August 27, 2007


Maverick- One that refuses to abide by the dictates of or resists adherence to a group; a dissenter

Remember the eccentric Thomas Hobson of "Hobson's choice" fame. Looks like he's got company. In South Texas, lived a lawyer Samuel Augustus Maverick in the mid-nineteenth century (1803-1870) who took up cattle ranching not because he was a rancher himself but 'coz a client gave him 400 hundred heads of cattle in lieu of cash. In Texas cattle grazed on the open range, without fences to keep one herd separate from another, and thus there was much opportunity for theft and disputes over ownership. To identify their cattle, ranchers branded them.

But Maverick due to reasons unknown (could be laziness or the cruelty of branding animals) would not brand his cattle and some stories say that he lost a few of his herd to his unscrupulous neighbors who would brand his cattle as their own while other claim that he was influential (being San Antonio's mayor) and hence was able instead to claim that any unbranded calf was his.

Thus, the name maverick started to be applied to all cattle without brands and writers who heard the story decided to take it beyond cattle. What better word to use for a politician who was "unbranded" by a party label, not "owned" by special interests? In the same vein, maverick began to be used for artists who were independent in their thinking and later for anyone who can be called a dissenter.

Did you know: Dude has its origin in the Wild West too??

Source: The Merriam Webster Book of Word Histories,

August 22, 2007


Rickety - Likely to break or fall apart; shaky.

Funny, but it never occurred to me earlier: the word comes from rickets. Remember the deficiency disease we learned about in our childhood science textbooks, when bones do not harden and are deformed due to lack of vitamin D.

August 15, 2007


Coffee is my comfort drink. I'm not addicted to it but I love the whole ritual surrounding coffee. Wanna partake in my morning ritual? Then read on :)

A cappuccino is espresso coffee mixed or topped with steamed milk or cream. Espresso itself is an Italian word meaning "pressed out" and called so as it's made in a coffee making machine (first invented in Italy in the beginning of 20th century) that presses water through fine ground coffee.

Cappuccino on the other hand had nothing to do with coffee originally. It comes from the Italian word Cappuchio that means "little hood" . The colour of the coffee reminded Italians of the brown robes of one of the Roman Catholic orders of monks, namely the Capuchins. The Capuchin order of friars was established in 1525 and they wore brown silken robes with pointed hoods.

Trivia: The name of this pious order was later used as the name (first recorded in English in 1785) for a type of monkey often having a hood like tuft of hair on the head. So we also have a monkey, a native of Central and South America, that's called Capuchin.

Sources: ,

August 10, 2007


Guest Post by Radha

The first time I came across the word 'Qi' was when a friend used it in Scrabble (I challenged it and was heartbroken to find that the English dictionary does actually list this word). I found the word peculiar & interesting for many reasons; the main one being that for a tiny word, it contains such a lot of depth.

'Qi' is the center of Chinese philosophy & traditional medical science, its literal meaning is 'air' or 'breath'; but in Chinese philosophy it represents what in English could be called 'life force'. Its close cousin would be the term 'prana' used in Hindu philosophy.

The etymology of the word is quite simple really: 'Qi' is a mandarin character which comprises of three wavy lines. The written character looks like a person's breath (if one could see it). Hence its use in this context.

August 07, 2007


This one's gonna cast a shadow on the might of muscle-men we know, not that a certain Sanjay Dutt would care with lots more on his platter to bother about than the ridicule on this blog, right now. My husband's never gonna forgive me for tarnishing the image of muscle-cars but I'll go ahead and let the world know that the word muscle comes from Latin "musculus" that means "little mouse" :) So called because the shape and movement of some muscles (notably biceps) were thought to resemble mice, their tendons playing the part of a mouse's tail.

Trivia: Mussels are also called so because of their resemblance to mice but have a different spelling from muscles for distinguishing reasons.

Pic: Google Images

August 02, 2007

Monthly Update - July '07

Dear Readers

I have been unabashedly derelict in my duties as Semantica's administrator. Missed the last month update, needless to say missed most of the posts and associated brouhaha.

July was Moi all the way. Although 'Mad as a hatter', 'Eavesdrop' can be attributed to author specific traits, 'Tawdry' and 'OK' were more in line with Semantica guidelines. Nevertheless, kudos to Moi for all the efforts. And hopefully the others (who I presume are battling that feeling a reticulated python gets after swallowing a well fed antelope on a Sunday afternoon) will contribute some posts in August.

Best Regards