Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wondrous Words Wednesday: Thinking Caps


In elementary school I had a teacher who'd often tell the class that it was time to put on our thinking caps.  Have you ever heard that expression before?  As a child, after I banished the image of putting on an actual cap, those words would help me become quiet and serious and more thoughtful.  I kind of feel like I need to put on my thinking cap when I do this meme, Wondrous Words Wednesday, hosted by Kathy from BermudaOnion's Weblog.  It's one that encourages me to think a bit more deeply about words, about their meanings and origins.

Once again, these words are  from my 365 New Words-a-Year calendar. The reverse side of each calendar page includes etymology which provides additional insight into the words presented.

1. funambulism: tightrope walking; a show of mental agility

The contestant on Jeopardy astounded the judges and audience with her funambulism, and her prize money kept growing higher. 

The Latin word for "tightrope walker" is funambulus, from the Latin funis, meaning "rope", and ambulare, meaning "to walk" ; the term soon also came to mean an impressive act or feat of mental agility or skill.


2. jeunesse dorée:  young people of wealth and fashion; gilded youth

The upscale mall was crowded with jeunesse dorée, wearing skinny jeans and sipping caramel macchiatos.

Although the term originally described the "stylish young thugs" who terrorized remaining Jacobins in France after the execution of Robespierre in 1794, by the time it was adopted into English in the 1830s, it simply referred to wealthy young socialites.


3. vade mecum: a book for ready reference, such as a manual; an object regularly carried around by a person

Before personal computers became the norm, a set of encyclopedias was the vade mecum for many families.   (This sounds a bit awkward--am I using the term correctly?) These days, a cell phone seems to be a vade mecum for many people, myself included.



What etymological discoveries have you encountered recently?

15 comments:

  1. Aren't word-a-day calendars great?! I think you are using vade mecum correctly. I'm not sure I could pronounce it though. Thanks for participating today!

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    1. Kathy--thanks! I am about to add this to your Mr. Linky!

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  2. There's a fantastic little book, that you may enjoy
    The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language:

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  3. Yes, another of my nana'e expressions - it was a weekly occurence when writing the shopping list that she'd say "What shall we eat this week, come on girls get your thinking caps on." Aah happy days.

    Loving your words of the week, especially vade mecum.

    My word of the week is ...... piranha. No, not the fish, this is a term used for single women with children who are looking for a wealthy man.

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    1. I've heard of cougars but not piranhas--hahaha!

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  4. Wow!! Some great words. I can never remember words like that to use them correctly. Have fun with them :)

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  5. Thanks Suko for your etymological post . I knew the three words, because we used them in French, but you teached me a lot about them .

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  6. Just like Annie I know these words but love to find them in English-speaking litterature, they have a new dimension in it!

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  7. All of these words are new to me, and I find them fascinating. Thanks for sharing them with us. Now I am wondering if I will ever be able to use them in a conversation!

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  8. Great week in words Suko. Speaking of vade mecum I do remember back in the days before computers were the norm....lol. We had a set of secondhand encyclopedias, so were were missing quite a few but I used to go through them at random just to find new things to learn.
    Enjoy your weekend :)

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  9. p.s. we have the exact same glasses :P

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  10. Three great terms there. I have no grounding in Latin whatsoever, and find their words or terms very hard. I like jeunesse dore. I wish I had experienced it myself.

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