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The English Language Is Strange

2001-08-23 - 1:48 a.m.

I'm Currently Avoiding:

Damn compulsive updating. That's just about all I have to say. But that doesn't mean that's all that this entry's going to have. Oh no, I never said that. Today and tomorrow,

August 23 is ...... National Spongecake Day (Spongecake? Is that even any good? But it doesn't even have chocolate, does it?)

August 24 is ...... Knife Day (Ummm...kay. Let's celebrate violent weapons! Yeah, *that's* a good idea.)

Song of the Day: "Listen to the Music" by The Doobie Brothers. 'Cause it's just that damn good...the music, that is.

Words Went Alphabetical Today...

engender (v. in-JEN-der or en-JEN-der)

1 : beget, procreate

2 : to cause to exist or to develop : produce

3 : to assume form : originate

When engender was first used in the 14th century, it meant propagate or procreate, but extended meanings soon developed. Engender comes from the Latin verb generare, which means to generate or to beget. Generate, regenerate, degenerate, and generation are of course related to the Latin verb as well. As you might suspect, the list of engender relatives does not end there. Generare comes from the Latin noun genus, meaning birth, race, or kind. From genus we have our own word genus, plus gender, general, and generic, among other words.

whelm (v. HWELM or WELM)

1 : to turn (as a dish or vessel) upside down usually to

cover something : cover or engulf completely with usually

disastrous effect

2 : overwhelm

3 : to pass or go over something so as to bury or submerge


"It is not overwhelming and it is not underwhelming. You leave the production feeling merely whelmed." Thus wrote Michael Phillips in the _Los Angeles Times_, February 6, 2001. Recently, writers like Phillips have begun using whelm to denote a middle stage between underwhelm and overwhelm. But that's not how whelm has traditionally been used. Whelm and overwhelm have been with us since Middle English (when they were whelmen and overwhelmen), and throughout the years their meanings have largely overlapped. Both words early on meant to overturn, for example, and both have also come to mean "to overpower in thought or feeling." Around 1950, however, folks started using a third word, underwhelmed, for unimpressed, and lately whelmed has been popping up with the meaning moderately impressed.

I didn't realize that one could be whelmed. Yes, the English language definately is strange.

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