Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Five Words and a Preview

It's a phonic (and phony) world out there. We have megaphones and microphones. Megaphones magnify our voice, so why doesn't a microphone miniaturize it? We have phonograms but they are not the opposite of gramophones.

Human languages, like humans, are never too logical. Homophones have nothing to do with Homo sapiens. The former prefix is from Greek homo meaning "same" while the other is from Latin homo meaning "man".

Here are five terms that are homophones of everyday words: toxin, analyst, beaut, bowl, and seed.

tocsin (TOK-sin) noun

An alarm bell or a warning signal.

[From Middle French toquassen, from Proven├žal tocasenh, from tocar (to touch) + senh (bell).]

annalist (AN-uh-list) noun

A historian, especially a chronicler of yearly events.

[From Latin libri annales (yearly books), from annus (year). Ultimately from the Indo-European root at- (to go) that is also the source of annual, annals, annuity, and anniversary.]

butte (byoot) noun

An isolated hill rising abruptly from the surrounding area, having steep sides and a flat top.

[From French butte (mound).]

boll (pronounced the same as bowl) noun

The pod of a plant, as that of flax or cotton.

[From Middle English bolle, from Middle Dutch bolle (round). Ultimately from the Indo-European root bhel- (to thrive or bloom) that gave us flower, bleed, bless, foliage, blossom, and blade.]

cede (seed) verb tr.

To yield or to surrender something, such as a territory.

[From Latin cedere (to go or to yield). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ked- (to go or yield) that's also the ancestor of exceed, secede, proceed, cease, and necessary.]

Coming next - last weekend there was a place involved in a major news story. No, not the killing of bin-Laden. As I watched the goings-on I was taken back to when I had walked that place. It is one of two places I have visited that really gives meaning to the word atmosphere of a location. The feelings and thoughts that occur as you stand there are staggering.

Perhaps you would care to venture a guess as to the name of that location and, perhaps, even the other "place of atmosphere" in my memory?

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