Archives for 2013

Word of the Day: new

Word of the Day: new “There is nothing new under the sun,” said the Preacher. “Get your New and Improved Crest Toothpaste, with stannous fluoride,” said the Huckster. I like to point out to my students, when we're studying ancient Rome, that those great architects of government had a nice term for revolution: res nova, a new thing. To call your political opponent an innovator was worse than to cast a shadow upon his motives. It was to condemn him outright. So it was als … [Read more...]

Word of the Day: buxom

Word of the Day: buxom. In the Beetle Bailey comic strip, the old addled General Halftrack has a dumb blonde secretary with really dangerous curves. Her name, of course, is Miss Buxley. Mort Walker was punning on the word buxom, which is now used only to describe a woman – and not every woman, either! It wasn’t always so. In Paradise Lost, Milton describes Satan as flying through the buxom air. What could he have meant? We need to return to the Old English: bugsam. The second part … [Read more...]

Grammar Lesson of the Day: genitive of time

Grammar Lesson of the Day: Genitive of Time What part of speech is the first word of the following sentence? Mornings I walk over to the church for early Mass, then I have breakfast at The Gentleman Farmer. Almost everybody would say, “Noun!” And you could make a case for it. You could say, “It’s short for in-the-morning, and ‘morning’ is a noun.” Well, ‘morning’ is a noun, but ‘mornings’ here isn’t. It answers the question, “When?” It modifies the verb “wal … [Read more...]

Word of the Day: twelve

Word of the Day: twelve One of the sad losses as Western man moved from liturgical time to secular time has been the festal season. We have shopping periods, with no special beginning or end, stretching farther and farther out away from Christmas Day or Easter, losing all connection to the feast, and bringing in their wake not festivity but weariness and ennui. A far cry from the twelve days of Christmas celebrated in western Europe, from the day of the Nativity to the … [Read more...]

Word of the Day: yield

Word of the Day: yield I’m quite aware that this word, in Massachusetts and New York, means “ .” Interstates aside, though, it’s a nice word. It has come to mean to give way, as when a corrupt Claude Rains is trying to shout down Jimmy Stewart in the halls of Congress: “Will the gentleman yield!” “No, I w-won’t yield!” And the hearts of Boy Scouts leap. Its original meaning, though, suggests generosity, bounty, fruitfulness. Recipes in women’s magazines used to conclude with the yie … [Read more...]

Word of the Day: Christmas

Word of the Day: ChristmasI am quite fond of our English word for the birth of the Lord, Christmas. It’s one of a host of old mass-words which provide abundant evidence that our English forefathers measured their seasons by the liturgical year. There’s Christmas, but also Candlemas, the feast of the Presentation of the baby Jesus in the temple, on February 2, the fortieth day after His birth. There’s Lammas, the feast of the Transfiguration, on August 6 (the name comes from the title Lamb of … [Read more...]

Word of the Day: tree

Word of the Day: tree I have heard for years that Christians adopted for their purposes the Roman Saturnalia, a feast occurring at the winter solstice, for their celebration of the birth of Jesus, or was it the feast that Aurelian instituted, that of the Unconquered Sun? Well, it is nonsense either way. Christians long acknowledged that pagans could come to some measure of the truth, and in the case of the great Platonists, the truths they saw might be profound indeed. That's why … [Read more...]

Grammar Lesson of the Day: subject

Grammar Lesson: Subject Most of my college students cannot identify the subject of a sentence. They’re bright kids, but they’ve never been taught it. Italians are bright people, too, but try explaining to one what a shortstop is. Madonna mia! The only ones who can identify the subject are kids who have studied Latin or Greek, or kids who were taught at home (and there’s a lot of overlap). You have to know what the subject is in Latin and Greek, because the form of the … [Read more...]