SIMIAN [SIM-ee-uhn] : referring to apes or monkeys

A recent newspaper article described a person’s simian-like gesture.  Not to be left totally in the dark, I began my research and discovered that simian is a term which means “monkey or ape-like.”   I’m not sure now whether the author of the article was being complimentary or not, and I can’t exactly remember where I […]

VALUE JUDGMENT: a statement which declares something to be “right” or “wrong” ; a personal preference portrayed as a standard

As children we were constantly receiving value judgments from parents, teachers, neighbors, or anyone who thought they had the right to influence our choices. No, don’t eat that.  It’s bad. Good little boys don’t do that. We never say that in public. You must always do what your teacher says. Good writers never use that […]

GUN CONTROL: legislation which limits the access to and use of armaments in civilian life

I don’t know anyone who believes that the government should take away hunting rifles, target pistols, or other similar non-offensive guns from legitimate, licensed owners.   There is a long tradition of hunting and recreational shooting, including trap shooting, which is recognized in this country and even included in Olympic events.  So the paranoia about stripping […]

ELEGIAC [el-i-JAHY-uhk] : pertaining to an elegy; expressing sorrow or lament

Who escaped high school English classes without having to study, memorize, or recite such elegies as “O Captain, my Captain” by Walt Whitman or Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray? At the time the themes seemed morbid and funereal to a teenager, but it was an important piece of literary inquiry which […]

SKUNKED TERM: a word or term that experiences confusing change in its meaning

When a word’s meaning changes dramatically to the point of being confusing, it is referred to as a skunked term. In Bryan Garner’s, Garner’s Modern American Usage, he points out “When a word undergoes a marked change from one use to another–a phase that might take ten years or a hundred–it’s  likely to be the […]

DEATH: end of life

This may seem like a ghoulish posting, but it’s a legitimate result of thinking about significant words that are common in our language.    No, I’m not obsessing on death, and I’m not aware of being traumatized by someone’s death.  I’m just thinking out loud about something that I think is worth consideration. It bothers the […]