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...]

Word of the Day: simple

Word of the Day: simple Simple Simon met a pieman, Going to the fair; Says Simple Simon to the pieman, Let me taste your ware. Says the pieman to Simple Simon, Show me first your penny; Says Simple Simon to the pieman, Indeed I have not any. Simon’s a simpleton: what does that mean? He can add and subtract, but can’t do long division? Off to the American college goes he! Finding the word’s immediate origin is simple enough: French simple, from Latin simplex (Ital … [Read more...]

Grammar Lesson of the Day: Importantly

Grammar Lesson of the Day: Importantly Adverbs are funny critters. They can modify verbs; they get their name from that habit. They can modify adjectives. They can modify adverbs. They can even stand in for a whole idea, as if they were one-word clauses. Here are a few examples: Mr. Jones was confident of his reelection. Fortunately, he was wrong. The rain came down in sheets for ten hours straight. Thankfully, the wind was calm, and that limited the damage. Luckily, … [Read more...]

Word of the Day: bonnie

Word of the Day: bonnie When I was a boy I had a hard time distinguishing the words in songs. So this is how I heard the old sea-chanty: My body lies over the ocean, My body lies over the sea, My body lies over the ocean, O bring back my body to me!What did I know about girls, back then? Well, of course the word I was mishearing is bonnie, as in a bonnie lass.Most people would say that bonnie is a Scottish word, as in Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Stuart heir … [Read more...]