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Chris -- 2011-03-08

#1 2011-07-21 15:11:23

From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2200

deteriorate, faulty, obituary, balsa, toothsome

Housecleaning time. A few less than stellar (and less than believable) semantic substitutions have come across my desk in the last month.

(1) Deteriorate. Do people see in this term the etymologically unrelated “deter?”

(2) Faulty. A number of people spell this “fallty,” as we can see by this Google search for “is fallty.” Perhaps these are just misspellings. The act of falling and the state of being faulty do, however, share a smidgen of semantic space.

(3) Obituary. Google is willing to show us over 700 examples of “obituary” spelled as “orbituary.” Is an orbituary what we write for a person who has finished the circuit of life, run the course, closed the loop?

(4) Balsa. Last week I heard a friend talk about using “balsam wood” in a model boat he was building. The wood is “balsa,” derived from, appropriately enough, a Spanish word for “boat.” “Balsam,” though, has woody connections that might motivate the substitution. Our word “balsam” comes from a Latin/Greek name for the tree from whose resin the original balsam ointment (cf “balm”) was distilled.

(5) Toothsome. Older semantic wanderings, courtesy of Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day:

One meaning of “tooth” is “a fondness or taste for something specified.” “Toothsome” comes from this definition of “tooth” plus the suffix “-some,” meaning “characterized by.” Although “toothsome” was at first used to describe general attractiveness, it quickly developed a second sense that was specific to the sense of taste (perhaps because from as far back as Chaucer’s time, “tooth” could also refer specifically to eating and the sense of taste). In addition, “toothsome” is now showing signs of acquiring a third sense, “toothy” (as in “a toothsome grin”), but this sense is not yet established enough to qualify for dictionary entry.

And a cartoon:

(6) Flounder At least he didn’t say “founder:”

Last edited by kem (2014-07-18 20:00:25)



#2 2011-07-22 22:39:37

From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1802

Re: deteriorate, faulty, obituary, balsa, toothsome

kem wrote:

(1) Deteriorate. Do people see in this term the etymologically unrelated “deter?”

Some people think it is the same term. This cartoon was based on the explanation given by an elderly attendant at a 24-7 convenience store, for why he wore a gun: “That’s to deteriorate any would-be robbers with”.

*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)



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