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 28, 2010

What can I say?

Though I am certainly no wordsmith and I am not a qualified etymologist (I barely qualify as mono-lingual), I am fascinated by words and their usage. I have, in the past, been an excellent speller, an avid reader, and an appreciator of puns and clever witticisms (but I would not call myself an aficionado.

Alas, my spelling skills have withered and my vocabulary has shrunk. I suppose that is inevitable, the brain seems to have a finite capacity for knowledge. At least, in my case. It appears that my once very good memory has been misplaced somewhere. Still, I enjoy good wordplay and still look up the occasional word to find its origins.

I became interested in the origins of words soon after I began serious school (after kindergarten). Reading, as I have mentioned before, was important to me. I wanted to be able to read the "funny papers" and comic books without any help. I had teachers who helped immensely by telling me (and the other students who were awake) about words and their origins. Some of the explanations might well have been true.

Teachers told me that the word news could be broken down by North East West and South (actual etymology is unknown). And also that "history" came from "His story" (actually from the Greek word for "to inquire"). One teacher suggested we think of "woman" as "woe to man." Man came from the German"mannus" and woman came from a combination of "man" and "wyf" (as "wyfman") in Middle English. Wyf also became "wife." Or so the Web tells me...

I repeat here a joke that involves a play on words. To get the proper feel of the joke, imagine that I am telling it to you with in a totally deadpan manner (as it was told to me many years ago)...

A British gent was touring the former American colonies in the 1800's and, as he passed through Kansas, enjoyed the hospitality of a farmer and his family. The farmer explained about farming in the American frontier and the farmer's wife proudly showed off her vegetable garden which, she told him, provided all the vegetables for the family (I won't go into what the farmer's daughter taught him). The gent was quite impressed and, after a sumptuous dinner, asked his hostess what she did with the surplus from the garden for it surely produced much more than they needed.

"Oh," said the farmer's wife, "We preserve them in these canning jars so that we have vegetables throughout the winter. It's a process called 'canning', I am sure you've heard of it.
"We try to never let anything go to waste. We eat everything we can and what we can't, we can", she finished with a smile.

The gent was puzzled for a moment and then realized the clever play on words and laughed.

"Quite! Yes, jolly good!" he exclaimed.

After returning to England from his journey, he often told stories to interested parties about the things he learned and the people he met in America.

"Here's an amusing anecdote I picked up whilst visiting a lovely family in the hinterland," he said, and explained about the farmer and his family and about the bountiful garden. He spoke of all the wonderful vegetables she grew, more than they could eat after harvest.

"... and then she said 'what we can't eat, we preserve.'

Well, it sounded funny when I first heard it.

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