Friday, August 28, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
The linguist in me was aroused this morning so I bring you a word of the week. The following is based mostly from information I gleaned off of online dictionaries that had shortened etymological facts at the end of the definition.
Note: I’m an EMERGENCY metaphor technician. The person who administers first aid before the real paramedics can get to the scene. If you don’t want to take my word for it, feel free to visit your own etymological sources. I just hope I point people down the right path.
Word for the week: demure
One of my family’s favorite movies is The Court Jester. It’s kind of an old movie but very funny, starring Danny Kaye and a very young Angela Lansbury. In it, the guy who’s been plotting from the beginning uncovers in front of the king the true identity (though he gets it somewhat wrong) of the Court Jester. While speaking of the Jester’s accomplice, he says “And this demure maid…”
The phrase bugged me because he spoke in an obvious fashion of dislike and disgust that I had to find out what demure meant. As it turns out, he was speaking very correctly by calling her demure, but incorrectly at the same time, and none of it was derogatory (though I’m sure his character thought it was).
Demure has many aspects of different languages and differing ages woven into it so that its original meaning is conjecture at best (at least by me. Any historical linguists who want to weigh in on this?)
In our language today, it means reserved, modest or shy, usually said of a woman or of clothing.
First there was the Latin sense of maturus, to ripen or mature. Then there was the Old French word mur meaning grave. This gave way to another old French word demoure, meaning remain or stay. This made its way into Middle English as demure meaning sober, serious, or reserved.
The maid in question is definitely mature, serious, sober, reserved and dedicated. But she is by no means shy, nor does she wear clothing that looks serious or sober.
She is not reserved. She’s a spy in the castle of her enemy, steals the King’s key, and hits people over the head with wooden beams. She is modest in her own way, that is, she doesn’t flaunt her beauty purposefully, though others do it for her and give her compliments.
Anyways, I just found it funny that the bad guy, who up until that line was doing a pretty good job at being a bad guy, suddenly uses what might be a compliment and might be simply a misplaced description to give his enemy’s accomplice a bad reputation. In the setting of the story, I assume it would have been seen as correct and right for a woman to be demure: a little woman who stays at home and is dedicated to running the household while being shy and modest.
In essence, he wasn’t insulting her. He was simply pointing out that she was a commoner and shouldn’t be sitting next to the king.
I find this fascinating. It’s amazing how many different shades of meaning there are for words. It’s like looking at paint samples. (Oh yes, here comes the metaphor.) If I look at a wall in a room, I might call it white. But if I go to a paint store and try to pick out the exact color, I will come away with 100 samples of white, off-white, egg shell white, cloud white, chalk white, etc. And they will all look incredibly different when next to each other. The wall I was looking at might even have been yellow in comparison and I just didn’t know it.
This is why it’s useful and fun to know the exact meaning of words and to distinguish between words of similar meaning that have different emphasis.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Here's a list of the books I've read recently:
1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
2. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
3. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas (In progress)
4. Seventh Son Book One by J.C. Hutchins (In progress)
5. The Shack by William P. Young (In progress)
6. Half Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer
7. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle (In progress)
8. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (In progress)
9. The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett (In progress)
10. All but the last of the Harry Potter series
11. Murder at Avedon Hill by P.G. Holyfield
Books I plan to read next:
1. Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
2. Redwall by Brian Jacques
3. Saint, Sinner, Showdown, etc. by Ted Dekker
4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
5. The Godfather by Mario Puzo, Robert Thompson, and Peter Bart
6. 1984 by George Orwell
7. 'Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
8. The Silmarilion by J.R.R. Tolkien
9. The Legend of Sigud and Gudrun by J.R.R. Tolkien
I can't believe it. I actually have a spot open for a book! I'm sure I could fill it with a quick search at my favorite book stores, but I'd much rather have someone recommend books to me. Anyone have an idea what I could fill that last slot with? I was tempted to put Stardust by Neil Gaiman there but I already have two of his books on my list and I like to be varied. I suppose I could put down the second book of Pratchett's disc world series, but that goes without saying since I'm reading the first one.
By the way, congrats to Neil Gaiman on winnnig the Hugo award for Best Novel!
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
I was thinking today about what draws audiences to Sci-Fi and/or Fantasy genres in the media. After seeing G.I. Joe this weekend with my fiance, we had a discussion about it.