The Write Way
22 February 2008
Once in a Blue Moon ...
One of the services we pay for through our local council rates is a kerb-side cleanup, where residents can put out rubbish that otherwise clutters up their sheds and backyards.
There was one the week after we moved in to our current home about ten years ago ... and 'after' is the operative word, because we got the leaflet in our letterbox the day after we'd taken the last load of moving-house rubbish to the tip.
However, as we accumulated the flotsam and jetsam of life over the following year or so, we eagerly anticipated the next cleanup, which neighbours assured us would be any day now. So we continued to stack those bits and pieces too large to fit in the garbage bin, too environmentally unfriendly to go into the recycle bin and too bulky to take to the tip in our shed, in anticipation of the next council kerb-side cleanup.
And we waited.
Over the years, the piles spread to fill the space available, in accordance with Murphy's Third Law.
But then a week ago, after answering the call of the Postie, I wended my merry way back from the letterbox, unaware of the delightful news that lay nestled neatly in my hand. For what did I find, dear reader, tucked in among the offers of two-for-one large pizzas (pick-up only), half-price gym memberships and notes from helpful real estate agents who would be in my area the following day and were willing, nay desperate even, to give me an obligation-free assessment of my home's value to satisfy the demands of all their eager, slavering buyers, but a wee note from our council. And it announced the date of our much longed-for kerb-side cleanup!
With happy anticipation, I made a list of what we could thoughtfully dispose of at long last, then I set about planning what we could do with all that extra space we'd now have in the shed ... When the Love of My Life returned home that evening, after a day out hunting bison to keep the wolf from the door, I showed him the leaflet and began to chatter on about plans for the shed.
Puzzled by his lack of enthusiasm, I stopped mid-plan when he pointed out the Small Print. In my excitement, I'd just seen the magic words "Kerb-side Cleanup" but hadn't looked at the details, but when I perused the Acceptable and Not Acceptable Lists, I was devastated to find that not one item in our piles that teeteringly illustrated Murphy's Third Law belonged in the Acceptable List. Not one.
So, as I made my way down to the pool this morning for my early morning swim, I looked enviously at the stacks of junk outside homes all along my route ... There was enough furniture to fit out an entire suburb ... Beds of every size and composition, lounges, chairs, tables, wardrobes, cupboards ... Computers by the dozen and old televisions, air coolers, fans and microwaves. But by far the most popular items for disposal were what's known as whitegoods. There were more washing machines, clothes dryers, fridges and freezers than you'd see on a container ship from China.
It made me think of how different things are now, when people throw away items like these, many of which were probably still in working order or just needed a bit of a tweak to get them working again. We really have become a throwaway society, haven't we?
And it doesn't stop with fridges and dryers but also extends to words ... We've discarded some perfectly good words that, like our whitegoods, probably just need a bit of TLC to bring them back to their former usefulness.
Here's a selection I found when browsing some old books from my collection ...
Cumber - "to hinder; hamper; to overload; burden; to inconvenience; trouble"
I found this word in 'A Manual of Composition and Rhetoric' published in 1877 and given to me by Ray Smith, one of our Merry Band. It's used in the Preface to the book, when the writer explains: "I mean merely that I have studiously avoided cumbering my book with the many abstruse and still unsolved questions which environ the subject."
We still use "encumber" and "cumbersome" but "cumber" itself seems to have gone to that Big Dictionary in the Sky, and yet it's a little ripper of a word, isn't it?
And what about "abstruse?" When was the last time you used that in a sentence or heard it used in casual conversation?
It means "hard to understand; recondite; esoteric" and is just the right word to describe some of the things you read in papers today (particularly its first given meaning!)
And then there's "environ" used as a verb, meaning "to form a circle or ring round; surround; envelop." We still use the nouns "environment" and "environmentalist," the adjective "environmental" and the adverb "environmentally" but we seem to have ditched the verb along the way.
Another word whose passing I mourn is the adverb "peradventure" meaning "maybe; possibly; by chance; perchance" as in "Peradventure, she may phone tomorrow."
It's got a nice ring to it, hasn't it?
This week's quiz:
Here are some archaic and obsolete words nobody would miss ... But it doesn't hurt to have a look at them now and then. Mind you, some of these would come in handy at times!
hebephrenic, groak, neanimorphic, peenge, iatrogenic, abligurition, gloze, mundation, pandiculation, obambulate
1. to watch people silently while they are eating, hoping they will ask you to join them
2. looking younger than one's years
3. to complain and whine
4. spending enormous amounts on food; a prodigal expense for food
5. yawning and stretching (as when first waking up)
6. suffering from a form of schizophrenia characterised by foolish mannerisms and senseless laughter along with delusions and regressive behaviour; condition of adolescent silliness
7. act of cleansing
8. induced by a physician's words or therapy (used especially of a complication resulting from treatment)
9. to wander about
10. to flatter; to wheedle; to fawn; to talk smoothly
Here's a story from Joanna to think about ...
An engineer, a physicist, a
mathematician and a mystic were debating the subject of the greatest invention
of all time.
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Last week's quiz:
Some words with a Scots background:
bairn, canny, dour, wee, ain, anent, lang, och, licht, loupin
1. about; considering - ANENT
2. dull - DOUR
3. light - LICHT
4. child - BAIRN
5. expression of surprise, contempt, annoyance, impatience or disagreement - OCH
6. ain - OWN
7. good - CANNY
8. long - LANG
9. small - WEE
10. extremely sore; throbbing; full of; infested by - LOUPIN
When the waitress in a New York City restaurant brought him the soup du jour, the Englishman was a bit dismayed. "Good heavens," he said, "what is this?"
“Why, it's bean soup," she replied.
"I don't care what it has been," he sputtered, "What is it now?"
A Little Something Extra
How Does Your Vocabulary Measure Up in Today's Fast-Paced Society?
by Marilyn Estelle
Whilst studying, my daughter attended an interview for a weekend reception position. The interviewer indicated that she would need to work “alternative” weekends! Of course the word used should have been “alternate”. In conversation, people frequently use similar sounding words in the wrong context. Often, it isn’t poor intelligence that causes word misuse; it is simply that the person never took the time to properly acquaint himself with the English language. Sadly, he may never know the mistakes he makes!!
Do you consider yourself a well-read and well-spoken individual? Does your spoken language convey the complete extent of the ideas and vitality of your mind and allow you to comprehend the spoken and written word fully? In other words, have you enough understanding of the English language to achieve your goals in life?
Contemplate for a moment whether your vocabulary comes up to scratch and ask yourself how many words you skip over when reading a newspaper or book? The test of knowing a word is undoubtedly the confidence to use it.
Knowledge is power and word power shows knowledge.
Why should you improve your vocabulary?
Click now to discover why your vocabulary is so important.
Word of the week: Lychnobite (n) one who works at night and sleeps during the day
How's that for a flash word for a shift-worker? It comes from the Greek lychnos, meaning 'lamp' and bios meaning 'life.'
Oxymoron of the week: Cheery lychnobite (Anyone who's ever lived with a shift-worker will know this is so-o-o true!)
And here's a Latin phrase many of us would do well to note ...
Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus
[DRAH-koh DOHR-mee-ayns NOON-kwahm tee-tee-LAHN-doos]
(Never tickle a sleeping dragon)
Did you know that you can have your very own Latin reminders? How about undies proclaiming, Bene est rex esse? (It's good to be king) Or a shopping bag that warns, Emptrix nata sum (Born to shop)? Click here for these and more.
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Copyright Jennifer Stewart 2008
Individual articles copyrighted by their authors.