Friday, March 16, 2012



This means using more words than necessary to say what you are saying.  And the extra words you use aren't needed, because they mean the same thing as some of the other words that you already used.  So in other words, you are being redundant.  Pleonasm rhymes with "ectoplasm," and it comes from some Latin and Greek words that mean "to be excessive."  The first known use of the word pleonasm was in 1610.

Here's an example from a book called The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler:  "Beyond the garage were some decorative trees trimmed as carefully as poodle dogs."  The phrase "poodle dogs" is pleonasm because a poodle IS a dog, so you don't need to say "poodle dog."

Another example was written by William Shakespeare in Julius Caesar, when Caesar says, "This was the most unkindest cut of all."

But guess what, there are pleonasms that we use all the time and don't even notice we are doing it, such as saying "common bond" or "safe haven" or "combined total."  And there are some legal terms that are pleonasms, like for instance "null and void" or "terms and conditions" or "cease and desist."

So if you want to be really exact in your writing or speaking, you should avoid pleonasms.  But sometimes it can actually be helpful to use pleonastic phrases because the repetition can help get your meaning across.  Also, it can make your ideas clearer, because if the listener or reader didn't understand or hear the first word, he might get the second one.


If you pull up a plant by its roots and throw it away, you are extirpating it.  You can also extirpate your hair, or if you are a surgeon, you can extirpate a body part.  So to extirpate means to uproot or cut out or destroy completely or do away with.  Sometimes I would like to extirpate all fleas and mosquitoes and flies.  There are probably some other things that could use a good extirpation, but I will have to think about what they are and tell you later.

The origin of this word is from the Latin exstirpatus, the past participle of exstirpare, which means to root out.  The first record of the word being used in English was in 1535.


I think this word sounds ugly when you say it, and it turns out that if you have pruritis, you have a really bad itch, which is kind of ugly, too.  There are lots of different reasons why you might be itchy, including eosinophilic granuloma complex, which is what our little kittens probably have.  They are so itchy that they have scratched a lot of the hair out on their heads and necks.  Which makes them look ugly, like little baby birds that don't have any feathers yet.

When I was learning about pruritis, I found out that there are a bunch of different types of itches that you can get from doing different kinds of jobs.  For example, there's bakers' itch, barbers' itch, grain itch, grocers' itch, ground itch, jock itch, swimmers' itch and winter itch.  These forms of pruritis are caused by things like mites and insect larvae and yucky stuff like that.  All I can say is that I'm really glad Mom put our Frontline on us yesterday to keep us from getting fleas and ticks!


This word started out as the Old French word trenchant, which was the present participle of trenchier, which meant "to cut."  Then the people who spoke Middle English started using the word, too, but they spelled it tranchaunt.  This was in the period of about 1276 to 1325.  Anyway, as you might have guessed, the word trench come from this same Old French word.

So what we mean nowadays by trenchant is something that is keen, incisive, effective, clear-cut, hard-hitting, or searching.  Trenchant used to be used to describe something that was really sharp, such as a sword, but now that meaning is mostly archaic or poetic.


Jingoism is a kind of patriotism that is very fierce, sort of like a guard dog defending his territory.  People who are jingoists think that their country is better than any other country, and they will go to war to prove the point.

The word started out in Great Britain during the time of the Russo-Turkish War, which lasted from 1877 until 1878.  In those days, people sat around in pubs and music halls, and they sang a song that had this chorus:

     We don't want to fight,
            but by Jingo if we do,
     We've got the ships, we've got the men,
               we've got the money too,
     We've fought the Bear before,
           and while we're Britons true,
     The Russians shall not have Constantinople.

So in this song, the words "by Jingo" are what's called a "minced oath," to avoid saying "by Jesus."  A well-known British radical named George Holyoake wrote a letter to the Daily News on March 13, 1878, and he was the first one to use the term "jingoism."  Pretty soon, lots of people in Great Britain were using the word, and later it also got popular in the U.S.

The first American to be accused of jingoism was President Theodore Roosevelt.  In October of 1895, he told the New York Times that "There is much talk about 'jingoism.'  If by 'jingoism' they mean a policy in pursuance of which Americans will with resolution and common sense insist upon our rights being respected by foreign powers, then we are 'jingoes'."

It's kind of sad that word jingo has come to mean somebody who is so aggressive and nationalistic, because "Jingo" would be a good name for a dog or cat, but I don't think it's good to have a pet that sounds so territorial.  So if I were you, I'd use a name like Bingo or Ringo or even Dingo instead!

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