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Spin 3 Times Deasil & Call Me in the Morning

November 8th, 2001 - 1:24 a.m.

I'm Currently Avoiding:

I've been so lazy lately about updating. There were even a few instances where I actually felt like updating, but didn't for various reasons. The result of my laziness is nearly a week's worth of words that you get to scroll through and disregard. (It would've been exactly a week's worth of words, but I threw tare out b/c I didn't like it.)

Words Worth A Week

raillery (n. RAY-luh-ree)

1 : good-natured ridicule : banter

2 : jest

Raillery is the anglicized form of the French word raillerie, which stems from the Middle French verb railler (to mock). Railler also gave us our verb rail. But rail and raillery are quite different in tone. Rail means to revile or scold in harsh, insolent, or abusive language, whereas raillery usually suggests cutting wit that pokes fun good-naturedly. In fact, the playful quality of raillery is reminiscent of an earlier ancestor: Old Provencal ralhar, which means to babble or to joke. Ralhar might itself descend from Vulgar and Late Latin words meaning to bray and to neigh.

maunder (v. MAWN-der or MAHN-der)

1 : to wander slowly and idly

2 : to speak indistinctly or disconnectedly

Maunder looks a lot like meander, and that's not all the two words have in common -- both mean to wander aimlessly, either physically or in speech. Some critics have suggested that while meander can describe both verbal and physical rambling, maunder should be limited to wandering words. The problem with that reasoning is that maunder staked out the physical wandering territory in 1746, whereas meander didn't arrive until 1831. These days, meander tends to be the more common choice, although maunder does continue to turn up in both applications.

grisly (adj. GRIZ-lee)

1 : inspiring horror or intense fear

2 : inspiring disgust or distaste

An angry grizzly bear could certainly inspire fear, so grizzly must be a variant of grisly, right? Yes and no. The adjective grisly is indeed sometimes spelled grizzly, but the grizzly in grizzly bear is a different animal altogether. Grisly derives from an Old English predecessor, grislic, which is itself related to an Old English verb meaning to fear. Grizzly comes from the Middle English adjective grisel, meaning gray. Like its variant grizzled, this grizzly means sprinkled or streaked with gray. In other words, the grizzly got its name because it has fur that is somewhat grayish, not because it causes terror. That misperception -- that the bear's name reflects its reputed fierceness -- probably contributed to the development of the grizzly variant of grisly.

heterodox (adj. HEH-tuh-ruh-dahks or HEH-truh-dahks)

1 : contrary to or different from an acknowledged standard, a traditional form, or an established religion : unorthodox, unconventional

2 : holding unorthodox opinions or doctrines

"Orthodoxy . . . is my doxy -- heterodoxy is another man's doxy," quipped 18th-century bishop William Warburton. He was only punning, but it is true that individuals often see other people's ideas as unconventional while regarding their own as beyond reproach. Contemporaries of Nicolaus Copernicus certainly considered him not orthodox (which in his day meant not correct), but they wouldn't have called him heterodox because that word didn't gain widespread use in English until about 100 years after he died. Although orthodox and heterodox are considered antonyms, they developed from the same root, the Greek doxa, which means opinion. Heterodox derives from a combination of doxa plus heter-, a prefix meaning other or different; orthodoxy pairs doxa with orth-, meaning correct or straight.

deasil (adv. DEE-zul)

: clockwise

It's an old custom that you can bring someone good fortune by walking around them clockwise (that is, to the right) three times while carrying a torch or candle. In Scottish Gaelic, they use the word deiseil (a term that's a distant relative of the Latin dexter, meaning right) for the direction one walks in such a luck-bringing ritual. English speakers modified the spelling to deasil, and have used the word both as the name of the clockwise charm and the direction one walks when working it.

Hmm. I didn't know about deasil. I knew there was widdershins for counter-clockwise, but deasil? Sounds more like petroleum than a direction.

I've forgotten the things I was theoretically going to talk about and can only remember that the other day as I was walking outside, I saw this group of people. I think there were three or four of them. The unusual thing about them was that two or three of them were surrounding one of the other people. That person had a paper bag on their head. They were all singing "Old McDonald Had A Farm." Now why they were singing that and how that particular song is connected to leading around some strange person with a bag over their head is a mystery. I could speculate on what they were actually doing, but that would require effort and creativity. I don't have any of that to spare at the moment, so just use your own imagination. I can't be expected to do all the work here.

Oh. One other thing. After-Halloween candy sales (50% off!) are both evil and wonderful for varied and sundry reasons. Sundry. What a strange word. That one might be up there with rue and smite for words that should be used more often.

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