March 9, 2007


emend (e-mend) tr.v. emended, emending, emends
To improve by critical editing: emend a faulty text
[Middle English emenden, from Latin emendare : e-, ex + mendum, defect, fault.]
mend'er n.

mendate (e'-men-date, e-MEN'-date) tr.v. -dated, -dating, -dates
To make textual corrections in. --e'
mendator' n. --emen'datory adj.

mendation (ee'menda'shen, e'men-) n.
1.The act of emending.
2. An alteration intended to improve: textual emendations made by the editor.
--The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2000. aka AHD4.


Note that each definition above includes the word text. Emend and its cognates concern the editing, correcting, and altering of texts or manuscripts in order to improve them. Teachers of English typically help student writers emend their essays for precision and grace.

I first learned this word in a summer graduate course taught by a kindly professor (with tweed coat, pipe, and stained, crooked teeth) whose name I, unfortunately, have forgotten. One day, after class, he took me aside in the hallway, and said in a voice softened with halting, gentle concern, "Ahem, John.
About your work. This, ah, paper needs . . . emendations. What we have here, coming from you, given your past work, will, ah, not do!"

There were too many technical blunders and syntactical infelicities in the hastily written paper to satisfy his standards. That embarrassment promptly seared the word
emendation hard to the hide of my memory.


Emend comes from the Latin verb emendare (to free from fault). But so does the the more general verb, amend. [As you will see, emend and amend are not interchangeable words.--B'N'J'N]

AMEND V. EMEND (Source: John L. Dusseau):
[Amend means to] "alter, modify, correct.
"patiently adjust, amend and heal" (Hardy).
Amendment: The act of amending or improving, but specifically, alteration in or addition to a legislative act or resolution.
"Let us hastily amend the amendment."
Amends: Reparations or compensation for loss or damage.
"And doth not a meeting like this make amends,/For all the long years I've been wand'ring away?" (Thomas Moore).
Emend: Although the word was once simply an alternative spelling to amend, it has come to mean specifically to edit a manuscript by correcting its flaws and errors, and emendation is the act of manuscript editing. "God save me from busybody emendations" (30).
--Bugaboos, Chimeras & Achilles' Heels. Engelwood Cliffs, NJ, 1993.



Emend edits and proofreads documents at the sentence level, with a blue pencil, paying attention to spelling, punctuation, diction, syntax, arrangement, and style. The results are called emendations.
Amend works at a larger scale of magnitude, altering substantive issues related to legislative acts or resolutions. The results are called amendments.


March 7, 2007


skirl (skerl) v. skirled, skirling, skirls
--intransitive. To produce a high, shrill, wailing tone. Used of bagpipes.
--transitive. To play (a piece) on bagpipes.

n. 1. The shrill sound made by the chanter pipe of bagpipes.
2. A shrill wailing sound:

"The skirl of a police whistle split the stillness" (Max Rohmer).
[Middle English skrillen, skirlen, probably of Scandinavian origin.]
--The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language Fourth Edition, 2000.

skirl [Origin obscure.]
v.i. To whirl; to fly or sweep in a whirl.
n. A whirling snow or rain.

--Merriam-Webster's International Dictionary of the English Language Second Edition [a k a Webster 2 or W2].

Elisa, squatting on the ground, watched to see the crazy, loose-jointed wagon pass by. But it didn't pass by. It turned into the farm road in front of her house, crooked old wheels skirling and squeaking.--John Steinbeck

Not your everyday word--skirl--but it's one that can bring descriptive precision when you need it.

1.) Though bagpipe music may not be a part of your quotidian experience, you can, on those occasions when you do hear a bagpipe (such as parades), be ready with the most prescriptively accurate word we have to describe the instrument's unique sound: the skirl. "Hark! I can hear skirls and drum beats coming from past the curve in the road. The parade's about to arrive!"

2.) Using skirl to identify sounds similar to those of a bagpipe can bring onomatopoetic resonance to a phrase or sentence, as in
"crooked old wheels skirling";
"the skirl of a police whistle";
"the skirl of the attic door opening, slowly";
"the skirl of fat sizzling in a pan";
"the skirl of fish frying in the pan."
In fact, Webster 2 lists "skirl in the pan" as its own entry.

3.) Finally, skirl can bring its unique combination of sound and movement to a scene that is primarily visual. Compare: "A whirling of snow" to "A skirling of snow."

Today's word is a handy one. When the right moment comes along, give it a skirl!


March 6, 2007


arch: adj. [arch]
1. Chief; eminent; greatest; principal.
"The most arch act of piteous massacre." Shakespeare
2. [This sense arises from the common use of arch in sense 1. in archrogue,archwag, archknave, etc.] Cunning or sly; now usually sportively, mischievous; roguish; as an arch look, arch word, arch lad.

ARCH: slyly or mockingly mischievous--the word is applied chiefly to looks or expression, esp. of women or children
--Merriam-Webster's Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language Second Ed., 1955 [aka Webster 2]

arch: adj. self-consciously or affectedly playful or teasing.
archly, adv. archness n.
[arch-, originally in arch rogue etc.]
Ety: Ultimately from the Latin arcus arc.

--The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English
, 1995.

THE WORD IN USE (as adv.):
From "The Courtship of Miles Standish," iii,
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,

Archly the maiden smiled, and, with eyes overrunning with laughter,
Said, in a tremulous voice, 'Why don't you speak for yourself, John?

--The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, Second Edition, 1955.

Webster 2 (1955), notes that arch is applied chiefly to looks or expression, esp. of women or children." In 2007 the word applies equally to women and men, children and adults, as well as archwise* tertium quids.

archwise: a nonce
word° invented by B'n'J'n, meaning able to understand and express an arch attitude; hip; savvy; "in the groove"

°nonce word = a word (as ringday in "four girls I know have become engaged today: this must be ringday") coined and used apparently to suit one particular occasion sometimes independently by different writers or speakers but not adopted into use generally.--Webster 3.

In the passage from "The Courtship of Miles Standish," the Maiden Priscilla, who has eyes for the clueless John Arden standing directly in front of her, has just listened (with bemused endurance) to him catalog reasons why she should attend more to his good friend, the dashing Captain Miles Standish. Realizing that John needs help in understanding where her affections lie, Priscilla finally puts to him archly [read flirtatiously*] her famous question.

*Yes, the Puritans were known to flirt.

I realized, just yesterday, that, with an arch attitude, comes an arch look
to the face, and with an arch look to the face often comes an arched eyebrow--which, it strikes me now, is a most apt, emblematic image to use in completing our discussion of arch in its mischievous sense.

BTW, I tried arching each of my eyebrows without bringing the other into play, but I couldn't do it. How about you, dear reader? Can you arch one eyebrow without any squinting or bending on the other side?


March 5, 2007


dyspeptic: [dis-PEP'-tik]
1. Of, pertaining to, or having dyspepsia (indigestion).
2. Irritable or ill-humored, as if suffering from dyspepsia; morose; gloomy.
1. A person suffering from dyspepsia.

"Is that dyspeptic man scowling because his life tastes sour or because he didn't want his picture taken?"-- Jake Miller, "Faces Without Lives", New York Times, March 28, 1999

"Wild joy, gaiety, sensual pleasure, disregard of all sad or even sensible feelings reached such a pitch . . . that instances have been cited of old millionaire merchants, old usurers, old notaries who, during this interval, had forgotten to be dyspeptic and obsessed with making money."--Stendhal, The Charterhouse of Parma (translated by Richard Howard)

"So how did English food acquire the reputation of nursery food for adults with dyspeptic stomachs?"-- Nadine Brozan, review of Seven Centuries of English Cooking, by Maxime de la Falaise, New York Times, December 16, 1992

Dyspeptic is derived from Greek dys-, "difficult, bad" + pepsis, "digestion." The opposite of dyspeptic is eupeptic, "having good digestion; also, cheerful." Entry and Pronunciation for dyspeptic

It may surprise the reader to learn that I have included dyspeptic in "Words Worthy" precisely because in certain social circumstances it can prove to be usefully vague.

You can see from the two definitions above that the word can mean
(1) indigestion or
feeling morose, gloomy, irritable, or ill-humored, as if suffering from dyspepsia. [I highlighted "as if" because you don't have to have indigestion per se in order to feel irritable or ill-humored.]

Some day, when you return to work after being sick, you may find the resident quid nunc asking about your absence. You could say simply, "I was feeling dyspeptic," and your snoopy interlocuter will be none the wiser, for "feeling dyspeptic" can mean either (1) you simply felt ill-disposed or (2) you were suffering discomfort in your digestive tract--which could involve anything from heartburn to irritated bowel syndrome to any one of several intestinal problems.

If, at another time, you are in a conversation with a medical professional in which you suggest that you think you are suffering from dyspepsia, the use of dyspepsia will serve as a useful conversation starter because it has located the part of your body that is in distress: your digestive tract. The next step is to probe beyond the generalized term dyspepsia to identify and then cure you of the problematic ailment, which will have another name, such acid stomach reflux, GERD, or any of a number of ailments: "cachexy, cachexia, atrophy, marasmus, consumption, palsy, paralysis, or prostration."
--adapted from Roget's Thesaurus.

So how can using the word dyspeptic prove to be useful precisely because it is vague? The answer is because by using it you are telling a quizical person in a genteel way that you have been ill and that's all you want to say about it.
You could could bring such a conversation to a close by saying "I was dealing with a touch of dyspepsia yesterday, but today I feel rested, reenergized, and--in a word--eupeptic! See you later."

Dear Reader: May this post finds you contented and eupeptic!--B'n'J'n.


March 4, 2007


brio: n. Vivacity, spirit, fire. [BREE’-o]
• "the rector sang with such brio
" -- Christopher Morley:
• "driving with the brio of a Paris taxi-driver" -- J.M.O'Brien
Ety.: Italian, of Celtic origin; akin to Old Irish brg strength, virtue, Welsh bri repute, Cornish bry worth, Middle Breton bri regard
--Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002. (4 March 2007).

¶ . . . . He [Arthur Schlesinger]—and [Richard] Hofstadter and [C. Van] Woodward—reached maturity as historians at the precise moment when the nation itself was coming into its own [mid-century America], a freshly minted world power blessed with unparalleled wealth and social mobility”
¶ But it didn’t always seem so. It began as an “age of anxiety.” That it seems grander in retrospect is partly owed to the brio and passion of Mister Schlesinger and his generation of historians. If our own anxious age is to attain similar heights our historians must lead the way (1 + 14).Tanenhaus,Sam. Books: “History, Written In the Present Tense,” Dispatches, Week in Review, the New York Times, Sunday, March 4, 2007.

Not surprisingly because of its positive compounding of sound and sense, brio has become a name for fictional characters and a brand name for products and services around the world.

Wikipedia reports that brio--besides being “a noun that means quality of being active or spirited or alive and vigorous [syn: animation, spiritedness, invigoration, vivification]”—[]—is also a word that can become attached to several things:
• BRIO AB, a Swedish toy-making company
• Brio Magazine from Focus on the Family
Cafe Brio in Downtown Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
• BRIO (Bronx Recognizes Its Own) individual artist grant program of the Bronx Council on the Arts
• Brio Tuscan Grille is an Italian restaurant chain with several locations throughout the U.S.
MN Brio font
• Brio Realty is an Internet based real estate company.
• Brio is a talking horse of Narnia in the German translation of the book The Horse And His Boy from C.S.Lewis. In the English original the horse is named Bree.
• Brio is a popular brand of Chinotto soft drink.
• Brio is also a popular datawarehouse reporting tool now overtaken by Hyperion Solutions
HP Brio is a range of desktop PCs.
• BRIO ONE / BRIO STUDIOS Print & Interactive Design Studio, Singapore.

Brio—a bubbling verbal tonic