Berthing Twins

The word berth has always, for me, had something of an oaky afterbirth; that is, upon its reaching my lips, I have never been able to escape the taste of a freshly greased newborn. I have a feeling that I am not alone in this phenomenon. Luckily, this neurological event is not without some etymological reason, which makes the whole thing acceptable.

More than mere homophones, birth and berth are more than likely doublets, which means that they were born of the same root-word. Birth is the older of the twins by just a few centuries, finding origins in Proto-Germanic, thence slithering into Old Norse, and a bit later Middle English, during which time berth is born, meaning “bearing” or “carriage,” though not a baby’s, as mothers were still at this time staunchly anti-pram. 

How long can mothers bear to bear bare-naked babies around bears without bearing arms? 

The diversity of the word is hereabove illustrated. Yet, indeed, for what duration can a woman with child truly endure or accept producing unclothed infants within proximity of large, carnivorous mountain mammals sans the proper firearms? However, a better question exists: are bear, bear, bare, bear, and bear related to the birth/berth imbroglio?

Well, as mentioned, berth began as “bearing” or “carriage” and, to this day, still describes any allotted amount of space, particularly a ship’s (and don’t we often call ships she?) allotted space, either for her docking, or for the gentlemen underneath her who sleep in “berths,” otherwise known as small cabins, where sailors sleep in the fetal position, from which they unberth upon the captain’s call to perform their nautical duties, which may also be called a berth. 

Cut the ship. With compound nouns such as “birth canal,” is it so strange, then, to have borne in mind the widths of certain waters and the flowing of certain currents? 

Is a child’s berth, then, such a stretch? 

Killing It

Whom we decide to murder is, luckily, mostly up to us. Simply connect a Latin prefix of your choice with the Latin four-banger of -cide, a suffix with a license to kill.

Feeling fond of warmer weather during the colder months? Murdering your brother might kindle passion’s proper flame. The first round of the ninth layer of hell is, according to an Italian eye-witness account in the early 14th Century, inhabited by the perpetrator of the world’s first slay, Cain, and subsequently the first fratricide. The Latin prefix frater(brother) joins hands of red deed with -cide in order to fell our brothers. But what about putting a sharp one through your sister? For this, there’s sororicide. This word stems from the Latin soror (sister), likely best recognized through the common university campus clubs called sororities, which institutions also serve as a kind of murder of a young woman. The eight-hour flight just started, the headphones just went kaput, and the baby is right on time with its piercing cries. Infanticide is the killing of infants, a task of unmatched physical ease—David Lynch’s Eraserhead shows one how simple it can be. Or, if offing the baby is not in the offing, then perhaps logic better supports the offing of oneself, namely through suicide, a word stemming from the Latin sui (of oneself). Matricide is the whacking of one’s mother, patricide the same for one’s father—I didn’t say off. For otherwise lesser spendthrifts amongst this exceedingly humble readership, a two-for-one scenario exists in parricide: the killing of one’s parents. Or, perhaps you are one for sticking it to The Man. The French and the Russians, amongst many other highly civilized animals, are rather fond of it: regicide, the murder of a king (or ruler), has been a crowd favorite for some time. The acting party most oft sees it, however, as tyrannicide: the killing of a tyrant. Simply getting your hands dirty without a specific target will likewise put a few hairs on your chest. Homicide (Latin homo [man/human]) will get the task done on the cheap. For a real deal, however, it’s best to buy in bulk. Genocide (Latin genus) is the killing of a race or kind. Or, if you are particularly fond of tragedy on a scale hitherto unforeseen, you might fancy menticide: the systematic undermining of a person’s values and beliefs through brainwashing or torture, a weak attempt at which may be easily imbibed with the viewing of the latest Batman film. 

True humanists are a rare breed nowadays, but they nevertheless roam packless across this planet as God’s lonely children. No problem, though. There is plenty of stuff for you to kill, too. There’s pesticide for pests, insecticide for insects (often pests), herbicide for weeds (unfortunately nothing yet for potheads), bactericide for bacteria, fungicide for fungus, and vermicide for worms. 

A Fellowship of Fallen Women

The bustling thoroughfares, once brimming with buxom bachelorettes, have been becalmed—their wide streets and wending alleyways now empty of women, except for one. All those sporting an XY and half a soul can relate: For every gentleman lucky enough, there exists that special woman in his life who fills his heart with warmth, his ears with bells, and his eyes with her. Amongst all this wide-eyed optimism, however, a practical problem asserts itself upon that same gentleman. Now happily encumbered by love, he suddenly lacks the lexicon to describe the remaining fallen women extant upon creation, those sirens who serve mainly as the forgotten road-bumps on his way home to Penelope. For this, Yours Truly proffers a few solutions. It has been recommended by many a Wise One that to shoot high should be one’s first aim. And to this adage can none be gainsaid.

Courtesan struts into English by way of French, which did its pilfering from Italian. A courtesan provided distinguished services to courtiers, whence derives the word, and later to wealthy, famous, and otherwise powerful men of all sorts. Lower than an escort—whose arrangement is not wholly sexual and indeed could be entirely without—a courtesan is the highest of the Fallen, the Beatrice of wayward Bettys.

No one can sneer at a classic. Prostitute carries with it some strong connotations, the imagery of which be likely readily available to the imagination of the reader. Thus, girls, women, and hookers alike take offense in achieving it as their sobriquet. Harlot sounds cooler, but the work is the same. Harlot is an interpretably milder term for prostitute. It originally denoted a man who was a rogue or villain. Although its Latin origins give this word for professional skanks an air of learnedness, meretrix is a ho, no doubt. Therefore, one might opt for strumpettrull, or tart, all of which are direct synonyms for the oldest profession. Due, however, to their very Elizabethan and generally British sound, they are deemed excusable, humorous, even taking on the linguistic impression of something closer to a baked good. One might venture even lighter fare, such as slattern or trollop, both of which can mean slut, but have more of a connotation towards an untidy, dirty, or wanton woman of known promiscuity, but not necessarily someone who sells her body to anyone rough enough to take a dip. And our most vulgar: whore

Honorable Mentions:

Paramour: a lover or sexual partner who is illicit and often secret; a companion in adultery (not limited to women). 

Concubine: Latin’s “con” (together) and “cubare” (to lie down/go to bed) join forces to describe a woman who makes love to a man to whom she is not married, otherwise known as a mistress

The Problem of Today

Standard English expects the present perfect tense to be always used whenever the adverb of time, today, is used.

Have you seen Aunt Sarah today?

Yes, I have seen Aunt Sarah today.

Although the examiners at the Cambridge Exam would applaud one’s blanket usage thereof, I should employ my hands upon a different task, dipping them first into the glue, thence the glass. 

Although myself a trifle to the right on the Descriptivist/Purist scale, I nevertheless call the case of limpeting on to this usage of the present perfect, as one does the ship’s mast before the final plunge, a load of the shoddiest. Tenses should be used discriminately, to denote time and one’s passage through it. Rules should not simply exist. 

It might insult the sensitive reader to hazard forth that the simple past tense denotes events that occurred in only the past, whilst the present perfect denotes those that have occurred in both the past and at present. Past this, I ask, then: does today happen before, now, or after?

Let us examine again the case of Aunt Sarah. The general idea is that today is not over. You just might see Aunt Sarah in the same collection of 24-hours that have been allotted the title; therefore, you have seen Aunt Sarah.

With this, I agree. This present perfect usage is paramount, whenever, for example, one works with Aunt Sarah in the same building and seeing her again is merely the work of one’s pivoting around the next corner, or one lives in the general area as Aunt Sarah, and she’s known to stop by with baked goods or bad news, or she’s prone to spontaneous FaceTime calls on the same day that you have already seen her, or oneself is a known serial visitor of Aunt Sarah. I take issue, however, with the fact that, if you ever saw Aunt Sarah, then you are mistaken.

A dismissal of the simple past tense’s “I saw Aunt Sarah today” as purely an American vulgarism smacks of the worst kind of linguistic injustice. And, indeed, it is regarded as something of a singularly American sin to say, I saw Aunt Sarah today.

It would be correct, however, to say: I saw Aunt Sarah earlier today, for it uses earlier to denote a time that happened before and will never again occur, so the simple past tense it approved.

Firstly, about this, I should state the obvious: In the sentence, I saw Aunt Sarah today, the earlier is simply omitted and therefore implied; we are intelligently implying that some part of today ended, never to return, or that a particular event or function is now history. In this case, stating earlier would also be something tantamount to a redundancy. And, aside from within the plays of Shakespeare, redundancy is given the stink-eye.

I wrote an article today.


I have written an article today.

I wrote the article, and I am no longer writing the article, thus the action of my writing the article exists solely in the past—but it all happened today. Additionally, I wrote the article during the the morning, a bit in the afternoon, and knitted the loose ends together during the evening. Am I simply to say, then, that I wrote the article earlier? When was earlier? Well, in bits throughout the day. Which day? Today? Yes. Surely, I could rewrite the article later that same day; I could edit the article, too. I could even, though my Sloth prevents it, write another article. However, I can never write that same article again today. The article, as both an idea and artifact, is complete. I cannot link the completed artifact to any present action; therefore, it’s simply in the past.

Let us return to Aunt Sarah, whom I have seen today—only.

Oh, yes? Although Aunt Sarah was viewed by Yours Humbly in the later forenoon through to the early afternoon, lives three hours away by car, hasn’t a computer, smart phone, car of her own, or nearby train-line, enjoys a healthy dose of agoraphobia, is not prone to kidnappings, has an aortic embolism, lost her voice to a pleasant life of Pall Malls, and doesn’t have any legs? It would be for my money that I saw Aunt Sarah today. Need I say earlier? Is that not obvious? More often than not, a common day on Earth begins with the sun’s rising, its staying overhead for some amount of time, and its setting. Moreover, humanity has added things such as seconds, minutes, even hours therein. To complicate things even further, we’ve given names to certain clusters of hours; there’s breakfast, second-breakfast, elevenses, lunch, dinner, supper. You know about those, don’t you?

I sympathize towards rules. I am, however, sympathetic towards rules that exist only due to their making sense; I believe that the smudge in the painting should be intentional. We have an at the end of nouns to show the plural, we have pronouns to make sense of antecedents, and we have verb-tenses to understand one’s relation to time. But, if someone corrects your saw with a have seen, firstly, consider if you perhaps truly have made a mistake. Upon vindication, tell the offender that you’ll see him later, which doesn’t actually mean that you’ll see him later, if that isn’t obvious to him already—but, maybe, for obvious reasons, he’ll require the clarification. 

Fun with Animals

Comparing human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities, defined broadly as anthropomorphism, is an innate, highly entertaining tendency of human psychology. 

The human-to-animal route is a particular favorite of humanity’s, as well as an age-old practice. The English language comes complete with an eloquent system of Classical metaphors that, in order to connote specific meanings, compares animals’ physical appearances, actions, and intentions with those of humans’, and, in this way, exaggerates those same traits, such that they become more obvious, stronger, funnier. 

Likening your fellow Man to an animal can, however, sometimes possess the propensity to be rather smashmouth football. Calling someone an ape can quickly get you into a spot of bother. To suggest doing something doggy style might also provoke a stiff reaction. Therefore, seek the friendship of understatement. And nothing says understatement quicker than scientific writing. 

By its very nature of attempting to remain detached and objective, scientific writing has a built-in understatement monitor, the literary result of which is often ironic. Scientific words are often so nebulous in meaning that they feel almost ghost-like; therefore, scientific words are essentially invisible to the weal public, so one may use them flagrantly, disparaging, and with minimal fear.

A stand-up, modern gentleman’s work-around for rendering the blunter admission of “ape” might be found in the adjective simian. For comparison to another, slightly more dignified knuckle-dragger, consider ursine: like a bear. For sheeple who follow as the flock, ovine might be the bellwether. Whenever some swine’s eating like a pig, tut-tut him for his porcine ways; and, if he drinks tea directly out of the whistling kettle, his ways are more saurian, as lizards find the heat preferable and are known for things burnt and tonguey. Elected above the normal system of life, often a clever representation of tragedy, and in possession of possible psychic abilities? Try corvine. If she’s got a neck, she’s struthious. If Ulysses’s Buck Mulligan would say that she “bucks like a goat,” she’s probably redheaded, and you can also call her hircine. Someone who’s either lupine or vulpine might blow your house down, and these evil predators are often cloaked in ovine attire. His aqua-based partner in crime is the shark, which is described by the adjective selachian. “Silly goose” feeling a bit tired? Call that foolish, helpless, loveable lummox anserine. That’ll cook your goose. In English literature, the description of ugly, demonic protectors of treasures that sometimes symbolize fertility belongs to toads, or bufoniform creatures. Everyone knows a cockroach when she sees one; the good for nothing, unwanted, dirty pests, otherwise knowns neighbors, resemble something blattoid. Satan himself couldn’t escape the biting description of ophidian: an evil, poisonous, backstabbing, lying trickster with a penchant for deceit. Neither could Gríma Wormtongue give the raspberry to his parallel with the vermiform and therefore death. But, now I’m just peacocking, which is quite a pavonine thing to do.

Now for the elephant in the room. For an extensive analysis on comparing humans to animals, do consider forgoing the extra stop by the vegan restaurant tonight in favor of purchasing Ward Farnsworth’s much more enjoyable Classical English Metaphor. The book’s built like an ox.  

A Queer Bag

I once tutored an extremely bright young freshman who, when prompted by his professor to write a more than modest-length essay about The Fear of the Unknown, twisted his brow, pouted angrily, and said, “but, if I ain’t know what it is, how can I be scared of it?” 

The contemporary system of American colleges and universities is unfortunately no stranger to such high feats of intellect. Much to the surprise of all, however, he did not finish the semester. And, although we might also wish for ourselves such a privileged life of gadding incompetence and drooling ease, we aren’t all so lucky. 

Having already conquered breathing and washing our bodies, those of us highly developed creatures who endeavor to understand a thing or two about our “reality” (as Nabokov would have written it) often sense The Unknown as something of a lurking fear. The English language contains no dearth of words within its lexicon to report on this effect. There are, however, fine discriminations betwixt selections. Let’s start with something that might make us feel a bit queer.

Queer did not always mean “affluent student with good parents and a need to be the center of attention,” rather it served as an adjective that described something as “strangely off,” or “oddly amiss.” Rumored to be derived from the German quer (oblique), queer also means feelin’ “slightly ill” (heard often in traditional Irish music), as if one were feeling not quite knowingly sick but wambling on the verge of something, perhaps along Queer Street. And to queer something has always meant “to spoil or ruin” it, which presents an interesting irony against today’s fashionable usurpation. In fact, I should wager queer now as a word almost entirely ironic. 

Strange is of French origin and means “something unusual or surprising,” specifically in a way that is “difficult to understand.” This may describe an external event or the way one feels, both of which usages arise from strange’s connotations with something “never before seen or encountered and likely unfamiliar,” even “alien,” which supports a notion of linkage with the archaic sense of the word: “unaccustomed to or unfamiliar with.” Odd would be the closest in meaning to strange, though not geographically. Odd was born and raised in Old Norse and also applies itself to numbers that have one left over as a remainder, whenever divided by two. Be there a connection between something’s being off-kilter and its lack of even division?

Fey is perhaps my favorite word to describe oddity, if only for its aesthetic appeal. Fey is a stronger word than strange or odd, for it connotes “an impression of vague unworldliness or mystery,” as well as describes someone as “having supernatural powers of clairvoyance.” Fey is of Germanic origin and has reached your eyes today through Dutch and Old English. There is also an archaic, Scottish definition that means “fated to die or at the point of death,” which leads one to wonder why Shakespeare, for Macbeth—or, The Scottish Play—chose to name the witches therein not The Fey Sisters, but rather The Weird Sisters.

In fact, The Weird Sisters makes complete sense and is, though it sounds commoner, a more sophisticated usage. Weird is also of Germanic origins and therefrom the Old English wyrd or “destiny,” or, more specifically, “having the power to control destiny.” German mythology defines weird closely to how the Greeks defined Fate. But, they are not the same. The German idea of weird means a web of interconnected events, of which a linear path can be neither drawn nor understood, whereas the Greek idea of fate took things more linearly. Something that’s weird is of unstoppable, pre-determined origins that, whilst momentarily fey, was ultimately a cosmic certainty. Nowadays, as most things, we’ve simplified it to mean “supernatural or unearthly,” or, if you’re of humbler ilk, “something bizarre,” which comes from the Italian bizzarro. In this sense, then, Macbeth, by powers beyond his reason and control, had always been doomed to something weird.

Though fate is an ancient Greek concept, we receive the word by way of Latin. Greek mythology’s The Fates presided over the birth and life of humans, each person’s destiny weaved by them: Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos—another three weird ladies. As a society, we tend to stick a bit etymologically truer to fate than to weirdFate is a development of events within each person’s life that are outside of each person’s control, which, like things weird, are pre-determined and controlled supernaturally. Unlike weird, however, fate is thought as linear. Think of weird as a spider web and fate as a river.

Supernatural has been a difficult word to avoid using, as it is today used to describe essentially any force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature. Natural things, as we’ve come to understand them, are things native to our physical, material, observable world, things that can be sensed and are therefore measurable. Super- is a prefix that roughly means “over” or “above,” which has heavenly connotations. Preternatural is a near synonym, preter- meaning “beyond” or “more than.” 

There are also more secular, yet less powerful, words that one many employ to describe anything deviating from what is normal or usual—often in a way that is undesirable or worrying—words such as unusualuncommon, and unconventional are decent neutral choices with a slight leaning in meaning towards societal normativism. Unorthodox is also a fine, middle-brow selection with some religious connotations. Abnormal and atypical are alternatives, but they’ve become bloodless, scientific bores that have actually taken on meanings of their own and have, like queer, become almost entirely ironic in nature. Outré would be a good, neutral choice for the Francophile who wants to describe a thing that is “beyond the limits of what it considered usual, normal, or proper” and carries the notion of “singularly unique,” which is an unfortunate contemporary redundancy to commit on the part of the Author, as “unique” has now essentially lost all meaning, for everyone is today “unique”—one need only a red streak in one’s hair.

Funny and Curious inhabit one category; both have amusing aspects, which can simultaneously describe something strange or unusual. Funny can describe something that arouses suspicion, as well as, like queer, one’s feeling “slightly but undefinably unwell.” Curious contains the obvious meaning of “eager to know or learn something” but can also be used as an adjective or nominative adjective to describe something that arouses the need to know or learn: “This is a curious novel; do you perhaps have a copy that I might borrow?”

Uncanny is a current crowd-pleaser, and is, in my opinion, a trifle over-used and will soon find itself queered. Uncanny describes something that’s simultaneously odd and unsettling, due to the described’s enigmatic nature and potentially threatening manifestation. Bandying nowadays about The Uncanny Valley is common. I’m bothered by the redundancy found in this phrase, as it describes by merely re-describing the definition of uncanny. A perhaps helpful metaphor, however, is the aim here. 

We’ll finish with a mystery. The meaning of the prefix myst-/myster-, which occupies a spot in English by way of Ancient Greek, Latin, and French, respectively, is best translated today as “one whose eyes are closed.” Anything with this prefix possesses a connotation of secret enigmatic strangeness. Moreover, it carries an esoteric sentiment, conjuring images of the soul or the spirit, rather than things material. And, finally, as in the case of things mystic or mystical, symbolic and allegorical significance that transcends human understanding is suggested, religion or the occult often implied. 

The Distinction Dossier: A Puzzling Problem

Dilemmapredicamentquandary, and conundrum all describe certain spots of bother. As we shouldn’t, however, like a pizza deliveryman to arrive where we need armed police, it is best that we use our language to distinguish problems accurately, the former being those of mild hunger and a hulking and aggressive home-intruder, respectively. 

Dilemma, predicament, and quandary are words that comprise a group of words that describe complicated, perplexing situations from which one would have a difficult moment or two disentangling oneself. They also, however, have discreet meanings, which have a kind of  loosely linked logical crescendo of unfortunate events.

Dilemma, for your average Cretan, describes any difficult situation, but dilemma’s true meaning is to describe two possibilities in which one faces a choice between equally undesirable alternatives, something of a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” sort of pinch. The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a popular one that intellectuals enjoy casually dropping into dinner conversation, hoping that the eyebrows of members of the opposite sex find the topic interesting.

Pictures might aid the visually inclined.

Here we see the classic dog-faced-man/man-faced-dog rump-chewing choice.

Dilemma is pre-predicament, as it is assumed that, prior to the dilemma at hand, things were popping along sans rump-chewing.

But now we are in a predicament: a difficult situation that is especially unpleasant or unfortunate. Predicaments might be best understood as “currently having a rough go.” Some warm-blooded people call these “jam ups.”

Here no choice is to be made. You’re going for a swim. This is merely a tough spot.

Quandary: A state of uncertainty or confusion that renders one unable to act, which is often accompanied by puzzled, doubtful, and uncertain feelings. Affecting anyone from lovers to lummoxes, quandaries span the situational gamut. 

Here we see James Herriot in a quandary. To help Tristan would be to honor a friend–and recidivist–whilst the opposing action would honor the professional relation with his boss, Sigfried, thoroughly frying Tristan, but, perhaps simultaneously beginning Tristan’s recovery from alcohol-induced fun-having, which is what a good friend does. James rightly falters in his step.

conundrum, however, has its own category. A conundrum specifically denotes a complicated, perplexing question or problemnot situation. A conundrum manifests as a riddle or puzzle, the answer to which often involves a pun or play on words, though it can also be purely a logical conundrum. Ironically, unlike the rest of the words on this list, conundrum’s etymology is unknown, though sources such as Fowler and the OED suggest its origins in 16th-century Oxford or Cambridge as a pseudo-Latin joke, like hocus-pocus. 

Here we see the kind of conundrum that keeps me up nights, but the likes of which are solved daily by schoolchildren in Russia.

The proper definition of conundrum.

All tight spots, to be sure.

Just Strolling Through

One of my favorite English words and perhaps concepts: Flaneur, meaning a stroller, loafer, or lounger. And lazing alongside the common noun flaneur are the abstract noun, flânerie (the carrot above the a is called a circumflex), and the verb flâner, which mean idleness and to loaf about, respectively. Obviously, these words are French.

But there is much nuance to loafing. Ultimately denoting a literary type from 19th-century France, flaneurs differ much from your average sluggard, slug-a-bed, or slacker. Flaneur carries with it not so much of the pejorative sense, rather it suggests a collection of lavishly maundering traits: “the man of leisure, the urban explorer, the connoisseur of the street.” 

Perhaps, if it were one’s desire to insult a Frenchman, faineant might be the better choice, as it is a French adjective connoting a lazy, good-for-nothing person.

This concept, however, is not sui generis to the French.

Stalko comes from Anglo-Irish dialect and has a very particular meaning: “an impecunious idler posing as a gentleman.” Stalko, as listed in the OED, means those “who have nothing to do, and no fortune to support them, but who style themselves esquire.”

My favorite rendition of this idea comes from the English writer Jerome K. Jerome, after whose work this blog has devised its theme. Jerome K. Jerome spent much of his life devoted to the study of what he called idleness and even wrote a book on the topic, titled “Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow.” Jerome’s definition of idleness is unique:

“Idling always has been my strong point. I take no credit to myself in the matter—it is a gift. Few possess it. There are plenty of lazy people and plenty of slow-coaches, but a genuine idler is a rarity. He is not a man who slouches about with his hands in his pockets. On the contrary, his most startling characteristic is that he is always intensely busy.”

Indeed, sir.

And this all reminds me of masturbation. Masturbation, one might imagine, would be left for different article. But it felt too good to pass up mentioning my French friend’s testament of what a “masturbator” is in France—a person who leans up against a wall outside all day with his one leg up and with nothing to do. 

My masturbating all over the Philly street:

Words by the Decade

Yesterday was Shakespeare’s 457th birthday, which got me thinking about a few things. 

I don’t want to die. Like most people, I find Earth to lack a certain something, but I often refuse to give the next destination a proper shot. This helpful mental fodder eventually gave way to a tincture of gerascophobia, which begot an unwelcome dose of thanatophobia. But how many decades does one really have in pursuit such old-fashioned fun? What started as a healthy trifle of harmless Anglophilia logically progressed into a healthy death-based potion of etymological arithmomania.

Much as the objects of phobia, fondness, and obsession are denoted above, decade words are created by splicing a combining form and a suffix. In the case of decade words, the combining form denotes the cardinal number of each decade and the suffix, -arian, designates a person who is or does something (contrarian, librarian, Rastafarian, humanitarian, vegetarian). 

Decade words have been deemed too sophisticated for souls under forty. But the English language has you covered from there.

Quadragenarian: quadr(i) (four): those in their forties 

Quinquagenarian: Quinqu(e) (five): those in their fifties

Sexagenarian: Sex (six): those in their sixties

Septuagenarian: Sept(i) (seven): those in their seventies 

Octogenarian: Octo (eight): those in their eighties

Nonagenarian: Nona (nine): those in their nineties (not to be confused with the English word nonage: the period of immaturity or youth…perhaps this could be used for all ages under forty)

Centenarian: cent(i)=hundred(th): Ouch

A List of Latin Lingo

I never reached great heights in middle-school Latin class. In fact, I distinctly recall, after achieving my latest D test-grade, whereon, for one verb conjugation question, I scrawled “slipknot,” and, from there—much to the delight of my classmates—growled the word in my best devil voice during said test, my teacher’s telling me to clean out the wastebaskets after class, during which he asked if I were soon prepared to take it up as a career. I remember leaving generally unimpressed. 

I never became a garbageman, but I have been taking out the trash recently as regards some common contemporary Latin phrases. 

It should be noted that this is an ad hoc listing of Latin loan-phrases that endeavors not to go on ad infinitum, rather to cover specifically only some of the higher frequency contemporary phrases until the much more realistic ad nauseam

A fortiori: translated literally as “from the stronger.” This is used to refer to a preference for a stronger conclusion to an argument, for which a weaker conclusion previously prevailed.

A Posteriori: “from the latter.” Related to or derived by reasoning from known or observed facts. The Latin prefix “post” here refers to “after” observation, during which the gleaned data may be deduced.

A Priori: “from the former.” This is a posteriori’s antithesis. It is related to or derived by reasoning from self-evident propositions and theoretical deduction, or prior to empirical observation. 

But, should you really want a bona fide win in the debate, use Ad Hominem: “to the man.” This phrase denotes a marked denigration of an opponent’s character, rather than answer rationally the conundrum present or the issues raised. This is the favored contemporary model towards understanding.

To admit Mea culpa, “through my fault,” would be to admit personal fault or error, and thus to be somewhat honorable. Don’t expect to see as much of this as of the abovementioned. Here we also see the origins of the common English word culpability

An Alter Ego is a “second I,” which also a nice pun. This refers to a trusted friend, personal representative, or, as is today’s most common usage: the opposite side of a personality, which one assumes to be much like a trusted friend or personal representative. 

Caveat emptor means “buyer beware.” The onus is on the buyer. This also displays modern English’s caveat, which is often misused as “twist.”

There’s nothing to seize with Carpe diem, its literal translation being that of “pluck the day.” Enjoy the pleasures and opportunities the day brings without concern for the future, some day. Cliches completely prevent me from doing so, I retort pluckily. Don’t worry. I took care of this one for the public pro bono. You can get me later with a pint. Let’s call it a quid pro quo.

Not much for murdered bodies myself, I like using Corpus delicti or the “body of the crime” metaphorically. In either case, this phrase refers to the substantial groundwork of necessary facts required to prove that a crime has been committed. Any skilled linguists reading this whose modus operandi it is to report on the magnum opus of lesser beings, if you should not want to change your wayward modus vivendi, then consider this artifact as merely the Pons asinorum, literally “the asses’ bridge.” 

Most prospective employers require a curriculum vitae from their applicants. I’ve always found this a bit much to ask for: a “course of one’s life.” But it’s interesting how so many applicants get by with merely a short summary of one’s education, career experience, and relevant qualifications. It is, however, apparently a sine qua non, and done de jure.

Something can also be done de facto or “from that fact,” which means something akin to “there ain’t no name for it, but this is how it really goes.” Or ex post facto, meaning something done after the fact or in the aftermath of something, or “whoops.”

And here are a few of my least favorite things:

i.e.: “id est”; that is or namely 

e.g.: “exempli gratia”; for example 

q.v.: “quod vide”; which see

cf.: “conferatur”; confer; compare

etc.: “et cetera”; and so on

CV: “curriculum vitae”; boring paperwork 

I have a very special hatred in my heart for Latin abbreviations. This has less to do with their being Latin and more to do with their being abbreviations. But, since they are both, my prejudice knows no bounds. No one uses Latin correctly. And no one abbreviates correctly. Put the two together and you’ve something really quite special. 

This was either unhelpfully interesting or vice versa. But it was only pro temporeTempus Fugit, no?