The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Speak clearly

Words are fascinating things to me. Not so fascinating that I am fixated on them, or obsessed with them, but that they amuse me. Sometimes single words that sound alike but have very different meanings or words that are spelled the same but are pronounced differently or mean different things. Their usage is dictated by context. And context is very important.

Take the word "draw" for an example. Draw means what? Create a picture with a stylus of some kind (pencil, pen, crayon, chalk, etc). You can create a picture with a paintbrush but that isn't drawing, is it? And you can scratch a picture into clay or stone or metal but that isn't drawing either. But draw is not just that, is it?

Draw can mean to collect or take up, as in "draw water" or "draw a bath". It's still a verb but the meaning is entirely different.

Just look at all the meanings of the word "draw"...

Why am I babbling about this? Well, Faye was standing there, not saying anything, and I looked at her. She looked at me. We looked at each other in silence and then she said, "I drew a blank."

"How do you do that?" I asked and used my finger to draw a square in the space in front of my face.

"Just like that, I suppose," she offered.

And of course, as wives always are, she was right. I had drawn a blank. But wait a minute, what is a "blank?" One of its meanings is: "Devoid of writing, images, or marks." If a blank is, by definition, not an image, how can one draw it? A blank seems to be nothing. And if it is nothing than how can one take it (another meaning of draw)? Or make an image of it?

I am, therefore, befuddled. Befuddle is a word that amuses me. The "be" means it is being done by someone or something. The word, then, is to "make fuddle." Looking "fuddle" up clarifies things a bit. It is a state of confusion or intoxication. I am very familiar with both of those states. It now makes some sense to me.

Unlike disgruntle. Which is, even when you know the meaning of it, mystifying. It's the prefix "dis" which causes my fuddle in this case. We commonly use this prefix to show the opposite. Dislike, for example. Or disassemble. But disgruntle seems to mean the same as gruntle. I think it would make more sense if it was "begruntle". Gruntle, you see, is an old Middle English word which translates to "grumble" and the "dis", in this case, means "to" so "disgruntle" means "to grumble"... more or less.

But it puts me in dismay. Which makes absolutely no sense. If we are not dismayed by something, we are not then mayed, are we?

In golf, we might "draw a ball". This means we hit the ball on a gentle arc that not only goes up and forward but also moves slightly to the left. We "fade" a ball when we hit in and it goes from left to right in a similar, but opposite, arc. The more severe right to left change of direction is called "hooking" (which is something else entirely when applied to social interactions) and the more severe of its opposite is called "slicing."

A friend remarked to me... "the only way I can draw a ball is with a crayon." And that is the true joy of words like these that have multiple, unrelated, meanings. You can engage in punnery (which is not a word but should be). Which brings me to a joke...

An older man, a bachelor all his life, was addicted to golf. He played every chance he got. He also partied a bit. One morning he woke up with a fetching young lady in his bed. He woke her up and asked what she was doing there.

"You don't remember? We got married last night," said the woman.

"Wow! I must have really tied one on, I don't remember anything about last night. Well, I am a man of honor and I will live up to my vows. I suppose it is time I married and settled down. But there is one thing you should know about me; I like to play golf and I will play golf whenever I can. If you can handle that, I suppose we'll get along fine," replied our gentleman.

"As long as we are going to stay married, there is something you should know about me too. I'm a hooker," said the young woman.

"Not a problem. You just need to turn your hands more to the left on the club."

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