Friday, January 30, 2009

Imply vs. Infer

Some use these interchangeably, but there really is a difference that should be observed.

Imply means to to hint or suggest. Infer means to draw a conclusion.

I try to remember the difference between the two by thinking that "imply" is something that is done to you. Someone implies that you are a nincompoop. "Infer" is something that we do...based on hearing someone's remarks, we infer that they are a nincompoop. Or sometimes I think of it in dramatic, cinematic terms. I say to the bad guy, "Just what are you implying with your remarks?" He says to me, "I'm not sure. What are you inferring?"

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Read this, or I'll lump your jolly nob for you!

I did a post in my Book Shelves blog today about a book called 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. I'm not going to copy the post here -- you can follow the link to read the whole thing if you'd like, and I hope you do --, but I wanted to mention it here because it's a really fun read, and I'm probably going to be using it as a source for some posts here.

There are many expressions in this "Dictionary" which have remained unchanged down to our day -- for instance, the word "Pig" as slang for a policeman. The 1811 Dictionary says, "PIG. A police officer. Floor the pig and bolt," which would mean to "knock down the officer and run away." Apparently this definition for "pig" came into use after the original Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue was published in 1785, because that one lists other slang meanings for "pig", but the 1811 dictionary includes those as well as "policeman".

Another one I thought was funny was "Sea Lawyer." Can you guess what it was slang for? A shark!

The word "shark" on the other hand was slang for "A sharper; perhaps from his preying upon anyone he could lay hold of. Also a custom-house officer, or tide-waiter. Sharks; the first order of pickpockets. Bowstreet term A.D. 1785." (A sharper, by the way, was a "cheat, one that lives by his wits." A sharper's tools were these: "a fool, and false dice," according to this wonderful dictionary.) Doesn't that sound like our more modern term of "pool shark" probably came from this slang term? And who knew there were different orders of pickpockets??

I found out that I could be called a "Whither-go-ye", which is slang for a "wife". The Dictionary says that this is due to "wives being sometimes apt to question their husbands whither they are going." Isn't that cool? I think I'd rather my husband refer to me as the "old whither-go-ye" rather than the "old lady".

Well, I'd better go. I'm sitting here laughing out loud at some of the words and definitions I'm finding, and Thomas is looking rather "peery" at me (suspicious). I'm also getting a bit "peepy" (drowsy), so I'd better hop off here.

If you come upon a copy of this book at any time, I hope you pick it up; and since I know not one of my readers is "light-fingered", I know you know that I mean to buy or borrow it, not to steal it. In the meantime, come back here and I'll share a few more good ones with you now and then.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Life in the 1500s

Not sure if these are the valid explanations behind the relevant terms in the English language, but it's a good try. Obtained from an anonymous source.

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, Don't throw the baby out with the Bath water.

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs ) lived in the roof When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying It's raining cats and dogs.

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, Dirt poor.

The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway. Hence the saying a thresh hold.

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme, Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old..

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, bring home the bacon. They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and chew the fat.

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the upper crust.

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a wake.

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all n ight (the graveyard shift). to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be, saved by the bell or was considered a dead ringer..

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Birds

If you're like me, you enjoy knowing the origins of words. It can be surprising, and sometimes amusing, to see how a word or a phrase evolved into its present-day usage.

With a big change happening in our country this week, I wondered about the origins of "inauguration."

The word dates to 1569, from the French inauguration (no change there at all), which means "installation, consecration." The French word is derived from the Latin inaugurationem, meaning "consecration, installment under good omens," and from inaugurare meaning "take omens from the flight of birds, consecrate or install when such omens are favorable." Its Latin roots are in- "on, in" + augurare "to act as an augur, predict."

I didn't hear of a multitude of birds flying around Washington, D.C. this week, but let's hope that recent events augur well for our country!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Old New Year

Back in the year 1582, pope Gregory XIII found that the inaccuracies of the Roman calendar were getting out of hand. Although a leap year had kept aberrations on the calendar down, it now transpired that the earth was spinning 10 days ahead of schedule. His religion being Christian rather than Muslim (which states that when Mohammed can't come to the mountain, the mountain comes to Mohammed), Gregory decided to take a drastic step. He commanded that the calendar be moved forward 10 days. During the last months of 1582 and the early ones of 1583, this was implemented across Europe. Another change was that leap years in start years of new centuries (e.g. 1800, 1900, 2000) would only occur if the year number was divisible by 400.

Protestants were not always eager to follow a papal decree. In Scotland, the Old New Year was kept until fairly recently in some quarters. This led to Christmas being celebrated on January 6th (in fact the Epiphany). However, it should be pointed out that formally, the corrections of the Gregorian calendar were accepted across the world by 1923.