December 13, 2006


cracker-barrel \KRAK-er-bair-ul\ adjective : suggestive of the friendly homespun character of a country store

In the days before pre-packaged food and huge supermarkets, a trip to the nearest store was more than just an errand; it was also a chance to socialize and keep up with goings-on. The country store of yesteryear was the focal point of many rural communities, and the heart of the country store was the cracker barrel. Literally a barrel containing crackers, the cracker barrel -- which afforded a seat for at least one person -- was the spot where folks would gather to chat about weather and politics, or to swap stories, jokes, and gossip. Today, cracker barrels are largely a thing of the past, but the flavor of those friendly exchanges lives on in the adjective "cracker-barrel."


dithyramb \DITH-ih-ram\ noun
1 : a usually short poem in an inspired wild irregular strain
2 : a statement or writing in an exalted or enthusiastic vein

In ancient Greece, the wine god Dionysus (or Bacchus) was feted several times throughout the year. Processions, feasts, dances, and dramatic performances, accompanied by poems recited or sung in the god's honor, were all part of the revelry. Not too surprisingly, the poems tended to be wild, irregular, and dissonant. We know that the Greeks used "dithyrambos" as the word for a poem in honor of Dionysus, but beyond that the origin of the word is unknown. The ancient Greeks also had an adjective, "dithyrambikos," which gave us our adjective "dithyrambic," meaning "pertaining to or resembling a dithyramb."

Job's comforter

Job's comforter \JOHBZ-KUM-fer-ter\ noun : a person who discourages or depresses while seemingly giving comfort and consolation

Poor Job. He's the biblical character who endures extraordinary afflictions in a test of his piety. He loses his possessions, his children, and his health. And then, to make matters worse, three friends show up to "comfort" him. These friends turn out to be no comfort at all. Instead, they say that the things that have been happening to him happen to all sinners -- and point out a number of his faults. In the mid-18th century, English speakers began using the phrase "Job's comforter" for anyone who offers similarly unhelpful consolation


gadarene \GAD-uh-reen\ adjective : headlong, precipitate

Gadara, in Biblical times, was a steep hill town just southeast of the Sea of Galilee. In the account given in the Book of Matthew (8:28), Jesus, on a visit there, exorcised the demons from two possessed persons and sent the demons into some nearby swine. The possessed swine ran in a mad dash down a steep bank into the Sea and drowned. "Gadarene," an adjective used to describe a headlong rush, made its first plunge into our lexicon in the 1920s. The swine sometimes make an appearance as well, as when an imprudently hasty act is compared to "the rush of the Gadarene swine."

False Colors & Madeleine

1. false colors (fawls KUL-uhrs) noun

Deceptive actions.

When ships approached each other at sea, sailors would look to the flagto determine whether the other vessel was from a friendly or enemy nation.They'd often try to confuse the other by flying a false flag until theywere close enough to attack.

2. madeleine \MAD-uh-lun\ noun

1 : a small rich shell-shaped cake *2 : one that evokes a memory
The madeleine is said to have been named after a 19th-century French cook named Madeleine Paumier, but it was the French author Marcel Proust who immortalized the pastry in his 1913 book _Swann's Way_, the first volume of his seven-part novel _Remembrance of Things Past_. In that work, a taste of tea-soaked cake evokes a surge of memory and nostalgia. As more and more readers chewed on the profound mnemonic power attributed to a mere morsel of cake, the word "madeleine" itself became a designation for anything that evokes a memory



noun An uncontrollable urge to dance.

[After Taranto, a town in southern Italy where this phenomenon was experienced during the 15-17th centuries. It's not clear whether tarantism was the symptom of a spider's bite or its cure, or it may have been just a pretext to dodge a prohibition against dancing. The names of the dance tarantella and the spider tarantula are both derived from the same place.]

December 09, 2006


/* This was the harbinger post on 'Semantica dated 12th August 2006 */

Concept: Semantics is the science of words and their meaning and the general sense of language usage. Semantica is unfortunately not a heavy metal band, but a series on words & origins which in my opinion score high on the blogability quotient. The idea of a series is for ease @ searching. Many moons later if you recall reading about the word on my dark sanctotum just search for Semantica*.

Genesis: I have always been a vocab freak. Over the years my writing has mellowed and tempered a lot. During my quizzing heydays, etymology was one of my forte. Now when the sun has set on me, there remains but a vexation towards words I have never seen before. The desire to assuage this peeve manifests in the form of 'Semantica'

Modus Operandi: Simple! Whenever I come across a word with hits me I shall research it write about it.

To start off ...Bummel: I bought this book 'Three men on a bummel' and the peeve surfaced. I had never heard of this word before. Googling alleviated my irritation. Bummel aint a english word at all !! Its german for a short journey with no end. Swear I could do with a bummel or two