Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘grammar’

Why does “vacuum” have two u’s, IN A ROW?  It’s a weird word.  But, looking at another double-u word might help our understanding: “continuum”.  This totally makes me think of the bad guy we love to hate, and his immortal omnipotent (sort of) race in Star Trek, the Q.  Not to be confused with the “collective”, which is Borg.  Anyway.  We actually use a recognizable root of “continuum”, so it is easier to see that the last “um” is a suffix to indicate something about word forms.  To quote Matthew Lancey on Quora.com, “Double U was/is fairly common in Latin because of its complex system of word endings to indicate case, gender and so on.”

So.  “Continue” (back in Latin spelled “continuare“) becomes “continuum” when the verb becomes a noun*, and “vacare” or something like it becomes “vacuus” (adjective?) and “vacuum” (noun?) in Latin.  Etymology Online says that the word is probably a loan-translation from the Greek “kenon” which only slightly resembles “vacare“, “vain”, or “vacuus” – all of which are attested words in the family tree of “vacuum”.  We had the great idea back in the 17th century English speaking world of spelling “vacuus” as “vacuous”, which is clearer on the pronunciation and only slightly less obviously Latin.

A lot of sources online (really reliable ones like Yahoo Answers) say that there are two u’s because how else would you know to pronounce two different vowel sounds there?  But, um, I don’t really think that’s how words work.  These people are either gullible, or bluffing the Internet looking for the gullible.

What I really want to know is why there is only one “c”.  If there are ever seemingly pointless double consonants in words, it tempts me to double other lletterrs also. (“Embarrass”, anyone? There are two doubles, and I spell it wrong the first time, every time.) Just saying.  Though I must say that if the “c” were a “k” like it should be, for some reason I wouldn’t feel the need to double it in the same way.  But then, the vowel’s pronunciation would bother me.  And if we insist on leaving only one “c” in our English transliteration, could we pronounce the “a” as a long “a” like in “bacon”?  Or maybe we could try “bacoon”, “baakon”, “bakun”, “bacconn”?

*In my life, I am much more tempted to turn nouns into verbs.  I imagine this is historically predominant, also.  Therefore, when I am keeping my tone intentionally casual, I say things like “churching”, “small-group-ing”, “dishes-ing”.  Verbs are a lot more fun, if they have a description built into them.  My preschool-teacher-friend also says that kids initially think much more in pictures than in words, so it is good if we can keep our speech so vividly picturey.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

At camp a few weeks ago our whole group learned the armor of God verses from Ephesians 6.  As a counselor, I was working with the junior high girls to learn and understand their verses.  (Praise for teamwork; other people were on the job, too, including the ‘Bible hour’ teacher and some of the other staff and counselors.)  The language of the Bible is sometimes more grammatically complex than everyday usage, so breaking the verses down phrase by phrase and discussing the meaning can help the kids keep the verses in their heads and hearts, as well as legitimizing their inflection.   So I was helping one of the girls with verse 17: “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:” and started explaining the sword of the spirit part.  I don’t even remember what I told her, but I know that since that day I have been trying to figure out what it means. 
 
A few questions:
How significant is the comma after “salvation”?  Since “take” is not repeated, are we to equate the term “helmet of salvation” with the term “sword of the spirit”?  Or is there any way to “take” one without the other? 
 
Does the sword belong to the spirit, depend on the spirit, or consist of the spirit?  Cross references usually lead to Hebrews 4:12, whose subject is also the word of God, which seems to cut things, including soul from spirit.  But the Greek for “word” is different in Ephesians from Hebrews. 
 
Back from camp, catching up with a friend, she reported that her small group is going through Ephesians, and that one of the teachers was excited to get to the armor of God and the sword Jesus uses to kill the wicked.  (See Revelation 19:15, 21)  Is that the image here?  Earlier in Revelation the sword seemed to be more of a tool for discipline, discerning the spirits of the churches.  The Revelation sword proceeds from the mouth of Jesus. 
 
Is spirit supposed to be capitalized?  Are we talking about the Holy Spirit, my spirit, or things spiritual?  Or should the sword be used against the spirit? 
 
When Paul says, “which is the word of God,” is the antecedent the sword or the spirit? 
 
I looked up the Greek for this verse.  My use for Greek extends to definitions, but I’m helpless when I come to grammar and tenses.  But I did notice that the Greek for “word” is an utterance, not something written (in the Greek, rhema).  Usually I hear teachers explaining the sword of the spirit and (ignoring that little phrase, ‘of the spirit’) holding a Bible above their heads telling their students that they have to know the word of God, and to study it, to use it like Jesus did when he was tempted in the wilderness.  Except the next thing teachers say is that the sword is the offensive weapon in the armor list (some add prayer, from verse 18).  I don’t see how resisting temptation is an offensive act in the spiritual war we’re fighting. 
 
So what is “word of God”?  Are we talking about words God has spoken, or words God is speaking?  Ephesians 6:19 includes Paul’s prayer request that words (different Greek than verse 17: here it is logos) be given him.  Given him?  By whom?  Whose words are they if they were given?  What did Paul want to do with words?  This is one of the first times in this whole article where the biblical context answers the question, because Paul says he wants to use the words to preach the gospel boldly (which seems rather offensive). 
 
Finally, verse 18, about prayer, rather than being a new sentence, is presented as a continuation of the thought in verse 17.  But what does prayer have to do with the “word of God” or “sword of the spirit”? 
 
How exactly ought we to apply this verse, then? 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Word Order

Why do we say “thunder and lightning” when lightning happens first? 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Anne comforted herself sometimes by repeating that she was in the depths of despair, and her dreams were a perfect graveyard of buried hopes.  In such a way am I writing today, to comfort myself by making the insanity of my life sound poetic. 

 

First I must say that I am on the verge of insanity, but fear not – I have every intention of backing away from that brink.  All it will take is a box full of cookies, much time with friends, and all the extra hours of sleep I will not be getting in exchange for said time with friends. 

 

My office is much too busy, yet I am sitting, writing this at my office.  Just prior to this, between imagining these sentences and answering the phone, I was reading a book, another partial cause of my near insanity.  GK Chesterton has been writing to me of the ridiculous that makes life alive.  Funny thing, imagining life to be alive.  I think that is Christ.  He seems to be around every corner of this world, which is a very good reason for sanity. 

 

In fact I love patterns, even the poetic pattern of nuanced changes, the fact that my hair is brown and my corduroys are brown, I wear a brown necklace and in a startling change, a camel-colored bracelet.  As all this is highlighted with gold, I find the effect most wonderful.  It is a glittering accent to the pattern.  A woman came to my office earlier with turquoise and brown beads on her shirt, and similar embroidery on the camisole beneath the shrug.  Her purse I did not get a chance to study, but I have the distinct impression that it followed the theme in brown leather.  My all white office upholstered and carpeted has recently been significantly altered by the introduction of a black chair in the doctor’s half.  There is already a black chair in my half, but I sit in it, and thus have no comment on its effect on the décor as I have about this new one.  Suddenly I am noticing that my clock is black, my appointment book, the mousepad, and one of the phones.  All in all this does not have the art of consistency, but it does have the statement of contrast. 

 

My voice is occasionally interrupted, when I frequently answer the phone, by a cough.  It is insignificant enough to most commonly be silent and suppressed, but it has the annoying habit of altering my consonant pronunciation and taking away the warmth from my tone of voice.  As a result Adam came out A-ar, and minute sounded more like the kind of cookie I’m about to eat: mint.  This brings a vague recollection about consonant shift referred to but not explained (in the way of an insider that assumes you would know) in articles I have read about etymology and the devolution of language. 

 

This I’m doing here, it isn’t life.  It may be existence, this tedious survivatl – ok, so that was a typo, but it is so romantically Aztec that I’m leaving it as a tribute.  Anyway, existence is “I think therefore I am,” the soulless I am.  It’s ok when God says it, because He is Trinity, and I am is plural.  For a human I am is not enough.  I am satisfied only by saying we are.  In fact this day has so far been broken by two instances of we are: when two young friends came to visit me while their mother picked up glasses – one can have the sincerest conversations with children; and the other was when the very friend about whom I was writing in my other post, the one about literature, came by with her two little girls.  One is a genius who shared her flower by allowing me to smell it and by proclaiming it most accurately to be both pink and green; the other was asleep, but quite beautiful, just as was her mother, happily dressed in a maternity jumper with her hair all pulled up just like the joyful smile she is in my life.  How can hairstyles be smiles?  They just are. 

 

Mine, by the way, is the result of getting up late this morning and loosing the braid I remember deciding to put in my hair last night, though I am unaware whence I stole the minutes in which to plait it.  There is a large clip for emergencies fastened at present to my purse strap.  At the end of my day, if I am tired of brushing the strands aside, I fiercely affix the jaw that is remarkably able to contain the entire girth of my ponytail. 

 

Have you ever figured out under which circumstances you are supposed to use “that,” and which “which”?  Microsoft Word is always objecting, and I’ve learned that if I have a comma, which is acceptable, but I can’t fathom why that would be.  I do know that which is much more necessary when prepositions are used properly, and kept from ends of sentences. 

 

Existence is a victory; “I am” is worth saying.  Thinking is worth doing if the philosopher is correct in that it proves our am-ness.  There is no meaning, no life abundant, alone.  This is what I tell graduates as the primary lesson I wish people had told me before the first five years after high school.  Don’t abandon your friendships; they’re more important than grades, money, or degrees. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »