Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ultimate; penultimate

These two words aren't intended to be interchangeable as much as they are misused that way, so this one is just fun for me.

Ultimate has a circuitous etymology. It derives its meaning from the Latin "ultima" for "the last syllable of a word", a feminine derivation of "ultimus", the superlative comparative of "ulterior" which means "more distant or farther", and which is itself related to the prefix "ultra" for "located beyond" or "on the far side of" and the comparative derivation "ulter" for "beyond". I'll save "ulterior" for another day, and leave this one with the understanding that the use of "ult-" implies distance. Now, by applying it to a "last syllable", it goes from being a great distance beyond what can be observed or perhaps even comprehended (I'll foreshadow "ulterior") to simply last, where the distance is still present, but not required to be great. And from there, the physical distance requirement was dropped, leaving only the connotation that the thing had come to an end. It has to be the last by whatever distinction of last you choose to employ (e.g., maximum, highest, total, final)

Scientists have hypothesized on the ultimate boundary of the universe. A bit esoteric, but if you've ever studied astronomy, you may understand that the universe is expanding, and at some point, it may stop expanding. It should be noted that this is a mixed usage of time and space, so not quite a pure distance application. The ultimate loser of the marathon was the last person to cross the line, or arguably, the first person to quit running. Don't confuse the distance in the example of the footrace for a physical distance attached to ultimate. The "last" element of this example is time. Still trying for just distance. So much easier with the abstracts. Many believe the ultimate measure of power is money. Correct, but not necessarily true. Plaintiff's counsel's ultimate goal is to settle the case fast, even at the cost of getting more money for his client, therefore, the ultimate outcome of his incompetence was being fired. Note that a goal is not necessarily an end, so there is no redundancy, whereas saying "the ultimate end" would be. The ultimate point in the climb was the top of the mountain. Ok, it's distance, but you still have to get down the mountain, so shouldn't the ultimate point of any trip be to get back home? The term "ultimate destinations" is bandied about so freely as euphemisms for luxury destinations, but a true ultimate destination is really the ICU ward, or the hospice! Yeah, abstracts are much easier.

Meanwhile, penultimate is an odd little word that isn't used enough. So, now that we've been through "ultimate", the only difference is the Latin prefix "paene" meaning "almost", which, of course, gives us the word for "the next to the last" because what is "almost last" must be so close to last as to be the next to last.

Plaintiff's counsel's penultimate goal is to make his client happy, or perhaps not be reported for his ethical violations, while the ultimate goal is to make millions for himself. The penultimate point of my trip when I pass through U.S. Customs & Immigration successfully with all my international purchases. Ok, so I've gotten distance out of the way, but it doesn't sound quite right. Penultimate seems to have become solely attached to abstracts. Y is the penultimate letter of the alphabet. Pedantic and uninspired. Students whose last names start with Y were frequently the ultimate victim of Socratic method, but occasionally could be granted a reprieve to penultimate status if a Z last name enrolled. Italian is distinguished from French by the abundance of penultimate versus ultimate stresses. Try it. You'll see. Well, I think you get the picture. Basically, if it can end, it can be just before the end, and subject to myriad interpretations and usages.

So, I hope this is not the ultimate posting for this year, but as I have less than 24 hours and a small party to host, which will still require grocery shopping and cooking, it may well be. At best, if I can scrounge another easy comparison, one that doesn't go through the Middle Ages or require the magnifying glass with OED, this may be the penultimate post. But in any event, Happy New Year!!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Remiss (remit)

I've frequently enjoyed this word, and now I have more cause to use it, given my recent lapse in posts.

Remiss is a derivation of remit from the Latin "mittere", which means "to send", and with "re" means "to send again", or more colloquially, "to send back". From there, to went from the tangible, of sending back something, to putting something back to its original condition as an extension of if the thing never needed to be sent back, applied to both physical and mental conditions, and then to pardoning as the ultimate way of putting a mental condition back to its original state. So, what does this have to do with being slack or relaxed or finally to "being neglectful of a duty"? Must have occurred in the Middle Ages... Yes, of course! Somewhere c. 1400, late Middle English created the word remiss from "remissus", the past participle of remittere, and as with so many words from this time, gave it some random attribution. Well, in the spirit of not being remiss, in any definition or etymological derivation, I'll give it a shot to reconcile this meaning.

When last we left the etymology of remit, it was to put something back to its original condition as if it had never occurred. And as long as we're going to pretend that something never occurred, let's just say that we're not being too strict in the application of the thing sent. From there, it is just natural extension to say that the failure to strictly apply the force or effect is carelessness or laziness. The requirement that there be a duty derives from the intent to have a force or effect from the thing sent. By a second route, there is the natural inference that the thing which was theoretically "sent back" had no force or effect. Now, of course, that requires a change in perspective from the recipient to the object being received, but from the lack of force or effect, which is a latent definition for remiss, it is an easy step to not having enough force or effect when such was expected, to simply being careless or lazy. In both cases, the lazy inherent meaning also gives rise to a sluggish or slow meaning, but the speed of the force or effect, or lack thereof, has no bearing on the etymology of remit or remiss, and is an inappropriate extension. Remiss is just about a failure to act when there is a duty to do so, at whatever pace that may be. That a failure to have force or effect may not be observed or acknowledged for some time is what gives the appearance of being slow or sluggish, but that's a relative perception based on context. In litigation, Plaintiff's counsel's failure to answer the emergency motion the day that it is received is just as remiss as his failure to complete discovery within the nine months provided by the tracking order.

So, in other usages... Her electricity will be turned off if she is remiss in paying her bill. My cat will meow at me if I have been remiss in feeding her enough roasted chicken. And finally, I have been remiss in posting entries to this forum. I fear that with my rehearsal schedule in the Spring, remiss may bleed into egregious. Bear with me, please!

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Having just finished a major weeding project in anticipation of winter, this word seemed especially appropriate.

Extirpate comes from the Latin "ex" for "without" and "stirp" for "stem". I'll take a brief moment to discuss the suffix "ate", which originally in Latin was used with adjectives (making a verb into an adjective), but in English, "ate" is used to make other forms of words into verbs. Go figure. Must have occurred in the Dark Ages when everything seemed to be backward. So, literally, the word means "to make or cause to be without a stem", as something is pulled out by the root.

So, back to my weeding project... Extirpating weeds from a brick walk nearly impossible, so I prefer to burn the weed to the root. When you see a grey hair, do you extirpate it, or leave it be? Ok, while that's correct, it just sounds too funny. It's up there with extirpating the unwanted hair in your ear or between your eye brows. Waxing is just a fancy form of extirpation (and perhaps exfoliation as a side benefit). Anything that can be pulled out by the root. Weeds. Check. Hair. Check. It's easier to apply with things that have physical roots, but it could be just as easily extended to the intangible. Can we extirpate the root of all evil? Grammatically, yes. Theoretically, no. Now, could Plaintiff's counsel extirpate the lies his client tells him? Again, grammatically, yes. Theoretically, no.

Let us work to extirpate poor word usage wherever possible.


Finally! A word from DD that I couldn't resist! So, in honor of Thanksgiving, we have:

Deipnosophist. Well, clearly, this word comes from the Greek "deipnon" for "meal" and "sophos" for "clever or wise". A "sophiste" then was a clever or wise man, who in ancient Greece was paid to give instruction. The term was derogatory as their arguments we often specious. This contextual meaning was retained in the idea that a deipnosophist was good at table talk, which carries with it some connotation of worthlesness or insignificance. The word was first used c. 200 AD as a title of a work by Athanaios, a Greek rhetorician and grammarian, Deipnosophiste, as it presented a first person account of a banquet and the conversation which occurred on a range of subjects from the dishes to literary issues to points of grammar and the esoteric. Then, apparently, the word wasn't used again until c. 1650 (at least it was past the Dark Ages!), as one who is skilled in the affairs of a kitchen, where the meal occurred, to one who adept at table talk, where the meal really occurs, since there is no further presumption that the meal is eaten in the kitchen.

Ok, so once we understand the evolution of the word, and that it derives from a partially derogatory root, usage is fairly straightforward. Her husband was a brilliant deipnosophist, able to engage in polite chit chat at any business lunch. Hopefully, I will not be accused of being merely a deipnosophist at the holiday feast, but remembered for something useful I contributed to the discussion. I will probably never have occasion to determine if Plaintiff's counsel could have been a deipnosophist, since I find his company barely tolerable just in court.

May you all be better than a deipnosophist today--Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Regardless v. Irrespective; Regard v. Respect

This one is by request, but it does intrigue me, and no, I will not be attempting to define "irregardless".

In fact, this comparison is really regard v. respect, since both words contain modifiers for the negative ("ir" and "less"). Regard has a complicated etymology. Regard originally derives from Indo-Europen "wer", through Middle English "warde" (and its variant spellings) through German "warten" to Old French "garder" for "to watch". Regard, then, literally means "to watch again", however, figuratively, it means "to pay attention to" as it derives from to the idea of watching again and again being that you don't stop watching, or paying attention. The word evolved into "to think highly of and/or with a particular feeling" as if when you are truly paying attention it is because you would think highly of the person or have a particular feeling that would inspire the attention. Therefore, regardless naturally means inattentive or unmindful.

In contrast, respect comes from the Latin "specere" for "to look", and thus, respect means "to look at or consider again" and by extension, finally, to mean "deference". Therefore, irrespective means without a second look or thought.

So, the real issue is given the closeness of the etymologies, how does respect differ from regard? Regard has its origin from watching with a purpose, hence the evolution through guarding and paying attention and imbuing the watching with a higher sense of worth, while respect is just looking with no purpose, and then as a result of what you see, paying closer attention and giving the look higher worth. The intent of the initial observation is different, leading to a different purpose for observing, although quite probably leading to the same type of ultimate observation. However, there is a separate distinction through the implied usage. Regard looks at the physical characteristics, again, the reason for guarding or watching. Respect looks at a quality of a person, the reason for giving a second look. Now, a quality of a person may be a physical characteristic (a pretty smile, a scar), but it was not the reason for having to watch the person. Therefore, we give regard to pedestrians at a crosswalk, and we give respect to the police car stopped on the side of the road. The pedestrians are a group of people who need protection against traffic and therefore give continual watching to, while we have no particular interest in the police car except for what the officer may subsequently decide to do which could affect us, therefore, we pay more attention until its relevance is moot. We regard beauty as an asset, and at some point we hope that others will respect the person for more than pretty looks. To take some common and easy ones, we are told to respect our elders, implying that we would not give such notice on first glance, but we should look deeper to find something worthwhile and therefore, worthy of deference. We don't regard our elders. That just sounds odd (like a malapropism), unless they are feebleminded and need elder care. Then, it's appropriate.

When we return to regardless v. irrespective, however, these words are generally used on a meta-level to regard v. respect, as in the fact or quality of what should be regarded or respected. Regardless of the fact that it was physics exam, the student answered the essay questions with dissertations on economic philosophy. True story. Irrespective of his desire to maintain his 4.0 GPA in economics, he submitted the essay for the physic professor to grade. Regardless has the idea of ignoring something to which you should have paid attention, while irrespective is dismissing something to which you had no need to pay attention. Regardless of the weather, my friend and I go walking every morning (almost true, but not due to the weather). Irrespective of his 7 y.o. daughter's whining, he goes to work every day. Ok, that might be a little harsh. Depending on the parent, it could just as easily have read, regardless of his 7 y.o. daughter's whining, he goes to work every day. So, depending on the person and the societal norms of what we should "regard", and even just cautious politeness, regardless has a broader usage. Irrespective, then, is almost flippant, as well, the lawyer in me prefers "notwithstanding" as a more generic, and perhaps obscure substitute. Irrespective of the judge's counseling, Plaintiff's counsel proceeded to attack the witness's credibility on his extra-marital affair. Only Plaintiff's counsel would actually presume to defy a judge so blatantly. For the rest, it would be regardless of the judge's counseling, the attorney continued to zealously represent her client by cross-examining the witness on his extra-marital affair to attack his loss of consortium damages.

So, irrespective (or perhaps regardless, as you see fit) of what you think of my analysis, perhaps we should work to err more on the side of regardless.

Ed note: I started this comparison over a month ago, but it took some time to really process the subtle differences, and I couldn't extract myself to work on any other words until I finished it, hence the extreme delay. Again, thank you for your patience. Hopefully, other words will not create such obstacles...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Seep v. Percolate; Steep

I think someone has been drinking too much coffee, but by request we have seep and percolate, and I'll add steep for the tea drinkers out there.

Seep comes from the Dutch "sijpelen" for "to ooze". Then through the German "sifen" to Old English "sipian", until finally, c. 1500, "sipe" by way of a diatectic variant became seep. Still meaning to ooze, though. Whew. Meanwhile, percolate came solely from the Latin "per" meaning "through" and "colare" meaning "to filter" (from "colum" for a "sieve"). Now, both mean that some liquid passes through small openings, but seep has the liquid coming through on its own and at it own rate, while in percolate, the liquid is forced by something (usually thought of as heat). That's it. I will make one observation that percolate tends to have a connotation from certain usage that the liquid has to go through the porous material more than once, but the etymology and derivation only require that the liquid be forced. The number of times, even as few as once, is irrelevant. Now, steep, as a verb, has a questionable etymology from the Old Teutonic "staupjan" for the vessel storing liquor OR from the Danish "stope" or the Norwegian "stoypa" for "to steep" when used in reference to malting, although OED opines that these Scandanavian reconciliations have a basis in "cast down" relative to metals into molds. I suppose its not a great leap to derive that molten metal might have a tendency like other liquids to earn this definition, but steep is more akin to the process of diffusion as may be involved in fermentation. Regardless, steep, in contrast to seep and percolate, simply involves dunking or soaking in a liquid for the process of extracting impurities or flavor.

So, the usages are fairly straightforward. If I were to drink coffee, I would percolate water through the grounds, whereas since I usually drink tea, I just steep the teabag in nearly boiled water. If my cup is broken, either drink might seep onto the table. Ok, those are the obvious sentences. A hot bath does wonders to steep the tension from my shoulders. Possibly, although it would be more acceptable with something that could actually be leached from your system. A hot bath does wonders to steep toxins from my skin. After a long performance, sweat practically seeps from my body. Hmm. Perhaps overly graphic, and seep has the connotation of being a little thicker in proportion to the size of the porous material to account for the slow rate. Sweat isn't ever thick, and skin is really quite porous, so the better physical usage would be after a pricking my finger, blood seeps from the wound. However, sweat might percolate from my body in a sauna. The forced aspect has no relation to the size of the porous material; only that the liquid is coming out at a faster rate than normal. Now one might argue that in a sauna, the liquid is coming out at a rate commensurate with the temperature, and there is no "forcing", but why else does one go into the sauna if not to force sweat?

Now, this wouldn't be a regular post if I didn't try to expand the usage. So, these words all derive from liquids, so anything that could act like a liquid is also fair game. Mice seep from a hole in the wall or percolate through the walls? Maybe, but not likely. Animates (even a stream of animals) and tangibles are hard to analogize like liquids. But intangibles are fair game. While writing my opposition to Plaintiff's counsel's motion for summary judgment, a myriad of arguments and ideas percolated from my mind, and seeped onto the page. And then, after losing his ridiculous motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff's counsel steeped in his own humiliation and anger.

The problem is, though, that, aside from intangible usages, percolate has taken on a very specific identity with coffee, while seep and steep have broader usages more generally. Although technically correct that when I squeeze my teabag before removing it from my cup that I am percolating the tea, that just conjures vile tastes in my mind of mixing coffee and tea, and no self-respecting tea drinker would do that. Meanwhile, steep can be used to describe infusing flavors (the pineapple was steeped in vodka), and seep for anything that is leaking (milk is seeping from the carton).

Hopefully, you will find that your vocabulary is steeped with good words, which may percolate to others and seep into better usage.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Incite v. Inspire

I've been grading some Moot Court briefs, and this one came up.

Incite comes from the Latin "in" for "in" or more realistically, "to cause a person to be in" and "ciere" for "to set in motion" through a Late Latin derivation "citare" for to summon to a church court (related to citation). So it is not a big leap to get to the current usage of "to cause a person to be set in motion" or "to stir, encourage, or urge on; stimulate or prompt to action". Meanwhile, inspire comes from the same Latin "in" and "spirare" for "to breath", so quite literally, "to breathe into". It was originally meant as to breath life into, and then "to give rise to" like breathing life not just into a physical body, but into activities, and then their ideas, and then all intangibles. The initial usage has been abandoned mostly, but all the others remain in varying degrees. So pretty much, you can inspire anything.

So, what is the difference. Motion v. breath (life). Hmm. Well, incite can only be used with an activity as from the etymology, whereas, inspire is broader. English teachers incite reading with summer reading lists. English teachers inspire reading? Maybe, but not really. English teachers inspire writing novels. Incite requires an impetus--a deadline or an adjudication or guilt to motivate the action. Waiting for the opposition to my motion, my call to Plaintiff's counsel finally incited him to send it to me. Having promised his mother that he would clean his room, the threat of being grounded incited him to actually do the work. Inspire requires a new thing come from the action. While writing my opposition to Plaintiff's counsel's motion, I was inspired not just to attack it on the substance, but also on issues of bad faith. While cleaning his room, he was inspired to wash the car and take out the trash as well. Yeah, like that would ever happen. As for things beyond activities, the rousing cheer of the fans inspired the rookie with confidence to hit yet another double. In am not infrequently uninspired with any ideas for sentences using the wotd. I may be inspired to incite Plaintiff's counsel to be a better lawyer. However, I cannot incite Plaintiff's counsel to inspire his client to settle.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Consort v. Valet (vassal)

By request we have this analysis.

Consort comes from the Latin "con" for "with or through" and "sors" for "lot" as status or class, with some Indo-European roots in "sers" for the same. Then through the French "consort" to Middle English, it came to mean "to associate" and then the noun as of one who associates with another. It is now used predominantly to describe a spouse of a monarch.

Meanwhile, valet is a Old French derivative, c. 1560, of vassal which is a Middle Latin derivative ("vassallus"), c. 1300, of the Welsh "gwas" for "a young man" and Celtic/Irish "foss" for "servant". Of course, vassal still retains the meaning of a servant (a squire or a page to a nobleman), but c. 1600 came to be used exclusively with one who was tied to the land from the Feudal system. It's an interesting bifurcation of the word, needing one for the man and the land (vassal), and one for the man and the person (valet) generally inside the home. Today, valet is typically used for someone who takes care of clothing or your car. Odd division of labor, but both functions are still relative to the personal property of the "lord", and now the "lady".

Now the interesting comparison is that valet in the technical etymological sense would accompany the noble, much as the consort in the literal etymological meaning would, however, a consort had no particular gender associated with the position, and was frequently applied to women (that the reigning monarch was almost always a man until modern times), whereas a valet was only a manservant to a gentleman. There is also an inherent usage with consort that the individual is not a servant, although not an equal, but more of a companion. We can make all kinds of disparaging observations about the role of women relative to men in society, but there is no reason to give such a companion a different title when the word servant (or it's equivalent) already exists if his/her sole function were just as a servant.

That said, these words have fairly limited and specific usages. When I arrive at the hotel, I send my dress to the hotel valet to be pressed before the concert. Her husband has often extolled the virtues of having a personal valet, but the best she did was send his shirt out to be laundered. Since watching Ferris' Bueller's Day Off, I don't like having my car parked by the valet--never know what they do with it while I'm having dinner. Boring. After the Trojan War, the women of Troy were apportioned to the victorious Greeks as consorts (some may say concubines, but we'll deal with that word later). Prince Philip is the consort of Queen Elizabeth. Ok, you get the picture. The unequal spouse.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Another of my favorites that rarely gets used.

Abscond derives from the Latin "ab" for "away", "con" for "with or together" or alternately, "completely", and "dere" for "to put or place". From there, it took form as the Latin "abscondere" for "to conceal". And finally c. 1605, abscond emerged for "to depart in a sudden or secret manner" particularly so as to avoid capture. This is beginning to feel like a steeple chase with these hurdles. So, "to put away completely" becomes "to conceal". Ok, perhaps not such a great leap. But from to innocently "put away" to the neutral or borderline secretive, we get the nefarious overtones to stealing and withdrawing with the booty. Something that needs to be kept hidden. But of course, because the word did not originate in the Middle Ages, at least the meaning is linear to the tone of the evolution.

So, why do I like this word so much? No, I am not a cleptomaniac. I like to use it completely for the sarcastic value. I will not infrequently abscond with Plaintiff's counsel's brief before my boss "loses" is in the paperwork on his desk. Or I will abscond with the DVD that I loaned to my friend when I asked her if she done with it since I saw her using it as a coaster. Of course, there is nothing illegal or even remotely wrong with what I am doing, but the idea that I need to "steal" the brief or the DVD before worse things happen to these things, and withdraw before I am caught is the real merit of the word and its humor value. I probably would even tell my boss that I am "absconding" with the document--so he'll know where to find it later--which of course, defeats the implied usage of the word, but it still sounds funny.

As for correct usage, which is not nearly so much fun... She should have absconded with her grandmother's necklace before it became part of the estate and was given to her sister. On New Year's Eve, the employees frequently absconded from the store with a bottle of good cheer. People who fail to abscond with their unpaid goods are prosecuted for shoplifting. Since it derives from to put an object away, abscond must be used with a tangible. You can't really abscond with an idea. That's stealing or plagarism or just plain theft. Plaintiff's counsel absconded my theory of the case for his closing? Well, that sounds stupid for several reasons, not the least of which is that we're on opposite sides of the case, so my theory could never help him. She absconded the tractor from the farm. No. Abscond is an intransitive verb, so it doesn't take a direct object. She absconded from the gang my moving to Utah. Maybe. She absconded from the farm with the tractor. Better, although not sure how secretly you can depart with a tractor, but you get the idea. The word requires surreptitious behavior to leave and usually taking something which is the basis for the need to leave. The inside man on the bank job absconded with the money. Yes. Now, how often do you have need to use this word? Hopefully not that often, which is why I so seldom hear it, but it has so much possibility, I'll hope it can get more humorous use.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Well, I absolutely love this word. It does not roll trippingly off the tongue, so it must be said with intent and clear diction. I don't think people use it enough, and I certainly don't think that those who do, use it correctly, so, let's dig in...

Inane simply enough comes directly from the Latin "inanis" for "empty, void or worthless" through the French "inanité". From c. 1400 to c. 1800, the word went from empty in a physical sense (including as a technical term for the void between dominant realities or the space between atoms) to empty-headed in an conceptional sense to silly in a behavioral or connotative sense. Ok, natural extensions. Nothing in space, nothing in your head, nothing worth hearing. So, of course, while it still retains a probably archaic usage about space from its etymological origins, now it refers to the things that empty-headed people would say. Which segues nicely into my first usage.

Plaintiff's counsel's inane arguments did not persuade anyone. This should draw the natural comparison to "insipid", which I analyzed earlier this week, and which means basically uninteresting. Certainly, Plaintiff's counsel's arguments could be both inane and insipid--silly and uninspiring--but I would probably lean towards inane. Although along the lines of rhombus and square, something which is inane could be insipid as the thing which is silly may also not inspire. But the articulable difference between inane and insipid is that insipid generally refers to intangibles which have "taste" from it origins in the taste of food, while inane may refer to anything which should have intellectual value. His thesis was filled with inane theories. Ok, if this was an astrophysical thesis, it could be a double entendre, but as a medieval literature thesis, it should be implied to be only the "modern" meaning. Her new novel had an inane plot where the dog did it. Blondes have a bad reputation for being inane. It doesn't work as well with people, as with their thoughts, but since this reputation is based on vacuousness and/or ditziness, the empty-headed and silliness works particularly well. Plaintiff's counsel is inane? possibly if he didn't study hard in law school and barely passed the bar exam. He would be technically devoid of knowledge. She gave him an insipid look indicating that she did not understand his discussion of the nuances of binary coding. I prefer vacant here. I still like inane better as a modifier of the intellectual thought, not a modifier of the alleged intellectual, but it has raised for me a number of words which may describe the void as well. Ah, well, as I said, I love this word, but I think I use is exclusively with Plaintiff's counsel. That I have so much occasion to use it just indicates the state of tort law. You'll need to find your own group of incompetents to apply this word (e.g., teachers, bosses/supervisors, coworkers, customers, relatives). Hmm. Maybe I need to use this word more...

Monday, October 15, 2007


In keeping with the words that "do not...mean[] what you think[] it means", this is a classic. When you get the reference, you'll understand why.

Like many words starting with "in" for "not", their given etymologies make you hunt all over a dozen other words to find what is really means. Conceivable comes from Latin "con" for "with or together" and "capere" for "to take" as the latter was derived from the Indo-European "kap". The Latin derivative was "concipere" which then became "conceivre" in Old French. Add a little suffix, "able" meaning "capable of", e voilà, we have "incapable of being taken with or together". Inconceivable. Yep. That does it for me. Not. Back to conceivable. Conceive generally refers to pregnancy, with a secondary meaning of creating an idea, not just life. [Ed. note: conception is not a related word, but there is the similar pair of concept, as an idea, and conception, as an creation of life which is interesting.] So, by extension, inconceivable should mean incapable making life. But inconceivable has no element of "life" associated with its usage. Somehow, c. 1631 when this word originated, creating life wasn't as important as stating what couldn't be understood. So the implication of creating an idea from conceivable became not being able to understand the idea for inconceivable, which is an incorrect negation of conceivable, which should instead be unable to create the idea. And we are left with the usage of "unimaginable, unthinkable and unbelievable". Oh, well, it wouldn't be the first word which etymology to usage is slightly askew.

That said, the usages of inconceivable, notwithstanding the movie, are pretty straightforward. It is inconceivable to me that people would not use the subjunctive tense, while it may be inconceivable to many more that the subjunctive tense still exists. The jury found Plaintiff's counsel's theory of the case inconceivable and awarded a defense verdict. I'd probably just go with unbelievable, but inconceivable adds a meta level to the unbelievability. Not just that the theory was unbelievable, but you can't imagine how anyone else could believe it. It is completely incapable of being grasped by anyone. Quantum physics, black holes, and imaginary numbers should be inconceivable, and once were. The homecoming queen found it inconceivable that she would not be admired by the entire school. A bit banal, but it does the trick.

Suasion v. Persuasion

Here's another archival post of mine.

Suasion. I remember this word raising my hackles a couple of years ago when it was the wotd on DD. Merriam-Webster defines both "suasion" and "persuasion" as "the act of persuading". Now, normally, I would reiterate that there are no true synonyms and distinguish the etymologies on each, except the etymologies are a little fuzzy. Suasion says it comes from Latin "suadere" for "persuasion" or "to advise", while persuasion says it comes from--wait for it--"per" and "suasion",so these are unhelpful. The mere addition of the "per" meaning through, doesn't add anything to the etymology or the meaning. Persuasion does not really mean through suasion, because the definition of suasion is backward to that construction. Suasion means through persuasion and therefore should actually be "perpersuasion" (Or do the “per”s cancel?) So, I think we have an issue of lazy usage being justified retroactively, since these words both originated in the late Middle Ages, c. 1380. But, I'll make one last stab at a distinction, just for old times sake. The usage of suasion from the examples from DD is non-specific, to a general perspective (e.g., moral or cultural norms), while persuasion is for a definite idea or opinion. I regularly persuade the judge to my argument, or try to persuade people to order different things off the menu so we can share and sample, but I might try to suade a child to be kind to animals or to always say please and thank you. Still not much use for suasion. Perhaps suasion is just insipid.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


I'm on a roll... This was not a DD wotd, but it sparks my interest as another word which may be both underutilized and misused.

Insipid derives from "in" meaning "not" and "sapidus" meaning "tasty". Cute. So "not tasty" becomes "flavorless" (not a big stretch there) to "without distinctive, interesting or stimulating qualities" generally. Ok. It's part of the natural shift to broaden the usage. At least it isn't a complete reversal of the word's etymology. Probably because this word evolved c. 1650, and not in the Middle Ages, either (see facetious and sarcastic). Was civilization smarter then? I'll leave that for someone else's discussion forum.

So, this insipid soup needs more herbs and definitely more salt. Poaching tenderloin makes great soup, but insipid steaks. After having found a recipe for pie crust that uses vodka, no one will claim that my apple pie is insipid. Alright, so that's the classic usage of the word that no one really uses. We just say bland. Now, the real fun begins with the expanded usage. Some words that DD proposes on wotd are just insipid. Jeremiad, pukka and mulct just don't inspire me. [Ed. note: These are words I do not intend to discuss on this forum. Look elsewhere if you want to know about them.] As a rule now, since I don't have time to deal with wotd on the daily basis that DD intends, I just skip the truly insipid ones and swoop for the most interesting (to me). Plaintiff's counsel's arguments are insipid. Insipid applies to intangibles and tangibles that rouse the taste element. The table is not insipid. The design scheme is insipid. Plaintiff's counsel may even be insipid, but I have some reservations about using this word with people or animates. I think since the modern definition comes from tasting, it has to be something that we perceive like a taste. I can "taste" the design scheme or the argument. I don't taste the furniture or the person. So I would use it sparingly with inedible tangibles, unless you're going for the sarcasm. I am diminishing Plaintiff's counsel to a bowl of soup. Sounds good to me. That's a double entendre of sarcasm!

Facetious v. Sarcastic

Facetious popped up a few days ago, while I was too busy to deal with it, but I think I'll go on a kick to discuss words that we hear all too commonly and wonder whether they are being used correctly. So...

Facetious comes from the Latin "facetus" for "witty" through the French "facetie" for "jest". It is a rare word, indeed, that maintains it etymological roots. Probably because the word didn't originate in English until after the Middle Ages, c. 1590. And today, it still means "not to be taken seriously or literally" or "amusing or frivolous" as from lacking serious content. Contemporaneous to the evolution of frivolous, sarcasm came into being, from the Greek "sarx" or "sarkos" for "a piece of meat" and pre-Indo-European base "twerk" or "thwares" for "to cut", and by a further Greek derivative through "sarkasmos" for "to sneer" and then the late Latin "sarcasmos". Approximately 100 years later, sarcastic came into being. Why it took 100 years to get the adjective from the noun, we may never know. Now, this may seem odd, to get from rending flesh to sneering, but the idea of the sneer is the biting comment, harsh or bitter derision, akin to rending flesh not with an instrument, but with words. So, the difference appears to be that facetious is a comment that is cute and not hurtful, while sarcasm is irony intended to taunt. Of course, many mask sarcasm in the guise of facetiousness, so as not to offend (as much).

When he whistled at the girls on the street while leering from his convertible, it was easy to make a facetious comment that he was acting like a dog. When he whistled at the girls on the street while leering from his convertible, it was easy to make a sarcastic comment that he was acting like an angel. Too easy, and going to get boring quickly. Facetious and sarcastic both refer to speech. Since these words refer to the witty or biting remarks of people, it doesn't work with acts of people. Plaintiff's counsel's facetious conduct to twirl his pencil while in Court just doesn't make sense. Plaintiff's counsel's facetious remark about the witness' disheveled appearance as indicative of whether the witness cared about his testimony was not appreciated by the jury. I make sarcastic remarks about Plaintiff's counsel's lack of competence repeatedly in these posts. Again, much too easy. The only thing I will add is that the type of speech to which facetious and sarcasm apply is usually not formal. It's not a facetious statement or a sarcastic order. Both are off the cuff, not formulated or memorialized. Sarcastic has a sotto voce or behind one's back connotation to its usage since you should not be inclined to make hurtful statements deliberately to someone. Telling your adversary that she is your best friend is sarcasm. Telling your friend that the big pink bow she is wearing in her hair makes her look 10 years younger is facetious, and borderline sarcasm.

Both great words. Use them well. Use the comments which are the basis of the words sparingly.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sempiternal v. Eternal

Well, this comparison came up quite sporadically from a book I wasn't reading, but got dragged into discussing notwithstanding. Apparently, the word sempiternal required just slightly less than forever to'll get the joke later.

Sempiternal comes from the Latin contraction of semperaeternus for "semper" meaning "always" and "aeternus" for "eternal" from "aeviternus" meaning "of great age". This might seem redundant on first blush. Of course the immediate question is what could be less than eternal that it would require a modifier of always, and then if sempiternal means always eternal, what does mere eternal mean? Eternal, like all the crazy connotations, evolved in the Middle Ages, c. 1350. Sempiternal came about 100 years later, c. 1450. If the connotations are to be believed, sempiternal refers to an enduring thing which came from a known beginning, while eternal refers to something which had neither a beginning nor an end. But the definition of sempiternal is hazy, at best, and doesn't make the distinction as clearly as the definition of eternal implies. Moreover, sempiternal notes that the definition if "literary", as if to imply that only if you are a published writer/author could you possibly use this word. Perhaps the real intention was only if you were a published writer/author would you possibly use this word...

I have to confess that, as of late, my tolerance for idiotic and obtuse etymological evolutions has become strained. And OED is just so heavy and awkward. But, OED confirms that sempiternal is to "endure without end", implying that it had a beginning, and eternal is "infinite in past and future duration". Pretty clear now, although still potentially useless.

Diamonds are not forever; they are merely sempiternal. Yeah, that's romantic. Many arguments by Plaintiff's counsel seem sempiternal. There are rules requiring cases be disposed of within a prescribed period so they do not take on the appearance of sempiternality. A postings to the internet automatically becomes sempiternal. Ok, you get the picture. Meanwhile, very simply, a concept that has no known beginning as well as no known end would be eternal. Love is eternal, even if the diamond isn't. Arguably, murder is sempiternal from Cain and Abel, but revenge according to the ancient Greeks was eternal. And of course, there is the eternal line at the Registry of Motor Vehicles. yes, that one was sarcastic. But while the difference is definable and clear, use sempiternal in causal, non-literary circles, and you will draw more blank stares than using animadversion. I'll save an analysis of "forever" for later to see if that word may be used as a catch all.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


After all that antiquare/antiquate nonsense, I just needed a simple happy word: Egregious.

Egregious derives from Latin "ex" and "grege" for literally "out of the flock", or poetically, "rising above the flock" or pre-eminent, outstanding. Of course that has good overtones, but a mere swing of the pendulum and some time later during the Middle Ages (of course!) we get the exact opposite meaning. That standing out is a bad thing, a glaring or conspicuous in its error. Archaically, it still retains the original meaning of exceptional, but no one would believe that usage as anything more than irony, so the the negative connotation it is.

Failure to use the subjunctive tense is no longer the egregious grammatical error that it once was, although it should be. While sight-reading the new piece, she mispronounced all the Latin, breathed in the middle of words, and didn't observe the subito piano marking in time to refrain from being the unintended soloist, evidencing her egregious musicianship. Never me! Plaintiff's counsel's arguments contained egregious misstatements of the law. Too easy. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Antiquarian v. Antiquated

I've always liked the word antiquated, largely because I am not chattel, but I am not infrequently reminded of those old laws, and antiquarian reminded me of that.

Antiquarian derives from the Latin "anti" for "before" and pre-Indo-European "-okw" for "appearance". Of course, during Medieval times, it started taking on other forms and meanings. First, the Latin derivative "antiquus" came to mean "former, ancient", then antiquity meaning "olden times", then c. 1550, "antiquarius" for "a student of the past" (antiquary in modern usage). And finally, antiquarian for "pertaining to antiquaries or their studies". It should be noted that antiquities was just the adjectival form of "old", but has come to mean from the period of time before the Middle Ages (a.k.a. really old). Meanwhile on a separate etymological vein, and just for sake of completeness, c. 1700, antiquated sprang into existence for "obsolete". Somehow the idea of old evolved into simply outdated. Another 100 years later, and we have antique proper, for an old and collectible thing, although that's not necessarily outdated (e.g. furniture and china). It isn't until the early 1920s that we get antique as a verb for "to give an antique appearance to" when we return to the worn out concept, an adjective to describe something that is old and collectible, and finally, another verb for the activity of collecting these old collectibles. It's all so confusing, but basically there are two threads: antiquarian and all the "r" derivatives for really old and antiquated and all the "t" derivatives for outdated.

Ok, so I guess I'm not as enamored of antiquarian as I am of antiquated. It's so easy to say that Plaintiff's counsel's calling me "little lady" was an antiquated sentiment from a chauvinist era. Blue light laws prohibiting coin operated laundry on Sundays are similarly antiquated. But there are few examples of antiquarian music. Hmm. that's not quite right, or at least, it shouldn't be. Antiquarian relates to those who study the past or their study of the past, not the past itself. An early musicologist is an antiquarian pendant. Oh yeah, that's clear, as well as a double entendre. Who would even say such a thing? And I know some early musicologists! The Magna Carta is technically not old enough to be of antiquarian interest. ugh. It's correct, but dumb. Can I just give up on this word, and condemn it as esoterically useless. Why does DD continue to do this? Antiquated has so much more possibility. Perhaps antiquarian is an antiquated word. I'm going to treat it as such.

Evince v. Evidence

As part of my backlog of words, evince roused the lawyer in me today.

Evince comes from the Latin "e" meaning "out of, from, or thoroughly" and "vincere" meaning "to conquer". And somehow "to conquer thoroughly" now means "to show clearly". More trial by combat. Compare evidence which comes from the Latin "e" and "videre" meaning "to see". So in this instance, "to see thoroughly" means "to show clearly". This is just the blind leading the blind. Amazing how two completely different etymologicial roots can come to the same alleged usage. Well, almost. Say it with me: there are no true synonyms.

Ok, so what is the difference. Since evince comes from to conquer, it is a personal activity, therefore, the things shown are personal traits or qualities, not impersonal facts. And while it expresses the traits and qualities of humans, it may expand to animals or inanimate objects as these may exemplify human traits or qualities. The miscreant youths evince their low aspirations by loitering in the mall. I evince sympathy with my eyes alone. I evince cold. No. I evince that I am cold. Yes. As a result of his last favorable jury verdict, Plaintiff's counsel evinces haughtiness. My cat evinces her distaste for her food by ignoring it. Yes, because she has such personality. Lions evinces their superiority in the jungle with a loud roar. Yes, because we ascribe human qualities to "the king of the jungle". My stereo evinces life-like sound. Probably as it mirrors human sound, but the better word would probably be evoke. Meanwhile, evidence demonstrates a fact, but is employed solely from the non-human perspective. My cat evidences that she is hungry by sitting at her bowl and yowling. Yes. He evidences that he is annoyed by scowling. No. The bills in the box evidences that the mailman delivered the mail today. Yes, although as an issue of circumstantial evidence, the better word is indicates. Plaintiff's counsel's haughtiness evidences his last favorable jury verdict. Yes, but it it's not likely that he won against me.

The trouble with this pair is that evince has been roughly subsumed by other words that don't sound like evidence, and evidence is rarely used as a verb, since when evidence is used, even as a noun, is suggests a legal meaning. Therefore, evidence supplants evince, perhaps as evince may be a malapropism for evidence, and everyone just uses it as a noun to make things clear. The evidence will show that my cat is hungry, that I was was cold, and that Plaintiff's counsel is haughty.

Friday, September 21, 2007


As long as I'm in a French mood, I'll delve into another French word...

First of all, roue, as DD spells it, is misspelled. Roué has an accent. Otherwise, you wouldn't pronounce the "e". It would just be roue (pronounced roo), which rhymes with roux, which is the white sauce.

Now, etymologically, roué derives from the Latin "rota" for a wheel, and evolved from the past participle of the French "rouer" for "to break upon a wheel". The insinuation is that the individual is so sinful as to require the punishment of being broken upon the wheel, a throwback to a torture predominantly of the Middle Ages (the Catherine Wheel) designed for execution. As I continue to analyze the etymologies and uses of words, and I am more and more intrigued by the sharp shift in the evolution and derivation of words which occurred between 900 and 1600. I'll have to explore that more, and augment my postings with my findings. So the crimes of a man who was to be broken on the wheel were so morally repugnant that he was not eligible to be execute by the gallows, normally reserved for common crimes like theft. But now we just think of the roué as someone who is devoted to sensual pleasure, which may or may not have been actionable on the wheel in 1450. Whether our tolerance for these crimes has abated, or whether our connotation of its has evolved, it seems that the meaning is debauchery, and not a capital crime, like leading a riot or a gang of brigands.

An admitted roué, he drank all the wine in the cellars and cleaned out the stores in less than a week. Too easy. Oscar Wilde wrote of the prototypical roué in An Ideal Husband. Also too easy. Plaintiff's counsel wined and dined his soon to be divorced client and cleaned out her bank account in the process as only a roué could. Still too easy. As I try to formulate these sentences, I am struck with the overwhelming feeling that roué and effete belong in the same sentence. A gluttonous roué at Thanksgiving and Christmas, he lay on the couch, effete from trytophan overdose and watching football. Yes, I note all my roué are men, but the definition was "a man devoted to a life of sensual pleasure." A woman knows better!


Having recently returned from Paris, I remember passing by an atelier or two in the 1er Arrondissement. It's not quite the same thing there...

Atelier comes from the Latin "assula", a chip or splinter, as a diminuitive of "assis" for a board. Through a series of variant Latin spellings, we add a "t" and end up with "astulla", which through Old French becomes "astelier", for a carpenter's shop. The loss of the "s" now does not change that it is still a woodshop, and not just the commonly known workshop. In Paris, the atelier is where they make and repair furniture. Elsewhere in the world, even when talking about France, it is a place for work of the hands (painting, pottery, jewelry).

Ah well, as a purist, you know where my tendencies lie. My usage will only be for the carpenter's shop, but it's hard to find an atelier in the Yellow Pages, and if I ever want a place for my budding dress-making business, I'll just have to rent a studio.


Ah, yes, this is a great word, not used enough.

Intrepid comes from the Latin "in" for "not" and "trepidus" for "anxious or disturbed", and thus meaning "calm", but now means "bold or fearless". I love it when the pendulum swing of the "not" gets wildly distorted 180 degrees, rather than merely coming to rest at equilibrium. Calm as in not anxious or disturbed could simply mean inactive or at rest, and not requiring the action inherent in bold or fearless. Ah well, as Newton's First Law states, objects in motion tend to stay in motion, and this definition's evolution was well in motion. Lord only where it will end up, but if the pendulum keeps swinging, it may end up at anxious or disturbed again...

Intrepid climbers of Mount Everest may also be called stupid or foolhardy. Tune in next week to see how our intrepid heroes escape from the villain's obvious trap. Despite the law being against his client, Plaintiff's counsel presented his argument before the Court with intrepid aplomb. It is an intrepid woman who knows when to confront her significant other when he treats her like chattel despite her significant contribution to his fledging business. 'nuff said.


Yes, this is another of my favorite words. Don't ask.

Turpitude comes from the Latin "turpis" for "base or vile" and "tude", the suffix which makes the adjective into a participle. And that makes this word as clear as mud. We all have a general understanding of what base and vile mean, but now its important to know what these words really mean. So, for the meta level we have vile, which comes from the Latin "vilis" for "of little worth, base or cheap" but which has come to mean things associated with the poor of the Dark Ages (wretched, filthy, repulsive, etc.) and base, which comes from the Latin "basus" for physically low or short, and which has come to have a similar connotation as with those of low birth (not refined, worthless, morally low). Ok, so back to turpitude. While base and vile etymologically have no origin in depravity, the ongoing association with the individual who were literally base or vile tended to create that connotation and it stuck, not just to base and vile, but by extension to turpitude. The irony is that as now the moral depravity is implied, turpitude is usually paired with moral in an almost redundant fashion. Moral turpitude, as if there is another kind of depravity. Could we really fathom political turpitude? isn't that really moral/ethical anyway. economic turpitude? that just sounds implausible. But ultimately, this is just another connotative association from something of little worth to people without money to what people without money may be forced to do by society a millenium ago to just that conduct generally and finally to a moral issue. Naturally.

As usual, turpitude applies to people and the activities of people almost exclusively. It's kinda hard for my cat to engage in an immoral act, but I suppose it is possible. Let's not go there either. So, the Pennsylvania school authorities maintained the right to fire a teacher for moral turpitude. This was how it actually expressed its right, amusingly for an educational system using the redundancy, and it is still just as vague now as it was then. Adultery, while still on the books as an offense, is no longer actionable for divorce as an independent cause, and therefore, socially, may no longer be considered turpitude. True, although esoteric. Miscreant youths loitering in the mall for shops to close in order to mug the last customers engage in a unique form of turpitude. It is turpitude, however, to misuse a word? Depend of how egregious the misuse. Misusing well and good? probably. Failing to use the subjunctive tense? definitely!


Since I have a backlog of over 100 words from DD, I can at least chose my favorite words for my return posts. Fungible is another of those.

Fungible comes from the the Latin "fungi" and "vice" for "to perform" "in the place of". Therefore, fungible means "freely exchangeable for or replaceable by another of like nature or kind" or "interchangeable". Pretty straightforward. Of course, the original root of "to perform" likely meant that it was intended to apply to people (servants, foot soldiers) but now it applies to any asset (commodities, money) and in deference to not alienating people (and the fact that the feudal system has largely been abolished), it is used almost exclusively with these tangibles.

While assembly line workers may be fungible, only an unfeeling corporate behemoth would refer to them as faceless, impersonal assets for fear of a union strike or a mass exodus of their labor force. Comingling client assets may make money fungible, but it does not erase their paper trail. Livestock are a fungible good for slaughter, but not for breeding. yes, although its dull and very clinical. I'll stick with financial instruments (stocks, bonds), money (duh--did you really expect to get that specific $20 that you deposited 5 years ago?) and people (for the sarcastic element). Often during my college education I felt that the University treated its students as no more than fungible--just like every other sucker from whom it could gouge exorbitant tuition while providing the bare minimum of services and herding us from class to class. Your mileage may vary.

Recreant v. Miscreant

Recreant was a recent DD wotd of which, quite honestly, I had never heard. Probably would have thought it was a derogatory way of describing someone with too many weekend pursuits (he's a real recreant of tennis, golf and pool), but that's clearly not right. Of course, this immediately conjures miscreant in my mind as a pair ripe for comparison. Miscreant is a great word, and a personal favorite of mine to describe some teenagers or those obnoxious 'tweens who lack direction.

Recreant comes from Latin "credere" for "to believe" through the French past participle of "recroire" meaning to "yield in a trial by combat" or more figuratively, yielding the cause. Ok, so I may find this an unusual etymological evolution, so I'll start with the prefix. "Re" usually means again, but it has another limited usage meaning "back", as in to take back, which would make more sense in this context as to "take back a belief". Unfortunately, that only gets us part way to its current meaning of "cowardly" or "disloyal", but if knights originally took oaths of duty and loyalty to defend and honor the beliefs of the king and, by extension in Medieval times, the church, to yield those beliefs was cowardly and disloyal, as well as obviously "unfaithful". Whew. Compare this to miscreant, which has the same Latin root, but with the prefix "mis", which means "wrong". Therefore, miscreant means one who has a wrong belief, compared to recreant as one who has given up a correct belief. Now, just to compound matters, over time, miscreant has taken on meanings of vicious and depraved, and not just heretic and infidel, which reference the boundaries of having a wrong belief system, likely as an extension of the common thought of what people were like if they didn't have the proper and accepted belief system. Meanwhile, recreant has some overtones of being a traitor, implying that by abandoning the cause, you have gone to the other side, which is not a logical extension (you could abstain). It is a fine line between retreat and crossing over, but what we see is that in Medieval times through the Renaissance, any waiver of faith was as good as sinning. Recreant, miscreant, you were still damned and outside of society.

Now for the fun part--application. Pretty clearly, both of these words apply to people and the activities of people. Miscreant youth loiter in the mall waiting for stores to close so they can mug the last customer. Recreant youth engage in a night of binge drinking and then cheat on a test the next day, despite the honor code, just to maintain their 4.0 averages. He's a real miscreant for cheating on his wife, but a recreant for walking away from the argument. Yes to the first, maybe to the second. However, since both miscreant and recreant have "belief" in their origins, this requires sentience and intent to abandon or reject the belief. Therefore, these words cannot apply to other animates, or tangibles or intangibles, except, as always, to the extent that we try to give them such cognitive powers. The miscreant dog may urinate on the carpet, but it was merely a biological function, and not a deliberate act to annoy me. The miscreant cat which defecated in my shoe because I didn't clean the litter box...that's another story. Recreant is harder to use since it requires double the cognitive intent--the first to engage in the act and the second to withdraw from it. The dog was initially anxious for his morning walk but immediately became recreant upon realizing the intense rain. This just sounds stupid. The proper word is reluctant, or possibly reticent, or even just unwilling. I think the extra level of cognitive process of recreant restricts it from usages, no matter how sarcastic, beyond people. The recreant Plaintiff's counsel asked the Court to withdraw as attorney of record for his client when he learned that his client was lying to him. Since nearly all plaintiffs lie to their attorney about something relating to their case (how the accident really occurred, how much pain they really have...), to suddenly be put off by the lie is akin to yielding the cause, and litigation is the current form of trial by combat, so this works quite well. The miscreant Plaintiff's attorney would steal the retainer and do no work. Miscreant is just too easy to use. All you have to do is think of amoral activities or people. Recreant requires more nuance of someone who has lost faith in the cause. Dropping out of high school from teenage pregnancy is recreant? Possibly, although adversity is not the condition for yielding. Dropping out of high school because your senior advisor said you won't amount to anything. That's a better and more accurate usage. Education is supposed to help you aspire to better goals, so accepting the opinion that you can't make any of those goals is yielding the cause of education. Ok, perhaps a little to esoteric, but you get the picture. So, let us not be recreant in our usage of the English language that these words may be used in a miscreant fashion.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Being a language purist, nothing bothers me more than a word which has been bastardized into a cute marketing expression. So, although I don't do phrases, a request has been made for "grow" based on "to grow one's business".

Well, this is new to me. Grow is one of those base words from Medieval English "growen" from Old Norse "groa", and it has always meant "to grow". No derivations, no deviations, no distractions. Just grow. Now, of course, there are over a dozen variant definitions of the use of the word grow, but I'm going to focus on the misuse I stated above. And how does this differ from my prior suggestions to use words out of context? Because grow was originally an intransitive verb requiring helping verbs (He has been growing a rate of 1" each month; our crops have been growing well now that we have installed the new irrigation system), and only in the 1800s was it expanded to include living things directly (We grow grapes and roses; violets grow best with incandescent lighting), but the application to nonliving things was a sound byte apparently coined by President Bill Clinton in 1992 in his remarks to the People of East Lansing ("...that we not only could, but we had to grow the economy and improve the environment.). And the phrase took off, unfortunately. I suppose it's not such a bad misuse if you truly believe a business is a living organism, or analogous to one, which it not a big stretch. But this misuse was from "growing the economy" subsequently extended to "growing a business". Now, I am not a farmer, but I don't view the practice of planting, nurturing, pruning, weeding, harvesting, and selling of produce to be the equivalent process of trying to improve the economy, which is more like trying to make a path through a Brazilian rain forest with a butter knife. Therefore, you may, potentially, grow an idea to solve the deficit, as the idea may be germinated and nurtured, etc., but you cannot grow the economy all by itself--the economy was not a developed idea, but an analysis of an existing trading system, and you certainly cannot grow the deficit down (that just defies basic agriculture, physics, and common sense).

So, while I don't like "grow your business", as long as it can still be reasonably compared to farmer's crops, it is a not unreasonable extension. A small business owner may grow his business, but Microsoft may be beyond that analogy. You will note the legal caveats that I have included. I could never use this expression. My expansion of usage is only for sarcastic effect. There was no sarcasm in the 1992 speech or any other misuse since then. President Clinton meant it seriously (I hope), and one can only hope that he hired better speech writers since then. Meanwhile, although the expression is here to stay (I have heard it used in Fedex commercials), we can do our part to try to minimize its impact. For my part, when I hear such misusages, I try to rearrange their sentence/sentiment in my immediate response to properly use all the words. "I've got some great ideas to grow my legal practice," says the Plaintiff's attorney. "And what are your ideas to make your business grow?" I reply, with just a hint of irritation. After all, I don't like talking to stupid Plaintiff's attorneys generally, and worse when they misuse the English language they rely on for their livelihood. Let's not grow the English language this way. Yeah, that really does just sound wrong. Let's allow the English language to grow only in reasonable and proper ways. Better.


Well, this is certainly an unusual word, and one that I had never heard, so a rousing thank you to the individual who precipitated my return with this request.

Lauwine, accordingly to OED, apparently derives from the German "lau" for mild or tepid, from the actual German word lawine, which quite simply, means an avalanche. But lawine derives more realistically from the Latin "labina" for "sliding, chutes" from "labi" for "to slide". The derivative spelling was only in favor in English in the 1800s with its advent in Byron's poem, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, and shares the same "lau" with the Sweizerdeutsch ("laui", "lauene", and "lauine"), which is more likely the source of the extra "u", rather than some forced meaning with "tepid".

As for use of the word, I think your audience would be more perplexed and put off by a literal use of lauwine ("let's see if this dynamite will trigger a lauwine"), and as a warning, it would be just about useless (Run! the lauwine is coming!) Now, for connotive usage, I love the word "flood", but I could give "lauwine" a try for some variety, after all, it is just another state of water. Instead of a flood of applications for the prestigious internship, one could reference a lauwine of applications. From context, the listener should get it, although I would still imagine with a perplexed look. Are you trying to sound pretentious? Probably. Why not. It's lauwine! What else are you going to do with this word besides relegate it to the archives? Good luck, and don't let all those old words cover you in a lauwine.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

An Apology

To those of you who keep coming back to my site to see if I've posted anything in recent weeks, I thank you for your dedication and perseverance. To those of you who have posted and emailed to prod me gently to action, I thank you for your enthusiasm and patience. My summer music schedule has been completely (and wonderfully) subsuming to me, but does not abate until late September when I return from the European Tour with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.

My apologies for this lengthy lapse, and again, thank you for your interest and support. I hope to have many interesting stories to weave with all the words I have stored from DD over this time.


Saturday, May 19, 2007


Technically, this is a phrase, which has been misspelled as a single word for the benefit of English, and a foreign word (phrase), and therefore, excluded from discussion, but I'll make a a brief exception because it is French.

Nonpareil comes from the Latin "non" (not) and "par" (equal). Literally, not equal, but figuratively, for unequaled or without equal. Old French kept the "non" and used a diminutive "pareil" for equal, so the etymology to usage is still direct, as is the current spelling.

Which leaves us with usage, and here I will digress, since I think the appropriate usage would be to keep it as two French words "non pareil" and write it in italics to indicate the deliberate usage of a foreign language. This phrase is French, and should stay that way. She hopes that her theory will be non pareil when presented to the Court. Equally, she strives that her musicianship and preparation for rehearsals will be non pareil, and set the standard for other chorus members. Of course, if you insist, just take out the space and lose the italics and see if it doesn't look like a typo...

Moil v. Toil

From the past two weeks while I was "otherwise occupied" with work and recuperating, I have such a backlog of DD words, that I think I can keep up the French trend for some time.

Moil derives from the Latin "mollis" for "soft" as related to "mollia (panis)" for "the soft part (of bread)", through Old French "moillier" for "to soften as from having been made wet" and eventually to Middle English "moillen" for "to soak or make wet" which of course led to manual labor because why else would anyone c. 1400 get wet other than toiling in the mire??? And that's the definition that we are left with--toiling, drudgery and hard work, and some latent description of the churning water as from the labor in the mire. Ironically, this word has no relationship to turmoil, which derives from some mill activity.

Now, compare toil, which derives from the Latin "tudiculare" for "to stir up or beat" as from a machine which crushed olives, through the French "toiler" for "to contend". It is hard to see how "crushing" becomes "contending", but ultimately, in Middle English c. 1250-1300, the word came to mean just hard and continuous labor. Maybe they were just contending against the daily grind. :-)

So, how does moil differ from toil, other than the initial consonant? Well, since moil derives from water, there is still the residual implication of churning in the work, while toil is has the residual crushing. Therefore, the busy receptionist's attention diverted by walk-ins, phone calls and doctor requests added to the moil which was her work environment, while the incessant HMO paperwork only added to her toil. The first is a flurry of activity like a whirlwind, while the second is the crushing blow. Daily teacher's toil away under adverse circumstances of dwindling resources, striving to keep each classroom from creating a moil. I like the first usage, but the second becomes a bit vague. Children after eating too many sweets are a moil of restless energy? Better, but still a little opaque. Depression moils in a downward spiral unless checked. eh. Basically, I don't like this word, even if it does have a French etymology. It's a bit useless and obscure. I'll keep working at it. See if I can make it work for me without too much moil--or toil.


Still working through my French words, although this one has a more circuitous evolution.

Pastiche comes from the French "pastiche" meaning "a medley" from the Italian "pasticcio" for both "a medley" and "a pastry cake" as derived from the Latin "pasta" for "paste" and "pastry cake", which took the word "pasta" from the Greek for "porridge or barley". There was a great joke about flour and water makes paste, but add eggs and sugar and you get cake--what happened to the paste? Well, this word evokes the joke. From the paste we get the pastry and then the imitation of the paste and/or the pastry from different pieces, and then just the disparate pieces in imitation of anything. It is certainly an eccentric derivation, but not without a rational thread, even if the evolution is due to lazy usage. What happened between the Latin and the Italian that the word came to mean a medley and not just a food? Was it something having to do with the combination of disparate ingredients of flour and egg to make the pasta that inadvertently came to be a cake and the medley of ingredient to make the cake? It's plausible, but still a little weak. However, as the Italian was arguably coined c. 1750, it is not improbable as the form of the pastry as a sweet was beginning to emerge.

A tart is a conduit for a pastiche of seasonal fruits. I especially love it when the literal the figurative merge. A quilt was originally a pastiche for remnant fabrics. P.D.Q. Bach employs a pastiche of elementary tunes from chop stix to childish taunts in his works. Statutes are a mere pastiche of unedited legal language from countless amendments. Since pastiche carries an element of creativity to the integration of disparate elements, it is typically used with artistic forms (music, cooking, writing). Therefore, although a homeless person's wardrobe may be a pastiche of charitable donations representing various decades of fashion, this may be a bit extreme. The decor of her home represented a pastiche of family heirlooms and curios collected from a myriad of exotic trips. Better. A mutt is not a pastiche of a its genealogy since it has no choice in the artistic make up, but a new breed may be so bred. Since pastiche is inherently artistic, there is an element that the creativity should be deliberate, and not merely by chance. The combination and/or imitation is intentional, and not a mistake in a new recipe or an inadvertent copyright infringement. Plaintiff's counsel's brief read like a pastiche of prior briefs for other clients, including the inadvertent typo of leaving in the other client's name, and therefore, carried no real persuasive effect.


I'm on a French kick at the moment, being a latent Francophile, and this is yet another word of French origin that finally tickled my French fancy.

Denouement--of course it would be French with all those vowels in rapid succession, and the correct pronounciation dropping the final "nt" in favor of the nasal "e"--comes from the French "dénouer" for to untie from the Latin "de" meaning the negative of the following word and "nodare" for "to tie in a knot." So literally, the word means to untie the knot, and figuratively, that has been applied to the resolution of the complex elements of an event or the plot of a literary or dramatic work. Did dénouer in 1752 when the word was coined ever just mean picking at one's bootlaces? Possibly, but it does seem equally appropriate to unraveling the threads of the story lines of a novel, and then by easy extension, to unraveling any complicated issue. So, no major detours in the evolution and current usage of this word.

The denouement of any fairy tale is the wedding between the hero and the damsel with the coda "and they lived happily ever after". Perhaps fairy tales aren't complicated, but you get the point. A typical film follows a 3 act formula with a quick denouement in the last reel; however, the movie AI: Artifical Intelligence, had a 3 act denouement which was painful to watch not only for the additional length but also for the lack of understanding of when the picture would actually end. The denouement of an argument between friends should lead to reconciliation and apologies. Plaintiff's counsel enjoyed the sound of his own voice so much that he failed to present a proper denouement in his closing argument that the jury could understand what the point of his speech was. Isn't the graduation ceremony merely a denouement of four years in college? This word isn't hard to use in everyday life. Any time an activity is winding down, this word is appropriate. There is an overtone of resolution of a complicated issue, the idea being that the events have been building to a climax which is resolved. If there is no building, though, there may be little to resolve, and therefore no real denouement. Conversely, a denouement which leads to a cliffhanger may be unsatisfying as not really resolving anything. So using denouement outside of normally complicated resolutions gives that import to the thing, for effect or for sarcasm. The denouement of the work day is packing up to go home. Perhaps a bit of an overstatement, but that depends on how intricate one's work is and how difficult it may be to extricate oneself at the end of the day. The denouement of bankruptcy usually ends in a fire sale of assets. So many opportunities. So little time. The denouement of many entries in this forum involves a usage impugning plaintiffs' counsel. Enjoy.


Love this word! I use it regularly, and never hear it enough. Whenever I do hear it used (not by me), it always makes me smile.

Penchant comes from the French "pencher" for bend or incline from the Latin "pendere" for "to hang or weigh" as devolved through the Latin "pendicare" for "to lean". So as the pendulum or pendant (both of the same origin) hangs and perhaps sways in a direction, perhaps from a perceived imbalance, a movement whether deliberate or by the earth's rotation or magnetism, or an architectural anomaly, the bob appears to "incline" towards something. Of course, like all good words related to the movement of objects, it was immediately applied to people where it stuck and the object origin was abandoned. Thus, penchant not only means the emotional inclination toward a person or idea, but a strong such inclination, as if the original "inclining" were due solely to magnetism causing an unnatural attraction of the pendant to the other object.

She has a penchant for exploring new blog sites. His penchant for forensic accounting made him a formidable business executive. Her cat's penchant for moist cat treats was guaranteed to bring the pet out of hiding just from rusting the bag. As an initial note, penchant is nearly always used with the preposition "for", which makes this practically a phrase, and it can be used with any sentient creature which could have a preferential liking of something without issue. Now, the old IBM 386's had a penchant for crashing just before the user tried to save. Possibly, if you think outdated computers like to foil user's reasonable efforts, and give such intent to the computer. Derelict buildings have a penchant for drawing crime. Probably not, even if one were being sarcastic. There's just nothing cognitive about a building that it could even be remotely analogized to a person. Vague political theories have a penchant for being bandied about by the uninformed. Again probably not, because the theories are not the ones with the liking that is causing anything. Politicians have a penchant for bandying about vague political theories. Correct. And of course, she has a keen penchant for picking on plaintiffs' counsel.

Thursday, May 3, 2007


I normally would have given this word a miss, but the DD etymology got me so riled, I had to address it.

Pantheon derives from the Greek (finally! not another Latin origin) "pan" for "all" and "theos" for "god", so pantheon literally means "all the gods". There is nothing about a structure, despite what DD says. The Greek system of worshiping the gods was not restricted to a single building, but was a way of life which was embodied in all activities, much like many modern day religions which are not merely restricted to Sunday or Saturday services. To speak of the Pantheon then with a capital P was not referring to a temple, but to the Twelve Olympian, which represented the important gods, and the other gods were facets under these twelve (See e.g., Hermes, Hermes Argeiphontes, Hermes Cthonious (overlapping with Charon), Hermes Cyllenius, Hermes Trimegistis, Hermes Psychopompos (overlapping with Somnus, and his son Morpheus)). Gods not associated directly or indirectly with the Olympians were prior ancient deities being phased out as having been defeated by the Olympians (Titans and their "monstrous" progeny), deities in contravention to the Olympians for point of conflict (literally, Eris), and the vague deities of nature (e.g., Gaia, Eos, Nyx). So, to speak of the Pantheon is to speak of the twelve greatest gods of ancient Greece, and possibly the twelve greatest Roman gods as the same were subverted entirely into their religion. There was no single building in ancient Greece where all twelve were worshiped; that only exists in Rome, which makes it ironic that the idea of a structure is a Roman construct onto a Greek idea, literally and figuratively. Since there was no such building until Roman times, but the word is solely of Greek origin, it is clear that there was no intention of a building until the Romans took over the "Pantheon" from the Greeks. Therefore, being a purist, I would never use this word to describe a building except for the sole named building in Italy. Ok, stepping off my soap box now.

Quickly, then in practice, it should refer to a small group of the best of a category. Nobel prize winners represent the pantheon of academic scholars. Senior partners meet as a pantheon of legal minds. The special publication of the pantheon of papers was widely regarded as a "must have" for every library. The seven wonders of the ancient world are a pantheon of the greatest structures ever built. Works with people, places, things, ideas, basically anything that has a "best" which is everything. I'll leave you to your own sarcasm about creating a pantheon of things which are less than the best, but you know mine would start with Plaintiff's counsel.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Credulous v. Credible

My gut tells me that these are words frequently misused, so it's time I set myself straight, and DD has prompted me to do so.

Credulous comes from the Latin "credere" for "to believe", therefore, credulous means "believing easily", so it refers to the perception of a person and not the quality of the thing or intangible. Young children lose their credulous nature as they are exposed to the realities of the world around them. Naivete is merely credulousness in adults. Credulous clients allow Plaintiff's counsel's to convince them about the ongoing merits of their case, even in the face of negative court rulings. But not, the credulous witness or evidence was not believed by the jury. The correct word there is credible, which also comes from the Latin "credere". So the difference here is the suffix. "ous" means "possessing or being full of" the noun while "ible" means "susceptible of or capable of being" of that verb. The part of speech is largely irrelevant and only becomes an issue due to the switched perspective. Therefore, credulous correctly means "possessing or being full of belief" and credible means "capable of being believed". See various v. variable. Credible, therefore, can be used not just with people, but also with tangibles and intangibles, since the quality of capable of being believed is latent in the tangible or intangible until it is acknowledged by the potential believer. One who is credulous may believe too quickly that which appears tacitly credible. Fill in your own subjects; mine are Plaintiff's counsel and their own arguments.

Supplant v. Usurp

Both sublime words, not used nearly enough.

Supplant comes from the Latin "sub" for "under" and "planta" for "the sole of the foot". Therefore, literally it means "under foot", but poetically, as we have seen from other Latin derivations, the preposition comes after the verb, so it means to put one's foot under another, and thereby thrown that person down by tripping them. I suppose you would only want to trip someone who was under foot. From "tripping" someone, it is only a moderate stretch through "to displace or substitute" to "to take by force". After all, as we remember from grade school, when we "trip" someone, it is usually intentionally.

My cat regularly supplants my need for sleep with her need for affection. Someday alternative energy will supplant our reliance on fossil fuels. Plaintiff's counsel's client's whining supplanted his good sense not to take the case. Since supplant involves an issue of perception about the tripping or substitution, it works with tangibles and intangibles.

Now, the real fun is how it differs from usurp. Usurp comes from the Latin "usus" for "a use" and "rapere" for "to seize", and therefore means "seize for use". Usurp, by the etymology of "to seize", is more violent than supplant which was just tripping, and therefore, usurp has the connotation of being "without right" while supplant is just accidental or negligent. So, the uncle usurped the throne from his brother. Standard usage. Or building the fence 1" onto his neighbor's property, which position was not noticed for 20 years, allowed him to usurp the land through adverse possession. Perhaps a little less standard, but still correct. Having swapped urine samples, he usurped his competitor's place on the team. Ok, enough of standard usage. If we talk business, the release of the new Microsoft OS was intended to usurp Apple's dominance in the market. While not technically an issue of "without right", it gives the spectre of being underhanded or dirty as if it were "without right" from not being fair. The water cooler gossip of her affair which led to her promotion usurped her authority. Eh. Perhaps undermined would be better here, but it is possible that the gossip did replace her authority, and not merely countermand it. The water cooler gossip of her affair usurped the good reputation she had developed for her charitable work. Better, but still not quite right. It is violent enough in that the gossip is invidious, but the element being taken still doesn't appear to lend itself to such seizure. Plaintiff's counsel's client's whining usurped his good sense not to take the case. Hmmm. If he were weak-willed that his client could seize control of his good sense, maybe. Ok, well, basically, taking usurp to an expanded usage, it needs to have the appearance of being "without right" or raised to the level of appearing to be "without right" and the element being taken needs to be susceptible to being taken. She would never usurp someone else's idea or work and pass it off as her own, although she was often jokingly accused of having read everyone's mind.

We endeavor not to supplant our own word meanings, and thereby, not to usurp correct usage.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Indigence v. Destitute

These are such depressing words, but DD, in it's infinite wisdom, thought indigence was a good wotd, and that led to a natural comparison with destitute. At least indigence wasn't the wotd for April 15th...

Indigence derives from the Latin "indu" for "in or within" and "egere" for "to be in need or want", which appears to be a little redundant, but fortunately, since the meaning is still "in need", I don't need to go into a lengthy analysis of the etymology or the derivation. Perhaps the double "in" just gives greater emphasis to the state of need which makes it a "seriously impoverished condition" and not merely a basic "in need".

Destitute, on the other hand, derives from the Latin "de" as a form of "dis" for "out, off, apart, away, completely" and "stit" for "place or put". Therefore, destitute means "out of place" and by reasonable extension, without the comforts associated with place (shelter, clothing, food). Of course, then next natural and perhaps lazy association was just simply to be without something whether a basic necessity or not.

So, of course, this leaves us with two words which still appear to have the same meaning, of being without something necessary. Time for OED. Well, OED does shed some light. Destitute has a connotation of having been abandoned or deprived, and therefore, that the circumstances were brought on by another person, while indigence is from the personal perspective of being in want or need, not necessarily due to the actions of another person, and almost exclusively relates a lack of money as due, since with money we could fulfill these basic wants and needs. When she was evicted from her apartment, she became destitute, but she could not pay the rent because of her indigence from choosing not to work. Now, because we have to push the boundaries... Destitute can be used with any living being, but indigence from a standpoint of wanting and needing a basic necessity only applies to people. Standing on the T platform in the light snow, clutch her coat against the wind and half asleep after having missed her stop some 4 stops earlier, she looked destitute, and in pity, the T driver stopped to pick her up even though this was not the inbound platform. True story. When he was downsized from his place of employment of the last 30 years, he looked destitute and confused, but fortunately his 401k ensured that he would not be indigent. The lone obsolete 386 computer looked destitute on a table of Intel Core Duos. Possibly, it you think computers have basic needs (talk to Pixar), but this also goes to the original meaning of being abandoned and out of place, notwithstanding that it was intended for people. Many graduate students are indigent which is an unintended tax classification for living below the poverty line. Beggars on the streets of Cape Town are indigent but not destitute since they have their Township home. Animals in a humane society pull at our heart strings because they are destitute. I can't write any more of these "destitute" sentences--they make me sad. Ok, well, maybe one more. She smiled as the disbarred Plaintiff's counsel left his office, now destitute, and likely to become indigent as a result of being unemployable.

May you never be destitute nor indigent.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Blatant v. Flagrant

By request, and this is a particularly good pair.

Blatant was coined by Edmund Spenser in "The Faerie Queen" in 1596, its etymology is questioned from two origins: first, from the Scottish "blaitant", an archaic form of the word "bleating" and second, from the Latin "blatire" for "to babble or blab". It has been argued that bleating is less what was intended than the blabbing. Bleating connotes an annoying sound, usually pleading and whining, while blabbing connotes a loud publication, telling secrets and gossiping. Without getting too much into blabbing, it just doesn't work once you get past 4th grade and learn that telling secrets is best done sotto voce. But it seems difficult to describe a monster ("the blatant beast") as telling secrets more than as making loud and annoying sounds, and therefore, I would argue that in coining the word, Spencer perhaps intended both elements, folding on each other with a good double meaning. But that doesn't help us, because now we have a word that since its meaning has not been reconciled, still has two distinct and unrelated prongs: (1) the bleating and (2) the blabbing. What is important to note, though, is that there is no element of "obviousness". Loud and annoying does not necessarily give rise to "obvious" (particularly since obvious relates first to things that are seen, not heard). Therefore, DD's Random House definitions which opine for some level of obviousness are just wrong as an over-extension of the word, whereas OED and DD's American Heritage definitions, which are just about loud and annoying are correct. So ultimately, the correct usage of blatant is solely the loud and annoying aspects. That there is a connotation of offensiveness appears to be latent from the blabbing origins (when you give secrets you are offending someone) and/or because of the extent of something that is really that loud or annoying could be offensive. Therefore, blatant as it might mean offensive may only apply when something is extremely loud and annoying (i.e., vulgar) or when being disrespectful.

Therefore, it is correct to say that as he got more drunk, his one-uping stories became more blatant. Here it can mean both the loud and offensive connotation, probably works best because of the double entendre. The blatant barking of guard dog brought the police. It's just loud and annoying, but not offensive, even if it were at 4:00am. It is a blatant mistake to wear red and green to a Hanukkah party. Well, color combination is loud, but here, it was intended because of the annoying and possibly offensive aspects as being disrespectful.

Meanwhile, flagrant comes from the Latin "flagrare" for "to burn", and has come to mean "conspicuously bad, offensive or reprehensible", the idea that when something is burning it is noticeable to everyone and probably not desirable, at least back before modern fire-fighting techniques were available. Remember, even signal fires gave away position to the enemy. Flagrant also still carries the meaning about fire and the quality of fire (red, hot), and has been used metaphorically in that context when describing emotions, such as desire, or war, but I'll focus on the "offensive" aspect, since this is a comparison to blatant. Here, flagrant means obvious, and since obviousness is an evaluative measure, it doesn't apply to people or things, but rather to ideas and activities. He was a flagrant fellow often investing poorly. When applied like this, it tends to have the tangible qualities of red or hot, which would be inappropriate, or else it sounds like it is a malapropism of frivolous, and should just mean wasteful. His flagrant "investing" in Ponzi schemes earned him a financial custodian. Better. The tell-all book about the his patient's psychology sessions was a flagrant breach of the psychotherapist/patient privilege. [Ed. note: they can't all be about attorneys...] Speeding and weaving on the Beltway are flagrant violations of the rules of driving. Flagrant seems to work best with intangibles. "Sampling" his mother's birthday cake the day before her 50th birthday party showed a flagrant disregard for her feelings.

It was flagrant lie to say that she had not been swimming when she showed up in a bikini dripping wet, but it was merely a blatant lie when she proclaimed that she had not enjoyed herself when we were also suffering from the heat. The second lie may have also been flagrant, but getting chlorine or salt out of hair is sometimes quite hard and the effort may not have been worth it, so we can't know for sure. As psychopaths substitute fiction for fact, what they think are merely blatant breaches of etiquette are actually flagrant disregards of social norms. Plaintiff's counsel's motion for summary judgment contained many flagrant misquotes from the deposition which became blatant to me the more he kept repeating them despite correction in the opposition, at oral argument and from the bench. [Yes, there must always be an attorney...]