I love words; I am a word-nerd. To this day, I always thought hoist by one’s own petard must mean a petard was some kind of edged weapon (knife, dagger, etc) so to know the true meaning is a glorious thing!
From Anu Garg’s A Word a Day to which I have subscribed for around 15 years now. You can subscribe and get a similar daily email here:
with Anu Garg
What comes to your mind if I say the name Dumpty? Perhaps you’re thinking of Humpty and you’d be right. The two go together. Each of this week’s words also prefers specific company, and usually appears in set expressions.
You can also think of them as fossil words. They are mostly obsolete and only appear as part of idioms. We are used to seeing them bundled and never stop to think about what they literally mean. This week we’ll go behind the scenes to identify their origins.
1. A small bomb used to blast down a gate or wall.
2. A loud firecracker.
From French péter (to break wind), from Latin peditum (a breaking wind), from pedere (to break wind). Ultimately from the Indo-European root pezd- (to break wind) which also gave us feisty, fart, and French pet (fart). Earliest documented use: 1566.
A petard was a bell-shaped bomb used to breach a door or a wall. Now that we have advanced to ICBMs, this low-tech word survives in the phrase “to hoist by one’s own petard” meaning “to have one’s scheme backfire”. The idiom was popularized by Shakespeare in his play Hamlet. Hamlet, having turned the tables on those tasked with killing him, says:
For ’tis the sport to have the engineer
Hoist with his own petard
“Her attempt to rub salt in the wound had backfired. She had been well and truly hoist by her own petard.”
Immodesty Blaize; Ambition; Ebury Press; 2010.
“Ned … heard the petard exploding against the doors of the fort.”
Dudley Pope; Corsair; House of Stratus; 1987.
Explore “petard” in the Visual Thesaurus.
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself. -Elie Wiesel, writer, Nobel laureate (b. 1928)
“Fractious” isn’t a word you often hear. Clearly the veterinary tech had just read the word off the record, perhaps there is some warning in there about the Qatari Cat.
The Qatari Cat was born on the streets of Qatar, and had a bumpy start with another owner. While the man and his daughter liked him just fine, the wife and her mother did not. When the Qatari cat came to live with us, he was very wary of me. It took a couple years for him to fully trust me. He watched my feet all the time. He quailed in fear, ears back, if I used a loud voice. He was terrified of the sound of plastic bags.
Slowly, slowly, we built a relationship. Today, ten years later, he is a sweet cat.
He is a sweet cat every single day of the year, but he still has his street instincts. AdventureMan has learned that you can’t play rough with the Qatari Cat; you play rough, you lose. I never speak loudly to him; it just won’t work, it just gets his back up. Because he knows I am the boss, I speak sternly, but softly to him and he will do just what I ask him to do.
Our first visit to the vet went badly. You can read about it here. He was fine until the buzzing razor hit his bottom and then all his survival instincts kicked in. He’s been back twice, and he has been as good as gold, but somehow . . . that notation has stuck.
“No!” I replied, maybe a little bit too loudly.”No! He is a sweet kitty! He is snuggly and loving and quiet and good! But if he is scared, he wants to defend himself.” I told the tech about the Italian vet the Qatari Cat fell in love with in Kuwait, she snuggled him and told him how beautiful he was and how much she loved him and he was putty in her hands. I was almost jealous. I thought maybe she distilled some catnip and mixed it with her perfume or something, Qatari Cat’s eyes glazed a little in sheer adoration when he was around her, and he even drooled a little. She could take his temperature, give him a shot and check his innards and he never complained, just looked at her adoringly.
The tech shot a skeptical look at me and exited the room. I could hear her repeat this to the vet, and muffled laughter before she entered the room again.
So the vet came in and snuggled Qatari Cat, and told him he was pretty, and while she did not say it with an Italian accent, Qatari Cat was clearly intrigued – and on his best behavior. It doesn’t take much . . . he’s a male. Snuggle him a little, rub his fur the right way, chat him up . . . it doesn’t have to be rational, it’s all in the tone of voice and the flirtation. He totally digs it, he eats it up. A little grope here, a quick look at the teeth, a quick injection and he’s finished, not a fractious moment in the entire visit.
On the way home, we laughed thinking of our sensitivity at having our cat called “fractious.” We remember the indignant response of friends whose cat was annotated as “vicious” by a German vet. The cat was diabetic and objected to the roughness with which the vet wanted to take his blood. I think if you are a veterinarian, you might have an understanding that a sick animal, or a scared animal, might act unpredictably or defensively, there are big thick gloves you can wear if an animal seems wired up.
Does this look like a fractious cat to you?
As I worked on my earlier map post, I needed to know if it is “capital city” or “capitol city.” Yes. It matters. Here is what I learned at About.com:
Capital has multiple meanings: (1) a city that serves as the seat of government; (2) wealth in the form of money or property; (3) an asset or advantage; (4) a capital letter (the type of letter used at the beginning of a sentence).
Capitol refers to the building in which a legislative assembly meets. (Remember that the o in capitol is like the o in the dome of a capitol building.)
- The dome of the United States Capitol may well be the most famous man-made landmark in America.
- Juneau is the capital of Alaska.
- “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.” (Arthur Conan Doyle)
- “Capital punishment would be more effective as a preventive measure if it were administered prior to the crime.” (Woody Allen)
(a) The United States Capitol is the ______ building that serves as the location for the United States Congress.
(b) It is located in Washington, D.C., the ______ of the United States.
Someone will lose their job, if it is ever discovered who pranked this totally politically incorrect news broadcast. This from Reuters via Huffington Post on AOL:
NTSB Intern Mistakenly Confirmed To KTVU Wrong Asiana Names, Statement Says
(Please note offensive language in paragraph 6)
July 12 (Reuters) – The National Transportation Safety Board apologized on Friday after an intern mistakenly confirmed to a local television station racially offensive fake names for the pilots of an Asiana flight that crashed in San Francisco.
“The National Transportation Safety Board apologizes for inaccurate and offensive names that were mistakenly confirmed as those of the pilots of Asiana flight 214, which crashed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6,” the NTSB said in a statement.
“Earlier today, in response to an inquiry from a media outlet, a summer intern acted outside the scope of his authority when he erroneously confirmed the names of the flight crew on the aircraft,” the NTSB said.
The crash of the Boeing 777 plane resulted in the deaths of three teenage girls in a group of students from eastern China who were visiting the United States for a summer camp, one of whom died on Friday in the hospital. Over 180 passengers and crew members were injured.
On Friday, an anchor for Oakland, California, station KTVU read a list of the supposed names of the pilots of the South Korean carrier on its noon broadcast after an employee apparently called the NTSB seeking to verify them.
The names appear to mock the events of the crash. The prank names were: Captain Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk and Bang Ding Ow.
“We’ve started the count-down calendar,” said my beautiful and very pregnant daughter-in-law, “We have so many things we want to get done before the baby comes.”
We were gathered at one of our favorite casual lunch places, a place where we could eat well and our 3 year old could be both free to roam a little, and safe to roam, while the grown-ups talked.
“We’ve started, too,” I smiled at her, “I need to finish up her baby quilt, and two quilts for the homeless project I have due in September. And of course, we will be out of the loop the last two weeks before she is born, so I need to keep motivated now.” I know she will call on me once the new baby is here; I am the back-up, the “can you fix dinner / wash the dishes / hold the baby while I shower / clean up the baby spit / run to the grocery store/ feed the cats” person. I love it. It’s why we moved here, to be here when they need us, when they need the help. Being close to family, being there to help when they need the help – this is one of the great lessons we learned from our friends in Amman, in Kuwait, in Doha, in Tunis.
We also have an Alaska adventure in store, planned before any of us knew the new baby was en route. It’s not Africa, but we aren’t up for another of those 17 hour rides from Atlanta to Johannesburg this year. Alaska will be fun, a sentimental journey back to my origins for me, and a whole new environment for AdventureMan.
“We’ll also have the school break to cover,” beautiful D-I-L added, “but I know there is going to be a cousin’s camp; I just don’t know when it is going to be.”
Cousins camp – oh what fun. All the little like-aged cousins get together for a week of hell-bent-for-leather activities, from water parks to fire departments to scavenger hunts, they keep those little rascals so busy that they just fall into bed at night. It’s all good.
“I know it’s all going to fall into place,” she sighed, smiling at our son, “but we need that calendar to keep us on track.”
Yeh. Us too!
I love this! Yes, I am a nerd, yes, I get excited about geeky things, but after my first year in Pensacola, paying electrical bills in the $400′s because I like to be cool, I have learned a few tricks about spending less, like turning the a/c up when leaving the house, it really makes a difference.
And now, we monitor our energy use on a DAILY basis. I love it! When you log into your Gulf Power account, you can see your energy usage calculated against the daily temperatures, with a range of your estimated end-of-month bill. No more bad surprises!
I think I inherited a small bit of my father’s engineer mentality; I love being able to manage my energy use
Thank you, Gulf Power, for making it possible.
“Red Robin!” I sang, and AdventureMan responded “YUMMMMMMMM!” I had mentioned I am getting ready for my annual hamburger, and he became obsessed with Red Robin and we had to go there. I had the Whiskey River Chicken Salad. If I only have one hamburger a year, I want it closer to the 4th of July. It doesn’t have to make sense to you, but it matters to me. If you only eat one hamburger a year, it has to be a really good hamburger.
Back to the “YUMMMMMMM!”
Now, that’s good marketing. There is nothing not good about “YUMMMMMMM”
A campaign where you train people to think “YUMMMMM!” every time you hear Red Robin – brilliant!
We love good marketing. We love good ads; we notice good ads and good marketing techniques. We also scorn the bad ones.
Here’s what we love:
Mayhem – the entire series for Allstate, also the Allstate commercials when suddenly the black-guy-who-was-President-in-24′s voice comes out of an unlikely person.
Gecko/Geico – anytime you smile and you remember who the ad is for, that’s a good ad.
“What’s in Your Wallet?” Those hilarious Vikings make the point for Capitol One.
There are ads we like, but they don’t win our awards because while we like them, we can’t remember who they are for. If you can’t remember who an ad is for, the ad isn’t effective.
Campaigns I hate:
COX TV ads, all of them, just dumb.
Direct TV ads, just dumb.
Toilet Paper ads
As you can imagine, AdventureMan and I can have this conversation over a lot of long-distance drives and over a lot of meals.
So – what’s your favorite ad campaign? And why? Worst?