Word of the Week: Essence

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and soul-searching lately and one of the questions I asked myself was: what is the essence of who I am? That’s going to take a long time to figure out, if I ever do, but I thought it would be a good word for this week. Essence is the name of a magazine, a perfume/cologne, and a cosmetics company, among other things. But the name for each of these products/companies was chosen for a reason, so I dove in to find the meaning of essence. I don’t know that this information will help me in my soul-searching, but being a word nerd I always find word origins, and sometimes an unexpected definition, interesting.

essence

noun

  1. the basic, real, and invariable nature of a thing or its significant individual feature or features: e.g., Freedom is the very essence of our democracy.
    2. a substance obtained from a plant, drug, or the like, by distillation, infusion, etc., and containing its characteristic properties in concentrated form.
    3. an alcoholic solution of an essential oil; spirit.
    4. a perfume; scent.
  2. philosophy. the inward nature, true substance, or constitution of anything, as opposed to what is accidental, phenomenal, illusory, etc.
    6. something that exists, especially a spiritual or immaterial entity.

Idioms

  1. in essence: essentially; at bottom, often despite appearances: e.g., For all his bluster, he is, in essence, a shy person.
  2. of the essence: absolutely essential; critical; crucial: e.g., In chess, cool nerves are of the essence.

Origin of essence

1350-1400: Middle English essencia from Medieval Latin essentia from Latin esse (to be).

Synonyms

substance, spirit, lifeblood, heart, principle, soul, core.

Source: Dictionary.com Unabridged

Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016

 

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You’ve Been Accepted!

Carla came bouncing into the room, glowing with excitement, but halted when she saw her roommate’s face.

“What’s wrong, Jean?”

Jean sighed. “I still haven’t heard anything from the school. I guess I had my hopes set too high.”

“Awww, babe. I’m sorry.” Carla said as she hugged her. “Why don’t we go get a sundae and talk?”

“Okay. I’ll check the mail one more time on the way out.”

Carla gave Jean a puzzled look. “Don’t they announce the results online?”

Jean dove for her laptop and shrieked with joy when she read “Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to Julliard!”

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When Is Political Correctness Too Much?

 

Political correctness (adjectivally: politically correct), commonly abbreviated to PC, is a term which, in modern usage, is used to describe language, policies, or measures which are intended not to offend or disadvantage any particular group of people in society. In the media, the term is generally used as a pejorative (expression of contempt or disapproval), implying that these policies are excessive.


I was raised in the last half of the 20th century, a time when some job titles carried gender-specific titles, such as waitress/waiter, actress/actor, stewardess/stewards. At least until the term “political correctness” or PC—seldom used before the 1990s—became popular and the job titles became waitperson, steward, etc. I still don’t know why gender-specific job titles were a problem, but apparently somebody thought they were.

And the PC matter extends not only to gender-specific job titles, but to race, culture, even new grammar rules. I have an increasing objection to the more recent trends affecting our history and heritage. The Southern Cross flag, more commonly (incorrectly) referred to as the Confederate Flag, has been declared politically incorrect as a symbolism of slavery. The Civil War had absolutely nothing to do with slavery. But the flags are being taken down everywhere, and a popular TV show, The Dukes of Hazzard, has become unpopular due to its use of the flag on a car. And all because a gun-obsessed, hate-filled, mentally-ill young white man named Dylann Roof pulled a gun during a prayer meeting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina in June of 2015 and killed nine black people.

I remember the beginnings of another PC term during the late 1970s when it became politically incorrect to refer to Native Americans as Indians. Now another issue is becoming increasingly contentious — with many claiming the name is racist or discriminatory and pushing for a change; the name of the Washington Redskins football team. What many either don’t know or are ignoring, is that the team name came about to honor a Native American. When Boston received an NFL franchise, they named the team the Boston Braves. In 1933, owner George Preston Marshall changed the name to the Boston Redskins to honor then-coach Lone Star Dietz, an American Sioux. So the name actually pays tribute to a great people. Continue reading

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Word of the Week – Plebeian

Has anyone ever called you a pleb or have you heard someone refer to something as plebeian?

ple·be·ian (plĭ-bē′ən)

adjective: 1. Of or relating to the common people of ancient Rome; 2. Of, belonging to, or characteristic of, commoners; 3. Unrefined or coarse in nature or manner; common or vulgar: plebeian tastes.

Used in a sentence: The millionaire called the hotel a plebeian accommodation because it did not offer room service.

noun – pleb:  1. One of the common people of ancient Rome; 2. A member of the lower classes; 3. A vulgar or coarse person.

Used in a sentence: The pleb got on his knees and begged the prince for money to buy food for his family.


Latin plēbēi(us) of the plebs (adj. derivative of plēbē(s) plebs) + -an, the common people

Plebeian first appeared in English in 1533 with reference to Roman history, meaning ‘a Roman commoner’, or ‘a member of the plebs’. The plebs were the mass of ordinary people in the Roman Republic as distinct from the loftier nobles (or patricians) who ruled as senators and consuls and claimed descent from the original citizen families of Ancient Rome.

The word was already pejorative in the original Latin – apparently nobody wants to be a mere commoner – and the more negative sense of ‘a person not of noble or privileged rank’ was born almost simultaneously in English. It’s now mainly derogatory, used for ‘a person of low social status, a common or vulgar person’.

The first shortened use, pleb, appeared in 1795, in a play (Life’s Vagaries) by the Irish writer, John O’Keeffe: You’re under my roof, you pleb.

This short plosive monosyllable has been popular ever since, in both the neutral sense (a member of the ordinary people or working classes) and the loaded (an unsophisticated or uncultured person).

If anything, plebeian and pleb seem to have gained in derogatory force over the years, so that now we are most likely to take them as slights. Certainly, the colloquial shortening to pleb adds a curtness which sounds peculiarly offensive to our modern ears. Perhaps with less rigid class divisions and social boundaries than before, we are even more sensitive to being consigned to the lowliest of them – especially so in class-conscious Britain. And yet pleb, like its near-equivalent, plebe, is also a colloquial status putdown in the U.S., used within the strict hierarchies of military academies to denote a low-ranking newbie, ‘a new cadet at a military or naval academy’.


 In Britain, where classes are still important to many today, public schools of the 18th and 19th centuries deliberately modeled themselves on ancient Greece and Rome. In public school parlance, a pleb was a pupil who was not a member of the landed classes. As these public schoolboys left school to run the British Empire, it seems they took the word with them to describe the lower orders.

These days, the word is mostly used by somebody about themselves as a mark of false modesty, such as, “I’m such a pleb when it comes to modern art.” It’s rarer to hear pleb used as an insult, although chef Gordon Ramsay used it to put down rival restaurateur Sir Terence Conran in 2003, saying  “I think he is a pleb. I would rather have food at my four-year-old daughter’s prep school than eat at Quaglino’s.”

It’s similar to some sex- or race-based insults, where it’s OK to use it of oneself, but certainly not OK to use it of someone else.

And the British government has been accused several times of alluding to the word. In 2011, an agency released a newsletter highlighting the problem of what it described as People Lacking Everyday Basic Skills. Once people figured out the full import of the acronym, the agency found itself in a heap of trouble.

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Three Quotes Friday

Is there anyone in the blogging world who doesn’t like to read? The chances are probably very slim, even for technical and political writers. And books can be a wonderful source of quotes, even in fiction. Unfortunately, when I run across something profound while reading I rarely stop to write it down and I just can’t bring myself to mark in a book, even one I own. So I hunted down some quotes from books I’ve read. I’ll be better prepared next time.

mockingbird

 

stand up - albus dumbledore

 

life-of-pi-10

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Happy Easter

image

Word of the Week: Bamboozle

This particular word came to mind because of politics. With the Democratic and Republican races heating up to see who gets the nomination for their party, one person more than any other is becoming particularly vile. I bet you don’t need two guesses whom I’m referring to—yes, Donald Trump. His rhetoric is increasingly divisive and hate-filled, yet so many people are being bamboozled by him.

Bamboozle [bam-boo-zuh l]

verb (used with object), bamboozled, bamboozling.

  1. to deceive or get the better of (someone) by trickery, flattery, or the like; humbug; hoodwink (often followed by into):

They bamboozled us into joining the club.

Synonyms: gyp, dupe, trick, cheat, swindle, defraud, flimflam, hoax, gull, rook, delude, mislead, fool

  1. to perplex; mystify; confound.

Synonyms: befog, bewilder, puzzle, baffle, dumbfound

verb (used without object), bamboozled, bamboozling.

  1. to practice trickery, deception, cozenage, or the like:

He bamboozled his way to the top.

Word Origin and History

1703, originally a slang or cant word, perhaps Scottish from bombaze “perplex,” related to bombast, or French embabouiner “to make a fool (literally ‘baboon’) of.” Related: Bamboozled; bamboozling. As a noun from 1703.

SOURCE: Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Related forms:
bamboozlement, noun
bamboozler, noun

Word story

Bamboozle is one of those words that has been confounding etymologists for centuries. No one knows for sure what its origins are. One thing we do know is that it was originally considered “low language,” at least among such defenders of the language as British satirist Jonathan Swift, who hoped (and predicted) that it would quickly fade from the English lexicon.

The earliest meaning of bamboozle was “to deceive by trickery, hoodwink,” which is why some believe that it arose among the criminals of the underworld. One colorful, but unlikely, theory has it that bamboozle comes from bombazine, a kind of fabric that, dyed black, used to be worn for mourning. One has to imagine black-bombazine-wearing widows in the mid- to late 17th century bilking young gentlemen out of their purses.

By 1712, it had acquired the sense “to perplex; mystify.” It is not known for certain, but this sense might have emerged under the influence of the Scottish word bumbaze (or bombaze), meaning “to confuse,” similar in both sound and meaning. Given the befuddling qualities of alcohol, it’s not too surprising to find that, in the 1800’s, bamboozle showed up on college campuses as a slang term for “drunk.”
Far from slinking into obscurity, bamboozle today has left its lowly roots behind and found a secure place in the lexicon of standard English. Its very longevity stands as a reminder that you can’t predict or enforce the fate of a word.

Popular references

—Bamboozle: Milton Bradley produced two board games by this name. The first, introduced in 1876, was notable for featuring the first large folding game board. The second one, introduced in 1962, was based on an NBC show—McKeever and The Colonel.

—Bamboozle: The Parker Brothers (now Hasbro) produced a game by this name in 1997. It is a word game in which one team has to guess the words that another team came up with based on a list of randomly-generated letters.

—Bamboozled: A feature film (2000) directed by Spike Lee, about a frustrated African-American television writer who proposes a minstrel show as a form of protest, which unexpectedly becomes a hit.

—The Bamboozle: An annual three-day music festival held in New Jersey.

Related Quotations

“The best day for people of any age to trick and be tricked is April Fool’s Day, when we celebrate being bamboozled by harmless hoaxes. As Mark Twain said, ‘April 1 is the day on which we are reminded what we are on the other 364.” —Kathryn Lindskoog, Fakes, Frauds & Other Malarkey (1992)

“They’re counting on that you all forgot. They think that they can run the okey-doke on you. Bamboozle you.“  —Barack Obama, in a speech at a fundraiser in Atlanta, “Obama: Republicans want to ‘bamboozle’ voters this November“ Ballot Box (blog) reported by Sam Youngman (August 2, 2010)

“I’ll bambousle [sic] him, I’ll befogify his brain.“  —Thomas Chandler Haliburton, The Clockmaker; or The Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick, of Slickville (1838)

SOURCE: Dictionary.com (Unabridged)
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016

 

Trivia Tuesday – March 1, 2016

psst prairie dogs

♦  The Secret Service was formed on July 5, 1865, but not for the purpose of protecting the President. It’s formation as part of the Treasury Department was solely for combating the rampant counterfeiting that followed the end of the Civil War. It wasn’t until 1902 that a detail of two agents was assigned to the White House to protect the President. The White House Detail today consists of more than 100 men and women.  Source

♦  Unbelievably, the IRS taxes stolen property. The 1040 instructions say to report it as stolen property. However, since doing that would be self-incrimination, which the Constitution protects us from, one has the option of reporting it as “other income”.  Source

♦  The first Academy of Motion Pictures Award of Merit (now known as Oscars) ceremony was held on May 16, 1929 at a private dinner with 270 attendees. The ceremony only lasted 15 minutes. The list of winners had been published three months earlier, but they never were again. Though “talkies” were being made, none were nominated because because the members of the Academy felt they had an unfair advantage over silent films.  Source

♦  Known as the “Venice of the Netherlands”, the Dutch village of Giethoorn has no roads. Founded in the 13th century, its thatch-roofed buildings are connected by footbridges and four miles of canals.  Source

♦  Although the Eiffel Tower weighs 7300 metric tons, it actually weighs less than the air that surrounds it! If you built a one-foot (30 cm) high scale model of the tower, it would weigh only as much as a nickel (seven grams).  Source

♦  Martin Van Buren was the first American-born president. All the previous presidents were born British subjects.  Source


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