their last names, whether that’s to distance themselves from a crappy childhood – i hope not 🙁 -, ease of naming children, or heck, just because it’s what you want to do. i need to get past that judgey part of me. what’s in a name, right? 

in like flynn

etymology break! i was looking for synonyms for success when i ran across the etymology of “in like flynn”.


from http://www.nndb.com/people/694/000042568/

in like Flynn

This phrase, meaning “assured of success,” first became widespread during World War II as an allusion to the actor Errol Flynn’s legendary prowess in seducing women. (In 1942, Flynn was prosecuted for the statutory rape of two teenage girls—and was acquitted.) Today the phrase has generally lost any sexual connotation.


a dictionary i ain't

so i get this comment on an entry of mine about a word i used – “disenfranchised” – when in fact i meant to use the word “disenchanted”. now i’ve heard these two words used interchangeably, but apparently they mean two different things, which i think a lot of people must not know. (me included, i guess.) contrary to popular belief, i don’t have the dictionary memorized; i do, however, know how to use a comma correctly now and then. 😉

anyhow, mr. rude left me a comment telling me to quit house hunting and find a dictionary and use it. since mr. rude commented anonymousely anonymously (OMG what a typo),  i did an IP search, and mr. rude is from “washington DC”. while i won’t put it past random people from random parts of the country commenting on my LJ, i also wouldn’t put it past some regular readers of mine to comment anon through an anon IP service.

so, mr. rude, i’m glad you decided to comment and forced me to look up the meaning of disenfranchise. now i’m wondering if i’m not the only person who would make this mistake with the word disenfranchise. here’s the sentence i used it in: “i’m disenfranchised with house hunting right now.” what would you say the meaning of disenfranchise is? and no cheating!

just desserts

just desserts

a while back i read an article in the star tribune about “just desserts” and how that was not the correct way of spelling it. i was confused at the time, but now i have clarified my thinking. when you are talking about someone, and they are getting what they deserve, it is just deserts, not just desserts. before you go off thinking about just deserts

just deserts

pronounce like you would: the soldier deserts the army.

well, here is the explanation behind “just deserts”
from dictionary.com: “A deserved punishment or reward, as in He got his just deserts when Mary jilted him. This idiom employs desert in the sense of “what one deserves,” a usage dating from the 1300s but obsolete except in this expression.”