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© Daniel Reisel


May 05, 2006

To come a cropper
The phrase means literally 'to fall headlong, especially from a horse', or figuratively 'to fail decisively; suffer a great misfortune'--its usual use. It probably wouldn't help you find the origin however, since this is uncertain. The word cropper has various meanings, including 'a person who raises or cuts a crop' or 'a plant that furnishes a (usually specified) crop', but none of these seem likely to have anything to do with our phrase. The likely suggestion is that it derives from a phrase neck and crop (where crop refers to the pouch in a bird's esophagus, in the neck), which means 'completely; thoroughly; entirely'. A cropper, this theory goes, would thus be anything done in a neck-and-crop manner, and so we have cropper meaning 'a bad fall' or 'a great misfortune'.

March 16, 2006

From the Hebrew, Tze u-nare, go out and see.
A booklet written in Yiddish intended for women so they could get a simple, weekly digest of the Torah portion.

'Wasting of time allocated to the Torah study'.
This phrase encapsulates the idea that everything done that is not in th service of Torah study is a waste of time. A good excuse not to wash dishes or change diapers.

February 25, 2006

'Book Names'
A unique Jewish practice whereby authors of important halachic or ethical works are called by the name of their works. Thus, the famous Halachist known as the Chatam Sofer is actually the name of his best-known work; his real name was R. Moshe Sofer (1762-1839). Other examples are are the Chazon Ish (actual name, R. Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, 1878-1953), the Chofetz Chaim (R. Yisrael Meir Ha-Cohen, 1838-1933), the Magen Avraham (R. Avraham Gombiner, 1634-1682), the Gur Aryeh (R. Yehudah Lowe, 1526-1609, also known as the Maharal), the Beis Yosef (R. Yosef Caro, 1488-1575), and the Tur (R. Yaakov ben Asher, 1270-1340).

An uproar; a hubbub.
WORD ORIGIN: Originated in French and came into English usage in the late 1800s. The origin of the French word is the Hebrew phrase 'Baruch Habah' found in the Hallel prayer (Psalms 118: 26). Also found in dialectical Italian (Arezzo) as 'baruccaba', which is a more clear rendering of the Hebrew.

February 16, 2006

Middle English recusen, from Old French recuser, from Latin recusare : re-, re- + causa, cause.
To disqualify or seek to disqualify from participation in a decision on grounds such as prejudice or personal involvement. To disqualify or remove oneself as a judge over a particular proceeding because of one's conflict of interest. Recusal, or the judge's act of disqualifying himself or herself from presiding over a proceeding, is based on the axiom :) that judges are charged with a duty of impartiality in administering justice.

Leave, permission.
From Latin, licentia.
The spelling license, though still often met with, has no justification in the case of the noun. In the case of the verb., on the other hand, although the spelling licence is etymologically unobjectionable, license is supported by the analogy of the rule universally adopted in the similar pairs of related words, practice n., practise vb., prophecy n., prophesy vb. (The rule seems to have arisen from imitation of the spelling of pairs like advice n., advise vb., which expresses a phonetic distinction of historical origin.) A slight argument for preferring the s form in the vb. may be found in the existence of the derivatives licensable and licensure (U.S.) which could not conveniently be spelt otherwise. Johnson and Todd give only the form license both for the n. and the vb., but the spelling of their quots. conforms, with one exception, to the rule above referred to, which is recognized by Smart (1836), and seems to represent the now prevailing usage. Late 19th-c. Dicts., however, almost universally have license both for n. and vb., either without alternative or in the first place. OED.

February 12, 2006

e·stoppel (English law)
As in, "No other license is granted expressly, impliedly or by estoppel."
Estoppel is a legal doctrine that may be used in certain situations to prevent a person from relying upon certain rights, or upon a set of facts (eg. words said or actions performed) which is different from an earlier set of facts. Estoppel could arise in a situation where a creditor informs a debtor that a debt is forgiven, but then later insists upon repayment. In a case such as this, the creditor may be estopped from relying on their legal right to repayment, as the creditor has represented that he no longer treats the debt as extant. A landlord may tell his tenant that he is not required to pay rent for a period of time ("you don't need to pay rent until the war is over"). After the war is over, the landlord would be "estopped" from claiming rents during the war period. Estoppel is often important in insurance law, where some actions by the insurer or the agent estop the insurer from denying a claim.

January 20, 2006

Middle English, from Latin, from Greek abax, abak-, counting board, perhaps from Hebrew ’?b?q, dust.
A manual computing device consisting of a frame holding parallel rods strung with movable counters.
Architecture. A slab on the top of the capital of a column.

WORD HISTORY The adjective dusty, with its connotations of disuse and age, might seem an appropriate word to describe the abacus, since this counting device was used for solving arithmetical problems in the days before calculators and computers. Originally the abacus was, in fact, dusty. The source of our word abacus, the Greek word abax, probably comes from Hebrew ’?b?q, “dust,” although the details of transmission are obscure. In postbiblical usage ’?b?q meant “sand used as a writing surface.” The Greek word abax has as one of its senses “a board sprinkled with sand or dust for drawing geometric diagrams.” This board is a relative of the abacus with movable counters strung on rods that is familiar to us. The first use of the word abacus, recorded in Middle English in a work written before 1387, refers to a sand-board abacus used by the Arabs. The difference in form between the Middle English word abacus and its Greek source abax is explained by the fact that Middle English borrowed Latin abacus, which came from the Greek genitive form (abakos) of abax.

January 01, 2006

Something. Do you want a little eppes?

December 31, 2005

Isn't that nice? Imagine that? Indeed.

December 06, 2005

The first recorded use of the word "cocktail" occurs in 1806, but there are countless theories as to where the term springs from. Most likely the term comes from a Masonic meeting in New Orleans in 1795, where an early form of the Sazerac was served in egg cups called "coquetiers".

December 04, 2005

Arabic, to pass away or to cease to exist.
The complete denial of self and the realisation of God that is one of the steps taken by the Muslim Sufi mystics toward the achievement of union with God. Fana may be attained by constant meditation and by contemplation on the attributes of God, coupled with the denunciation of human attributes. When the Sufi succeeds in purifying himself entirely of the earthly world and loses himself in the love of God, it is said that he has “annihilated” his individual will and “passed away” from his own existence to live only in God and with God. Through fana' 'an al-fana' (“passing away from passing away”), the Sufi succeeds in annihilating human attributes and loses all awareness of earthly existence; he then, through the grace of God, is revived, and the secrets of the divine attributes are revealed to him.

November 20, 2005

da bomb diggity fo sho
Used to the describe the best of the best, most crazy awsome, exceeds expectations of what would be considered 'da bomb'.
E.g: "Hey fo, you think Dimitri is finnah beat the kneyan fo wit da mile unda 5?" "Hell yea beotch, Dimitri is da bomb diggity fo sho."

November 11, 2005

Late Latin irrefragabilis : Latin in-, not + Latin refragari, to oppose, resist.
Impossible to refute or controvert; indisputable: irrefragable evidence.

November 09, 2005

pre·vail upon
Middle English prevailen, from Old French prevaloir, prevaill-, from Latin praevalere, to be stronger : prae-, pre- + valere, to be strong.
To be greater in strength or influence; triumph: prevailed against the enemy.
To use persuasion or inducement successfully.

November 06, 2005

Latin, testis, witness.

The resemblance between testimony, testify, testis, and testicle shows an etymological relationship, but linguists are not agreed on precisely how English testis came to have its current meaning. The Latin testis originally meant “witness,” and etymologically means “third (person) standing by”: the te– part comes from an older tri–, a combining form of the word for “three,” and –stis is a noun derived from the Indo-European root sta- meaning “stand.” How this also came to refer to the body part(s) is disputed. An old theory has it that the Romans placed their right hands on their testicles and swore by them before giving testimony in court. Another theory says that the sense of testicle in Latin testis is due to a calque, or loan translation, from Greek. The Greek noun parastates means “defender (in law), supporter” (para– “by, alongside,” as in paramilitary and –states from histanai, “to stand”). In the dual number, used in many languages for naturally occurring, contrasting, or complementary pairs such as hands, eyes, and ears, parastat?s had the technical medical sense “testicles,” that is “two glands side by side.” The Romans simply took this sense of parastat?s and added it to testis, the Latin word for legal supporter, witness.

November 01, 2005

cor·ral, n., v.
Spanish, from Vulgar Latin currale, enclosure for carts, from Latin currus, cart, from currere, to run.
An enclosure for confining livestock.
An enclosure formed by a circle of wagons for defense against attack during an encampment.
To drive into and hold in a corral.

October 06, 2005

eye-cheer, n.
A particularly appealing or beautiful woman.

October 03, 2005

faute de mieux, adv.
French : faute, lack + de, of + mieux, better.
For lack of something better.

September 29, 2005

Middle English forfet, crime, penalty, from Old French forfait, past participle of forfaire, to commit a crime, act outside the law : fors-, beyond; see foreclose + faire, to do; see feasible.
Something surrendered or subject to surrender as punishment for a crime, an offense, an error, or a breach of contract.
Something placed in escrow and then redeemed after payment of a fine.
forfeits A game in which forfeits are demanded.
A forfeiture.
Lost or subject to loss through forfeiture.
tr.v., -feit·ed, -feit·ing, -feits.
To surrender, be deprived of, or give up the right to on account of a crime, an offense, an error, or a breach of contract.
To subject to seizure as a forfeit.

September 27, 2005

Loan Words

A girl who appears pretty from behind but not from the front.

German. Grief bacon.
Describes the excess weight gained from emotion-related overeating.

German. Dragon fodder
The peace offerings made by guilty husbands to their wives.

September 26, 2005

Latin b?colicus, pastoral, from Greek boukolikos, from boukolos, cowherd : bous, cow + -kolos, herdsman.
Of or characteristic of the countryside or its people; rustic, rural.
Of or characteristic of shepherds or flocks; pastoral.
A pastoral poem.

September 25, 2005

From Italian, there follows, third-person sing. present tense of seguire, to follow, from Vulgar Latin sequere, from Latin sequi.
Music. To make a transition directly from one section or theme to another.
To move smoothly and unhesitatingly from one state, condition, situation, or element to another: “Daylight segued into dusk”.

September 24, 2005

re·pair 1
Middle English reparen, repairen, from Old French reparer, from Latin repar?re : re-, re- + par?re, to prepare, put in order.
To restore to sound condition after damage or injury; fix.

re·pair 2
Middle English repairen, to return, from Old French repairier, from Late Latin repatri?re, to return to one's country.
To betake oneself; go: repair to the dining room.

September 23, 2005

Middle English minstral, from Old French menestrel, servant, entertainer, from Late Latin ministeri?lis, official in the imperial household, from Latin ministerium, ministry.
A medieval entertainer who traveled from place to place, especially to sing and recite poetry.
A lyric poet.
A musician.
One of a troupe of entertainers made up in blackface and presenting a comic variety show.
A performance of such a show.

September 22, 2005

Latin adumbr?re, adumbrat-, to represent in outline : ad-, ad- + umbra, shadow.
To give a sketchy outline of.
To prefigure indistinctly; foreshadow.
To disclose partially or guardedly.
To overshadow; shadow or obscure.

September 21, 2005

French, awkward, lefthanded, from Old French, from gauchir, to turn aside, walk clumsily, of Germanic origin.
Lacking social polish; tactless.

September 17, 2005

After Jeroboam I (died c. 901 B.C.), king of northern Israel.
A wine bottle holding 4/5 of a gallon (3.03 liters).

September 15, 2005

Middle English, from Old French, from Late Latin irascibilis, from Latin ?r?sc?, to be angry, from ira, anger.
Prone to outbursts of temper; easily angered.
Characterized by or resulting from anger.

September 14, 2005

Chiefly British. Origin unknown.
Odd; strange.
Presenting danger or difficulty.

September 13, 2005

French pęle-męle, from Old French pesle mesle, probably reduplication of mesle. Same as 'meddle': Middle English medlen, from Anglo-Norman medler, variant of Old French mesler, from Vulgar Latin *miscul?re, to mix thoroughly, from Latin misc?re, to mix.
In a jumbled, confused manner; helter-skelter.
In frantic disorderly haste; headlong.

September 12, 2005

Obsolete French pallemaille, from Italian pallamaglio : palla, ball (of Germanic origin) + maglio, mallet (from Latin malleus).
A 17th-century game in which a boxwood ball was struck with a mallet to drive it through an iron ring suspended at the end of an alley.
The alley in which this game was played.

September 11, 2005

Greek, pallax/pallakis: mistress, lover-girl.
The categories are distinguished in the Talmud at b.Gittin daf 6b, which specifies that a pilegesh is a wife without a dowry or ketubah (marriage-document), something like a common-law wife, but of course this legal ruling is at least a millennium later than the text in question. The word in question is not Hebrew in origin at all, deriving from the Greek pallax/pallakis. The gemara (Sanhedrin 21a) asserts that the difference between a wife and a pilegesh is that a pilegesh is “without kiddushin and without kesubah”. This is the canonical definition, accepted by almost all Rishonim. Nevertheless, the views cited in the Yerushalmi (Yevamos 5:2) can be understood as indicating that a pilegesh does get kiddushin. Moreover, the Ramban understands Rashi (Breishis 25:6) as accepting the view that a pilegesh gets kiddushin (although the Ramban himself rejects this view). The Vilna Gaon in Biur HaGra on Even HaEzer 26:1 (note 7) also argues for this view. Still, the dominant view is that the relationship between a man and a pilegesh is not marriage but rather, in RYE’s somewhat indelicate phrase “she is exclusively with him for a fixed period and specified reward as agreed between them”. (It should be added that, contrary to the popular view, a pilegesh is not a “second” wife. A pilegesh is neither a wife nor need she be secondary – the man might be otherwise unattached.)

September 10, 2005

From Middle English Philistines, Philistines, from Late Latin Philist?n?, from Greek Philist?noi, from Hebrew P?lištîm, from P?lešet, Philistia.
A member of an Aegean people who settled ancient Philistia around the 12th century B.C.
A smug, ignorant, especially middle-class person who is regarded as being indifferent or antagonistic to artistic and cultural values.
One who lacks knowledge in a specific area.
Of or relating to ancient Philistia.
often philistine Boorish; barbarous: “our plastic, violent culture, with its philistine tastes and hunger for novelty” (Lloyd Rose).

WORD HISTORY It has never been good to be a Philistine. In the Bible Samson, Saul, and David helped bring the Philistines into prominence because they were such prominent opponents. Though the Philistines have long since disappeared, their name has lived on in the Hebrew Scriptures. The English name for them, Philistines, which goes back through Late Latin and Greek to Hebrew, is first found in Middle English, where Philistiens, the ancestor of our word, is recorded in a work composed before 1325. Beginning in the 17th century philistine was used as a common noun, usually in the plural, to refer to various groups considered the enemy, such as literary critics. In Germany in the same century it is said that in a memorial at Jena for a student killed in a town-gown quarrel, the minister preached a sermon from the text “Philister über dir Simson! [The Philistines be upon thee, Samson!],” the words of Delilah to Samson after she attempted to render him powerless before his Philistine enemies. From this usage it is said that German students came to use Philister, the German equivalent of Philistine, to denote nonstudents and hence uncultured or materialistic people. Both usages were picked up in English in the early 19th century.

August 07, 2005

Middle English, an antiphon at Matins in the Office of the Dead, from Medieval Latin d?rige Domine, direct, O Lord (the opening words of the antiphon), imperative of d?rigere, to direct.
A funeral hymn or lament.
A slow, mournful musical composition.
A mournful or elegiac poem or other literary work.
Roman Catholic Church. The Office of the Dead.

August 06, 2005

Latin profligatus, past participle of profligare, to ruin, cast down : pro-, forward; see pro–1 + -fligare, intensive of fligere, to strike down.
Given over to dissipation; dissolute.
Recklessly wasteful; wildly extravagant.
A profligate person; a wastrel.

August 05, 2005

Middle English redoubtabel, from Old French redoutable, from redouter, to dread : re-, re- + douter, to doubt, fear.
Arousing fear or awe; formidable.
Worthy of respect or honor.

August 03, 2005

nei bother.

(pronounced shammy)
French, from Old French, from Late Latin camox.
A soft leather made from the hide of this animal or other animals such as deer or sheep.
A piece of such leather, or a cotton fabric made to resemble it, used as a polishing cloth or in shirts.

French, from insouciant, from in- ‘not’ + souciant ‘worrying’ (present participle of soucier).
Casual lack of concern; indifference.

July 27, 2005

n. Slang., pl. -sies.
Perhaps from Italian pazzo, fool, from Old Italian paccio.
A person easily taken advantage of, cheated, blamed, or ridiculed.

July 26, 2005

comme il faut

July 24, 2005

fairweather friends

July 09, 2005

Middle English, meeting, from Old English mot, gemoet.
An ancient English meeting, especially a representative meeting of the freemen of a shire. In Law, a hypothetical case argued by law students as an exercise. The adjective moot is originally a legal term going back to the mid-16th century. It derives from the noun moot, in its sense of a hypothetical case argued as an exercise by law students. Consequently, a moot question is one that is arguable or open to debate

July 07, 2005

Middle English sautour, from Old French saultoir, stile, from saulter, to jump, from Latin saltare.
An ordinary (simplest form of a charge, the field presented on an escutcheon or shield) in the shape of a Saint Andrew's cross. Often used as short hand for the flag of Scotland, of which Saint Andrew is the patron saint. Formed by the crossing of a bend and a bend sinister. Oy...

July 06, 2005

gaunt·let 1
Middle English, from Old French gantelet, diminutive of gant, glove, from Frankish. A protective glove with a flared cuff, used in manual labor, in certain sports, and for driving. A challenge: throw down the gauntlet; take up the gauntlet.

gaunt·let 2
Alteration (influenced by gauntlet 1) of gantlope, from Swedish gatlopp : gata, lane (from Old Norse) + lopp, course, running (from Middle Low German loep). A form of punishment or torture in which people armed with sticks or other weapons arrange themselves in two lines facing each other and beat the person forced to run between them. A severe trial; an ordeal.

The spelling gauntlet is acceptable for both gauntlet meaning “glove” or “challenge” and gauntlet meaning “a form of punishment in which lines of men beat a person forced to run between them”; but this has not always been the case. The story of the gauntlet used in to throw down the gauntlet is linguistically unexciting: it comes from the Old French word gantelet, a diminutive of gant, “glove.” From the time of its appearance in Middle English (in a work composed in 1449), the word has been spelled with an au as well as an a, still a possible spelling. But the gauntlet used in to run the gauntlet is an alteration of the earlier English form gantlope, which came from the Swedish word gatlopp, a compound of gata, “lane,” and lopp, “course.” The earliest recorded form of the English word, found in 1646, is gantelope, showing that alteration of the Swedish word had already occurred.

July 03, 2005

Ultimately from Spanish gambito, from Italian gambetto, act of tripping someone up in wrestling, from gamba, leg, from Old Italian. An opening in chess in which a minor piece, or pieces, usually a pawn, is offered in exchange for a favorable position. A maneuver, stratagem, or ploy, especially one used at an initial stage. A remark intended to open a conversation.

July 01, 2005

Middle English, the musical scale, from Medieval Latin gamma ut, low G : gamma, lowest note of the medieval scale (from Greek, gamma; see gamma) + ut, first note of the lowest hexachord (after ut, first word in a Latin hymn to Saint John the Baptist, the initial syllables of successive lines of which were sung to the notes of an ascending scale CDEFGA: Ut queant laxis resonare fibris Mira gestorum famuli tuorum, Solve polluti labii reatum, Sancte Iohannes). A complete range or extent: a face that expressed a gamut of emotions, from rage to peaceful contentment.

June 30, 2005

[Latin abrogare, abrogat- : ab-, away; + rogare, to ask.] To abolish, do away with, or annul, especially by authority.

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