Welcome Guest!
 Previous Message All Messages Next Message 
Take Our Word For It Issue 193 COMPLETE VERSION  Melanie Crowley
 Oct 25, 2003 19:10 PDT 

Take Our Word For It Issue 193

For Mac users who have trouble with our regular homepage:


Work is still taking a chunk out of our TOWFI time. We are doing our
best to get TOWFI and/or the newsletter out between Tuesday and Thursday
each week. Currently we're on Thursday (well, and the full version of
the newsletter had to wait for Satuday)!

**This Week's Issue**

NOTE: The links in this newsletter are good for October 25-? because
the next issue may be delayed (more information about that later in this

In Spotlight, we present "More Shaky Etymology" where we debunk most of
yet another one of *those* e-mail messages

In Words to the Wise, we bring you the following words/phrases:


in spades

coon's age


In Curmudgeons' Corner Guestmudgeon Dean Moblo thinks he might as well
complain about mineaswell

In Sez You... we hear about haruspication, ascenders and descenders,
sorrel, say cheese, misplaced modifiers/commas, and curry.

In Laughing Stock we bring you A Momentous Oil Change

**Newsletter-Only Etymology**

While we do not think life is dismal at the moment, we do think the
etymology of "dismal" is quite intersting. It dates from the 13th
century, and like many English words from that period, it came to us via
Anglo-Norman from Latin "dies mali" "bad" or "evil days". The Romans
supersitiously believed that two set days in each month were
particularly unlucky. John Ayto tells us that those days were
supposedly first determined by Egyptian astrologers, giving the days
another name, "Egyptian days". Mike was actually born on one of the
dies mali: February 26. Anyhow, the Anglo French "dismal" was adopted
in English and its meaning widened from specific "evil days" to one of
general "gloom and doom" by the 16th century.

**Book Reviw**

Believe it or not, we have another book to review that addresses the
topic of the language of love and sex. This time it is from our
oft-quoted favorite food etymologist Mark Morton, author of "Cupboard
Love". Well, he's no longer just a food etymologist. In his latest,
"The Lover's Tongue", he covers a world of amatory words, from the
all-too-familiar to choice and obscure slang. Reading the book *as* a
book (i.e.from cover to cover) and not as a dictionary provides an
enjoyable voyage; besides, this book cannot truly be used as a reference
tool as it contains no index! But that is our only complaint, and we
hope that an index might be added to any subsequent editions, for it
would be incredibly useful.

Like Lawrence Paros' "Bawdy Language", which we reviewed recently (and
which, with "The Lover's Tongue", is now available in our book store -
"The Lover's Tongue" as a pre-order:
http://www.takeourword.com/bookStore.html), Morton's book is dense. The
only images in the book are those on each new chapter page. He does
pepper the book with text boxes containing entertaining quotations and
definitions, however. So, like "Bawdy Language", this book is meant to
be read cover to cover. We consider Morton's style more scholarly than
Paros'; while we likened Paros to a child enjoying the ability to repeat
"dirty" words over and over again, Morton's effort evidences his day
job: he's assistant professor of English at the University of Winnipeg,
not to mention the language columnist for CBC radio's "Definitely Not
the Opera". He freely cites Indo-European roots, uses Latin phrases that
only the educated would know, and peppers his chapter titles with words
like "objectification" and puns like "Aural Sex: Words for Wooing and
Seducing". Morton had fun with this book, like Paros did with his, but
Morton's fun is more pedantic. And we love it!

Morton's book is also more focused than Paros'. While Paros seems to
have found every sex-related word in English (and he's also got an
entire section on "indecent speech" that is not necessarily
sex-related), Morton has zoomed in on specific areas in the sex-word
realm. And he treats them exhaustively, just as Paros treated the
entire topic exhaustively. However, Morton's book lends itself slightly
better to being used as a dictionary because of its focus on particular
subjects within the broad topic of sex words (and despite its lack of an
index). For example, if you are looking for the etymology of "horny",
you might suppose that you could find it in the chapter entitled "Ardor
Veneris: Words of Love and Desire". And you would be correct.

Morton is excellent at discussing a word's derivation and mentioning
other, common, words from the same source. Here is an excerpt from his
discussion of "erection" words:

*In Early Modern English, three new synonyms for "erection" appeared,
two of them learned formations and one of them slang. The learned terms
were "tentigo" and "surgation", the first of which was derived around
1603 from Latin "tendere", meaning "to stretch". The adjective "tense"
derives from the same source, the notion being that when people are
tense they feel "stretched" - and, in fact, they may even look drawn,
another word that implies being stretched. The other learned synonym
for "erection" was "surgation", which was adapted around 1681 from the
Latin "surgere", meaning "ro rise". Further back, surgere was formed
from the prefix "sus", meaning "up", and "regere", which is the
infinitive form of the Latin "rectus", meaning "straight". More
literally, therefore, the word "surgere" means "to go straight up," and
its connection to "rectus" means that it is also related to the cluster
of words represented by "rectum", "rectangle", "correct", "erection" and
so on. The slang term "horn" also appeared in Early Modern
English at the end of the eighteenth century, a usage prompted by the
resemblance of an erect penis to the bony protuberance on the head of a
cow or goat, and also by the associations of horns with sexuality, as
discussed previously in Chapter Four, devoted to words denoting sexual

If you are interested in the origin and meaning of sex and love words,
and you enjoy a scholarly yet punny style and exhaustive research, and
you like to learn how clusters of words are related, you must have "The
Lover's Tongue". After all, Martha Barnette and Richard Lederer both
loved it, too.

**Laughing Stock**

Keep sending the funny stuff! This week's winner, John Jeter, has
received a $10 gift certificate to Amazon.com. We believe we are
caught up with Laughing Stock prizes, but if you feel you were left out,
drop us a line, indicating in which issue your material was
used. If multiple people submit the same entry and it is used, a prize
is not awarded (we can't afford that many gift certificates! Wish we

**Curmudgeons' Corner**

Don't stop being curmudgeonly! Send in your complaints! Thanks to Dean
Mablo this week.

**Coming Soon**

Our hectic work schedules are affecting our ability to get the next
contest to you. Be patient. :-)

**Next Issue**

We'll bring you a NOE next week. Thereafter Melanie is scheduled to be
out of town on business, so we are not exactly sure when the next full
issue of TOWFI will be published. Stay tuned!

Don't forget to check the book store:

Until next time,
Take Our Word For It!
Melanie and Mike

 Previous Message All Messages Next Message 
  Check It Out!

  Topica Channels
 Best of Topica
 Art & Design
 Books, Movies & TV
 Food & Drink
 Health & Fitness
 News & Information
 Personal Finance
 Personal Technology
 Small Business
 Travel & Leisure
 Women & Family

  Start Your Own List!
Email lists are great for debating issues or publishing your views.
Start a List Today!

© 2001 Topica Inc. TFMB
Concerned about privacy? Topica is TrustE certified.
See our Privacy Policy.