Thursday, December 31, 2009

English Usage - access.

The verb to access is standard and common in computing and related terminology. But its use outside computing contexts, although well established, is sometimes criticized as being ‘jargon’: you must use a password to access the account. If you want an alternative, you could use a word or phrase such as ‘enter’ or ‘gain access to’: to gain access to the information.
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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

English Usage - able-bodied,abled.

It is best to avoid using able-bodied to mean ‘not having a physical disability’, since many people with disabilities object to its use in this way. Their preferred term is non-disabled. Abled, meaning ‘not disabled’, is a revival of an obsolete 16th-century word, and has been recorded in print in the US since the 1980s. It is now used in the phrase differently abled and as a more positive alternative to disabled.
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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Leaving Words Out - Noun Phrases.

You can often leave out parts of noun phrases. The main noun, for example, need not be repeated if the second noun phrase contains numerals, colour adjectives, or superlatives:
There’s your mouse, but where are my two? Just behind the green car I can see the white approaching. I’ve had some marvellous holidays, but this was the best ever.
Note that you can usually recover a singular from a plural (mice from mouse), and vice versa (holiday from holidays). What you cannot do is omit a noun after just any adjective.
?? There’s the fat mouse, but where’s the thin? ?? Behind the fast car I can see the slow approaching.
In each case, an extra word should be added at the end – either the original noun once again (mouse, car) or the pronoun one, as in Behind the fast car I can see the slow one approaching.
And you cannot recover a singular from a plural – or a plural from a singular – if they both occur within the same phrase:
X. The avoidance of tax was the sole or one of the main purposes of the transaction.
This should read: was the sole purpose or one of the main purposes. As it stands, the sentence reads: X. was the sole . . . purposes.
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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Leaving Words Out - Prepositions and Constructions.

If a part of one element has been omitted as ‘understood’, try inserting the ‘understood’ element and see if it really fits; alternatively, leave out second of the elements and see if the sentence still makes sense.
X. She is as talented, if not more talented than, any of the male riders in the team.
The two related components are not properly matched: to match more talented than, the earlier phrase should read as talented as. To see how the syntax has gone wrong, leave out all the parenthetical words between the two commas. The need for an extra as at once becomes apparent.
X. The performance of an alcohol-fuelled car is comparable – or slightly better – than that of a petrol car.
For the sake of symmetry, and syntax, a to should be added after comparable, and the sentence should be repunctuated: is comparable to – or slightly better than – that of a petrol car.
One final example of the common error in which a single preposition is applied to both parallel elements where it is in fact appropriate to only one:
X. Employers remain ignorant or uninterested in the abilities of polytechnic graduates.
Correct this so that it reads: Employers remain ignorant of or uninterested in the abilities of polytechnic graduates.
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Handling Negatives – Not . . . But . . .

Once again the two elements should be grammatically symmetrical:
We shall fly not the green flag but the blue one. We shall not fly the green flag but display the blue one.
In colloquial idiom, these two structures are mixed:
? We shall not fly the green flag but the blue one.
Avoid such imbalance, expecially in formal writing. Take care, however, not to let ambiguity creep in when you balance the construction:
? The new militancy presents a danger to democracy. It is trying not to make a point but to deny a hearing.
The intended meaning here is surely not trying to make a point but actual wording, for the sake of symmetry, has been twisted into trying not to make a point. Only a fairly drastic rephrasing will resolve the problem: It is not trying to make a point – it is trying to deny a hearing.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Leaving Words out – Verb Phrases – I can and have said so.

Consider this sentence:
?? All future editions will or have been corrected at this point.
You cannot just pick and choose what to omit. If you recover the missing pieces here you get either X. All future editions will been corrected or X. All future editions will corrected. Neither of these is English. Rewrite it either as All future editions will be or have been corrected or as All future editions will be corrected or have been (already).
Here now are some further examples of unacceptable ellipses:
?? No convict has ever or can ever escape. X. My brother refuses to and my sister insists on speaking French. X. We are, and must, work in London.
The mishandling of the -ing form of the verb, as in the last two example, is generally considered to be especially awkward.
By a curious convention, ‘faulty’ ellipsis is more acceptable if it occurs after rather than before the ‘recoverable’ word has appeared. Compare these two sentences:
?? I shall always and have always loved you. I have always loved you, and always shall.
Only a pedant would insists on adding the words love you at the end of the second sentence. Here are two more examples that most people would accept as standard:
They went to the shops because they were asked to (go to them). I live in London and my brother (lives) in Edinburgh.
There is a particular limitation on ellipsis in passives. Take a sentence like I had seen him but I hadn’t been seen by him. Although seen is shared, it cannot be omitted because in the first clause it is in a perfect construction while in the second it is passive: X. I had seen him but hadn’t been by him. Ellipsis only works if the shared forms are both passive or both not:
We were told but my sister wasn’t (told). He has told me and I have (told) her. X. He has told me, but my sister wasn’t (told).
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Friday, December 18, 2009

Controversial -LY words - Hopefully.

In the sense of ‘in a hopeful way’, hopefully is a long-established and unobjectionable adverb: We travelled more hopefully after hearing the news of Nicholas’s miraculous release.
In its more modern sense of ‘I hope that’ or ‘with luck’, it has aroused the opposition of purists: ? Hopefully the letter will arrive tomorrow.
Among the objections are: that it is an Americanism; that it is ill-formed (it should perhaps be hopedly or hopeably instead); that it usurps the older sense of hopefully, and could even cause ambiguity (? Hopefully he has paid off the last of his debts), and that as an adverb it has the grammatical duty to modify a verb, an adjective, or another adverb – but not an entire clause.
This last objection is no more cogent than the others. Modern English has a great many ‘sentence’ adverbs, widely used to reflect the attitude of the speaker or writer – Unfortunately, I can’t join you – or the truth or likelihood of the event mentioned: Probably I’ll go straight home.
Not that all such ‘sentence’ adverbs escape criticism. Purists dislike the use, or at least the widespread overuse, of basically, for instance, at the beginning of sentences: ? Basically, the melting of the fuse wire breaks the electrical current. And three other -fully words often attract similar criticism to that of hopefully: namely, mercifully, thankfully, and regretfully – often used in place of regrettably.
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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dangling Participles and Lack of Symmetry - Ambiguity and Word Order.

Careless word order is perhaps the commonest cause of ambiguity. Sentences need to be thoughtfully structured to ensure the intended relationship between words or phrases, and to avoid any unintended relationship. The rule of thumb is to place related words as near to each other as possible.
Hence the comically ambiguous advertisement X. A piano is being sold by a lady with carved legs is easily rectified by shifting the last phrase with carved legs to a position closer to the noun piano that it relates to: A piano with carved legs is being sold by a lady.
With truly ambiguous sentences, such an adjustment may resolve the ambiguity in one direction, but not in the other.
Take, for example, this sentence: ? The government ordered an inquiry into the unrest last year. Does last year relate to ordered or to unrest? If to ordered, you can shift last year to a position alongside it: The government last year ordered an inquiry into the unrest.
But if last year relates to unrest, you will have to add an extra word or phrase to remove the ambiguity: The government ordered an inquiry into the unrest that occurred last year (or simply, the unrest of last year).
Here now are several more example of ambiguity – real ambiguity, with a pair of rival meanings, or merely comic and theoretical ambiguity – based on poor word order.
You might try restructuring or rephrasing each sentence to produce the intended meaning or the two possible meanings.
At all events, examine all the examples closely with a view to learning the dangers and avoiding them in your own writing.
Mary Wiggins wants to play Lady Macbeth very badly. My supporters urged me to speak with great fervor. The officer testified that Dr Henley had cycled past the protesters hurling insults. The mayor shook hands awkwardly with the visitor, inconvenienced by an attack of arthritis. Please send us your ideas about planting seedlings on a postcard. A volley of gunshot was used to disperse the riot by the police. The militia was criticised for firing tear gas into the crowd yesterday without causing serious injury. Further north are the hills covered in heather that visitors find so attractive. You’ll never find a policeman just walking here in the park. Children, this fruit is not to be eaten without washing first.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Origins – Birth

Greek genesis, birth or origin, a root we discovered in discussing psychogenic, is the source of a great many English words.
Genetics is the science that deals with the transmission of hereditary characteristics from parents to offspring. The scientist specializing in the field is a geneticist, the adjective is genetic . The particle carried on the chromosome of the germ cell containing a hereditary characteristic is a gene (JEEN).
Genealogy is the study of family trees or ancestral origins (logos, study). The practitioner is a genealogist.
The genital, or sexual, organs are involved in the process of conception and birth. The genesis of anything – a plan, idea, thought, career, etc. – is its beginning, birth, or origin, and Genesis, the first book of Old Testament, describes the creation, or birth, of the universe.
Congenital is constructed by combining the prefix con-, with or together, and the root genesis, birth.
So a congenital defect, deformity, etc. occurs during the nine-month birth process (or period of gestation, to become technical). Hereditary (hi-RED’-i-ter’-i) characteristics, on the other hand, are acquired at the moment of conception. Thus, eye colour, nose shape, hair texture, and other such qualities are hereditary; they are determined by the genes in the germ cells of the mother and father. But a thalidomide baby resulted from the use of the drug by a pregnant woman, so the deformities were congenital.
Congenital is used both literally and figuratively. Literally, the word generally refers to some medical deformity or abnormality occurring during gestation. Figuratively, it wildly exaggerates, for effect, the very early existence of some quality: congenital liar, congenital fear of the dark, etc.
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Origin – Veterans

Inveterate, from Latin vetus, old, generally indicates disapproval.
Inveterate gamblers have grown old in the habit, etymologically speaking; inveterate drinkers have been imbibing for so long that they, too, have formed old, well-established habits; and inveterate liars have been lying for so long, and their habits are by now so deep-rooted, that one can scarcely remember (the word implies) when they ever told the truth.
Latin senex, source of senile and senescent, also, you will recall, means old. In inveterate in- means in; it is not the negative prefix found in incorrigible.
The noun is inveteracy or inveterateness.
A veteran as of the Armed Forces, grew older serving the country; otherwise a veteran is an old hand at the game (and therefore skilfull). The word is both a noun and an adjective; a veteran at (or in)swimming , tennis, police work, business, negotiations, diplomacy – or a veteran actor, teacher, diplomat, political reformer.
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Monday, December 14, 2009

Verbs - Used to.

This verb too can operate either like can and should or like an ordinary verb, but with certain reservations.
Purists dislike the question forms ? Did/Didn’t you use to wear glasses?, though it is very common, especially in American English. The alternatives, Used you to wear glasses?, Usedn’t you to wear glasses?, and Used you not to wear glasses?, are all rather formal – and the last is also ambiguous.
Similarly, some purists regard as non-standard the negative form ? I didn’t use to like cabbage. But I usedn’t/used not to like cabbage strikes others as old-fashioned. The form I never used to . . . is acceptable in cases where the action could be repeated: I never used to eat cabbage. But it is less acceptable to purists when referring to a past state: ? I never used to like her.
One solution is to avoid the structure altogether: Didn’t you wear glasses at one time? I didn’t like cabbage, and never ate it.
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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Trouble With Tenses - May I? Can I?

Can and May provoke some odd ideas in ‘popular’ grammar. When adults tell children Don’t say, ‘Can I leave the table?’; it should be ‘May I leave the table the table?’, the assumption often seems to be that can is restricted solely to ability – Am I able to leave the table? – and has nothing to do with either permission or compulsion.
In fact, the distinction between the two verbs is far more subtle. Can does have a meaning relating to permission – specifically when the permission is general or of unknown origin. You would hardly say ? May children under 12 see this film? or? I may do whatever I want. You would use can.
May is used when you are giving permission yourself (You may go now) or when you are asking permission of a specific person: May I go now? So Can I smoke here? is a question about general rules and customs; May I smoke here? is a specific request for permission from someone with the power to grant it.
In many contexts, either can or may will do. If you have to ask your manager for a day off work you could say Can I or May I have tomorrow off? There may be a theoretical difference: Can I . . . ? – Is there anything against it? May I . . . ? – Do you say I can? But in effect it comes down to the same thing.
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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Trouble With Tenses - Shall We, Will We, Should We Dance?

In questions, the choice between shall and will, is more complicated, since should and would come into the equation as well. Which form you use depends on the kind of question.
Questions that seek advice or information, or make a suggestion. The rules here are as follows:
X. Use shall before I or we – What shall I/we do? Shall we dance? Shall I open the window?
X. Use should (or sometimes shall) before he, she, it, you, they, the cat, Mary, and so on – Should/Shall Peter cook the meal, instead? Should he put another log on the fire?
Questions that put forward a request. Use Will you . . .? or Would you . . .? – Will you lock up when you leave? Would you help me to lift the table, please? Would you move the lamp?
Questions that seek information about the future. If you are asking for a prediction that does not depends on the speaker or the subject of the sentence, use will – What will I/we need? Will they believe us? Will I pass my exams?
If, however, you are asking for information about the future that depends at least partly on the speaker or the subject of the sentence, follow these rules:
X. Use shall for I and we – When shall we three meet again? What shall I do tomorrow?
X. Use will for he, she, it, Harry, the cat, they, and you – Why will he do that? How will you deal with this situation?
Again, there are exceptions to the rules. Instead of Shall I open the window?, North Americans often use the form Should I (rather than Shall I), and Scottish and Irish people Will I open the window?
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Trouble With Tenses - Double have.

X. ‘If I’d have known, I’d have told you’. This is a colloquialism often heard today, though rarely seen in written English. The have in the first clause is superfluous and ungrammatical.
Change to:
If I’d known, I’d have told you. (If I had known, I would have told you.)
A warning, by the way, about spelling. It is all too easy to write X. I’d of done it if I’d known and X. You might of told me. The words have and of may sometimes sound the same, but they are not the same word.
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Monday, December 7, 2009

Irregular Verbs - I Swam The Channel.

The problem of deciding between past and perfect does not arise for regular English verbs. The forms are the same: I talked, I have talked.
The difficulties arise with irregular verbs, where the past and the past participle forms are different (go, went, gone; bite, bit, bitten; and so on). Some require special comment.
Drunk, swum, and others.- In many dialects the past participle form of verbs like sing and drink is used for the past tense. For instance, people say X. The ship sunk and X. We begun yesterday. This is wrong in Standard English.
With some verbs, there are alternative forms for the past and past participle. The verb spin, for example, has spun and the old-fashioned span as past-tense forms: She spun/? Span some cotton. The past participle in spun: She has spun some cotton.
Shrink has shrunk and shrank as past-tense forms. Most people use shrunk to mean ‘got smaller’, as in The pullover shrunk in the wash, but shrank to mean ‘recoiled’, as in He shrank back in horror. The past particle is shrunk: The pullover has shrunk in the wash. The form shrunken is now used only as an adjective: a shrunken head.
All the other similar verbs have lost the distinctive past form completely, such as slink, slunk, slunk and wring, wrung, wrung.
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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Pronouns and Case - Me Doing, Or My Doing?

Which of these sentences is correct?
I hope you don’t mind me asking? I hope you don’t mind my asking?
The same problem occurs with nouns:
I was amazed at Paul saying that. I was amazed at Paul’s saying that.
Purists point out that asking and saying in these sentences are gerunds – that is, they act like nouns – and so should take a possessive, just as in sentences like I hope you don’t mind my question and I was amazed at Paul’s insolence.
Nevertheless, idiom often favours me asking and Paul saying that, especially in informal contexts.
Certainly the possessive form –my,Paul’s – is more formal, and is clearly preferable at the beginning of a sentence:
His saying that was very strange. ? Him saying that was very strange.
And it must be used if the -ing word is so noun-like that it is followed by of plus a noun or pronoun:
We enjoyed his parodying of the minister.
On the other hand, possessives are awkward or impossible in some contexts:
You can depend on something/?? Something’s turning up. She did it without either of us/X our knowing. She did it without her brother or sister/?? Sister’s knowing. I caught him/X his rifling through the files lying on my desk.
If you are worried in particular cases, avoid the problem altogether by rewording – I hope you don’t mind that I asked; You can depend on it that something will turn up, and so on.
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Friday, December 4, 2009

Origins - Hints and Helps.

The verb intimate is from Latin intimus, innermost, the same root from which the adjective intimate and its noun intimacy are derived; but the relationship is only in etymology, not in meaning. An intimation contains a significance buried deep in the innermost core, only a hint showing. As you grow older, you begin to have intimations that you are mortal; when someone aims a gun at you, or when a lorry comes roaring down at you as you drive absent-mindedly against a red light through an intersection, you are suddenly very sure that you are mortal.
Alleviate is a combination of Latin levis, light (not heavy), the prefix ad-, to, and the verb suffix. (Ad- changes to al- before a root starting with l-).
If something alleviates your pain, it makes your pain lighter for you; if I alleviate your sadness, I make it lighter to bear; and if you need some alleviation of your problems, you need them made lighter and less burdensome. To alleviate is to relieve only temporarily, not to cure or do away with. (Relieve is also from levis, plus re-, again – to make light or easy again.) The adjective form of alleviate is alleviative – aspirin is an alleviative drug.
Anything light will rise – so from the prefix e- (ex-), out, plus levis, we can construct the verb elevate, etymologically, to raise out, or, actually, raise up, as to elevate one’s spirits, raise them up, make them lighter; or elevate someone to a higher position.
Have you ever seen a performance of magic in which a person or an object apparently rises in the air as if floating? That’s levitation – rising through no visible means. (I’ve watched it a dozen times and never could work it out!) The verb, so to rise, is levitate.
And how about levity? That’s lightness too, but of a different sort – lightness in the sense of frivolity, flippancy, joking, or lack of seriousness, especially when solemnity, dignity, or formality is required or more appropriate, as in ‘tones of levity’, or as in, ‘Levity is out of place at a funeral or in a house of worship’, or as in, ‘Okay, enough levity – now let’s get down to business!’.
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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pronouns and Case - But Me, Or But I.

But is usually a conjunction: I like the idea but I think it’s impractical. But when it means ‘except’, is it still a conjunction?
Nobody but I took the idea seriously.
Or is it a preposition, which takes the object pronoun me instead?
Nobody but me took the idea seriously.
Unlike the as and than examples, these cannot be expanded into a reasonable sentence by adding an extra verb: X Nobody took the idea seriously, but I did. So but seems to be a preposition, and but me to be logically correct. If you remain uneasy, you can always avoid the whole issue by rewording:
I was only person who took the idea seriously.
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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Origins - Heads and Headings.

Latin caput, capitis means head. The captain is the head of any group; the capital is the ‘head city’ of a state or nation; and to decapitate is to chop off someone’s head, a popular activity during the French Revolution after the guillotine was invented.
Latin capitulum is a little head, or, by extension, the heading, or title, of a chapter. So when you recapitulate, you go through the chapter heading again (re-), etymologically speaking, or you summarize or review the main points.
When you capitulate, etymologically you arrange in headings, or, as the meaning of the verb naturally evolved, you arrange conditions of surrender, as when an army capitulates to the enemy forces under prearranged conditions; or, by further natural extension, you stop resisting and give up, as in, ‘He realized there was no longer any point in resisting her advances, so he reluctantly capitulated’.
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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pronouns and Case - It's Me Or It's I.

The most controversial question about pronouns is whether to use the subject or object case after is, was, and other forms of the verb to be.
In earlier times, grammarians trying to model English grammar on Latin argued that the verb to be cannot have an object and insisted on using subject pronouns after it, as in It is I and Was that she? This habit survives in the common American usage when answering the phone: Can I speak to Maria Higgins? – This is she.
But what comes after to be is not really a subject either. It is a complement. Modern Standard English remains undecided about what to do here, but the fact is that most people nowadays say It’s me and Was that her? This is acceptable usage for everyone except the most formal and traditional.
As always, you can rephrase things to avoid the problem entirely. In answer to the question Who’s there?, you do not have to say either It’s I or It’s me: you can say, uncontroversially, I am instead.
Note that if a who-clause follows the personal pronoun, Standard English usually prefers a subject form. For example:
It’s I who do the shopping.
Colloquial English, on the other hand, would probably still favour me here, together with various other changes:
It’s me that does the shopping.
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Monday, November 30, 2009

Origins -'Allness'.

Latin omnis, all, is the origin of:
1.omnipotent – all-powerful, an adjective usually applied to God; also, to any ruler whose governing powers are unlimited, which allows for some exaggeration, as King Canute proved to his sycophantic courtiers when he ordered the tide to come so far up the beach and no further. He got soaking wet! (omnis plus Latin potens, potentis, powerful, as in potentate, a powerful ruler; impotent, powerless; potent, powerful; and potential, possessing power or ability not yet exercised).
2.omniscient – all-knowing: hence, infinitely wise. (Omnis plus sciens, knowing.)
3.omnipresent – present in all places at once. Fear was omnipresent in Europe during 1939 just before World War II. A synonym of omnipresent is ubiquitous, from Latin ubique, everywhere. The ubiquitous ice cream vendor seems to be everywhere at the same time, tinkling those little bells, once spring arrives. The ubiquitous little wagon travels around everywhere in airports to refuel departing planes. ‘Ubiquitous laughter greeted the press secretary’s remark’, i.e., laughter was heard everywhere in the room. The noun form is ubiquity.
4.omnibus – etymologically, ‘for all, including all’. In the shortened form bus we have a public vehicle for all who can pay; in a John Galsworthy omnibus we have a book containing all of Galsworthy’s works; in an omnibus legislative bill we have a bill containing all the miscellaneous provisions and appropriations left out of other bills.
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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Putting Nouns into the Plural - Words ending in -O.

Most simply add -s – including:
X. words where the -o is preceded by a vowel: cameos, cuckoos, embryos, radios, portfolios, studios, tattoos, zoos.
X. shortened words: hippos, photos, rhinos, typos, videos.
X. many ‘exotic’, un-English words: albinos, armadillos, dittos, Eskimos, Filipinos, infernos, quangos, stilettos.
Some, however (including many quite everyday words), take -es: cargoes, dominoes, echoes, heroes, potatoes, tomatoes.
Others use either ending, though with a preference for the one shown here: buffaloes, commandos, frescoes, ghettos, halos, mangoes, mottoes, porticoes, tobaccos, volcanoes, zeros.
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Friday, November 27, 2009

Origins - You can't go home again.

Nostalgia, built on two Greek roots, nostos, a return, and algos, pain (as in neuralgia, cardialgia, etc.) is a feeling you can’t ever understand until you’ve experienced it – and you have probably experienced it whenever some external stimulus has crowed your mind with scenes from an earlier day.
You know how life often seems much pleasanter in restrospect? Your conscious memory tends to store up the pleasant experiences of the past (the trauma and unpleasant experiences may get buried in the unconscious), and when you are lonely or unhappy you may begin to relive these pleasant occurrences. It is then that you feel the emotional pain and longing that we call nostalgia.
The adjective is nostalgic, as in films that are nostalgic of the fifties’, or as in ‘he feels nostalgic whenever he passes Vaughan Gardens and sees the house in which he grew up’.
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Grammar - Clauses as Subjects.

Clauses can act as subjects of verbs. They usually take a singular verb:
That such things should occur is surprising.
To treat 18-year-olds as children is patronising.
Caring for all aspects of home and family takes a lotof time.
What-clauses are different, however. Here agreement depends on whether the clause refers to a thing or to several things:
What was their garden is now a car park.
What seemed good reasons at the time now look
unconvincing. (That is, the reasons now look unconvincing.)
Sometimes you can choose, especially when the complement of the main verb is plural, though the singular form remains slightly preferable.
When we need is/are donations – Donations are what we need.
What I saw was/were two enormous balloons – Two enormous balloons were what I saw.
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Origins - An exploration of various good things.

A euphemism is a word or expression that has been substituted for another that is likely to offend – it is built on Greek prefix eu-, good, the root pheme, voice, and the noun suffix -ism. (Etymologically, ‘something said in a good voice!’) Adjective: euphemistic.
Other English words constructed from the prefix eu-:
1.euphony – good sound; pleasant lilt or rhythm (phone, sound).
Adjective: euphonic or euphonious.
2.eulogy – etymologically, ‘good speech’; a formal speech of praise, usually delivered as a funeral oration. Logos in this term means word or speech, as it did in philology. Logos more commonly means science or study, but has the alternative meaning in eulogy, philology, monologue, dialogue, epilogue (words upon the other words, or ‘after-words’), and prologue (words before the main part, ‘before-words’, or introduction).
Adjective: eulogistic; verb: eulogize; person who delivers a eulogy: eulogist.
3.euphoria – good feeling, a sense of mental buoyancy and physical well-being. Adjective: euphoric.
4.euthanasia – etymologically, ‘good death’; method of painless death inflicted on people suffering from incurable diseases – not legal at the present time, but advocated by many people. The words derives from eu- plus Greek thanatos, death.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Grammar - What is a Phrase?

The word ‘phrase’ is often used loosely to mean any group of words that form a unit. In grammar, it means a word or group of words that has a single function within a clause or another phrase.
Take the sentence The boy patted the dog. Although there are five words, there are three distinct parts – the boy, patted, and the dog. So the boy is a phrase, in this case a ‘noun phrase’ acting as the subject; patted is the verb; and the dog is another noun phrase, here the object of the verb.
Now take a sentence that is clearly ambiguous: She attacked the man with the knife. The pronoun she is the subject phrase, and attacked is the verb. But what about the rest?
There are two ways of analyzing the sentence. In one (where the man has the knife), the man with the knife is one constituent part – a noun phrase, acting as the object of attacked. It can be broken down further into a noun phrase the man, plus a subordinate prepositional phrase with the knife.
In the other meaning (where she uses a knife when attacking the man), the full object is now simply the man. You could reword the sentence as With a knife she attacked the man or She attacked the man viciously. The phase with the knife is therefore an adverbial phase – it acts like an adverb.
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Monday, November 23, 2009

The Roots Of English – The World Contracts

The late 15th to 17th centuries – the English Renaissance – saw more and more borrowings. The introduction of printing by William Caxton in 1476 helped to spread new words. The voyages of exploration and the widening of European trade brought new products to England, each of which needed a name. So did the technical and scientific discoveries of the age. Above all, the spirit of enquiry and the spread of writing and reading for education and pleasure encouraged the adoption of large numbers of new words.
Just about any Latin verb could be turned into an English abstract noun by substituting -ion for the -um ending of the past participle. So tractum (from the verb trahere, to drag) gives traction; monstratum (from monstrare, to show) gives demonstration; probatum (from probare, to make or find good) gives probation, and so on. The present participles of Latin verbs provided the basis for English adjectives ending in -ent or -ant, such as permanent (from manens, present participle of manere, to remain), tolerant, and constant.
Other languages too were beginning to leave their mark on English. Greek had been studied up to a point in the medieval universities, but new access to the philosophical and scientific works of ancient Greece opened the path to a new technical stratum of English vocabulary.
Words such as anachronism, atmosphere, antithesis, chaos, climax, crisis, emphasis, enthusiasm, parasite, parenthesis, pneumonia, scheme, system, and tactics came into English from Greek by way of Latin. Direct borrowings include anonymous, catastrophe, criterion, idiosyncrasy, lexicon, misanthrope, orthodox, thermometer, and tonic.
There were loans from Arabic too. During the Middle Ages the Arabs were in the forefront of scientific and medical research. English gained terms like alcohol, algebra, algorithm (recently repopularised by computer programmers), arsenal, and syrup. Some words for Arabic luxuries and customs that had been brought back to Europe by the Crusaders also made their way into English: artichoke, carafe, jar, cotton, and sofa.
Another language whose influence became ever more important as trade increased was Dutch (or Flemish). Not surprisingly, the area of shipping owes much of its vocabulary to Dutch – deck, dock, skipper, boom, and yacht, for example. The skill of Dutch artists is reflected in loans such as easel, landscape, sketch, and etch.
For much of the Renaissance, Europe looked to Italy for inspiration. The obvious culinary terms (spaghetti, espresso, and so on) and musical terms (allegro, cello, sonata) are mostly later borrowings. But the Italian culture of the Renaissance and since has also given arcade, balcony, brigand, bronze, caress, colonel, dilettante, fiasco, graffiti, influenza, replica, scenario, sonnet, studio, and umbrella.
The great early colonial powers, Spain and Portugal, provided, English with further new words. Spanish loans into English, from then and later, include anchovy, armada, bonanza, bravado, cafeteria, cask, cigar, guerrilla, lasso, patio, ranch, siesta, stampede, and tornado. Portuguese has given English albatross, albino, brocade, cobra, creole, palaver, rusk, and the wine port.
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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Grammar - What is a Preposition?

Prepositions are again mostly little words. They typically come in front of noun phrases and pronouns, and tell you something about place, time, reason, and so on. Examples are on the bus; at home; opposite the table; until Tuesday; after Christmas; at the weekend; of butter; by looking. Phrases of this sort are called prepositional phrases.
Some preposition (‘compound prepositions’) are made up of more than one word: in front of, because of, apart from, according to. American English has a tendency to use such compound prepositions more than British English – in back of as well as behind, for instance.
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Friday, November 20, 2009

Origins - How to look

The Latin root specto, to look, is the source of a host of common English words: spectacle, spectator, inspect, retrospect (a looking back), prospect (a looking ahead), etc. In a variant spelling, spic-, the root is found in conspicuous (easily seen or looked at), perspicacious, and perspicuous.
A perspicacious person is keen-minded, mentally sharp, astute. Per- is a prefix meaning through; so the word etymologically means looking through (matters, etc.) keenly, intelligently. The noun of perspicacious is perspicacity.
Perspicacity is a synonym of acumen, mental keenness, sharpness, quickness; keen insight. The root is Latin acuo, to sharpen.
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Grammar - What is an Adverb?

Just as an adjective describes, or qualifies or modifies, a noun, so an adverb typically modifies a verb. It tells how, when, where, why, or how often an action takes place: He plays well; Jane left sulkily; They arrived late; Don’t sit there. Adverbs share many of the features of adjectives, such as comparison – tiredly, more tiredly, most tiredly.
The most typical kind of adverb is derived from an adjective by adding -ly: tiredly, sulkily. But beware – many words ending in -ly are in fact adjectives: friendly, lonely, sometimes even kindly, as in She is a kindly old soul.
Adverbs are the ragbag of grammar: only, so, even, quite, soon, here, specially, prettily, probably, and however are adverbs, but grammatically they do not have a lot in common.
Adverbs can also modify adjectives and other adverbs, as in a very unusual colour, only four men, and They came extremely quickly. Sometimes, they appear ‘outside’ the normal structure of sentences, telling you something about the speaker’s attitude towards the event reported: Regrettably, we can’t come; Perhaps they’ll agree. They can also be used when making a transition from one sentence to another; Jane liked him a lot. I, however, know better – he’s an absolute rotter.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Origins - Belief and Disbelief

Credulous comes from Latin credo, to believe, the same root found in credit (if people believe in your honesty, they will extend credit to you; they will credit what you say). -Ous is an adjective suffix that usually signifies full of. So, strictly, credulous means full of believingness.
Do not confuse credulous with credible. In the latter word we see combined the root credo, believe, with -ible, a suffix meaning can be. Something credible can be believed.
Let’s note some differences:
Credulous listeners – those who fully believe what they hear.
A credible story – one that can be believed.
An incredulous attitude – an attitude of skepticism, of non-belief.
An incredible story – one that cannot be believed.
Incredible characters – persons who are so unusual that you can scarcely believe they exist.
Nouns are formed as follows:
credulous – credulity.
incredulous – incredulity.
credible – credibility.
incredible – incredibility.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Grammer - What is a verb?

Verbs are sometimes defined as ‘doing’ words – words that indicate what is being done in a sentence. But this is not always helpful. In the sentence This is hard work, presumably what is being done is work. But work here is a noun, whereas the verb is is.
Without doubt, the best test for a verb is this: does it have forms that indicate whether the action takes place now or at some time in the past? – work/worked; take/took. (But note that some do not actually change their form; for example, spread/spread, hit/hit.)
Most verbs fall into one of three categories. The first two types can exist on their own, and are called ‘main’ or ‘lexical’ verbs.
X . ‘doing’ verbs (in a very wide sense), such as approach, do, go, like, and want. The verb tells you something about the activities of its subject: Fred approached the fierce lion.
X . ‘being’ and ‘becoming’ verbs, which make some kind of equation between the subject and the complement that follows them. In a sense John became manager says ‘John = manager’; You sound bored says ‘You = bored’.
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Monday, November 16, 2009

Origins - Living it up

Among many others, the following English words derive from Latin vivo, to live:
1.Vivacious – full of the joy of living; animated; peppy – a vivacious personality. Noun: vivacity (vi-VAS’-i-ti). You can, as you know, also add -ness to any adjective to form a noun.
2.Vivid – possessing the freshness of life; strong; sharp – a vivid imagination; a vivid colour.
3.Revive – bring back to life. In the 1960s, men’s fashions of the twenties were revived. Noun: revival.
4.Vivisection – operating on a live animal. Sect- is from a Latin verb meaning to cut. Vivisection is the process of experimenting on live animals to discover causes and cures of disease. Antivivisectionists object to the procedure, though many of our most important medical discoveries were made through vivisection.
5.Viviparous – producing live babies. Human beings and most other mammals are viviparous. Viviparous is contrasted with oviparous, producing young from eggs. Most fish, fowl, and other lower forms of life are oviparous.
The combining root in both these adjectives is Latin pareto, to give birth (parent comes from the same root). In oviparous, the first two syllables derive from Latin ovum, egg.
Ovum, egg, is the source of oval and ovoid, egg-shaped; ovulate, to release an egg from the ovary: ovum the female germ cell which, when fertilized by a sperm, develops into an embryo, then into a foetus, and finally, in about 280 days in the case of humans, is born as an infant.
The adjectival form of ovary is ovarian; of foetus, foetal.
Love, you may or may not be surprised to hear, also comes from ovum.
No, not the kind of love you’re thinking of. Latin ovum became oeuf in French, or with ‘the’ preceding the noun (the egg), l’oeuf. Zero (picture it for a moment) is shaped like an egg (O), so if your score in tennis is ‘fifteen, and your opponent’s is zero, you shout triumphantly, fifteen love!’.
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Friday, November 13, 2009

Some Common Combining Forms - Words using bene-, benign-.

Like its opposite male- (bad), bene- (good, well) is simply a Latin adverb used to modify the meaning of words. A benediction is a ‘good speaking’, particularly a blessing in church. A benefactor is a ‘do-gooder’, though without negative connotations; it is most often used to mean a ‘patron’. The person who receives the benevolence of a benefactor is a beneficiary. People who inherit are beneficiaries of a will. Beneficial means ‘doing good’, in the way that fresh air benefits your health.
A related form, benign-, meant originally ‘well-born’ or ‘noble’. It now turns up in words meaning ‘kind, friendly’, such as benign and benignant. You can compare the change in meaning of the word gentle, which also started off meaning ‘noble’, as in gentleman and of gentle birth.
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Origins - Under and Over

Hypochondria is built on two Greek roots: hypos, under, and chondros, the cartilage of the breastbone. This may sound farfetched until you realize that under the breastbone is the abdomen; the ancient Greeks believed that morbid anxiety about one’s health arose in the abdomen – and no one is more morbidly, unceasingly, and unhappily anxious about health than the hypochondriac.
Hypochondriac is also an adjective – an alternative adjectival form is hypochondrical .
Hypos, under, is a useful root to know. The hypodermic needle penetrates under the skin; a hypothyroid person has an under-working thyroid gland; hypotension is abnormally low blood pressure.
On the other hand, hyper is the Greek root meaning over. The hypercritical person is excessively fault-finding; hyperthyroidism is an overworking of the thyroid gland; hypertension is high blood pressure; and you can easily work out the meanings of hyperacidity, hyperactive, hypersensitive, etc.
The adjectival forms of hypotension and hypertension are hypotensive and hypertensive.
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

PREFIXES - Words with ob-,ox-,of-,op-.

It is often difficult to recognize ob- as a prefix because of its variants and its lack of consistent meaning.
The ‘towards’ or ‘against’ meaning can be seen in words such as obtrude, literally, to thrust towards, and so to force an opinion ‘upon others’. Object contains the idea of throwing against. From this comes the meaning ‘to criticise, oppose’, as when you object to someone’s behavior or to a statement. An object, a thing, was originally something thrown in the way and thus something tangible, or a goal or purpose.
An easier etymology is that for opportunity. An opportune wind was one that blew you towards the port, and thus a favourable one.
Ob- can also act as an intensifier. This comes out in obnoxious, ‘thoroughly poisonous’; oppress, ‘to press or lie heavily upon’; obtain, ‘to take (firm) hold of’; and obdurate, ‘thoroughly hardened’, and so ‘hardened against persuasion, unyielding; hard-hearted or pig-heades’.
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Origins - Just for one's own amusement

Dilettante is from the Italian verb dilettare, to delight. The dilettante paints, writes, composes, plays a musical instrument, or engages in scientific experiments purely for amusement – not to make money, become famous, or satisfy a deep creative urge (the latter, I presume, being the justifications for the time that professional artists, writers, composers, musicians, poets, and scientists spend at their chosen work). A dilettantish (dil-i-TAN’-tish) attitude is superficial, unprofessional; dilettantism is superficial, part-time dabbling in the type of activity that usually engages the full time and energy of the professional artist or scientist.
Do not confuse the dilettante, who has a certain amount of native talent or ability, with the tyro, who is the inexperienced beginner in some art, but who may be full of ambition, drive, and energy. To call a person a tyro is to imply that he is just starting in some artistic, scientific, or professional field – he’s not much good yet because he has not had time to develop his skill, if any. The dilettante usually has some skill but isn’t doing much with it. On the other hand, anyone who has developed consummate skill in an artistic field, generally allied to music, is called a virtuoso – like Yehudi Menuhin on the violin or Arthur Rubinstein on the piano. Pluralize virtuoso in the normal way – virtuosos; or if you wish to sound more sophisticated, give it the continental form – virtuosi. Similarly, the plural of dilettante is either dilettantes or dilettanti (dil-i-TAN’-ti).
The i, ending for a plural is the Italian form and is common in musical circles. For example, libretto, the story (or book) of an opera, may be pluralized to libretti; concerto, a form of musical composition, is pluralized concerti. However, the Anglicized librettos and concertos are perfectly correct also.
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Monday, November 9, 2009

PREFIXES - Words with de-.

Like others, the prefix de- has several different meanings. Its most basic sense is ‘away, off. You can see this meaning in the words debar, to shut out or away; defend, to ward off danger or attack; and defer, to put off or delay.
It can also mean ‘less’ or ‘down’, as in decline, to bend or sink downwards, both literally, as of one’s head, and of things like health; demote, to move down, especially in status; and of course descend and decrease.
The other common function of de- is to show the reverse of an action, that is, the opposite or undoing of the action. Hence, depreciate, the opposite of appreciate; decipher, literally, to take out of code; deform, to spoil the shape of; dehumidify, to take the humidity out of; and depopulated, used to describe a region when part of the population has moved away.
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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Origins - A Walkaway

A ambulatory patient, as in a hospital or convalescent home, is finally well enough to get out of bed and walk around. A perambulator, often shortened to pram, is a baby carriage, a vehicle for walking an infant through the streets (per-, through). To perambulate is, etymologically, ‘to walk through’; hence, to stroll around.
To amble is to walk aimlessly; an ambulance is so called because originally it was composed of two stretcher-bearers who walked of the battlefield with a wounded soldier; and a preamble is, by etymology, something that ‘walks before’ (pre-, before, beforehand), hence an introduction or introductory statement, a preamble to the speech, etc; or any event that is introductory or preliminary to another, as in ‘An increase in inflationary factors in the economy is often a preamble to a drop in the stock market.’
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Friday, November 6, 2009

Roots - Words from Vers, Vert

The basic sense of ‘turning’ is clear in words such as reverse, obverse, and invert. The purpose of an advertisement is to turn you to it, or to the product it displays. Thea- in a vert comes from ab-, ‘away’. So you might a vert your gaze from something, or try to a vert an accident by taking precautions. If you have an a version to something, it ‘turns you off.
Divert and its derivative diversion both contain the idea of ‘turning away’. You can divert someone’s attention from something. Traffic might have to turn off the main road, because of roadworks, and use a diversion. These words can also have the sense of ‘distraction, entertainment’; a hobby is a diversion, something that turns your attention away from your everyday work, for instance. Related to these words are the adjective diverse, meaning ‘varied’, and its noun diversity.
This leads to the idea of ‘change’. A version of something is that thing with some changes made to it. Most of the meanings of convert and convertible have the idea of change. A convert is someone who has changed to a new religion or set of beliefs. You can convert your pounds into francs at a bank. If two people exchange ideas or small talk, they converse or have a conversation.
Other common words using this root are: controversy, conversant, incontrovertible, inverse, irreversible, subversive, traverse.
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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Origins - At Large

We discovered magnus, large, big, great, and find it in magniloquent (etymologically, ‘talking big’). The root occurs in a number of other words:
1.Magnanimous – big-hearted, generous, forgiving (etymologically, ‘great-minded). (Magnus plus animus, mind).
2.Magnate – a person of great power or influence, a big wheel, as a business magnate.
3.Magnify – to make larger, or make seem larger (magnus plus –fy from facio, to make), as in ‘magnify your problems’.
4.Magnificent – magnus plus fic-, from facio.
5.Magnitude – magnus plus the common noun suffix –tude, as in fortitude, multitude, gratitude, etc.
6.Magnum (as of champagne or wine) – a large bottle, generally twice the size of a standard bottle.
7.Magnum opus – etymologically, a ‘big work’; actually, the greatest work, or masterpiece, of an artist, writer, or composer. Opus is the Latin word for work; the plural of opus is used in the English word opera, etymologically, ‘a number of works’, actually a musical drama containing overture, singing, and other forms of music, i.e. many musical works.The verb form opero, to work, occurs in operate, co-operate, operator, etc.
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Roots - Words From Sed,Sede,Sid,Sess

The Latin verbs sedeo, sedo, and sido are distantly related to our native English verbs sit and set. Latin also had related words with the stem sit. From these come many words relating to position, such as a building site or a situation.
The potential confusion between this root and the root ced, cede makes it worth while trying to learn which words use which root. If you do, it will help your spelling.
The idea of ‘sitting’ is often prominent in words derived from sedeo. A sedentary job involves a lot of sitting. A session is a ‘sitting’, as of a court, and so a single meeting of any organised group. The chairman might preside at this meeting, which means that he ‘sits in front’ of it. From this come words like president and presidential.
From ‘sitting’ it is a short way to the idea of ‘setting’ and from there to ‘relaxation’. A sediment is a deposit of solids that has settled at the bottom of a liquid. Someone who is sedate is easy-going and unruffled. This state can be achieved artificially by taking sedatives.
The place where you are settled is your residence. You reside there. Hence resident and residential. The word reside can also be used figuratively – the highest judicial power in Britain resides in the House of Lords.
Obsess, obsession, and obsessive, have the prefix ob-, meaning ‘in front of’. The original Latin word meant to ‘ambush’ or ‘besiege’. It is easy to see how an obsession might be thought of as something that ‘besieges’ someone.
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Origins - Better Left Unsaid

Tacit (TAS’-it) derives also from taceo.
Here is a man dying of cancer. He suspects what his disease is, and everyone else, of course, knows. Yet he never mentions the dread word, and no one who visits him ever breathes a syllable of it in his hearing. It is tacitly understood by all concerned that the word will remain forever unspoken.
(Such a situation today, however, may or may not be typical – there appears to be a growing tendency among doctors and families to be open and honest with people who are dying.)
Consider another situation:
An executive is engaging in extracurricular activities with his secretary. Yet during office time they are as formal and distant as any two human beings can well be. Neither of them ever said to the other, ‘Now, look here, we may be lover after five o’clock, but between nine and five we must preserve the utmost decorum, okay?’ Such speech, such a verbal arrangement, is considered unnecessary – so we may say that the two have a tacit agreement (i.e. nothing was ever actually said) to maintain a complete employer-employee relationship during office hours.
Anything tacit, then, is unspoken, unsaid, not verbalized. We speak of a tacit agreement, arrangement, acceptance, rejection, assent, refusal, etc. A person is never called tacit.
The noun is tacitness. (Bear in mind that you can transform any adjective into a noun by adding -ness, though in many cases there may be a more sophisticated, or more common, noun form.)
Changing the a of the root taceo to i, and adding the prefix re-, again, and the adjective suffix -ent, we can construct the English word reticent.
Someone is reticent who prefers to keep silent, whether out of shyness, embarrassment, or fear of revealing what should not be revealed. (The idea of ‘againness’ in the prefix has been lost in the current meaning of the word.)
We have frequently made nouns out of -ent adjectives. The noun form of reticent is reticence.
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Monday, November 2, 2009

Variations on a Theme- Words from Fac, Fact, Fect, Fict

Most of the many words using this root still have a clear idea of doing or making. A fact is something done, or made true. A factory is where things are made. The manu- in manufacture is Latin for ‘by hand’, as in manuscript.
Fiction is something made up in your head – whether a story or a lie.
Facile means, literally, ‘able to be done’. It has come to mean ‘easy to do, requiring little thought or skill’. So a facile answer or person is a shallow or unconvincingly glib one. Facility is easy skill as in speaking Chinese with facility. A facility makes your life or work easier – it might be a building, room, or piece of equipment.
To affect a person or thing is to do something to (ad-) it. What has been done to it, that is, the result or consequence of an action, is an effect, literally ‘done from’ (ex-). You can also effect a change, an arrest, or a cure, that is, do it or bring it about. An efficient method or machine does or performs its function with little wasted effort.
Something infected is literally ‘done in’. Something has got into it and is affecting it for the worse. Wounds may get infected by bacteria. Your mind might be infected by doubt.
The prefix per- means ‘through’ or else ‘thoroughly’. A perfect piece of work is one that has been gone through or done completely.
Other words using the fac root and its variants include affection, defect, deficient, factor, and proficient. Even the suffix -ify is related. To beautify, unify, or petrify something means to make it more beautiful, make it one, or turn it into stone.
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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Variations on a Theme - Words from ced, cede, ceed, cess

The basic meaning – ‘go, yield, give way’ – are clear in cede. One country may cede, or yield or give up, land to another after a defeat in a war.
Ante- in antecedent means ‘before’. Antecedents are therefore things or people that went before (or preceded) something. Stephenson’s Rocket was the antecedent of today’s railway locomotives.
The con- in concede means ‘thoroughly, utterly’. So conceding to an opponent means yielding or giving up completely. You can also concede defeat. To concede also means ‘to grant, admit, acknowledge as being true’. You will surely concede that this is so. It is only a small concession.
Ex- means ‘beyond’, so something that exceeds your expectations ‘goes beyond’ them or surpasses them. Something that is exceedingly good is good beyond what you expect – that is, very good. The noun from exceed is excess – an immoderate amount, a surplus. You should always avoid excess in all things. Excess fat is too much fat, as when you are overweight.
If you proceed, you ‘go forward’. This might be down the road, or it might means that you begin to.
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Friday, October 30, 2009

Origins – Say, Do, And Wish

Benediction and malediction derive from dico, dictus, to say, tell, Dictate, dictator, dictation, dictatorial – words that signify telling others what to do (‘Do as I say!’) – are built on dico, as is predict, to tell beforehand, i.e., to say that something will occur before it actually does (pre-, before, as in prescient).
The brand name Dictaphone combines dico with phone, sound; contradict, to say against, or to make an opposite statement (‘Don’t contradict me!’; ‘That contradicts what I know’) combines dico with contra-, against, opposite; and addiction, etymologically ‘a saying to or towards’, or the compulsion to say ‘yes’ to a habit, combines dico with ad-, to, towards.
Facio, factus, to do or make (as in malefactor, benefactor), has, as noted, variant spellings in English words: fec-, fic-, or, as a verb ending, -fy.
Thus factory is a place where things are made (-ory, place where); a fact is something done (i.e., something that occurs, or exists, or is; therefore, true); fiction, something made up or invented; manufacture, to make by hand (manus, hand, as in manuscript, manual), a word coined before the invention of machinery; artificial, made by human art rather than occurring in nature, as artificial flowers, etc.; and clarify, simplify, liquefy (to make clear, simple, liquid), and magnify (magnus, large) among hundreds of other –fy verbs.
Volo, to wish, to will, to be willing (as in malevolent, benevolent), occurs in voluntary, involuntary, volunteer, words too familiar to need definition, and each quite obviously expressing wish or willingness. Less common, and from the same root, is volition, the act or power of willing or wishing, as in ‘of her own volition’, i.e., voluntarily, or ‘against her volition’.
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Intelligent Learning – The Right Word In Right Place

Hitting the right ‘register’ – the appropriate level of language for a particular situation – is also important. You might complain to your friends about the fuzz or old Bill, but if you come up before the magistrate for speeding, you would be wise to refer to these people as police officers.
Information about register is often indicated in dictionaries, by means of the labels formal, informal, slang, old-fashioned, obsolete. Also included are regional labels (U.S., Aust.) and usage labels (literary, poetic, humorous).
It is not that one word is simple better than another. It is more a matter of picking the one that suits the occasion. You do not put on climbing boots to go dancing. Few people, if any, speak to their boss, their drinking companions, their wife, and their children in exactly the same way – and there is no reason why they shoud.
Mixing registers will produce curious-sounding results. How incongruous it would sound if the boss told a subordinate at work: ‘kindly endeavour to get cracking’. Not that incongruity necessary means that a construction is wrong.You can achieve humorous and satirical effects by such means.
But if you are not in control of the effects you are trying to create, the attempt may well backfire on you.
Think before choosing a word. Ask yourself: ‘Is this the right time and place?’ If it is not, choose a different word.
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Origins – First The Bad News

Built on Latin malus, bad, evil, to malign is to speak evil about, to defame, to slander. Malign is also an adjective meaning bad, harmful, evil, hateful, as in ‘the malign influence of his unconscious will to fail’. Another adjective form is malignant, as in ‘a malignant glance’, i.e., one showing deep hatred, or ‘a malignan growth’, i.e., one that is cancerous (bad).
The noun of malignant is malignancy, which medically, is a cancerous growth, or, generally, the condition, state, or attitude of harmfulness, hatefulness, evil intent, etc. The noun form of the adjective malign is malignity.
Observe how we can construct English words by combining malus with other Latin roots.
Add the root dico, dictus, to say or tell, to form malediction, a curse, i.e., an evil saying. Adjective is maledictory.
Add the root volo, to wish, to will, or to be willing, and we can construct the adjective malevolent, wishing evil or harm – a malevolent glance, attitude, feeling, etc. The noun is malevolence.
Add the root facio, factus, to do or make (also spelled, in English words, fec-, fic-, factus, or, as a verb ending, -fy), to form the adjective maleficent, doing harm or evil, or causing hurt – maleficent acts, deeds, behaviour.
A malefactor is a wrongdoer, an evildoer, a criminal – a malefactor commits a malefaction, a crime, an evil deed.
French is a ‘Romance’ language, that is, a language based on Roman or Latin (as are, also, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian), and so Latin malus became French mal, bad, the source of maladroit, clumsy, bungling, awkward, unskillful, etymologically, having a ‘bad right hand’. The noun is maladroitness. Also from French malmalaise (ma-LAYZ’), an indefinite feeling of bodily discomfort, as in a mild illness, or as a symptom preceding an illness; etymologically, ‘bad ease’, just as disease (dis-ease) is ‘lack of ease’.
Other common words that you are familier with also spring from Latin malus: malicious, malice, malady; and the same malus functions as a prefix in words like maladjusted, malcontent, malpractice, malnutrition, etc., all with the connotation of badness.
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Monday, October 26, 2009

Pidgins And Creoles

English has also been the basis for a number of distinctive pidgin or creole languages, particularly in West Africa, the Caribbean region, and in the former pacific colonies. A pidgin is a simplified language (usually based on that of a trading nation – in this case English) which aries from the need for people with no languages in common to communicate. The word itself may come from a Chinese pronunciation of business. Creoles are pidgins that have been adopted as the mother language of a community. Perhaps 60 million people around the world use pidgins or creoles for everyday purposes.
An English-based pidgin or creole lies at the very limits of what you might call English. Though founded on English, it includes admixtures from local languages, such as the names of products, foods, plants, and animals.
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New Zealand English

Much of what has been said of Australia applies also to New Zealand. Like the accents, the dialects of the two countries are similar. (To distinguish the accents, listen for the pronunciation of words like big and widow. Australians pronounce the vowel as a short version of the vowel sound in keep; New Zealanders use a short sound more akin to that in hut).
The strongest influence on the English of New Zealand has been that of Australia, which is where many of the earliest settlers came from. New Zealand shares with Australia usages that differ from those in Standard English, such as station and theatre. It also shares much of its colloquial vocabulary: buldger, crook, lolly, and to rubbish. But cobber and fair dinkum would sound like deliberate Australianisms in New Zealand.
A number of Maori and Polynesian words have come into Standard English through New Zealand. Maori itself comes from a word meaning ‘ordinary’. The word Pakeha (pronounced/ Paaki-haa/), used for white population, appears to be of Maori origin. Maori loans include the names of local birds (kiwi, moa, takahe) and plants (kauri, rata, tutu).
The word mana was used in Melanesian, Polynesian, and Maori, and meant the mysterious power inherent in any god or sacred object. It was adopted by historians of religion to describe this kind of aura wherever it occurs. People now use it more generally to mean any kind of authority, charisma, prestige, or influence.
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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Origins – Ways Of Writing

Proscribe, to forbid, is commonly used for medical, religious, or legal prohibitions.
A doctor proscribes a food, drug, or activity that might prove harmful to the patient. The church proscribes, or announces a proscription against, such activities as may harm its parishioners. The law proscribes behaviour detrimental to the public welfare.
The derivation is the prefix pro-, before, plus scribe, scriptus, to write. In ancient Roman times, a man’s name was written on a public bulletin board if he had committed some crime for which his property or life was to be forfeited; Roman citizens in Good standing would thereby know to avoid him. In a similar sense, the doctor writes down those foods or activities that are likely to commit crimes against the patient’s health – in that way the patient knows to avoid them.
Scribo, scriptus is the building block of scores of common English words: scribe, scribble, prescribe, describe, subscribe, script, the Scriptures, manuscript, typescript, etc. Describe uses the prefix de-, down – to describe is, etymologically, ‘to write down’ about. Manuscript, combining manus, hand (as in manual labour), with scriptus, is something handwritten – the word was coined before the invention of the typewriter. The Scriptures are holy writings. To subscribe (as to a magazine) is to write one’s name under an order or contract (sub, under, as in subway, subsurface, etc.); to subscribe to a philosophy or a principle is figuratively to write one’s name under the statement of such philosophy or principle.
To inscribe is to write in or into (a book, for example, or metal or stone). A postscript is something written after (Latin post, after) the main part is finished.
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Friday, October 23, 2009

British Vs American – IS the Word or Sense Different?

Some words that exist in both dialects do not always mean the same thing – words like faggot (American: a homosexual; British: a bundle of sticks) and vest (American: waistcoat; British: undershirt). Similarly, if you take someone for a ride in Britain you are stringing him along in order to deceive him. In America, you are liquidating him or bumping him off. With words or expressions like these an explanation is even more in order. Using them without one could lead to serious – and embarrassing – misunderstandings.
Another, parallel, complication arises with words such as lift and elevator. It is not really true to say that a lift in British is an elevator in American. You would be nearer the truth if you said that one of the meanings of lift in British corresponds to one of the meanings of elevator in America. In America you can still give a hitchhiker a lift; in Britain grain might be unloaded using an elevator.
Again be careful if your readers or listeners include people from the other side of the Atlantic.
Explain your meaning of the word – or use an alternative, unambiguous one.
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Origins – Hear Voices

Equivocal, you will recall, combines aequus with vox, vocis, voice; and vox, vocis combines with fero, to bear or carry, to form vociferous, etymologically ‘carrying (much) voice ‘, hence loud, noisy, clamorous, as vociferous demands (not at all quiet or subtle), or the vociferous play of young children (‘please! Try to be quiet so Dad can get his work done!’), though unfortunately TV addiction has abnormally eliminated child noises.
If you are vocal, you express yourself readily and freely by voice; vocal sounds are voiced; vocal music is sung; and you know what your vocal cords are for.
To vocalize is to give voice to (‘vocalize your anger, don’t’’ hold it in!’), or to sing the vocals (or voice parts) of music . A vocalist is a singer.
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Welsh English

Welsh English differs less from Standard English than Scots or Irish. Until this century the Celtic Welsh language was dominant through most of the principality. Words from Celtic that have survived in Welsh English include bach (little one; man, as in Ress bach), del (pretty one), and tollut (a hayloft).
Welsh English has also given fewer words than the Scots or Irish varieties to the standard vocabulary.
Of words not especially associated with Welsh culture (eisteddfod, for example), only flannel and the pudding flummery are at all common. Both of these words can also mean ‘insincere flattery, waffle’. If you also consider the verb to welsh (meaning, ‘to avoid paying a debt’), you can see that the Welsh have suffered from decided linguistic discrimination at the hands of the English.
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Origins – Statements Of Various Kinds

Do not confuse equivocal with ambiguous. An equivocal statement is purposely, deliberately (and with malice aforethought) couched in language that will be deceptive; an ambiguous statement is accidentally couched in such language. Equivocal is, in short, purposely ambiguous.
You will recall that ambi-, which we last met in ambivert and ambidextrous, is a root meaning both; anything ambiguous may have both one meaning and another meaning. If you say, ‘That sentence is the height of ambiguity’, you mean that you find it vague because it admits of both affirmative and negative interpretation, or because it may mean two different things. Ambiguity is pronounced am’-bi-GYOO-i-ti.
Another type of statement or word contains the possibility of two interpretation – one of them suggestive, risqué, or sexy. Such a statement or word is double entendre. This is from the French and translates literally as double meaning.
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Monday, October 19, 2009

The Root Of English – English In The Middle Ages

English was like a river that suddenly vanishes underground and seems to be lost for ever – until, with a great roar, its waters burst out of the ground in some far-off place.
Even in the early days of the Norman domination, the ordinary people of England had stuck doggedly to the language of their fathers, making little attempt to speak like their masters. Rievaulx Abbey, in North Yorkshire, was founded by Cistercian monks in 1131, and is usually pronounced today in the French fashion / reevo /. But there are still local people who insist that the proper pronunciation is the one their ancestors used.
Then, in the latter half of the 14th century, English came into its own once more. The now Anglicised aristocracy started using English in preference to French on all occasions, and English again became the all-purpose language – though in the courts Norman French Persisted for longer. Modern legal English retains such expressions as feme sole (an unmarried woman).
The newly invigorated language found its greuatest exponent in the poet Chaucer, writing an English that was exuberant, vigorous , as full of colour as a stained-glass window. But Chaucer’s English had changed almost beyond recognition from Old English. Most of the Old English symbols had gone, and the vocabulary had changed even more. French and Latin influence was all-pervasive – Chaucer’s writing teem with words borrowed or adapted from French or Latin sources.
English between about 1150 and 1450 is called Middle English. Here is a passage from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. It describes a parson unspoilt by the clerical abuses of his day.
A good man was ther of religioun,
And was a povre person of a toun,
But riche he was of hooly thought and werk.
He was also a lerned man, a clerk,
That Cristes gospel trewely wolde preche;
His parisshens devoutly wolde he teche.
Benygne he was, and wonder diligent,
And in adversitee ful pacient.
This looks fairly straightforward to the modern reader. But there are some qualifications.
First, the pronunciation has changed considerably since Chaucer’s time, though in fact his spelling is closer to his way of speaking than modern spelling is to modern pronunciation. When Chaucer writes night it ought to be read in the Scottish manner, / nikht /, as if in a Burns poem. Where he has line you ought to pronounce it rather like leaner. Wolde in the passage rhymes with the modern English solder rather than with good.
Secondly, some of the words may look familiar but their meaning has changed in the last 600 years. One obvious example here is clerk, which in Chaucerian English still has its original meaning of a ‘cleric’. Another of Chaucer’s characters was a verray parfit gentil knight – this does not mean that he was ‘very perfect and gentle’, but ‘truly perfect and well-born’.
Bear in mind that Chaucer, writing in cosmopolitan London, was using the most up-to-date dialect of his age, and the one from which modern Standard English descends.
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Origins – The ego

Egoist and egotist are built on the same Latin root – the pronoun ego, meaning I. I is the greatest concern in the egoist’s mind, the most overused word in the egotist’s vocabulary. (keep the words differentiated in your own mind by thinking of the t in talk, and the additional t in egotist). Ego itself has been taken over from Latin as an important English word and is commonly used to denote one’s concept of oneself, as in, ‘What do you think your constant criticisms do to my ego?’ Ego has also a special meaning in psychology – but for the moment you have enough problems without going into that.
If you are an egocentric, you consider yourself the centre of the universe – you are an extreme form of egoist. And if you are an egomaniac, you carry egoism to such an extreme that your needs, desires, and interests have become a morbid obsession, a mania. The egoist or egotist is obnoxious, the egocentric is intolerable, and the egomaniac is dangerous and slightly mad.

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The Roots of English

There has been a language called ‘English’ for at least 1300 years. It descends from a form of Germanic brought to Britain by the Anglo-Saxons, whose homelands lay along the eastern shores of the North Sea. The Romans settled some of these fierce, fair-haired warriors in Britain as mercenaries, and more came as invaders as the Roman Empire began to collapse and the legions were withdrawn to protect Rome itself.

The Indo-European Heritage

English and the Germanic languages, as a whole are part of a much larger family of languages, including most of those of modern Europe and southwest Asia. The common ancestor of this family was the language known to scholars as Proto-Indo-European. Of modern European tongues only a handful – notably Hungarian, Finnish, and Basque – have a different ancestry.
Family likenesses can be traced in many of the words these languages use today. The Hindi word maharajah, for instance, derives from the Indo-European root reg-, meaning ‘to put straight’ and, from that, ‘to rule’. This same root turns up in Latin in words like rex, regis (a king) and rego, return (to rule). Form these were formed the English words regal, rector,correct, and direct. Also from Latin, but this time changed by centuries in early French, come royal and adroit.

The Germanic form of the same Indo-European root has given English right and rich (which originally meant ‘powerful’, and owes its form to French influence). There is also the German Reich (originally ‘a kingdom’), as well as the Romany (Gypsy) term for a man of authority, rye. The Gypsies carried their language from their original homelands in northern India on their journeys west.

Language experts have pieced together a reasonably clear picture of the vocabulary of Proto-Indo-European – which, in turn, reveals much about the people who spoke it, as well as about where and how they lived.

For example, the Indo-Europeans seem to have had words for winter and snow, but not far sea. This suggests that they lived not too far to the south, but away from oceans. They had words for oak, beech, pine, bear, wolf, and deer, but none for donkey, chicken, bamboo, palm, camel, lion, or monkey. Their homeland would thus seem to have been a region of temperate woodland with cold winters.

The Indo-Europeans also had words for pig, horse, cow, dog, and plough, and so must have known something about agriculture.

The commonest theory among scholars is that the original Indo-Europeans lived, at least at times, in settled villages somewhere in eastern Europe or the steppes of western Asia, and that their period as a fairly unified group was probably around 5000-3000 BC. After that they spread out over much of Europe and Asia, leaving as their heritage a bond of shared word roots among the languages of what became widely diverging cultures.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

The Last Hundred Years – Science

The great Changes in the world over the last century or so have brought a further flood of new words into English. Many of these are associated with new fields of human activity and knowledge.
Science: A large proportion of scientific coinings are based on greek word elements.
X . Medicine and Life Science: allergy, anaemia, anaesthetic, antitoxin, appendicitis, aspirin, bronchitis, carbohydrate, cholesterol, clinic, DNA, endocrine, enzyme, homeopathy, hormone, immunology, insulin, metabolism, natural selection, orthodontist, penicillin, protein, sclerosis, stethoscope, tonsilitis.
X . Psychology: egocentric, extrovert, inhibition, introvert, psychoanalysis.
X . Physics and Electronics: alternating current, are light, atomic energy, calorie, dynamo, electron, ion, quantum, radioactive, relativity, ultra violet.
X . Chemistry: benzine, biochemistry, creosote, cyanide, nitroglycerine, ozone, radium.
X . Space Science: astronaut, cosmonaut, countdown, launch pad, lunar module, moon shot, space shuttle, spacecraft, stratosphere.
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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Topical calcipotriol

Vitamin D3( cholecalciferol) is produced naturally by epidermal keratinocytes and metabolized to the to the biologically active form 1,25(OH)2D3.The therapeutic effect of 1,25(OH)2D3 is limited by its hypercalcimic action . The synthetic analogue of vitamine D3 produced by the modification of the side chain is Calcipotriol which is about 200 times less potent in hypercacemia and hypercalciuria than 1,25(OH)2D3. The calcipotriol is most important synthetic analog of vitamin D3, as it quickly transformed into the inactive metabolites there by reducing the side effects like hypercalcemia and hypercalciuria. which act through antiproliferative and anti-inflammatory effects and stimulates terminal differentiation of keratinocytes by acting through immunologic mechanism and regulating intracellular calcium concentration. In India its available as 50 µg/g ointment.
Mechanism of action
It acts on vitamin D receptor (VDR) which belong to the group of steroid receptor. The biologic actions of the ligands-receptor complex are mediated by binding to DNA sequence within the vitamin D responsive genes. It has inhibitory action on cell proliferation and normalizes cell differentiation in the epidermal layer of skin. It also exerts immunologic effect by acting on the monocytes , macrophages, B & T lymphocytes that expresses the VDR. It also inhibits the thymocyte proliferation induced by IL-1 and the release of IL-6 and interferon-y from activated mononuclear cells. In the psoriatic lesion when its applied it causes progressive reduction in the dermal cellular infiltrate with change in the cell type CD4+ helper cells to CD8+ suppressor cells in the lesion and reducing infiltration of neutrophils.
It is currently used in psoriasis, vitiligo, morphoea, pityriasis rubra pilaris, ichthyoses and palmoplantar keratodermas
Calcipotriol is contraindicated in hypercalcemia, hypercalciuria, urolithiasis, parathyroid disease, disorders of calcium metabolism, photosensitivity, pregnancy, lactation and concomitant use of vitamin D or calcium or any other drug that affect calcium homeostasis.
Combination of calcipotriol with psoralen UVA
The combination therapy in vitiligo is found to be more effective than PUVA alone. It is advised to apply calcipotriol after UVA exposure because there is a significant decrease in the calcipotriol concentration ranging from 2% to 75% with a mean reduction of 28% if applied before hand.

Mode of application
The Calcipotriol ointment is applied twice daily and application amount should not exceed 100g in adult and 50g in children in a week.
Side effects
Commonly noted side effects noted during the topical application are skin irritation, burning sensation, erythema ,scaling, & stinging sensation. In systemic side effects are hypercalcimia, which is observed, when its application exceeds 100g/week, however the serum level of calcium comes down to normal after discontinuing the drug for a week.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Root Of English – The Norman Conquest

The Normans, too, were of Viking stock, but they had been settled in Normandy for over a century when Duke William led his invasion of England in 1066. By then they had become completely ‘Frenchified, in customs, culture, and language.
Just as the Norman knights conquered England, so their language, at least for a time, conquered that of the defeated Anglo-Saxons. The new aristocracy in England spoke French, and writing in English on official, cultural, religious, or literary matters all but ceased – through some records, such as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle kept at the Abbey of Peterborough, were still being made in English until the 1150s. Now the languages in use became Latin, for church and intellectual writing, and the Anglo-Norman form of French for law and literary works. English, Much basic English Vocabulary arose from the Viking in vasion.
However, survived among the ordinary people to re-emerge as the common language of England in the 14th century.
Anglo-Norman differed from standard French in several respects, and English would borrow words from each dialect. From Anglo-Norman would come hostel, reward, and warranty; the related words hotel, regard, and guarantee came from standard French a little later.
English people of recent times have given the Anglo-Normans little credit for their achievements. During the 12th century, in particular, a great deal of the finest literature in Europe was produced in this country, but in French. For instance, the oldest surviving version of the story of Tristan and Iseult is the poem (written in Norman French) by Thomas d’ Angleterre – Thomas of England.
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Photochemotherapy is the therapeutic use of ultra violet A (UVA) in the range of 320-400nm with photosensitizing agent psoralen. The action spectrum of psoralens is around 330nm. The first use of photochemotherapy dates back to over 2000 years ago, when Egyptians used Ammi majus plant seed extracts for treating skin condition. Subsequently many psoralens are used in treating the different kinds of skin conditions. The three most commonly used psoralens are 8-methoxypsoralen(8-MOP),5-methoxypsoralen (5-MOP) and 4,5,8-trimethylpsoralen(TMP). Among these most commonly used psoralen is 8- methoxypsoralen. After the oral intake of the crystalline form of the drug, the drug reaches the pick level in the skin in 2 hours, while intake of liquid form takes about 1 hour to reach the peak level in the skin. The absorption rate of 5-methoxypsoralen is only 25%,while the absorption of 8-methoypsoralen can be compensated by increasing dose by 1.2-1.5mg/kg. TMP is used as a topical or as PUVA bath as its poorly absorbed.
Psoralens act by the direct effect on the DNA. The two type of effects are well known; the first one is oxygen dependent DNA photo adduction associated with therapeutic effect. Second one is by oxygen dependent photodynamic reaction, which has some immunosuppressive action on the body

Psoralen is indicated in Psoriasis, Vitiligo, Hyper keratotic eczema, Morphea, Alopecia areata, Cutaneous T cell lymphoma, PLC, Prurigo nodularis etc.

The drug is contra indicated in pregnancy, lactating mother, children below 12 years, photosensitive diseases and collagen vascular diseases. However, when the drug is to be used for short duration it may be considered for use.
Minimal Phototoxic Dose(MPD)
Before starting PUVA therapy the patients Minimal phototoxic dose (MPD) or minimal erythema dose (MED) is determined to avoid phototoxic reaction. It is determined by irradiating UVA ray on the patients re-presented sites (about1cm) and such 6-8 sites are selected, either on the buttock or cover part of the body to be irradiated with UVA ray in a gradual increasing dose of UVA, after administering oral psoralen at the dose 0.4mg/kg. The UVA ray irradiation is carried out after 2 hour of psoralen intake. And these areas are read after 72 hour to look for the minimal erythema (pink erythema) induced by the lowest dose of UVA. The minimal dose of UVA required to induce erythema is regarded as the Minimal eythema dose for that particular individual.

Psoralen when used with UVA ray of artificial source is regarded as PUVA therapy; when the UVA ray of solar system is used it’s regarded as PUVA Sol.

Generally two protocol are followed while using PUVA/PUVA Sol as the mode for treatment for any photochemotherapy responsive condition.
In the American protocol the PUVA is given either twice a week or thrice a week. The UVA radiation is given 2 hours after the oral administration of psoralen, at the dose of 70-80% of the determined MPD to start with, then it’s dose is increased by 30% of the initial dose. In the European protocol the treatment is given 4days a week.

When UVA from solar source is used its called PUVA sol and the sun exposure is started by 5 minutes then it’s increased by 5 minutes every week until 30 minute is reached. The UVA ray reaches earth between 9am-3pm, and the best time for sun exposure to have maximum UVA is between 11.30-01.30 pm.

Patients eye and genitalia is protected during UVA exposure by using UVA blocking glasses and guards.

Topical PUVA
Here the psoralen is given in the form of bath(PUVA Bath) or bathing suit PUVA, psoralen soak and UVA exposure, direct psoralen application and PUVA, and PUVA comb are used to limit the side effect of psoralen.

Trioxalen bath solution is prepares by adding 100ml(0.05% solution) to 150L of water at room temperature. While, 8-Methoxlen bath is prepared by adding 50ml, 0.75% 8 MOP(commercially available at Indian market) to 100ml water, making the final solution 3.75mg/L.
The patient is soaked in the solution for about 15 minutes, dries off and irradiated with UVA in a conventional phototherapy unit.
For localized lesion we have been using topical psoralen in modified form (one drop of psoralen with 10-20 drops of water) applied on the lesion and after 20-30 minutes the area is exposed to sun for one minute and it’s washed off. In some centers in India instead of PUVA suit, Dermatologist are using trousers soaked in diluted solution of psoralen, worn for 15-20 minutes and then UVA ray is irradiated and soap bath is given to remove psoralen from the skin.

Side effects of oral psoralen are anorexia, nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, light headness, insomnia, depression, redness on skin, blister formation, dryness, pain on the skin, exacerbation of asthma, drug fever, maculopapular lesions on skin, urticaria, hypertrichosis, cataract, cutaneous aging, malignancy
Side effect of topical PUVA are redness, tenderness, blister formation, and hyperpigmentatio
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Origins – The Whole Tooth

Orthodontist is built on orthos, straight, correct, plus odontos, tooth.
A periodontist is a gum specialist – the term combines odontos with the prefix peri-, around, surrounding. (As a quick glance in the mirror will tell you, the gums surround the teeth, more or less.) The speciality: periodontics (Per’- i-o-DON’-tiks); the adjective: periodontic (Per’-i-o-DON’-tik).
An endodontist (en’-do-DON’-tist) specializes in work on the pulp of the tooth and in root-canal therapy – the prefix in this term is endo-, from Greek endon, inner, within.
The prefix ex-, out, combines with odontos to form exodontist (eks’-o-DON’-tist).
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Friday, October 9, 2009

Origins – The Nervous System

Neurologist derives from Greek neuron, nerve, plus logos, science.
Neuralgia is acute pain along the nerves and their branches; the word comes from neuron plus algos, pain.
Neuritis is inflammation of the nerves.
Neurosis, combining neuron with -osis, a suffix meaning abnormal or diseased condition, is not, despite its etymology, a disorder of the nerves, but rather, as described by the late Eric Berne, a psychiatrist, ‘. . . an illness characterized by excessive use of energy for unproductive purposes so that personality development is hindered or stopped. A man who spends most of his time worrying about his health, counting his money, plotting revenge, or washing his hands, can hope for little emotional growth’. .
Neurotic is both the adjectival form and the term for a person suffering from neurosis.
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Saturday, October 3, 2009

How Children increase their Vocabularies

The typical ten-year-old, you will recall, has a recognition vocabulary of over twenty thousand words – and has been learning many hundreds of new words every year since the age of four.
You were once that typical child.
You were once an accomplished virtuoso of vocabulary building.
What was your secret?
Did you spend hours every day poring over a dictionary?
Did you keep notebooks full of all the new words you ever heard or read?
Did you immediately look up the meaning of any new word that your parents or older members of your family used?
Such procedures would have struck you as absurd then, as absurd as they would be for your today.
You had a much better, much more effective, and considerably less self-conscious method.
Your method was the essence of simplicity: day in and day out you kept learning; you kept squeezing every possible ounce of learning out of every waking moment; you were an eternal question box, for you had a constant and insatiable desire to know and understand.
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