CommunityMy FDLSeminal

What’s in a word?

Today’s word list:

Clinch. Today’s Strib proclaims that the Vikes clinched a playoff berth yesterday when they defeated Cincinnati. Clinched has been co-opted by the world of sports, a far cry from its etymological origin. Related to clench. To clinch is to bend a nail point that has gone through to the other side of a board so it can’t be pulled out easily. Ergo, to secure in place. From whence came “to settle decisively,” etc. May you sleep well tonight having this clarity. Skol, Vikes!

Suspended, as in Copenhagen talks suspended as developing nations walk out. An online etymology dictionary tells us that this hummer dates back to the late 13th century, and probably comes from the Latin suspendere. Sub (up from under) plus pendere (cause to hang, weight). We are told the literal meaning (“to cause to hang by a support from above”) showed up in the mid-15th century. And maybe there is support from above for the little people who in their immense frustration kicked the shins of the great and greedy nations that are playing fast and loose with climate change. Ooopsy. There I go, editorializing again.

Infidelity, most notably in recent time a tag attached to Mark Sanford and Tiger Woods. Origin? That Latin thing again. Infidelitas, from whence commeth infidel. Unfaithfulness. First documented use re “unfaithfulness or disloyalty to a person” dated in early 1500s and encompassed unfaithfulness to spouse. It appears Mr. Woods has sewed up the all-time bragging rights to the dubious distinction of most instances of infidelity with greatest number of people in shortest amount of time.

Cojones. Wiki says cojones is a vulgar Spanish word for testicles, meant to denote courage; it corresponds to balls in English and bollocks in British English (though the latter is less commonly used as a synonym for courage). See infidelity above.

Filibuster. Direct from the Online Etymology Dictionary: 1587 as flibutor "pirate," probably ultimately from Du. vrijbuiter "freebooter," used of pirates in the West Indies as Sp. filibustero and Fr. flibustier, either or both of which gave the word to Amer.Eng. (see freebooter). Used 1850s and ’60s of lawless adventurers from the U.S. who tried to overthrow Central American countries. The legislative sense is first recorded c.1851, probably because obstructionist legislators "pirated" debate. Not technically restricted to U.S. Senate, but that’s where the strategy works best. Yo ho ho, Lieberman.

Freebooter. Someone who joins in a war in order to steal other people’s goods and money. Yo ho ho, Lieberman and Blackwater.

Progressive. My thought is that this is a term that surfaced when Republicans succeeded in making liberal as appealing as H1N1. Yes, the term has been used since early in the last century and perhaps before that. And here’s the problem with progressive. No one really knows what it means and/or, we have very little agreement about it. I’m thinking this word needs its own post one of these days. For now, the most simplistic definition I ran across: someone with modern ideas who wants to change things. Modern ideas. Sounds kind of 1950s, doesn’t it?

Now progressing to the other tasks du jour. Toodles.

Crossposted on Clotheslineblog

Previous post

What's Tens, If Not Hundreds, Of Thousands Of Deaths Between Friends?

Next post

White House Wants To Give Lieberman Whatever He Wants