22 December 2017

Professional test. Word check.

If you sit down and start rattling off the different names of professions you can think of, I bet you that you will surprise yourself. In these days of hyper specialization, there are more professions (along with their specializations) than you can shake a stick at. Just think of the generic profession of “doctor”. Now think of how many different kinds of doctors you can think of – surgeons, podiatrist, oculist, optometrist, dentist, psychiatrist, cardiologist, anesthesiologist, immunologist, dermatologist, gynecologist, oncologist, pediatrician, urologist, rheumatologist…. you get the idea right?

Let’s try some unique words for professions today. Admittedly, some of these are uncommon these days.

Avoid writing the answers in the Comments section to give others a chance. However, feel free to write down how many answers you knew (just the number) before you start Googling.

1. Let’s start with the good old days when bows and arrows were the chief mechanism for hunting and defense. What do you call somebody whose job is to make bows? Believe it or not, there is a word for somebody who specializes in making arrows too. Do you know that name?

2. You will probably recognize who a blacksmith is. (worker of iron). Or a goldsmith or silversmith. Now, who is a redsmith? And who is a whitesmith?

3. Who is a catchpole?

4. There are carpenters who specialize in making chests and boxes (as opposed to doors, for example). What do you call them?

5. Who is a wainwright?

6. Long back, before alarm clocks were around, in England, there were professional people who would go around knocking on people’s doors and windows to wake them up on time. What were they called? (Interestingly, there was a time that professionals would dart peas out of a blowpipe to hit the windows of higher floors to wake people up on time!!!)

7. Making wigs is a profession unto itself. What are such wigmakers called?

8. Who is a castermonger?

9. You know all those cadavers that are used – for example – medical purposes? There are professional grave diggers who dig up recently buried coffins to retrieve the cadaver to be used for various purposes. What are they called?

10. And finally, who is a lector?

30 November 2017

Word puzzle: Birds of a feather…

Some of the most interesting revelations I had the other day was trying to learn the collective nouns of birds. I am sure you have heard a “murder” of crows is the proper way to describe a bunch of crows. I thought a “parliament” of owls was a hoot – ha ha!

Try these.

1. A _ of eagles
2. A _ of falcons
3. A _ of hens
4. A _ of nightingales
5. A _ of parrots
6. A _ of pelicans
7. A _ of sparrows
8. A _ of storks
9. A _ of turkeys
10. A _ of woodpeckers

11. Here is a bonus question: What is the difference between a “gaggle” of geese and a “skein” of geese? Take a guess. If it helps, it is the same difference as a “committee” of vultures and a “kettle” of vultures!!!

Now Google the answers… how many did you get?

[I will post the answers in 24 hours]

12 November 2017

Another Sunday morning word puzzles

This one comes from Nikita and myself. We have been looking into different “meters”. By that, I mean different kind of instruments that end with the word “meter”. I am sure you know what is a thermometer, a barometer and maybe even a ammeter if you are an engineer.

See if you know any of these that we learnt recently. If you don’t try to guess from the root of the word and then feel free to Google. Then write in the comment section the number of words you knew or had guessed correctly.

I will post the answers after 24 hours.

So, what do you think is a….

1. Butyrometer
2. Drisdometer
3. Drosometer
4. Laxometer
5. Macrometer
6. Opisometer
7. Potometer
8. Pyrometer (my first guess was it measures temperatures – you know “pyro” meaning fire; but as Nikita pointed out that is what a thermometer is for :-))
9. Variometer
10. Vertometer

Happy “metering”….

15 October 2017

Some Sunday morning English word puzzles

Here are some more interesting English words to get you going on a Sunday. Please feel free to answer in the Comment section if you know or after you have found the answers…

1. I remember growing up during childhood, one of the best things about rains was that typical smell of the earth after the initial showers. I am sure you remember it too – and even experience it today – that earthy smell you get after the first showers – especially if the ground was very dry. There is actually a word to describe that smell. Do you know what it is?

2. I have a not-so-healthy habit of piling up books. When I hear good reviews of a book from friends, I usually go to iBooks, read up a few sample pages and if it still interests me, I buy it. Here is the catch though – I do not often get to reading those books. Sometimes, it takes me a long time to start reading them. Do you have the same habit? That of buying books and not reading them? There is a word to describe that behavior. Do you know it?

3. Any of you who have visited us in our Atlanta house will know that we live in a forest. We love the raw beauty of nature and the privacy of a forest. There is a word to describe people like us who love the forests. What is it?

4. While I dabble a lot in alcohol, I never could get myself to drink beer. Certainly, I understand the production process and categories of various gins, wines, vodkas, whiskies, but I am an absolute neophyte when it comes to beer making. I have heard my friends use a few words – like IPA, hops etc when talking about beer. I never knew what hops are – except that it has to do with beer. Curiosity eventually got the better of me and I looked it up. Well, hops – I found out are a kind of plant and is used during the beer making process. In fact the category of plant that hops belong to is called “bine”. I was sure that was a misprint of “vine” (I guess I was thinking wine – grapes etc etc). Turns out “bine” is the right word. Do you know what a “bine” is? More importantly, what is the difference between a “bine” and a “vine”?

5. If you have gotten to this point, you obviously love words and are at least moderately curious about them. So, we will finish up with a word to describe you. What do you call somebody who is a lover of words?

Here’s to learning a few more new words…

26 September 2017

More fun with words!! “nym”s

This time it is about some uncommon but very interesting words that end with “nym”. I am sure, you remember “synonym”, “antonym”, “acronym”, “homonym” and so on from your middle school days. These are a little more esoteric.

See how many of these you know without looking up the internet. Write down the number in the comment section of the post. Then see if you can find the answers to the ones you missed by using Google. If you could not find them – or were particularly lazy, come back to this post for the answers tomorrow.

Remember … each word will end with “nym”.

1. Some places are called by different names by people who live there versus people who do not. For example, most non-Germans will call the country Germans live in as “Germany”. Except Germans who live in Germany usually refer to it as Deutschland. Similarly, India and Bharat. I think Japan and Nippon will be the same way. What are such pair of words called?

2. Continuing with the theme of places, often certain words are derived from names of places. Usually where they originate from e.g. champagne (from district of Champagne in France) or spa (from Spa in Belgium). What are such words called?

3. Remember homonyms? Two words with different spellings but same pronunciations and of course very different meanings. e.g. buy and bye. But what about the opposite? Same spelling but different pronunciations? (and of course different meanings). e.g. “lead” (lead a team) and “lead” (lead in a pencil). What are such words called?

4. Sometimes a word is used not to mean the exact literal meaning of it but of something very closely associated with it. e.g. The “gun” in “a hired gun” is not really referring to the gun itself so much as the person paid to use the gun to kill somebody. Or the “bottle” in “He had one too many bottle last evening” is really referring to the alcohol that was there in the bottle – not the bottle itself. Get it? What are such words called?

5. A word can change its meaning – and often the pronunciation – if its first letter is capitalized. Think “August” and “august” or “turkey” and “Turkey”. What are such words called?

Have fun…

28 August 2017

There is a name for that?

See if you can guess any of these punctuation marks:

1. In 1962, a punctuation mark was invented which was basically the question mark and the exclamation mark together. It looks like this: ?! It is used to ask mostly rhetorical exclamatory questions. Like – What the heck?!

That symbol has a name. Do you know what it is?

2. Sometimes, in Word, you might have pressed the wrong keys (or maybe you wanted to do it purposely) and you would have seen all those line break and paragraph break symbols come up. The paragraph break symbol looks like this: ¶ (like an opposite P)

Do you know the same of that symbol?

3. Have you seen the following symbol usually used to separate different sections of a story or essay? “§”

Want to guess what it is called?

4. Remember the “divide” sign? “÷” Originally it was used to separate out sections in a story or essay too. And that has its own name.

Do you know it?

5. Sometimes, you might have seen this symbol – † in footnotes. Or might be even ‡

Can you guess what their names are?

Not sure how I got started this evening on this but I was looking up the name for a symbol and then one thing led to the other….

24 August 2017

How did that come around? – “Start from scratch”

During an office meeting today, somebody mentioned – while trying to design some stuff – “Let’s start from scratch”. At that point I made a mental note of finding out later – why do we say that?

In the evening, Nikita and I did some research to understand why do we say “start from scratch”? Of course, the meaning is generally to start from the beginning – but the nuance is to start without any relative advantage. Basically, you start without any head start.

Of course, it is difficult to deduce anything from the common meaning of “scratch”. What would minor skin lacerations originating from itching have anything to do with this? Other than tough puzzles – or posts with questions like this – when did you start anything by scratching your head first? 🙂

Turns out this has its roots in sports. There are many sports we found out – boxing, cricket, golf as examples who use the word scratch to denote a line (usually to commence something from). There is an even earlier reference to this meaning of “scratch” – for runners – essentially the starting line for runners.

The real reference goes back another century before that. And it was about horse racing in England. All horses had to be lined up perfectly on the starting line without any hoof crossing that line to give any advantage. That starting line in horse racing was referred to as the “scratch line”.

And that is the origin of the phrase “to start from scratch”. You start from the beginning with no advantage at all.

There you go!! I learnt something today!!!

5 August 2017

How did that come around? – “Lion’s share”

While trying to learn about the phrase, I learnt something that surprised me – we actually use the phrase in an incorrect way! We always think of this phrase as “majority share” or a “large proportion”. However, this is not how it was meant to be.

The origins of this phrase goes back to Aesop’s fables. While there are various versions of it – they all lead to the same thing – after the lion and two of his subjects (the animals vary in different versions and in certain versions there are three other animals who accompany him) got all the kill from their hunting session, the lion did the sharing of the food by essentially staking claim to the entire food collection – in parts by logic, in parts by power and in parts by instilling fear. For example, in the more popular and the oldest version, the lion claimed the first one-third since he was the king, the second thirds was to be assigned to him by the other two since he was a partner and the last third would be his since bodily harm would come to anybody who touched it.

The moral of the story was that partnership between two that vary immensely in power is never going to be trustworthy.

Therefore a “lion’s share” is actually meant to say “the whole of it”.

I have not been able to figure out yet, how the modern day version of “a majority share” came about.

21 June 2017

Some very interesting and uncommon words…

Came across some interesting words. How many of these do you know?

1. I have a friend – Narayan Venkatasubramanyan – who was once invited to create one of those Sunday New York Times crosswords. I am sure you know a lot of people who are very good at solving them. Maybe you are one of them. What is the English word for somebody who is adept at creating or solving crossword puzzles?

2. You have heard of being addicted to alcohol, to smoking and all that. Did you know that you can get addicted to tea? In fact there is an English word which means somebody who is addicted to drinking tea. Do you know what that word is?

3. You must have seen that when people sign their signature, usually they put in a flourish at the end – a long line, a curved design, two dots and what have you. Earlier, it was put in to prevent forgery by putting some uniqueness in the signature. What is the English word that means that flourish you put at the end of a signature?

4. There is a single English word that means a striptease performer. What is it?

5. I need to research more to find out why it is so but there is an English word to describe all books printed before the year 1501. (Very early stages of printing). Have you heard of that word?