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Friday word: Whiffle



to flourish a sword in sword dancing so as to produce a whistling sound

About the Word:

Whiffling may have its origin in the efforts of ancients to clear the dance area of evil spirits. Not every dance area, of course: sword dance areas.

Sword dances – traditional folk dances featuring men and swords – have a long and glorious history. These days, you can see (and hear) whiffling in the circular "guerrilla" dances of Turkey and the Balkans and in the Balkan "rusalia" fertility dance.

By the way, the trademark "Wiffle Ball" omits the h.

Etymology: imitative

(Source: Merriam-Webster Online)

Thursday Post: "SCHMATTA"

Schmatta: Yiddish for "rag". Like it's English equilivent, it can be colloqually used to refer to crappy clothing.

Tuesday Word: yert

I listen to a 9/11-related spoken word track, look up the band responsible, find that they have a tendency to scream rather than sing, and want more, which leads me to read a blog, most of which is dedicated to documenting an ultimately ill-fated tour. The blog is perfectly intelligible overall, aside from a single and frequently reoccurring word: YERT.

This one's for Merchant Ships, wherever your members may be -- lost at sea, in Davy Jones' Locker, scattered to the four winds, playing in awesome new bands, quietly reblogging cat pictures while your Tumblr account is besieged by messages from desperate fans, etc.

"Yert" apparently hails from Tennessee, though whether it originated in that cool/pretty okay town or that horrible town that people only defend as a result of a misguided sense of hometown pride remains the subject of heated debate. Many attribute it to Sparta, TN, though it is uncertain which category the town falls into, or White County in general, of which Sparta is the county seat. Its meaning is even more difficult to pin down (don't even bother looking it up on Urban Dictionary), but it seems it is mostly regarded as a greeting or an expression of approval, similar to the juggalos' "whoop whoop" (if you are unfamiliar with either juggalos or "whoop whoop"...Google at your own peril, and may God have mercy on your soul).

I like it! It is almost onomatopoeic. I mean, maybe it is an onomatopoeia, given its mysterious origins...but what sort of creature says "yert"? I suppose we shouldn't worry, though; it is no doubt a friendly one.


mephitic (m-ftk), adj.

1.  Of, relating to, or resembling a foul exhalation from the earth (mephitis); putrid, noxious, pestilential, miasmic.

Etymology:  early 1600s from Late Latin mephiticus.
bar·code hair [bah-ko-do heya-]:
origin: 20th century

バーコード人; A slang way Japanese people refer to a comb-over (note pronunciation is different than an English speaker, although the implication is the same), frequently associated with middle-aged business men that implies a general state of denial. The joke, of course, is that it resembles the modern upc bar code found on many items for sale in modern stores.

However, it's certainly not limited to the nation of Japan, an entire film was dedicated to find the best (or worst) comb-overs the world over: a clip

Off to England for another bit of slangCollapse )

BONUS QUESTION: Have you recently learned a new piece of slang? What is a slang word you used a lot while growing up? *contest reminder

Friday word: Ecchymosis

ec·chy·mo·sis noun \ˌe-ki-ˈmō-səs\
plural ec·chy·mo·ses

A bruise.
— ec·chy·mot·ic adjective

New Latin, from Greek ekchymōsis, from ekchymousthai to extravasate blood, from ex- + chymos juice
First Known Use: 1541

Example: Multiple areas of ecchymosis seen on both arms.

Tuesday Word: nimrod

In modern slang, a nimrod is an inept person, socially or otherwise -- foolish, rude, unable or unwilling to do anything right. The term has its origins in Nimrod, from the Hebrew Nimrōdh, a biblical king, ruler of Shinar. Renowned for his power and hunting ability, his name became sort of a generic term for a skilled hunter, a tyrant or a powerful person. How did nimrod, with such lofty origins, sink to the level of a common insult? It's all thanks to cartoon character Bugs Bunny, who sarcastically referred to Elmer Fudd, a determined but miserably unsuccessful rabbit hunter, as a nimrod.

Monday word: scumble

scumble  (skmbl)
1. To soften or blend (an outline or color) by covering with a thin coat of opaque or semiopaque color, or by rubbing.
2. To blur the outlines of (for example, to scumble the line between reality and fantasy).

1. Material used for scumbling, such as the opaque color that is applied.
2. The effect produced by scumbling.

Origin unclear, possibly derived from scum.

Sunday Word: Bullpen

bull·pen [ˈbʊlˌpɛn]:
origin: (1809) debated origins

I was recently at a nice party and a young woman was wearing a jersey with the logo of our local baseball team. The woman next to me politely commented on it, and the young woman beamed how much she enjoyed rooting for them. This was followed by an older man asking pointedly, "Who was in the bullpen today?"

It seemed as if he was testing her, but the truth was...I was only half certain what a bullpen was myself and I certainly didn't know who was in it that day. In fact, it's not always a focal point or expressly shown on screen, and audio-wise it can get lost in the non-stop banter of the announcers. Well, bullpen turns out to be a slightly interesting word beyond mere "gatekeeping" for baseball fans during baseball season. *ahem*

While it can be the area for the relief pitcher to warm up (or refer to several "relief pitchers" as a group), it can also be used to describe a communal workspace area -- often thought of as a way to also pit them against one another or at least inspire them to crave more privacy -- which dovetails nicely into the third definition: a grouping area for prisoners or migrants. tl;dr: a warm up and/or containment area.

So, in sports it is basically positive, but in work environments it may go either way, although that reflects the usage as a negative -- when people are held captive or in limbo. However, what's really interesting about the word bullpen is that no one knows exactly why or when it came into use for baseball. So, ask your next gatekeeper that trick question should the chance arise!

BONUS QUESTION: Are you a fan of baseball? Did/do you play or enjoy watching any sports? *contest reminder

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September 2014



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