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3 New Words I Learned this Week
or Lupine Flatuosity Explained
+ Big Extra: Latin Name for Mitt Romney!
In a delightful explosion of flatulent nomenclature, the word Lycoperdon occurred in my reading this week. A genus of mushroom comprising about 50 species of fungus puffballs of widespread distribution, its botanical name means ‘wolf-fart.’
Greek λύκος lukos or lykos means ‘wolf.’ That root gives rise to words still current in English. The state of being a werewolf is lycanthropy. A werewolf is a lycanthrope, from Greek λυκάνθρωπος lykanthropos ‘werewolf’ = Greek λύκος lukos, lykos ‘wolf’ + ἄνθρωπος human being, man. The second part of the compound stems from the ancient Greek verb πέρδεσθαι perdesthai ‘to fart.’
Who Put The Were in Werewolf ?
Incidentally, the morpheme were in werewolf does NOT, as one illiterate website contends, mean ‘weird.’ It used to be thought that Old English werewolf contained a common Old English noun wer ‘man,’ cognate with Latin vir ‘man.’ Hence virile and virility. This source is now thought unlikely, due to certain vowel shenanigans which need not detain us here. Suffice it to say, etymologists now suspect that in the English word werewolf we may see the altered remnant of a Viking word, namely, Old Norse *varulfr ‘werewolf’ from Old Norse vargr ‘wolf.’ Note that the Old Norse root word is merely hypothesized, in that no written record of the word’s use is extant.
The folklore and superstitious belief in this fairytale is very ancient. As shown above, ancient Romans and Greeks knew it. But a wolf-man or man-wolf or werewolf appears in folk stories all over the world for the last two thousand years.
Click here to read my column on another surprising fart word.
Beware of Persons Who Interfere
In An Untoward Manner with — Commas!
A pedant is someone who shows off obscure technical knowledge, or a grammatical busybody who obsessively corrects other people’s minor errors in spelling or syntax, a meddlesome literalist who insists that only slavish adherence to rules and formality is permissible, in grammar and in life.
For those linguistic chauvinists who imagine that English is the only expressive, humorous tongue, consider this: The Finnish word for pedant pilkunnussija translates as ‘comma fucker.’
Naming Slime-Mold Beetles
Dick Cheney, Former US VP, is a Slime-Mold Beetle.
Many species of living things on earth have scientific names that are honorific, that is, named to honor some notable person or to memorialize a beloved fellow scientist or the discoverer of the living entity now in need of a botanical or zoological name. In 2005, entomologists Quentin Wheeler and Kelly Miller named three slime-mold beetles Agathidium bushi, Agathidium cheneyi and Agathidium rumsfeldi, after former US President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Eponyms and honorifics are not good science. Latin names are best because they describe simple, evident characteristics of a species. Scientific names ought to be designed to endure into the hopefully distant future of a particular science. When you name some buzzing grasshopper *Insectus billygrahamensis, you can be certain that a few years after Billy Graham joins the Choir Eternal and is wafted upward, cloudward, to occupy the eternal TV pulpit in the sky next to Jesus, Graham’s name will – o horror! –be forgotten. Now if you had named the buzzing grasshopper with zoological names derived from Latin or Greek, then the genus and species names would persist through eternity or whatsoever temporal span shall pass for our “eternity.” In other words, that buzzing grasshopper should have been named something Latinate like *Gryllus stridens Latin ‘buzzing grasshopper.’
I have no modern zoological names for current presidents. But, today, I do have a Latin name for Mitt Romney, possible Republican presidential candidate and his tag is Anonum dives nesciens, in Latin ‘big, rich, know-nothing asshole.’ Anonum is my coinage of a Late Latin augmentative noun for anus.
Copyright 2012 © William Gordon Casselman
1. Check out my fascinating etymology
of the word AUTOPSY
2. How Beaver Became a Dirty Word
3. Asbestos: Shame of Prime Minister Harper!
Reviews of my Book
Click bookcover for preview
Jenni French of San Francisco, California writes on her blog "My Corner of the Universe" for March 19, 2011:
Casselman, Bill. Where a Dobdob Meets a Dikdik: A World Lover's Guide to the Weirdest, Wackiest, and Wonkiest Lexical Gems. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2010.
"I admit it: I'm a word nerd. I love words: weird words, long words, obscure words, funny words. This book is right up my alley. With chapters like "Nautical Words," "Creepy Words," and "Edible Words," I have enjoyed every page of this book. And the author has quite a way with words, so I have found myself rereading many sentences in this book and slowing my progress through it. My current favorite sentence is found in a discussion of dog hybrid breed names: "What a revolting concatenation of cutesiness and smarmy nomenclatorial treacle parading under the name of canine hybrid breed names" (19). I'm sure I'll have another favorite sentence in a day or two. This book is just that good and just that entertaining."
Author Bill Casselman replies: "Thanks, Jenni!"
Just a reminder that this book contains my ALL-NEW word essays, none of which are available anywhere else in print or online.
A Great New Review of My Latest Book!
October 26, 2011 Welcome to the Enchanted ForestBy WB Johnston
This review is about Bill Casselman’s latest e-book about words: Where a Dobdob Meets a Dikdik: A Word Lover’s Guide to the Weirdest,Wackiest, and Wonkiest Lexical Gems (Kindle Edition)
“Wade Davis, lately of National Geographic, once described each living language as “an old-growth forest of the human spirit.” Once you decide to enter the kleptomaniacal woods of our mother tongue, what you need is more than a tour guide. This is no Disney-fied ‘keep-your-hands-inside-the-car-at all-times’, point A to point B, clear-cutting mining of language. You, here, are in the hands of Sir William of Cassel, a genuine shaman modestly posing as a simple lover of words.
In the best of the spiritual tradition, Bill is the shape-shifter who constantly leads you to all the places you need to find in your soul. Every page is a new country, an invitation to an excursion into the wonderland of rich connections with the myriad of sources of what so often we unthinkingly wield as a prosaic tool.
Pay absolutely no attention to anyone who tells you that this book is anything but pure gold. It’s simply not true, sadly, that all the world loves a lover. Particularly someone whose love is so boundless.
But Sir William is fearless. You don’t earn your keep as a medicine man if you have a thin skin. While I cannot for the life of me understand how anyone could walk away from this book unmoved by its wit, its wisdom and the beautiful transparency by which the author celebrates the glorious romp of our almost unlimited linguistic exuberance, I have to sadly conclude that once in a while, you do meet someone who can’t see the forest for the trees, eh?
Read this book. Leave it on the sofa instead of the $%#!*$% TV remote. Maybe someone you care about will pick it up, even just for a moment, and fall in love with their heritage? Leave it on your desk at work and trust that someone will riffle through it when you are out at lunch. Shamans are magicians of the highest order. The work of their hands and hearts is game-changing. Or, hey, put it on your Kindle and just feel comforted that you can wander back out into the forest with Bill even in the middle of a boring lecture.
Casselman replies: Thank you so much, Dr. J., for the kudos.
Cindy Lapeña on her blog "Creativity Unlimited" of July 19 ,2011, writes:
Posted by mimrlith in 365 Things to Look Forward to.
Tags: 365 things to look forward to, books, reading
19. Starting a book
To a certified bibliophile like me, a.k.a. bookworm, one of the most exciting things to look forward to is to start reading a new book. In fact, sometimes the prospect of starting to read a new book is so exciting that I have to hurry to finish the book I am currently reading, just so I can start a new one. If there’s one thing I can’t resist, it’s a book, especially if it promises to be a good one. Of course there are certain books I just won’t touch or be seen with, but at the risk of being hung by my thumbs by fans of such literature, I will not mention any genres in particular. . . Seeing a book with a title that totally captivates me, like Where a Dobdob meets a Dikdik (yes, that is a book title!) has me so worked up, I just can’t wait to dive in. I imagine all sorts of deliciously fancifully outrageous words with a title like that. Is it obvious? I just love books on words. You won’t believe how many dictionaries I own. Or books on lexical oddities and other lexical explorations. Yes, I am a logophile of sorts. I love the new words I pick up from new books. I relish finding out the meanings of all manner of words and phrases and expressions. What could be more fun?"
(Replies author Bill Casselman: Please scroll to bottom of page or click here to link to a free seven-page preview of my new book, Where a Dobdob Meets a Dikdik.
Thursday, February 3, 2011 Dear Mr. Casselman,
A search for the origins of an improbable-looking word, paraprosdokian, led me to the first piece of your prose I have had the pleasure of reading, "The Bogus Word Paraprosdokian & Lazy Con Artists of Academe." I have just placed an order for Where a Dobdob Meets a Dikdik, Canadian Words & Sayings, and As The Canoe Tips, and will add more of your titles as I finish these.
I have just retired from a 40-plus year career in book publishing, the last thirty years spent as director/editor of a number of university presses, attempting to sort the genuine writers from the "Lazy Con Artists of Academe." Sad to say, the latter have so over-bred the former that I could no longer see the rare gem in the avalanches of offal that daily swamped my office and desk. I visited your website and spent far too long there; it was a pleasure to meet a real writer through his work.. . . I revisited the paraprosdokian page, and have finally quit laughing again at “Casselman's Conclusion.” You were not unkind to the "profligate prof-lets." During my years as an acquisitions editor, in rejection letters I often quoted Prof. Moses Hadas, classicist at Columbia University, who wrote a young scholar in response to having been sent the prof-let's first book, "Thank you for sending me your book. I will waste no time reading it."
I know I will enjoy your books. Keep up the good work.
University of New Mexico Press, among others
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