Monday, December 23, 2019

From Mistletoe to Yule: Fun with Christmas words


"MISTLETOE is any of several several species of semi-parasitics plant often associated with Christmas" (Ecyclopaedia Brtannica).  It is leathery leaved and grows on such trees as apples and oaks.  In the winter, it bears white gummy berries.  Birds are immune to toxic mistletoe berries and serve as agents to disseminate the seeds.  Misletoe can be poisonous if ingested by humans.  It can cause drowsiness, blurred vision and vomiting.

The word "mistletoe" is derived from the Old English misteltān, from mistel ‘mistletoe’ (of Germanic origin, related to Dutch mistel and Middle High German Mistel ) + Old English tān ‘twig’.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, mistletoe was once thought to have magic powers and medicinal properties.  A tradition later developed in England and after in the United States of kissing under the mistletoe.  This custom was once believed to lead to wedlock.

NOEL means Christmasfrom French Noël (“Christmas season”), may come from the Old French nael, may be derived in turn from Latin natalis, meaning "birth"  It operates in two modes: lower-case (noel) and upper-case (Noel)  The first means "a Christmas carol," while the second smeans "Christmas."  Merry Christmas in French translates to "joyeux Noël "  Santa Clause is known as "Pere Noël" (Father Christmas).

Did you know there are places named Noel?  Noel, Missouri is a city in the United States.  It is located in McDonald County, Missouri, along the Elk River.  Noel, Nova Scotia is a community in Canada,  An Acadian named Noël Doiron settled in the community with his family around 1710 and lived there for forty years.  Thus, the English surveyors who first mapped the village, named it after him.

YULE is an old-fashioned word for Christmas.  It is derived from an ancient 12-day German lunar festival corresponding to the winter solstice.  After Christianity spread through Northern Europe, yule became associated with the Feast of the Nativity. Today in English, "Yule" refers to "Christmas," while Yuletide refers to Christmastime or the Christmas season. Christmas Day itself is not called 'Yuletide."


* The Christmas alphabet has noel.

* But wait - there's myrrh.

* Yule be sorry.

* I have the final sleigh.

* Rebel without a Claus.

- Joanne

Saturday, December 14, 2019

The danger of artificial Christmas trees

My husband and I recently purchased an artificial Christmas tree online.  We live in a condo and we are not permitted to have a real tree, as it is considered to be a fire hazard.  When the package arrived, I received a rude awakening.  There was a label attached to the box warning of toxins and lead poisoning.  Many Canadians and Americans do not have any idea that artificial trees contain lead.  I certainly didn't.  I was only made aware of this because our tree was sent from California, which mandates a lead warning on every box containing an artificial tree.

Here is what the warning label on our package reads:

WARNING: This product can expose you to chemicals, including lead, which is known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.  For more information go to

When we purchased our previous artificial tree in a store, there was no such warning label.  This California warning label prompted me to do some research.  Our tree was manufactured in China, as are most artificial trees,.  Most of these "made in China'' trees are made from PVC, a petroleum-based plastic, and lead, used to stabalize PVC.  As a result, lead dust is released into the air.  A 2002 study, conducted by the University of North Carolina at Asheville, found that three out of four artificial trees tested in the United States contained lead.

Artificial trees are particularly hazardous to children, especially those under the age of six, and pregnant women.  In children, lead poisoning can cause serious damage to the brain and nervous system.  Yet, millions of North Americans remain unware that they have a hazard product in their home.  Why is only California issuing a warning about this health risk?  If our tree hadn't been sent from California, we would not have been made aware of the danger.  Why isn't there more publicity about this health hazard?  Unless I've been missing something, the media in Canada, where I live, haven't been giving the matter any attention.

So, what to do about artificial Christmas trees?  Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Asheville have issued the following advice:.

* Keep children and pets away from the tree; do not allow them to touch it.

* If you touch the tree, wash your hands thoroughly before touching your face of handling food.

* Do not vacuum dust from under the tree.  Vacuuming could spread poisonous lead dust through the air.

* Keep gifts away from the tree, to keep lead from coating the wrapping.

All of this doesn't seem worth the effort.  One can't be on guard 24 hours a day and the poisonous lead makes artificial trees a hazard.  That's why our tree remains unopened in its box.  We are between rock and a hard place because we can't use an real tree.  If we want to avoid a heath hazard, it seems that our only choice is to purchase an artificial tree that has not been manufactured in China.

- Joanne

Friday, December 13, 2019

Greta Thunberg versus the alpha males

In naming Swedish environmental activist Geeta Thunberg "Person of the Year," Time magazine wrote:

"Thunberg began a global movement by skipping school: early in August 2018, she spent her days camped out in front of the Swedish Parliament, holding a sign painted in black letters on a white background that read Skolstrejk for klimatet: School Strike for Climate.  In the sixteen months since, she has addressed heads of state at the U.N., met with the Pope, sparred with the President of the United States and inspired 4 million people to join the global climate strike on September 20, 2019, in what was the largest climate demonstration in human history."

Both Greta Thunberg and U.S. President Donald Trump illustrate the "power of one," but the contrast between them could not be starker.  Greta has singularly changed the world for the better, while Trump has done substantial damage to the world.  Trump has used the power of the American presidency to influence

16-year-old Greta speaks not only for her generation, but for all those who are concerned about the future of life on this planet.  She is an inspiration.  She has shown the world's young people that they can make a difference.  On September 23, 2019,  she opened the United Nations Climate Action Summit with a stirring denunciation of world leaders for failing to take strong measures to combat the climate crisis. "People are suffering, people are dying; entire ecosystems are collapsing," Greta said.  "We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth." Then she accused world leaders of stealing her dreams with "their empty words" but added that she considered herself "one of the lucky ones."  When she thundered, "How dare you?" her words echoed powerfully around the world.

Greta's determination and her sense of purpose are truly admirable, especially when you consider that she has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by difficulty with social skills and nonverbal communication.  Asperger's is one of a group of autism spectrum disorders, but it has not held Greta back.  In fact, she claims to have benefitted from it.  She calls it her "superpower."  So, every autistic person can be inspired by Greta's achievements and her attitude.

As for Donald Trump, he has no concern for the environment.  He has taken steps to exclude the United States from the Paris climate accord and he has actively encouraged the revival of the coal mining industry, Trump has also removed Obama era environmental protections.  His son, Donald Jr., recently shot and killed an endangered sheep during a hunting expedition in Mongolia.  The species is the largest sheep in the world and it is revered for its giant curving horns.

Not surprisingly, Trump Sr. has had the audacity to attack and bully Greta T, a child.  She makes him uncomfortable because she speaks the truth and he lies.  In September, on the same day that Greta delivered her impassioned speech at the United Nations, the president sarcastically referred to her as "a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future."

Greta has never spoken to Trump face to face.  However, when she crossed paths with him at UN headquarters before her speech, she glared at him (Se photo below).

Donald Trump, ever the narcissist, was jealous that Time chose Greta as" Person of the Year."  He dismissed her award with a snarky tweet.  He wrote: "So ridiculous.  Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with her friends.  Chill Greta, Chill!"  Greta responded to the president's patronizing message by changing her biog on Twitter to "A teenager working on her anger management problem.  Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend."

Donald Trump is not the only right-wing world leader who has also made some patronizing remarks about the Swedish teen.  On October 2, 20919, Vladimir Putin, Russia's authoritarian president, declared that he didn't "share exultation about Greta Thunberg."" He suggested that Greta may have been manipulated by others.  Putin described Greta as "kind and sincere girl" who doesn't understand complex global interests such as the barriers to cleaner energy in developing countries."  He said "it's deplorable when someone is using children and teenagers in their interests."  In response, Greta changed her Twitter bio to read: "A kind but poorly informed teenager."

Putin: Photo Attribution:
Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro labelled Greta Thunberg "a brat" after she denounced violence against indigenous people who were killed in the Amazon.  On Sunday, December 6, 2019, Greta posted a video showing the aftermath of a drive-by shooting leaving two Indigenous leaders dead.  Alongside the video she tweeted: "Indigenous people are literally being murdered for trying to protect the forest from illegal deforestation.  Over and over again, it's shameful that the world remains silent about this."

Outside the presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil's capital, a smirking Bolsonaro reacted to Greta's comments by telling reporters that Greta "has said that the Indians have died because they were defending the Amazon.  It's amazing that the press gives space to this kind of pirralha (a derogatory Portuguese word meaning 'brat')."

Jair Balsonaro
So there you have it.  Three authoritarian world leaders, all who consider themselves alpha males seem threatened by a 16-year-old schoolgirl from Sweden and her many supporters around the globe.  Could it be that this trio of right-wing strongmen are actually afraid of the truth and the light?  Do they fear that their perfidy will be uncovered for all the world to see?

The world needs more Greta Thunberg and less Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Jair Bolsonaro.  Since Greta is being criticized by that dastardly troika, she must be doing something right.

- Joanne

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

All about the word "hopefully"

Hopefully . . .

Definition of hopefully (adverb) 
1.  : in a way that express desire with an expectation of fulfillment :
     in a hopeful manner  // gazed up at us hopefully

2.  : it is hoped : I hope : we hope // hopefully the rain will end soon

- Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Language is fluid.  It is ever-changing, and not always for the better.  The word "hopefully" is an adverb and it originally meant "in a hopeful manner" as in He looked at her hopefully.  In the 1960s, people began using "hopefully" to mean "I hope" or "we hope." If you watch a film from the 1950s or a television show from the early 1960s, you are unlikely to hear anyone say "Hopefully, it should be finished by next year."

It is strange that use of the word "hopefully" has evolved in this way.  Speakers usually prefer shorter  sentences.  "I hope" has  two syllables, while "hopefully" has three syllables.  Yet, English speakers have overwhelmingly chosen to say "Hopefully, the weather will be better tomorrow."rather than "I hope the weather will be better tomorrow."

In a 2012 article for National Public Radio, linguist Geoff Nunberg refers the AP Stylebook's acceptance of  "hopefully" as a floating sentence adverb.  He writes: "There was something anticlimatic to the news that the AP Stylebook will no longer be objecting to the use of "hopefully" as a floating sentence adverb, as in, 'Hopefully, the Giants will win the division.'  It was like seeing an obituary for someone who must have died around the time Hootenanny went off the air."

Nunberg points out that "I hope that" and "hopefully" do not have precisely the same meaning.  "I hope that" expresses a desire, while "hopefully" makes a hopeful prediction.  For example, you may say "I hope that my team wins the championship.for seven years in a row."  It may me be unlikely but you want it to happen.  If you say "Hopefully, my team will win the championship for the next seven years, you are suggesting that it may actually happen.  The nuances are important.

The change in the usage of "hopefully" has had its detractors.  The American poet Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978) once described the current usage of "hopefully" as an abomination.  She said its advocates should be lynched.  The American historian T. Harry Williams (1909-1979) railed against the change in the usage of "hopefully."  He called it "the most horrible usage of our times."

Although I am not thrilled about the current usage of "hopefully," I think that  McGinley and Williams were on the wrong side of history.  "Hopefully" as a floating sentence adverb has been accepted by the general populace and there is no turning back.  The writing has been on the wall for decades now. 

I recently saw the film Harriet, about the life of American abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who led hundreds of slaves to freedom via "The Underground Railroad."  I smiled to myself when the word "hopefully" was used to mean "I hope" in the dialogue of the movie .  After all, the film takes place in the 19th century, when no one would have spoken in that manner.

The current usage of the word "hopefully" is definitely here to stay.  I grudgingly accept the fact that it is not going away.   What annoys me is that it has become ubiquitous.  It has become a filler like "basically" and "literally."  The word is used so often that it seems to have been devalued.  I'm also dismayed that the original meaning of the word will eventually be lost forever.  If that makes me a language snob, so be it!  I have accepted the current usage of "hopefully," but I don't have to like it.  Yes, it bothers me, but it is not earth shattering.


"Hope" is the thing with feathers - 

"Hope" is the thing with feathers - 
That perches in the soul - 
And sings the tunes without words - 
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash that little Bird -
That kept so many warm -

I've heard it in the chilliest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity
It asked a crumb of me.

- Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), American poet

- Joanne

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

What are Kangaroo Words?

What are kangaroo words?  If you guessed that they are some form of Australian slang, you're absolutely wrong.  In fact, a kangaroo word is a word that contains the letters of another synonymous word in its correct sequence, the same way that baby kangaroos, known as joeys, are carried in their mother's pouch.  The second word is smaller, but it means the same thing as the first word.  It's a sort of mini-me.

For example, MASCULINE is a kangaroo word because it contains the word MALE, which is a synonym of the first word.  Similarly, the word ALONE contains its synonym, LONE.  It also contains a second synonym, ONE.

BLOSSOM is another kangaroo word because it contains the synonym BLOOM.


There are countless kangaroo words.  Here is a list of some of them.

ASTOUND contains the word STUN.

BELATED contains the word LATE.

CHICKEN contains the word HEN.

CONTAMINATE contains the word TAINT.

DECEASED  contains the word DEAD.

ENCOURAGE contains the word URGE.

ENJOYMENT contains the word JOY.

FEAST contains the word EAT.

GIGANTIC contains the word GIANT.

INHUMANE contains the word INHUMAN.

INSIGNIA contains the word SIGN.

MUNICIPALITY contains the word CITY.

PLUSH contains the word LUSH.

RESPITE contains the word REST.

SALVAGE contains the word SAVE.
VERACITY contains the word VERITY.

Quote of the Day

"Some birds are not meat to be caged., that's all.  Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild.  So you let them go, or when you open the cage to free them they somehow fly out past you.  And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their 

- Stephen King (1947- ), American author
From Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption: A Story from Different Seasson

- Joanne

Monday, November 18, 2019

Don Cherry and the power of words

"Stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me."

The above aphorism is often used in schoolyards as  a response to bullying.  One of the earliest uses of the phrase can be found in the Christian Recorder, an American periodical with a large Black readership.  Here is the citation from March, 1862: "Remember the old adage 'Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me'.  True courage consists in doing what is right, despite the jeers and sneers of our companions."

Since childhood, I have been reminded of those proverbial "sticks and stones."  Yet the old saying has grown shopworn in the 21st century.  It has become outdated in the Age of the Internet and social media.  Not only that, but it is patently false.  Words do hurt.  They may not hurt physically, but they hurt emotionally.  They harm the human psyche.  Words may not break bones, but they certainly break hearts.  Words wield immense power.  Bruises and bones can heal, but the sting of hurtful words can last a lifetime. That's the reason why there is so much verbal bullying.

All of this brings me to the recent controversy in Canada over hockey commentator Don Cherry's firing and his remarks on "Coach's Corner."  Many Canadians have a soft spot for Donald S. Cherry.  They admire him for speaking his mind.  It's also true that the 85-year-old Cherry donates a great deal of his time and money to charitable causes.  For this, he deserves credit.  For his hurtful words, he does not.  He deserves to be fired.  Here's what he said:

"You people . . . you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple of bucks for a poppy or something like that."

For years, Cherry has had a large audience and a great deal of influence.  The man is as flamboyant and outspoken as his loud suits.  Although I rarely agree with him, he is perfectly entitled to speak his mind.  However, there are limits to free speech and Cherry crossed the line.  He spoke words that are untrue and very hurtful to many people.  He spoke words that sparked resentment toward immigrants and new Canadians. He came close to saying, like another Donald, south of the border, that they should go back to where they came from.

If Don Cherry wants to praise veterans, that's his prerogative.  If he wants to lament the lack of poppies on lapels, that's also his prerogative, although I did not notice that to be true.  (I saw plenty of poppies here in Toronto, where I live).  Cherry and his fans don't seem to realize that free speech cannot be absolute.  Even in a democratic society, there are limits to free speech.  Cherry crossed the line.  He was fired because he went too far.  If only he had ended his rant with his complaint about not enough poppies being sold.  Unfortunately, he did not.

Don Cherry is disingenuous when he denies that he holds bigoted views.  He regards himself as a great patriot. (I also respect veterans, but I find "Grapes" to be too jingoistic)  The issue, however, is not poppies and veterans.  The issue is not whether Don Cherry holds jingoistic views..  The truth is that Mr. Cherry is xenophobic and that he has aimed his criticism directly at immigrants and non-whites.  His devotees know exactly what he meant when he used the ugly expression "you people."  Immigrants and non-WASPS also know exactly what he meant.  How could Cherry identify "you people" except for the colour of their skin or their religious symbols?  When he talked about "you people," he wan't referring to Norwegian immigrants or Scottish immigrants.

The fact is that many non-whites have served in the Canadian military with distinction.  They shouldn't have to be insulted on national television.  Why do people like Don Cherry assume that immigrants do not have a sense of loyalty to Canada?  Why do they assume that if someone does not look Anglo-Saxon or Celtic, that he or she is not a "real Canadian" or that they couldn't have been born in Canada?  Cherry's words hurt.  As someone of non-Anglo-Saxon or Celtic background, Cherry's comments hurt me.  I am the Canadian-born granddaughter of immigrants from Italy.  I describe my self as a Canadian of Italian descent.  Although I am fiercely proud of my Italian heritage, I have never lived in Italy.  I am not fluent in the Italian language and I am not an Italian citizen.  My skin is olive and I look southern European, but I am Canadian to the core.

Don Cherry suggested that immigrants come to this land of milk and hone and don't give back in return.  He accused them of not even shelling out some money for a poppy,  He questioned their loyalty to Canada.  He was dead wrong.  I wonder if he has any idea about how much immigrants have contributed to this nation.?  Can you imagine if all the immigrants in Canada stopped working for one day or one week?   Our country could not function.  Due to his popularity and his huge following, Cherry's egregious remarks have sewn more seeds of division in Canada.

Don Cherry is an anachronism.  The world has changed and Canada has changed, but Cherry has refused to adapt to those changes.  He can't accept a multicultural Canada.  He wants to live in the past where almost everyone was white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant, women knew their place and boys were boys.

Cherry is a polarizing figure.  Those who like him really like him.  I have heard complaints that "You can't say anything anymore" and that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wore blackface years ago.  Here is my response: Free speech has limits.  It does not consist of hateful untruths. Don Cherry has had plenty of time to express his opinions.  He has had his say for decades on Hockey Night in Canada.  As for the PM, Justin Trudeau has been severely criticized for his lack of judgement and he apologized profusely. He has always been supportive of an inclusive Canada.

Don Cherry's time in the spotlight has come and gone.  He has a vision of a Canada that no longer exists except in small pockets in small towns.  He may have kept his job if he had apologized.  His apology wouldn't have been sincere, though, because he meant what he said.  Like that other Donald south of the border, he doesn't believe he did anything wrong.

- Joanne

Monday, November 11, 2019

Five Guidelines for Living

Number 16 presents five guidelines to help you cope with the vicissitudes and difficulties of life.  Keep in mind that there are many more and that these are just a small sample.


1.  Groundhog Day is just a movie.  There are no dress rehearsals in real life.  Sometimes we are given chances to do better, but we can never go back in time and completely erase our original mistakes.  What's done is done and we have to live with the past and move on.  Time is not a renewable resource.  That is why the wisest among us learn from the past, live in the present and prepare for the future.

2.  To err is human, but there are many things we can do about our most egregious mistakes and shortcomings.  We can acknowledge them, learn from them, apologize for them, atone for them and try not to repeat them.  What we can't do or shouldn't do is pretend that they didn't happen.

3.  Some mysteries are beyond human comprehension and human understanding. No one has an answer or an explanation for everything.

4.  Try to look at all sides of an issue, even opinions you disagree with.  That doesn't mean you have to change your mind.  It just means you should not be so rigid as to refuse to give other views a thought, even those which are immoral and reprehensible to you  It is worthwhile to ask yourself why some people hold such opinions.  You should continually examine your own beliefs and those of others.

5.  Try not to panic.  In times of crisis, we always fare better when we remain calm and in control.  Panicking never put out a fire.

- Joanne

Friday, November 1, 2019

The language of Donald Trump


'When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”     

- Lewis Carroll (1832-1898), English writer of fiction
From Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There

In Chapter 6 of Lewis Carroll's Looking Glass, the sequel to Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland, Alice meets Humpty Dumpty, the nursery rhyme egg.  In the course of their conversation, Humpty expresses his philosophy about words and language.  He boldly declares that when he uses a word, it means just what he chooses it to mean.

U.S. President Donald Trump's espouses the same philosophy as Humpty Dumpty in Looking Glass.
Trump is a master at using language to mislead and misinform.  He endlessly repeats words and slogans until his supporters are so completely brain-washed that they repeat his chants in a cult-like fashion.  How many times have we heard "witch-hunt" and "treason" and "no collusion?"  It's brain-numbing, exhausting and extremely annoying.

Let's examine two of Trump's favourite words - "witch-hunt" and "treason."

In its historical sense, a witch-hunt is a hunt for and subsequent persecution of persons accused of being witches, as in 17th century Salem, Massachusetts.  In a more informal sense, it is a campaign against a person or group holding unorthodox or unpopular opinions.  Since this is not the 17th century, and no one is accusing the president and his followers of being witches, Trump must be referring to the more informal meaning of the term "witch-hunt."  However, Trump and his followers are free to express their opinions as much as they want in a democratic country.  They are protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing freedom of speech.  The press regular reports on his rantings and he tweets to his heart's content. 

The truth is that what Donald Trump calls "witch-hunts" are the legitimate and necessary investigations into his criminal behaviour and activities.  Special Investigator Robert Mueller, in his report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, found evidence that Trump obstructed justice.  That is a crime.  Trump is now facing impeachment because he has admitted to calling a foreign leader (Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky) and asking him to dig up dirt on a political opponent - Joe Biden, and Biden's son, Hunter.  According to a whistleblower, the call was made as part of a campaign by Trump and his administration to pressure Ukraine into investigating the Bidens. 

Alexander Vindman, a decorated U.S, Army officer and top White House Ukraine expert, told congressional investigators that Trump was blocking $400 million in security aid to force that country to publicly announce an investigation into Biden and his son.  That is against the law.

Now, let's look at the word "treason."  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines treason as "the offense of attempting overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign's family"  It is a very serious offence, but President Trump justs throw around the word.  It's as if anyone who criticizes him or is disloyal to him is guilty of treason.  Treason involves disloyalty to the state or an attempt to overthrow the state.  Donald Trump is not the state.  He is not America. 

Donald Trump has broken the  law, and contrary to what Trump believes, an American president is NOT above the law.  That is why the process of impeachment is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States.  A president must be accountable for "high crimes and misdemeanors.'  In addition, Trump and the White House have continually attempted to stonewall investigations by withholding information and ignoring congressional subpoenas.

Humpty Dumpty's theory of language, echoed by Donald Trump, is very dangerous to society and to democracy.  If words can mean anything, then words mean nothing.  They lose their meaning.  A drastic loss of communication ensues.  It can become downright Orwellian as in Nineteen Eighty-Four's "Newspeak."  Therein lies the path to authoritarianism or totalitarianism.

Below is an image of Donald Trump as King Louis XIV of France, known as the "Sun King."  Louis famously stated "L'etat c'est moi." ("I am the state.).

- Joanne

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Vocabulary Test #5 (Ten words beginning with the letter "S")

Number 16 Vocabulary Quiz #5 
Ten words beginning with the letter "S"

Number 16 presents a multiple choice vocabulary quiz.  Choose the correct definition of each word listed.  There are ten words for you to define.  Ready, set, go!

1.  scintilla (noun)
A.   A spicy Mexican dish

B.  A Spanish coin

C.  Dust

D.  Spark, trace

E.  A South American cocktail

2.  septuagenarian (noun)
A.   A person who was born in July, the seventh month of the year

B.  A person whose age is in the seventies

C.  A person who believes the number seven is lucky

D.  A person who dies  at 70 to 79 years of age

E.   The seventh child born into a family

3.  soporific (adjective)
A.  Causing or tending to cause sleep; tending to dull alertness or lethargy

B.  Causing or tending to prevent sleep, such as drinking caffeine at night

C.  Not professional, amateurish

D.  Quiet and soft-spoken

E.   Very talkative and garrulous

4.  solipsism (noun)
A.  A witty remark; a quip

B.  A theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing; extreme egocentrism

C.  A kind of poem with an unusual rhyming scheme

D.  A deep scar

E.   A word that is commonly mispronounced

5.  serpentine (adjective)

A.  Fast-moving and nimble

B.   Of or resembling an insect (as in form or movement)

C.  Of or resembling a serpent (as in form or movement)

D.  Magical and mysterious

E.   Thin and gaunt

6.  sycophant (noun)
A.  One who is cunning and devious 

B.  A fruit merchant

C.   A devoted friend

D.   One who is poverty-striken

E.  A servile self--seeking flatterer

7.  supplicate (verb)

A.  To replace one employee with another

B.   To delegate responsibility

C.   To delay intentionally in order to prevent something from occurring 

D.  To make a humble entreaty: especially to pray to God

E.   To actively hide the truth

8.  serendipity (noun)

A.   The quality of having a wild or creative imagination

B.  The feeling of having a beautiful thought

C.  The faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for

D.   A loud and disturbing sound

E.    The feeling of triumph after overcoming a difficulty

9.  supine (adjective)

A.  Having an arrogant and dismissive manner

B.  Something that is delightful and pleasing to the senses

C.   Supple, not stiff; easy to bend

D.   Standing in an upright manner

E.  Lying on the back with the face upward

10.  sashay (verb)

A.  To strut or move about in an ostentatious or conspicuous manner

B.  To do needlework

C.  To run back and forth

D.  To deliberately attempt to attract the attention of a celebrity or a dignitary

E.   To leave a room quickly and quietly

(Note:  The definitions for the correct answers have been taken from the Merriam-Webster dictionary or thesaurus)

1.  D
scintilla (noun): Spark, trace, as in not a scintilla of doubt.

2.  B.
septuagenarian (noun): A  person whose age is in the seventies, as in The septuagenarian is fit and healthy.

3.  A
soporific (adjective): Causing or tending to cause sleep; tending to dull alertness or lethargy as in This medication is soporific, so do not drive after taking it.

4.  B
solipsism (noun): A theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing; extreme egocentrism

5.  C
serpentine (adjective): Of or resembling a serpent (as in form or movement). as in The restaurant had a large sepentine-shaped bar.

6. E
sycophant (noun):  A servile self--seeking flatterer, as in The sycophant paid his manager compliment after compliment, trying to win his favour and gain access to his social circle.

7.  D.
supplicate (verb): To make a humble entreaty: especially to pray to God; to ask humbly and earnestly of, as in The homeless man was not too proud to supplicate for change to buy foodThe ill woman uses her nightly prayer to supplicate for strength.

8.  C.
serendipity (noun): The faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for, as in We have all experienced the serendipity of relevant information arriving just when we were least expecting it.  

9.  E
supine (adjective):
Lying on the back with the face upward, as in Not all abdominal exercises need to be performed in the supine position.

10.  A
sashay (verb): To strut or move about in an ostentatious or conspicuous manner, as in She sashayed around the room as if she were a queen.

-  Joanne

Friday, October 18, 2019

16 Riddles: What do you get when you cross . . .?

Do you need a bit of humorous wordplay in these troubled times.  Well, you've come to the right website.  Here are 16  "What do you get when you cross . . ."  riddles  from Number 16.


1.  What do you get when you cross a fish with an elephant?


 A swimming trunk

2.  What do you get when you cross a lawyer and a skunk?


Law and odour

3.  What do you get when you cross a shark with a snowball or a vampire with a snowman?



4.  What do you get when you cross a sheep and a bee?


A bah-humbug

5.  What do you get when you cross a dyslexic, an insomniac, and an agnostic?


Someone who lays awake at night wondering if there is a dog

6.  What do you get when you cross a kangaroo with a skyscraper?


A high jumper

7.  What do you get when you cross a clown with a goat?


A Silly Billy

8.  What do you get when you cross a vampire with a mosquito?


A very itchy neck

9.  What do you get when you cross a cow with a trampoline?


A milkshake

10.  What do get when you cross a lemon and a cat?


A sourpuss

11.  What do you get when you cross a chicken and a chihuahua?


Pooched eggs

12.  What do you can when you cross a monster and a pig?



13.  What do you get when you cross a hula dancer with a boxer?


Hawaiian Punch

14.  What do you get when you cross a chicken with a ghost?



15.  What do you get when you cross Bambi and a ghost?



16.  What do you get when you cross a chicken with a centipede?


Extra drumsticks

- Compiled by Joanne

Great first lines from great novels

"All great authors know that a killer first line is almost more important than the first few pages, and authors put in hours of work just to get the right sentence on paper."

- Mary Jane Hathaway
Huff Post, December 18, 2015

Not all great novels have memorable opening lines but most do.  Opening lines are like a fishing rod.  They hook the reader and reel him in.  I have pondered the first words of many great works of literature and they have inspired me, intrigued me and delighted me.  Here are some of the best opening lines from some of my favourite novels.  There are many more, of course, and this is just a small sample.

Some of the Best Opening Lines in Literature

lt was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all gong direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

- Charles Dickens (1812-1870), English writer and social critic

From A Tale of Two Cities [1859]

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

- George Orwell (1903-1950), English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic
From Nineteen Eighty-Four {1949}

All happy families are alike but an unhappy family is unhappy after its own fashion.

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian writer
From Anna Karenina [1877]

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

- Jane Austen (1775-1817), English novelist 
From Pride and Prejudice [1813]

It was a pleasure to burn.

- Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), American writer of science fiction, horror and mystery
From Fahrenheit 451 [1953]

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.  "Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."

- F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940), American author
From The Great Gatsby [1925]

- Joanne

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Oxymoron: Meaning and Examples

OXYMORON (noun) : a combination of contradictory or incongruous words (such as cruel kindness)
broadly : something (such as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements

- Merriam-Webster Dictionary

* The plural of oxymoron is oxymorons or oxymora.

An oxymoron is a figure of speech.  It is used as a rhetorical or a literary device to create humour or satire or irony.  It usually consists of one or two words which seemingly contradict each other, yet appear next to each other.  It is interesting to note that the word "oxymoron" is in itself contradictory.  The word is derived from two ancient Greek words, oxys, meaning "sharp" and moronos, meaning "dull" or "stupid."

There is a difference between an "oxymoron" and a "paradox."  A paradox consists of a statement or a group of statements, while an oxymoron consists of two contradictory terms.  Merriam-Webster defines a paradox as "something (such as a situation) that is made up of two opposite things and that seems impossible but is actually true or possible." - Example:  In a paradox, he has discovered that stepping back from his job has increased the rewards he gleans from it.

List of oxymorons

absolutely unsure
accidentally on purpuse
agree to disagree
almost exactly
alone in a crowd
alone together
awfully nice
civil war
clearly confused
confirmed rumour
cruel kindness
deafening silence
found missing
growing smaller
jumbo shrimp
lead balloon
liquid gas
minor crisis
new classic
old news
only choice
open secret
original copy
plastic silverware
pretty ugly
small crowd
working vacation

List of satirical oxymorons

Satirical oxymorons are composed of words that are not inherently contradictory but express the opinion that the two do not go together.

airline schedules
American culture
business ethics
just war
maternity fashion
military intelligence
political leadership


"All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king."

- J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), English writer, poet and academic
From The Lord of the Rings


Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.  Except a creature be part coward, it is not a compliment to say he is brave; it is a loose misapplication of the word.

- Mark Twain (1835-1910), American writer, humorist and lecturer
From Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar

It is curious - curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare.

Mark Twain (1835-1910), American writer, humorist and lecturer
From Eruption; Hitherto Unpublished Pages About Men and Events (1940) edited by Bernard DeVoto

- Joanne

Monday, September 23, 2019

Vocabulary Quiz #4 (Phobias)

Number 16 Vocabulary Quiz #4

Ten Phobias

PHOBIA (noun): an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation

The word "phobia" comes from the Greek word phobos, meaning fear or horror

Number 16 presents a multiple choice vocabulary quiz on phobias.  Choose the correct definition of each word listed.  There are ten words for you to define.  Ready, set, go!

1.  technophobia (noun)

A.  Fear or dislike of the internet and social media

B.  Fear or dislike of computer nerds and information technicians

C.  Fear or dislike of advanced technology or complex devices and especially computers

D.  Fear or dislike of computer viruses

E.  Fear or dislike of excessive email

2.  hydrophobia (noun)

A.  A morbid dread of being electrocuted

B.  A morbid fear of thunder and lightning

C.  A morbid fear of hydro poles

D.  A morbid dread of water

E.  A morbid fear of freezing

3.  triskaidekaphobia (noun)

A.  Fear of the number three

B.  Fear of the number 13

C.  Fear of the number 30

D,  Fear of the "Three of Spades"

E.  Fear of Thursday

4.  panophobia (noun)

A.  A condition of vague, nonspecific anxiety: generalized fear

B.  A fear of forests and trees

C.  A fear of darkness

D.  A morbid fear of being lost or abandoned

E.  A fear of loud voices

5.  nomophobia (noun)

A.  Fear of famous people

B.  Fear of  public speaking

C.  Fear of being without access to a working cell phone

D.  Fear of security guards and police officers

E.  Fear of very tall people

6.  pyrophobia (noun)

A.  Morbid dread of pirates

B.  Morbid dread of funerals

C.  Morbid dread of torches

D,  Morbid dread of swords

E.  Morbid dread of fire

7.  photophobia (noun)

A.  Intolerance to light

B.  Fear of cameras

C.  Aversion to having one's picture taken

D.  Fear of selfies

E.  Fear of darkness

8.  ophidiophobia (noun)

A.  Abnormal fear of birds

B.  Abnormal fear of bees and wasps

C.  Abnormal fear of snails

D.  Abnormal fear of snakes

E.   Abnormal fear of jelly fish

9.  amathophobia (noun)

A.  Fear of foreign languages

B.  Fear of mold and mildew

C.  Fear of mathematics

D.  Fear of dirty laundry

E.  Fear of dust

10.  cynophobia (noun)

A.  Pathological fear or loathing of drums and drumming

B.  Pathological fear or loathing of dogs

C.  Pathological fear or loathing of the colour red

D.  Pathological fear or loathing of cymbals

E.   Pathological fear or loathing of chipmunks

(Note:  The definitions for the correct answers have been taken from the Merriam-Webster dictionary or thesaurus)

1.  C
techophobia (noun): Fear or dislike of advanced technology or complex devices and especially computers

2.  D
hyrophobia (noun): A morbid dread of water, also known as "aquaphobia"

3.  B
triskaidekaphopia (noun): fear of the number 13

4.  A
panophobia (noun): A condition of vague, nonspecific anxiety: generalized fear - the fear of everything or that something terrible will happen

5.  C
nomophobia (noun): Fear of being without access to a working cell phone

6.  E
pyrophobia (noun): Morbid dread of fire

7.  A
photophobia (noun):  Intolerance to light, especially pain sensitiveness to strong light

8.  D
ophidiophobia (noun):  Abnormal fear of snakes as in "The fear of snakes, called ophidiophobia, is a common phobia."

9.  E
amathophobia (noun): Fear of dust, derived from the Greek word amathos meaning sand

10. B
 cynophobia (noun): Pathological fear or loathing of dogs as in "If a person were bitten by a dog, the experience could lead to cynophobia."

- Joanne