Words We Should Use More Often – March 13, 2018

Resurrecting the English language – one post at a time


I like words. Granted, I don’t have a solid grasp on them, but I still like them just the same. So given my fondness for unusual words, when I come across one I particularly like, I naturally research its meanings and etymology. Yeah, I know, some life, right?

I like words that are fun to say. Some words are just fun. The word macaroni is fun to say, but it could be because every time I say it I’m reminded of Gene Wilder in the movie Silver Streak. “I’m a macaroni.” Well, I guess you had to be there. Stream it sometime.

I especially like words that aren’t in the common vernacular (ooh, now there’s a good one, vernacular, you don’t hear that every day). There’s an old meaning for the word macaroni that fits this category, too. Maybe they’ve fallen out of favor, or they’re no longer fashionable, or perhaps their meaning has changed over time, and they’re not used in polite company anymore. Not that anyone has ever mistaken me for polite. Or company, for that matter.

So given my proclivity for words, and the abundance of them scribbled on scraps of paper all around me, and considering the paucity of other material I have that the world would want to consume with relish (no, not eat with the condiment), I thought I’d start sharing some of these words with you, my Gentle Reader(s). And I thought I’d make it a recurring post subject. I can tell you’re thrilled. Settle down. We’ll begin when you stop happy dancing. What’s that? Oh, it’s down the hall, on the left. Jiggle the handle.

cods·wal·lop   /ˈkädzˌwäləp/

noun British informal: codswallop

1. nonsense


1960s: sometimes said to be named after Hiram Codd, who invented a bottle for carbonated beverages (1875); the derivation remains unconfirmed.

Courtesy of Google Dictionary

This is one of those words that’s just fun to say. Codswallop, codswallop, codswallop. Just imagine, you’re at some family dinner arguing with your crazy old uncle rudyblues, and he’s blathering on about something, and you stand up in the middle of his bloviating,  slam your fist down onto the table, and yell “Codswallop!” Fun, right? The Brits have some wonderful words.

trea·cle    /ˈtrēk(ə)l/

noun: treacle plural noun: treacles

  1. British word for molasses
  2. cloying sentimentality or flattery
    “Enough of this treacle – let’s get to work”


Middle English (originally denoting an antidote against venom): from Old French triacle, via Latin from Greek thēriakē ‘antidote against venom,’ feminine of thēriakos (adjective), from thērion ‘wild beast.’ The sense ‘molasses’ dates from the late 17th century; ‘sentimentality’ arose in the late 18th century.

Courtesy of Google Dictionary

Treacle is fun to say and an amazing example of how the English language has changed over the centuries. Again, treacle, treacle, treacle, like a childhood taunt, like nana nana boo boo! And how can we move from an antidote for venom, through molasses and obsequiousness, to a venomous way to insult someone’s writing? That rudyblues writes such treacle!

Well, now that wasn’t so bad, was it? I could go on if you’d like, I’ve lots more where those came from. Come on, let’s give it a go, shall we? Not so much, eh? OK, have it your way then. Be sure to tune in next week for more “Words We Should Use More Often.”

P.S. Google, if you’re listening, if I haven’t attributed you properly, please accept my apologies and all these dandy scraps of paper.  -rb

Some Constants in Life

How can I be sure, in a world that’s constantly changing?

Some things in life are constant. Others are constantly changing. Here are a few that never seem to change. Add your constants in the comments, if you like.

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This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

When did compromise become a dirty word?

Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best.

Otto von Bismarck

Compromise. That’s what Bismarck refers to in his quote. Compromise makes life possible. Without compromise there is only intransigent, rancorous bickering. Kind of like the U.S. Congress these days.

For some, a compromise, in the sense of an agreement or a settlement reached through mutual concession, is tantamount to admitting defeat. If not all, then nothing for all. Better to blow the whole thing up than to give an inch.

But why? Why do some feel that any concession, no matter how insignificant, will compromise them, in the sense of  being weakened by accepting anything less than everything? That if they give up any at all, they have given it all up?

Perhaps some have conflated integrity and intransigence. That never compromising, never offering the slightest concession, will be viewed as integrity. One who never compromises is somehow more principled and honest.

But integrity and compromise are not antonyms. They are not mutually exclusive. Those who are principled and honest should, and often do, compromise. Life as a social being demands compromise.

I think those who view a compromise as compromising are themselves compromised.

An Ordinary Post

Ordinarily ordinary

Ordinary. Hmm. A post about ordinary. Usual. Normal. Routine. Vanilla. Common. How do you talk about ordinary without seeming, well, ordinary?

Of course, if it weren’t for ordinary, we wouldn’t have extraordinary. It would just be extra. Everyone likes extraordinary. Some people get the “roar” in it when they pronounce extraordinary, as in “ext ROAR dinary.” And some like to make it into two words, like “extra ordinary.” I wonder why the definition of extraordinary means “unordinary”, and not “more ordinary than ordinary?” I imagine most people would hope to be viewed as extraordinary.

wordcloudOf course, we could be talking about the Ordinary in a Catholic Mass. That’s the part that is the same every time. Sometimes the same word is used to describe the book that defines the order of a Mass. That would be kind of a specialized post, though. Extraordinarily arcane and esoteric.

Or maybe we could talk about going down for the ordinary at the Boar’s Head. In archaic English this referred to a one-choice, one-price meal served at an inn. A sort of old-world blue plate lunch special. We could save up a couple of ordinaries to pay for it. That’s what we used to call penny-farthings here in North America when we were still under the British.

When they read your last will and testament, they used to read it in front of an Ordinary. Now they call them Probate judges. Or we could talk about the area in a coat of arms that contains the ordinaries. That would be kind of dull, though.

In fact, this whole post has turned out kind of ordinary. Dull and uninteresting. Guess that’s why it’s an ordinary post.

That Which Is Forbidden

You can’t do that!

“It is forbidden!” Even the sound of it is, well, forbidding. “I forbid you!” Ouch! I think it may be universal that prohibition of something that we desire to have, or something that we desire to do, stings a bit. The free will that we all have bristles when we’re told that we can’t. And if the forbidding seems arbitrary or capricious, it stings all the worse. But if nothing was forbidden, if we could do and say and have all the things we wanted, we would live a chaotic, anything-goes existence. We need some prohibitions to live together.

Forbidden, but for a good reason

What is the purpose of forbidding something in the first place? Why are some things forbidden? And why are others not? Why are some things that were once forbidden now not forbidden? And why are some things that were perfectly fine in antiquity forbidden today? Seems rather, well, arbitrary and capricious, doesn’t it?

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Pity Epitome

The epitome of an epitome

Epitome. Funny little word. Comes to us from Greek via Latin. Via comes to us via Latin, too. Does the English language have any words that aren’t nicked from some other language? I suppose it does, but even some of those seem to be from older languages. My kingdom for a single word that is genuinely and originally from the English language! But I digress. Thanks to Latin, I’m able to do just that.


Anyway, epitome. From Latin, via the Greek word epitomē, which derived from epitemnein, meaning “abridge”, a conjunction of epi, meaning “in addition”, and temnein, meaning “to cut.” So, let’s see, “in addition to cut,” maybe “an additional cut,” abridgment, how did we get to where we are with today’s most prevalent meaning, a “perfect example of a particular quality or type?”

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Drop What You’re Doing and Drop on By

Getting the drop on drop

Wow! Lots of meanings for the word drop. And lots of idioms. I’m just going to drop a few on you, and that will just be a drop in the bucket! So before the bottom drops out of your interest in this post, and you drop it like a hot rock, let me tell you I’m glad you could drop by, and feel free to drop me a line in the comments below.

words-639303_640The Daily Post folks just dropped this hint in my lap, and I sure hope I don’t drop the ball on this one, but before it’s over you might ask me to drop the subject. Now I can drop a clanger at the drop of a hat, so if I see your jaw drop, and it gets so quiet I can hear a pin drop, then I’ll know you’re about to tell me to drop dead.

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