Sunday, February 18, 2018

Punctuation Personalities

The graphic asks which punctuation mark matches your personality. I guess I am mostly a semi-colon, with a dash of dash! :-)



Word Mix-Up: DESERT and DESSERT

DESERT: The noun "desert" (stress on the first syllable: DESert) means a wasteland, an empty place. The verb "desert" (stress on the second syllable: deSERT) means to abandon something, to leave. You can see how the two words are related: a desert is a place that is deserted, abandoned. In particular, a desert often refers to a place that is without water.

DESSERT: The noun "dessert" refers to something sweet you eat after a meal. It is from the French noun dessert which comes from the verb desservir, to clear the table, so a dessert is something served after the main meal has been removed.

The phrase "just deserts" is something different from either of the two words above! In this phrase, "deserts" is related to the English verb "deserve," and it is pronounced with the stress on the second syllable, "just deSERTS." So, when someone gets their "just deserts" that means they are getting just what they deserve. You will often see this misspelled because the stress on the second syllable really does make it sound like "dessert" rather than the usual noun "desert."






Hindi Word in English: Parcheesi

The English word "parcheesi" comes from the Hindi word pachisi, from pachis "twenty-five," from Sanskrit panca "five" + vimsatih "twenty."

This Sanskrit root panca for "five" is related to the Greek pent- root that we see in English words like pentagon, pentagram, etc.

In the traditional Indian game of pachisi, played with cowrie shells, twenty-five was the highest throw of the shells, hence the name. In modern parcheesi, which is played with dice, five is still an important number in the game because pieces move into play when you throw a five.

Although the Indian game is supposed to be quite ancient, the oldest testimony for the game dates to the 16th century.  Legend has it that the Emperor Akbar of India had a courtyard in the shape of a pachisi board, with members of the harem acting as the pieces.

In the ancient Indian epic, the Mahabharata, there is a dice game which is crucial to the plot. The description of the game in the epic does not seem to correspond to pachisi, but modern artists have imagined that the game was indeed pachisi, or something very much like it, as you can see in this 19th-century illustration:


The first American version of the game was called Patcheesi and a copyright claim was filed in 1867. The name was later changed to Parcheesi, and the North American rights are currently held by Hasbro. The Parcheesi board game shown below is from Wikipedia:


For more about games in India, see this article: Ancient India, The Birthplace of Modern Game Design.

Yesbody

So, what would the word "yesbody" mean...? And would the meaning of "nobody" change as a result...? I think I am a "yesbody" myself! :-)


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Kafkaesque and Orwellian

Sometimes a writer has such a distinctive approach to storytelling that their name becomes an adjective! In these two videos, Noah Tarlin explores the meaning of the words Kafkaesque and Orwellian: