Here’s one for you.  I bet it is not a household word:

A zeugma is a literary term for using one word to modify two other words, in two different ways. An example of a zeugma is, “She broke his car and his heart.”

I want to thank my friend Carol Halstead for confounding me.  Cheers

Make an ass of you and me (assume)


I was thinking about the root word “sume” as in assume, consume, presume, resume, subsume and even, perhaps, exhume.  Here is what it means:

sump, sume & sum
These ROOT-WORDS are SUME, SUMP & SUM meaning TAKE, USE & WASTE. They come from the Latin sumere & sumptus. It is interesting to notice how the idea of taking and using began to mean expensive, burdensome, and wasteful. The layman’s name for tuberculosis is conSUMPtion, a disease that causes the patient to WASTE away. In ancient Greece and Rome there was a SUMPtuary law which forbade lavish spending.

1. Assume : as SUME (a sume’) v. 

To take; to use; to suppose; as, I assume it is so

2. Assumption : as SUMP tion (a sump’ shun) n. 

The act of taking for granted; as, on the assumption that it is so

3. Assuming : as SUM ing (a sume’ ing) adj. 

Taking for granted; arrogant

4. Assumed : as SUM ed (a sumed’) adj. 

Taken; as, under an assumed name

5. Assumptive : as SUMP tive (a sump’ tiv) adj. 

Assuming; supposing

6. Consume : con SUME (kon sume’) v. 

To use up; as, Americans consume millions of cigarettes

7. Consumer : con SUME r (kon sue’ mer) n. 

One who consumes goods of some kind

8. Consumption : con SUMP tion (kon sump’ shun) n. 

Act of using up; wasting away

9. Consumptive : con SUMP tive (kon sump’ tiv) adj. 

Affected by consumption; a wasting away of the body

10. Consumable : con SUM able (kon sue’ ma b’l) adj. 

Can be used up

11. Consumedly : con SUME dly (kon sue’ med lee) adv. 

Excessively; as, he is consumedly proud of himself

12. Presume : pre SUME (pre zume’) v. 

To take upon oneself without leave; as, do not presume too much

13. Presumably : pre SUM ably (pre zue’ ma blee) adv. 


14. Presumption : pre SUMP tion (pre zump’ shun) n. 

Arrogance; audacity

15. Presumptuously : pre SUMP tuously (pre zump’ chu us lee) adv. 

Arrogantly; audaciously

16. Resume : re SUME (re zume’) v. 

Take up again; as, after intermission the play will resume

17. Sumpter : SUMP ter (sump’ ter) n. 

A beast of burden

18. Sumption : SUMP tion (sump’ shun) n. 

A major premise; an assumption

19. Sumptuosity : SUMP tuosity (sump tue os’ i ti) n. 

Lavish display

20. Sumptuously : SUMP tuously (sump’ chu us lee) adv 

Lavishly; expensively

Square Meal


Have you ever had a square meal?  Here’s why:

Most origin stories of the phrase claim it came from British and American naval ships of the 1700 or 1800’s. There are two versions of this story. The most common claims that sailors aboard ship had their meals served to them on square wooden trays or plates, that they either carried back to their bunks, where the plates could be stored easily, or that were stored elsewhere. Since they only used these squares when they were getting a full meal, probably dinner, the phrase ‘a square meal’ came to be associated with a full and satisfying dinner.



Are you gruntled today?

Obviously dislike is the opposite of like and disrespect is lack of respect.  So when is this prefix not the negative and why?  I didn’t know, so I researched it.  The result was interesting.

From John Carlson: I have, for some time, been fascinated by the word disgruntled. How may you be disgruntled if you are not already gruntled? I do not know what gruntled is and I have not been able to find that word in the dictionaries that I have examined. Any thoughts about gruntled and disgruntled?
Years ago I wrote a piece about such unpaired opposites, whose first example was this word. It quoted P G Wodehouse’s The Code of the Woosters, published in 1938: “He spoke with a certain what-is-it in his voice, and I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.” So, if you were the opposite of disgruntled you would be pleased, satisfied, and contented.
Wodehouse invented this sense and has been quoted or flatteringly imitated many times since (as in Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett: “‘No, that man,’ said Angua, ‘[with a] face like someone very disgruntled.’ ‘Oh, that was Captain Vimes. But he’s never been gruntled, I think.’”)
The assumption behind it is that putting dis- on the front of a word makes it negative in meaning in some way, as in disappear, discontent, disconnect, dishonest, and dozens of others. That’s still an active way of making new words — it has been used in recent decades to create disinformation, disambiguate and many others. Sometimes, however — very rarely and only in old words — dis- is what the grammarians call an intensifier: it makes an existing sense stronger. For example, the unusual word disannul was used in the sense “to make null and void, bring to nothing, abolish” and dissever means “to divide, separate, disjoin.” A third example is disgruntle, which at root suggests somebody is more than merely gruntled. But gruntled here doesn’t have its Wodehousian sense, quite the reverse.

The Mark


Con artists call their victim a “mark.”  Ever wonder how the term was derive.  In the old carnival days, the barkers would look for a chalk mark on a suckers back, put there by a prior barker.  Then he knew he had a mark.

The Cat


I’d like to let “the cat out of the bag,” but golly, I can’t:

The derivation of the phrase is not clear. One suggestion is that the phrase refers to the whip-like “cat o’nine tails,” an instrument of punishment once used on Royal Navy vessels. The instrument was purportedly stored in a red sack, and a sailor who revealed the transgressions of another would be “letting the cat out of the bag.” Another suggested derivation is from the “pig in a poke” scam, where a customer buying a suckling pig in a sack would actually be sold a (less valuable) cat, and would not realise the deception until the bag was opened.
Both of these suggestions are rejected by Snopes.com, who find no evidence of it originating in naval slang, nor of whips being stored in sacks, and consider it “nigh on impossible to mistake a cat for a pig.”

I favor the naval version myself.  Your guess may be better than mine.

The Stationers


We were just with our friend in London, Captain Peter Hames, RN, Retired.  After Peter left the sea he became the Clerk to the Stationers, a member organization of the Livery Company. We went to see the Stationers Hall, a beautiful 17th Century hall built after the Great London fire to replace the old hall.

The Livery Company was a corporation organized with the approval of the Crown which incorporated the various Guilds.  The Guilds were the trade organizations formed to regulate the trades and prevent competition in old England.

I thought of Livery as meaning delivery or chauffeurs or the like.  But it is a broader term, meaning the right to wear certain dress.  The Livery Company has produced many Lord Mayors of London.  Meaning the City of London, the financial district within the old city walls, comprising a square mile.  While not an important position, the Lord Mayor exercises a lot of political influence.

A Clerk of the Stationers is a key person, worthy of a carved wooden plaque listing all the Clerks going back hundreds of years.  It sits beside the plaque of all the past Masters of the Stationers, the elected head of the trade organization.  There is a similar arrangement in every musical organization, like the L.A. Philharmonic, which has a Music Director and an administrative President, who is a paid and powerful full time employee.

Several interesting etymological facts.  The Stationers, who began as the organization to control the content of printers, to assure that nothing was printed that was salacious or seditious, evolved as time changed into an organization whose approval had to be obtained in order to reproduce a printed work. Copies could be sold.  It is there that the term  “copyright” was born.

And originally, members of the Stationers were the only ones allowed to sell their manuscripts from fixed stalls in the courtyard of St. Paul’s.  All other sellers were itinerant.  They were “stationary,” even if the term is spelled differently.

Thank you Peter.