What People Are
the transposition of letters, syllables, or sounds in a word, as in the pronunciation aks for ask.
In linguistics, metathesis is the transposition of two consecutive letters or sounds of a word, as in the now nonstandard pronunciation aks for ask (Old English has the verbs áscian and axian, and Middle English has asken and axen). Every well-disciplined schoolboy knows that in Greek quantitative metathesis is the change of long vowel + short vowel, e.g., ēo, to short vowel + long vowel, eō. Metathesis comes via Late Latin metathesis “transposition of the letters of a word,” from Greek metáthesis “change, change of position, transposition,” a compound formed of the common Greek preposition and prefix metá, meta– “with, in the middle of, among” (metá is related to German mit and Old English mid “with,” as in the first syllable of midwife). Thésis “placing, location, setting” is a derivative of the verb tithénai “to put, place,” from the very common Proto-Indo-European root dhē– “to place, put,” and the source of Latin facere “to do” and English do. Metathesis entered English in the 16th century.
”NOO-kyuh-luhr”-sayers, who number in the many millions, in fact, move the l in nuclear to the final syllable and thus avoid the unusual pattern. (Linguists refer to this sound-switching process as metathesis.)
Remember this when the next time you hear someone complaining about aks for ask or nucular for nuclear, or even perscription. It’s called metathesis, and it’s a very common, perfectly natural process.
exhausted; very tired: He is really knackered after work.
The verb knacker originally meant “to tire, kill, castrate,” a verb derived either from the noun knacker “a tradesman who buys animal carcasses or slaughters useless livestock” or from the plural noun knackers, a slang word for “testicles, courage.” Knackered in the sense “exhausted” entered English in 19th century.
She was completely knackered. All she wanted was a shower and twelve hours of sleep.
When they’re knackered like that they start crying.
baggage or other things that retard one's progress, as supplies carried by an army: the impedimenta of the weekend skier.
Scores of millions of Americans will smile (or moan) at the recollection of reading (with the assistance of a pony or trot) Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War in their sophomore year high school Latin class, and seeing their old friend (or nemesis) impedīmenta “baggage train, traveling equipment” loaded with ablatives absolute and subjunctives in indirect discourse. Impedīmenta is a neuter plural noun formed from the verb impedīre “to restrict, hobble, impede” and –mentum, a neuter noun suffix for concrete objects. Impedīre is a compound of the preposition and prefix in, in– “in, into” and ped-, the inflectional stem of the noun pēs “foot”; impedīmenta therefore being the things that get caught in your feet, weigh you down. Impedimenta entered English at the end of the 16th century.
Games impedimenta–hockey sticks, boxing gloves, a burst football, a pair of sweaty shorts turned inside out–lay all over the floor …
Every man was piled up with impedimenta–broken, torn, soiled and cobbled impedimenta.
rambling; confused; nonsensical: a skimble-scamble explanation.
The rare adjective skimble-scamble shows the same, common vowel alteration in a reduplicated word as in mish-mash or pitter-patter. The reduplicated word is the verb scamble, of unknown etymology, and now obsolete or dialectal, meaning “to struggle or scramble with others for food or money tossed to a crowd,” now replaced by scramble. The lexicographer Samuel Johnson was not keen on skimble-scamble, calling it a “cant word,” one of his favorite terms of abuse. Skimble-scamble entered English at the end of the 16th century.
He complained bitterly of his reporters, saying that the skimblescamble stuff which they published would “make posterity think ill of his understanding, and that of his brethren on the bench.”
And such a deal of skimble-skamble stuff, /
As puts me from my faith.
the way a situation, action, event, etc., is perceived by the public or by a particular group of people.
The noun optics originally referred to that branch of physics dealing with light or other electromagnetic radiation and with the sense of sight. The now common sense “the way a situation, action, or event is perceived by the public or in a particular context, especially a political one,” was originally an Americanism first recorded in 1973. Optics entered English in the 16th century.
The sentence has to be in double figures. The optics are lousy if it’s anything less.
For Romney, there is little value in trying to compete with the optics of Obama’s trip.
a person who is physically or spiritually isolated from their times or society.
The rare English noun isolato comes directly from the Italian adjective and noun isolato “isolated; an isolated person.” The Italian word is the past participle of the verb isolare “to shut off, cut off, isolate,” a derivative of the noun isola “isle, island” (there is no Latin verb īnsulāre). Isola is a regular Italian development of Latin īnsula, a noun of unknown etymology, meaning “island, an island as a place of exile, tenement house,” all of which can be pretty bleak. Isolato entered English in the mid-19th century.
… my life has been that of an isolato, a shepherd on a mountaintop, situated as far from so-called civilization as possible, and it has made me unnaturally brusque and awkward.
I’m an isolato now and there’s no going back.
resembling or containing lead; leaden.
Plumbeous comes straight from the Latin adjective plumbeus “made of lead, leaden, (of coins) base,” a derivative of the noun plumbum. Plumbum is a noun of unknown etymology, and linguists have speculated on the connection between plumbum and Greek mólybdos with its variants mólibos and bólimos, which also have no reliable etymology. In ancient times lead was mined in Attica (i.e., the territory whose capital was Athens), Macedonia, Asia Minor (Anatolia), Etruria, Sardinia, Gaul (France), Britain, and Spain. Many scholars think that the Greek and Latin words derive from an Iberian (Spanish) language, and the Basque word for lead, berun, supports this. Plumbeous entered English in the 16th century.
… a headachy dawn was breaking, with small rain sifting down out of clouds that were the same plumbeous colour as the shadows under Baby’s eyes.
… the pencil has been worn down to two-thirds of its original length. The bare wood of its tapered end has darkened to a plumbeous plum, thus merging in tint with the blunt tip of graphite whose blind gloss alone distinguishes it from the wood.