Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 19, 2017 is:
alleviate \uh-LEE-vee-ayt\ verb
Mom suggested that ibuprofen and tea would perhaps alleviate some of the misery of my cold.
"National Park Service rangers struggle to cope with overcrowded tour buses and alleviate damage to Zion's natural wonders, including soil erosion and human waste near trails." — Lindsay Whitehurst, The San Diego Union Tribune, 23 July 2017
Did you know?
Alleviate derives from the past participle of Late Latin alleviare ("to lighten or relieve"), which in turn was formed by combining the prefix ad- and the adjective levis, a Latin word meaning "having little weight," which also gave rise to the adjective light (as in "not heavy") in English. We acquired alleviate in the 15th century, and for the first few centuries the word could mean either "to cause (something) to have less weight" or "to make (something) more tolerable." The literal "make lighter" sense is no longer used, however, and today we have only the "relieve" sense. Incidentally, not only is alleviate a synonym of relieve, it's also a cousin; relieve comes from levare ("to raise"), which in turn comes from levis.
“The 30 words most uniquely associated with discussions of women make for uncomfortable reading … hotter, lesbian, bb (internet speak for “baby”), sexism, tits, anal, marrying, feminazi, slut, hot, vagina, boobs, pregnant, pregnancy, cute, marry, levy, gorgeous, horny, crush, beautiful, secretary, dump, shopping, date, nonprofit, intentions, sexy, dated and prostitute.”
The forum is defended by an economics professor at Harvard, who has described it on his blog as “a throwing off of the shackles of political correctness.”
In Denton, Texas, an indie grocery store owner is offering a free candy bar with the purchase tampons (but oddly, not pads). The Dallas Morning News reports (here) that store owner Jacob Moses says, “I think the sales tax is unjustified….”It doesn’t change anything in legislature, but it’s an opportunity to show love to our female patrons.”
Several bipartisan bills have been filed in Texas seeking elimination of the sales tax on menstrual hygiene products, but none are expected to progress to a vote. (More info here.)
To be sure, the candy bar gimmick is good publicity for the Texas store. But it is also part of a larger movement of retailers that are highlighting the unfairness of the tampon tax. In the UK, supermarket chain Waitrose and Tesco are cutting prices and/or paying the tampon tax on behalf of their customers. (More info here.)
Rape cases, particularly those involving people who know each other, or who have been drinking/taking drugs, are difficult to prosecute. Juries essentially have to decide whether or not the sex was consensual. The usual way to do this – notoriously – is to consider (amongst other things) the woman’s past sexual history, to try and decide whether she is the sort of woman who is likely to have consented. Now – in what is an obvious, and welcome move – Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, has instructed prosecutors to focus more on the man’s sexual history, to assess whether he is the sort of man who is likely to have forced sex on someone without her consent.
This may include situations where an alleged rapist exercised controlling or coercive behaviour towards other women, including previous girlfriends.
There has been growing concern that many male rapists are getting away with their crimes because they are able to convince juries that the sex was consensual.
Victims who are too drunk to consent or give a lucid account of events are also often not believed when they give evidence under cross-examination.
The new move will see evidence collected from a variety of sources including CCTV, social media accounts and testimonies from witnesses, who may have seen the attacker’s behaviour in the hours leading up to the rape.
Ms Saunders said she wanted to see more attention being given to events leading up to an attack, so that juries were able to assess the whole picture.
She said: “We are looking at how to prosecute certain types of cases, the more difficult ones. They tend to involve drugs or drink and people who know each other.”
She said exploring the background of an alleged rapist, would also be key, with their social media history and habits likely to be relevant.
She told the Evening Standard: “Some of it will be if you have already been in a relationship, understanding the dynamics of coercive and controlling behaviour and presenting cases in a way that doesn’t just look at the individual incident.”
She added: “If it’s about drink and drugs in some of them there will have been a targeting element, either by buying drinks or standing back until you pick someone off.”
You can read more here.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 18, 2017 is:
waif \WAYF\ noun
1 a : a piece of property found (as washed up by the sea) but unclaimed
b : (plural) stolen goods thrown away by a thief in flight
2 a : something found without an owner and especially by chance
b : a stray person or animal; especially : a homeless child
3 : an extremely thin and usually young woman
At the center of the novel is a parentless waif who is befriended by the first mate of a ship she is hiding aboard.
"Parker, playing a souped-up version of her trademark crazy-eyed waif, reprises her role as Georgie Burns, a character whose lack of a filter suggests a personality disorder in search of a diagnosis." — Charles McNulty, The Los Angeles Times, 7 July 2017
Did you know?
Waif itself is a stray, if we consider its first meaning the home from which it came. Tracing back to an Anglo-French adjective waif meaning "stray, unclaimed," the English noun waif referred in its earliest 14th century uses to unclaimed found items, such as those gone astray (think cattle) and those washed ashore (think jetsam), as well as to the king's (or lord's) right to such property. Stolen goods abandoned by a thief in flight eventually came to be referred to as waifs as well, as later did anything found without an owner and especially by chance. (It's interesting to note that the verb waive, used in modern English in phrases like "waive a fee" or "waive one's rights" comes from the same Anglo-French source as waif and was at one time used to mean "to throw away (stolen goods).") The emphasis on being found faded as waif came to be applied to any stray animal or person, and especially to a homeless child, and in the late 20th century the current most common meaning of "an extremely thin and usually young woman" developed.
The world we live in is not always peaceful… and maybe sometimes we kind of like it that way, whether we like to admit that or not. Author Anna Smith Spark has thoughts on the act of violence, and how it animates the story of her novel The Broken Knives.
ANNA SMITH SPARK:
The Court of Broken Knives is a novel about violence.
When I started writing the book, I didn’t have a plot or a world or a cast of characters in mind. What I had was a scene.
A group of men.
I’ve always been fascinated by violence: How one might respond to the opportunity for violence. What doing violence might feel like. And that’s what The Court of Broken Knives ultimately became about.
I was brought up reading the great myths and legends, the old stories of heroes. The Iliad. The Eddas. Beowulf. Gilgamesh. The Tain. I loved these stories. Read and reread them, immersed myself in them, told myself stories set in their worlds. But what I came back to, as I got older, was the realisation that for so many of these stories we are not reading about good versus evil. We are not reading high fantasy, the last desperate stand where evil is vanquished and the Dark Lord is overthrown. We are reading about violence for its own sake. The act of winning, of killing one’s opponent and glorying in one’s triumph, is the victory. The hero is ‘good’ because he wins.
And yes, ‘he’. These are acts of masculine violence. More women have perhaps fought in battle than we realise, yes, granted. But, historically, organised violence has been the domain of men. Armies and battle hosts have been male places. Places from which women have been excluded. And that in itself is worth thinking on.
Let’s look for a moment on the Iliad. The Iliad was written down over two and a half thousand years ago. It was composed perhaps three thousand years ago. It is the first and greatest masterpiece of European literature, the foundation stone of western culture. It is a book entirely and totally about war. A very large number of people die in the Iliad. Graphically, horribly, and without even the consolation of heaven awaiting them. The whole reason for the war is shown to be futile.
But war is also the whole basis of the Iliad’s society. The leader of the Trojans is called Hector. He’s spent ten years killing Greeks for the sake of a woman who ran off with his little brother. He’s seen most of his brothers die, and his wife’s entire family die, and he knows, deep down inside, that he’s going to die himself. In one of the most moving scenes in the poem, he says farewell to his wife and child before going out to battle, and he knows and we know and they know that he’s not going to come back from it. And this is what he says:
When [their child is grown and] comes home from battle wearing the bloody gear
Of the mortal enemy he has killed in war-
A joy to his mother’s heart.
(Homer, Iliad, trans. Robert Fagles, Penguin, 1990, book 6, lines 568-574)
Coming home from battle still bloody with his enemies’ innards. That’s the greatest joy a woman can want for her children. That’s what makes you absolutely the top chap.
The Iliad is not a celebration of war. But is not a rejection of war, either. It makes one terrible, horrifying, entirely obvious point:
Winning at war feels great. And that’s a strange and exhilarating experience to write about—particularly someone who has not ever fought.
Reading about war is enjoyable. Writing about war is immensely enjoyable. And I strongly suspect, from everything I’ve ever studied about history, that actually doing war is even more enjoyable than reading or writing or watching it. Warfare has been pretty much a constant of human history, and those who are good at it have generally occupied the top social and sexual desirability spot. Some war is morally justified. Most war is not. We’ve always known that. Right back to the Iliad. And yet we do it. We have always done it. We probably always will.
We do it because winning at war feels great. I wanted my characters to have the same feelings as Hector: to understand simultaneously that war is bloody and horrible, but also glorious and exciting and fun.
I do not say this because I think war is a good thing. It is a terrible thing. A horrifying thing. A thing of utter shame and grief.
But I say it because it is a true thing, and a thing that I wanted people to remember in The Court of Broken Knives.
(I think the bandcamp version has slightly higher quality but you get interrupted with "open your wallet!" thingy after a few replays)
Thank you beforehand!
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 17, 2017 is:
oppugn \uh-PYOON\ verb
1 : to fight against
2 : to call in question
"Carmel Valley speller Justin Song navigated the second and third rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee yesterday with a precision no one could oppugn." — Paul M. Krawzak, The San Diego Union-Tribune, 30 May 2008
"However, if [bicyclists] consider themselves excellent climbers, here's the real question: How fast can they ascend a hill or mountain? That's the real point to oppugn." — Ken Allen, The Morning Sentinel (Waterville, Maine), 16 Mar. 2013
Did you know?
Oppugn was first recorded in English in the 15th century. It came to Middle English from the Latin verb oppugnare, which in turn derived from the combination of ob-, meaning "against," and pugnare, meaning "to fight." Pugnare itself is descended from the same ancient word that gave Latin the word pugnus, meaning "fist." It's no surprise, then, that oppugn was adopted into English to refer to fighting against something or someone, either physically (as in "the dictatorship will oppugn all who oppose it") or verbally (as in "oppugn an argument"). Other descendants of pugnare in English include the equally aggressive pugnacious, impugn, repugnant, and the rare inexpugnable ("incapable of being subdued or overthrown").
The following is a quote from a piece of writing that I am editing for a friend:
Gwen elbows him in what he is sure she believes to be a subtle manner. “What we’re trying to say,” she continues, “Is that we want to make sure that you’re alright. You’ve been sort of….erm….wound.”
“No,” she shakes her head and a few curls fall out of her ponytail. “You aren’t. I...I don’t know what you’re going through, but you haven’t been fine since….well. In a while.”
Now, the question I have concerns the end of the first line of dialogue. My writer tells me that she intends 'wound' to mean 'wound tight' not wounded/hurt/injured. She and I both recognise that there are times in the English language where words are dropped from the end of sentences, if it is well implied what the speaker means. Question: is this an appropriate phrase where a dropped word might occur for a British English speaker? Or is there some entire other way a native Brit would tell their friend that they look wound tight/stressed out?
(To make this a little more complicated, and the reason why I brought this to the comm, the character in question is actually also injured with a black eye... which has made him a bit 'wound tight'; so I feel that simply leaving 'wound' is too ambiguous, in this context.)
I do appreciate any help or insight you all can provide.
I have a piece in the Los Angeles Times today about the difficulty of writing science fiction in today’s world, and no, it’s not just because one has to wonder if the world is going to be here tomorrow. Here’s the link. Enjoy!
I’ve eaten Stella Parks‘ desserts, and, oh, man, they are so good. So I’m delighted to give her space today to let her tell you about her debut cookbook BraveTart, which examines and celebrates a branch of America’s culinary tradition Parks thinks is overlooked and underappreciated. Is she right? Read on.
When people hear that I’m a classically trained pastry chef or that I work at a place called Serious Eats, most everyone will ask how I got my start. I can’t help but imagine they want to hear about a magical summer in France or else how I learned to bake at my mother’s side. Maybe they want me to say that I always loved Julia Child, or that I saved up my allowance to buy my first croissant. Trouble is, it didn’t happen that way at all.
I grew up in suburban Kentucky, my summers spent with Puddin’ Pops on the porch, my winters passed one mug of Swiss Miss at a time. I loved the tongue-scorching sweetness of a McDonald’s apple pie from the drive-thru window and the muffled scrape of a plastic spoon against the bottom of a chocolate pudding cup (the tinfoil lid curled back and licked clean, natch). At the supermarket, I learned the heft to a tube of cookie dough, the lightness in a bag of marshmallows, and the rattle of rainbow sprinkles in a plastic jar. That’s how I got my start—somewhere between the milk-logged squish of an Oreo and the snap of a Crunch bar.
Sure, it sounds a little trashy compared to that whole Proust thing with madeleines and tea, but I find those bites are just as transportive, little triggers that send me flying back through time. Chances are, if you grew up in America, you’ve got some memories like that as well. Maybe it’s the a dollop of Cool Whip on pumpkin pie, the sticky fingered bliss of an ice cream sandwich, or that familiar slab of birthday cake on the conference room table. Those shared experiences, however mundane, connect us across most every demographic.
It’s a common phenomenon, but a culinary tradition we pay little respect—we call it junk food. Truth is, mass produced snacks have a lineage as respectable as any other. Animal crackers, vanilla wafers, and Fig Newtons all date back to the 1800s, and even newcomers like Rice Krispies Treats, Reese’s Cups, and Milky Way bars are nearly a hundred years old. For anyone raised in America and alive today, these sweets have always been a familiar part of life. Yet they’re not really ours; industrial formulas are subject to change or even cancellation outright (RIP, Coke Zero; adios, Magic Middles).
So when I set out to write a cookbook about American desserts, I knew I couldn’t leave the “junk food” behind. It had damn well earned a place at the table—right alongside “proper” American desserts like devil’s food cake, chocolate chip cookies, and apple pie. With that mandate in mind, I spent nearly six years writing, researching, and developing recipes for everything from Snickers to snickerdoodles. In the end, I don’t think of it as a cookbook so much as a culinary time capsule, stuffed full of recipes, vintage images, history, and photography to tell the story of American desserts as a whole.