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Ancora Imparo: Another Learning Experience

I love this Italian phrase attributed to Michelangelo. I mean, how great is it that toward the end of his life, one of the world’s most brilliant artists would say, “I am still learning”? So there I was on the plane yesterday, thumbing through SkyMall magazine, when I came across a plaque with those very more…

Today’s Word: Hypallage

On our latest show, we discussed hypallage (hye-PAL-uh-jee), a.k.a. “the transferred epithet,” which occurs when a modifier’s misplaced or misapplied, as in a worrying development. (The development isn’t actually doing the worrying–someone else is.) Garner’s Modern American Usage has more examples, including feminine napkin. (Technically, the napkin’s not feminine–—that is, you can’t turn it over more…

Today’s Word: Quidnunc

From Latin quid nunc — literally, “What now?”–this term was first recorded in English in 1709. A quidnunc is “a nosy person or busybody,” as in: “Who knew we’d be moving in next door to such a quidnunc?” Then there’s the woefully underused word quidnunckery, which means “curiosity, love of news or gossip.” May your more…

So Listen to Our Yiddish Show, Already!

You may not speak Yiddish, but if you’ve ever schmoozed, or called someone a klutz, or kibitzed about something while noshing, then you know at least a bissel — that is, “a little.” We had a blast with this week’s show, which features my interview with Yiddish translator Michael Wex, author of Born to Kvetch: more…

Today’s Word: Osculate

All this talk about kissing reminds me of another great word: osculate. It means “to kiss” — or as the Oxford English Dictionary helpfully puts it: “to salute with contact of the lips.” It’s from the Latin verb osculare, which means the same thing.

One More Thing About Kisses

One more thing about today’s NY Times mention of Latin basia, or “kisses.” I suspect that for many Latin students reading that article, Catullus’ Carmen 5 sprang to mind. Here’s a partial translation by Rudy Negenborn: . . . Give me a thousand kisses, then another hundred, then another thousand, then a second hundred, then more…

More About That Article on Kissing

That New York Times piece on kissing also asserts: The German language has words for 30 different kinds of kisses, including nachküssen, which is defined as a kiss “making up for kisses that have been omitted.” I haven’t looked into this, but it’s worth noting that linguists have debunked similar claims about other languages (like more…

See? I Told You Learning Latin is Sexy!

Interesting article about kissing in today’s New York Times. Writer Joshua Foer notes that the ancient Romans distinguished among three kinds of kisses: the friendly oscula, the loving basia and the passionate suavia. Another Latin kiss-word he didn’t mention: morsiuncula, a kind of kiss that involves “biting with the lips.” (This last word is a more…

Feeling Blogged Down?

A very funny audio commentary on the joys and perils of blogging, from nature artist and writer Julie Zickefoose. I had a driveway moment while listening to it on NPR today. Her blog’s fun, too.

Seeing Seeing Double?

The other day on the show we discussed words with consecutive sets of double letters. A caller pointed out that bookkeeper has three sets. My co-host noted that subbookkeeper has four. Arthur Salazar just emailed to suggest a word with an even longer string of double letters — a word that denotes “people who maintain more…