Wednesday, January 25, 2012

WORDS AND PHRASES

BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE

I particularly wanted to talk about this phrase because it has to do with dogs, and I am a dog.  But I will just say that I never bark up the wrong tree because I am a basenji, and basenjis don't bark!  Hahahaha!  Hunting dogs will sometimes bark up the wrong tree, though, and they do it because they chase a squirrel or raccoon until it goes up a tree, but then this sneaky animal jumps over onto the branch of a different tree.  So the dogs are left barking up the trunk of the first tree, but that's not where their prey is anymore.

People can bark up the wrong tree, too, even though people don't usually bark.  When people bark up the wrong tree, it means they are chasing after the wrong idea, or maybe they are going about something in the wrong way.  They might also be following a false lead or blaming the wrong person for something.

The thing I don't like about this phrase is that it makes dogs look stupid, but mostly it's hound dogs that seem to bark up the wrong trees, so I guess that's okay because hounds can be kind of dumb anyway.  Well, at least that's my opinion.










TO GO TO POT

This is a common phrase that you probably know and use a lot, but do you know where it comes from?  It has kind of a sad and horrible origin because it is about animals that are old and not much use to farmers anymore, so they are killed and made into stew in a pot.  People were saying "go to pot" all the way back in the 16th century and maybe before that.

Nowadays people mostly mean that something has gotten worse or has been ruined when they say it went to pot.  This is called a metaphorical meaning, but cooking meat in a pot is a literal meaning.

One book I looked at had a different origin for this phrase, and what it said was that it had to do with blacksmiths, because blacksmiths threw broken pieces of metal into a pot.  Then later, they melted these pieces down and made something else out of them.  Nobody else said anything about blacksmiths, though, so this origin is probably not the right one, even though I like it better than thinking about animals getting cooked in a pot.









AMPHORA

If you go to a museum, you might see an amphora, especially if you are looking at ancient Greek or Roman stuff.  Amphoras were jugs with two handles that were used to store or transport all kinds of things such as wine, olive oil, grapes, fish, grain, or anything you wanted to put in them.  Usually the amphoras were ceramic and had a pointed base that was put down into soft sand or into a stand.  When the amphoras were packed into a ship, they fit together very nicely, and they were tied with ropes to keep them from rolling around and getting broken.

Some amphoras were very fancy, with scenes from history or mythology painted on them.  And there were amphoras of different sizes, from 12 inches to 5 feet tall.  The Romans used one size of amphora as a unit of measurement, which was a volume of one cubic foot. 

The earliest amphoras were found in Banpo, China, and these date back to 4800 BCE, which was the Neolithic Period.  By about 3500 BCE, the Phoenicians were using amphoras, and then everybody in the ancient world started using them.  Since they were cheap and easy to make, they were just broken up when they got to wherever they were going.

Archeologists like amphoras because they are often found in old shipwrecks, and sometimes their contents are still okay, which is pretty amazing, and the archeologists can learn interesting things about ancient people.











LIONIZE

When I looked at this word, I thought it must mean to turn somebody into a big, scary, roaring lion.  But it turns out I wasn't quite right about that.  What it means is that you idolize somebody and treat them like a celebrity.  You look at this person with respect and put them on a pedestal, so they are kind of like a king, in the same way that a lion is the King of Beasts.  I guess that TV show, American Idol, is mostly about lionizing people, but we don't watch it at our house, so I don't know for sure.








ARCANE

If something is arcane, then it is very mysterious and hard to understand.  It is the kind of thing that you need special knowledge so you can understand it.  Which means that only a few people do.  Things that are mystical and occult are arcane.  Masonic rituals are arcane, and so is Cabala, which is a sort of Jewish mysticism.  And I think cats are arcane because they are pretty hard to understand sometimes!















AURIFEROUS

People who pan or mine for gold are looking for places that are auriferous to do it.  That's because if something is auriferous, it contains gold.  Finding gold can be a good thing because you can get rich that way.  But sadly, most of the gold that is easy to find has been found already.  Which doesn't stop people from going out there and trying anyway.  If Mom ever decides to pan for gold, I will not help her because I don't want to get my feet wet.  But if she wants to mine for gold, I will be glad to dig some holes for her, because the more gold Mom finds, the more dog food she can buy!

3 comments:

  1. Zena doesn't bark up the wrong tree either (her sniffer is just fine), but I sometimes think she is cray cray (I have to say it like this, because if I say "crazy," she gives me the, "I am NOT CRAZY," look.) Lately, she has taken to throwing her toys around and leaving them where she threw them. Not playing with them, just throwing them. It's craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy. What she's thinkin', I have no idea, but I think she needs to see a doggie psychologist to talk about this throwing thing.

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  2. Ha! I think Zena is playing with her toys when she throws them around, even if she just tosses them once and then leaves them there. I think that's a fine way to play, but then maybe I'm crazy, too! Sometimes my mom takes me with her when she goes to see her counselor, but I just snoop around the room and try to find old crumbs from doggy biscuits that the therapist's dogs left on the floor. But I guess that's pretty good therapy for me, come to think of it!

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