To Renege or Not to Renege. That is the question!

I recently read an article about a company who made a promise and then changed its mind and went in the total opposite direction. The article lambasted the company for reneging on a promise.

Renege (ri-nig) is a verb that means to go back on one’s word. It’s that plain. It’s that simple. You don’t do what you say. Let’s say one morning before work, you promised your wife that you would help her that evening hang those new lace curtains in the front room. Then, you had an awful, terrible, no-good, very bad day at work. When you got home, you just didn’t feel like hanging curtains. Sitting catatonic in front of the TV with the remote in one hand and a Big Gulp in the other was more appealing. So, you hunkered down for the evening and barely grunted an acknowledgment to your wife when she politely requested your help. You reneged on your promise.

I have reneged on what I have said to my neighbor. Let me explain. We planted quaking aspens in our yard. At the time, I thought they were delightful trees. I loved listening to the gentle rustle of the leaves in a soft breeze. I enjoyed watching their silver leaves glitter in the sun. I thought their shape was graceful and pleasing. Now, after twenty years of fighting all of the suckers that come up in our lawn and in my flowerbeds, they are the bane of my existence. (Do you recall that bane was a word I shared back at the beginning of January?)

Suckers have grown up on our neighbor’s side of the fence. He indicated that he would like to have them grow there. (Yeah, so he wouldn’t have to pay for the cost of trees himself!!) I said that would be fine. Now, I want those quakies chopped down!!! I don’t want any quakies within 10 miles of my yard! I have reneged and have cut down some of the quakie suckers on his side of the fence!

Sometimes, when someone reneges on a promise to you, you feel like lambasting him. Before I get into the definition of lambaste, I would like to chat with you about the spelling and pronunciation. You can spell lambaste with or without the ‘e’ on the end. If you spell it with the ‘e,’ you pronounce it with a long ‘a’ sound (lam-beyst) to rhyme with the word ate. If you spell it without the ‘e,’ you pronounce it with a short ‘a’ sound (lam-bast) to rhyme with the word cat. Personally, I prefer the spelling without the ‘e’ and prefer pronouncing it with the short ‘a’ sound . . . .

Lamast is a verb that means to attack verbally, to reprimand or berate harshly, to angrily scold or severely censure someone. Sometimes movie critics will lambast an actor’s performance if the critic feels the actor did poorly. Sometimes customers lambast a waiter for poor service. Sometimes wives lambast husbands for just about anything!!

Back to those lace curtains. (Can you tell what I hope to be doing tonight???) Let’s say that after lambasting said catatonic husband (which really doesn’t describe my husband!), he acquiesces and helps you hang up the curtains. Acquiesce (ak-wee-es) is a verb that means to agree, to comply silently or without protest, to consent, to accept.

Sometimes (after a lot of persuasion), a parent will finally acquiesce to a child’s request to stay up later. (This acquiescing isn’t usually silent nor is it without protest! It’s merely agreeing with the child’s request!) Maybe your business partner acquiesces to your business plan idea. You might be in a discussion with a friend about what to do on Friday night. After he gives you a compelling reason for his idea, you acquiesce.

With the imminent advent of spring, there are sure to be scattered flurries of fundraisers where soccer teams sell pizzas. There might be microbursts of Girls Scouts selling cookies or thunderstorms of choirs selling cookie dough. May you pleasantly acquiesce to their sales pitch and shell out a few dollars. After all, it’s for a good cause!

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WordSmithie 16th Podcast

I might cadge and cadge and cadge you to listen to the 16th session of my podcast — because improving your vocabulary is a cogent reason for doing so.  But then I’m not the beggarly type. . . .

However, I must say effusive comments are always welcomed 🙂

Mama, Don’t Let Your Kids Grow Up to be Tummlers

A delightful co-worker shared an interesting word with me last week. She sent the URL of an on-line article about a brouhaha that is broiling in England. (My Reader’s Digest condensed version of the article: the Labor Party in England has gone broke during the 10 years under Tony Blair’s prime ministership and Blair turned to his friend, Michael Abraham Levy, to raise money.) The article called Levy a tummler – which was the word pointed out to me by my co-worker.

From the American Heritage Dictionary, we find that tummler (toom-ler) is a noun that describes someone such as a social director or entertainer, who encourages guest or audience participation. (Social director – that describes me at the banana split social that I held last week.) The second definition is one who incites others to action. (That describes me at the banana split social as I tried to get attendees to participate in an activity!)

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a tummler as ‘someone who acts the clown, a prankster, specifically a professional maker of amusement and jollity at a hotel or the like.’ (Mmmm . . . that does NOT describe me . . . .!)

Dictionary.com provides this definition for tummler: a male entertainer, as formerly employed by resorts in the Catskill Mountains, who combined the duties of a comedian, activities director, and master of ceremonies to keep the guests amused throughout the day. It also provides a second definition: any lively, prankish, or mischievous man. I wonder if Michael Levy got his tummler training in the Catskill Mountains. . . .

Tummler comes to us from a Yiddish word that means to make a racket. I’m assuming it refers to the ‘noise’ kind of racket and not the possible illegal money making ‘racket.’

This article linked to yet another one by the BBC News. In this second article, Levy was described as an impresario in the 1960s.

Impresario (im-pruh-sahr-ee-oh) is a noun that describes a person who organizes or manages public entertainments, especially operas, ballets, or concerts. An impresario is a manager or director. Apparently, Levy managed a singer or two and founded Magnet Records, which he later sold to Warner Bros. for a nice hunk of change.

Now, by never having met the man (Michael Abraham Levy), I am getting quite the picture of what type of personality he must be. Levy the tummler. Levy the impresario. Levy what an interesting, interesting person you must be!

The first article also used another great word. That word was vituperation. Vituperation (vahy-too-puh-rey-shuhn) is a noun that means verbal abuse, violent denunciation, or condemnation. This word was used to describe the Marconi affair from the early 1900s in England. And, since this blog is about words and not history, I will leave it up to you, Dear Reader (if you want to know about this affair) to research it out on your own!

The adjective form of vituperation is vituperative. There could be a vituperative newspaper article denouncing drunk drivers who kill innocent people, or drug peddlers who sell drugs to seven-year old children, or Boy Scouts who refuse to help little old ladies across the street. Business partners who are having a falling-out could have a vituperative conversation where they berate each other for their current financial woes. If someone verbally abused or severely scolds you, they are being vituperative.

I think I’ll quit my day job and become an impresario . . . . .

A Skosh More Words

Yesterday I was listening to a speech on my Nano. (I really like my Nano. It is cool. I like it so much that I LOVE my Nano. By the way, have I mentioned just how much I like my Nano . . . .???) The person just happened to use a word that I shared last week in my podcast. The word was penurious (stingy). Which brings me to something that I have noticed of late. Before I learn a word, I would swear that I had never read it or heard it before. Never anyplace. Ever. When I am trying to learn a new word, I seem to run across that word all the time. That word seems to be EVERYwhere! I’m coming to believe that sometimes these unknown words don’t register into my consciousness. Then, once they are on my radar screen of memorization, they seem to blip up all over the place. I think it’s more of an issue of awareness rather than lack of people using that word. You’ll probably notice the same thing, too.

Let’s see. What word should I tell you about today. I have so many. I keep lists and lists of them. They clutter up my computer, my purse, my desktop. Mmmmm . . . I think I’ll tell you about unstinting. Unstinting (un-stin-ting) is an adjective that means very generous (which is the opposite of penurious!). You can be unstinting with your praise. Santa can be unstinting with gifts to good little girls and boys. I am unstinting with my knowledge of words. You can have unstinting devotion to a cause such as saving the great white spotted owls in the Pacific Northwest of the United States — such devotion is sure to promote world peace, reduce hunger in third world countries, and cure AIDS . . .

If you look at the base word ‘stint’, you learn that stint means to be frugal. And everyone knows that the prefix ‘un’ means not. So if you are not stingy, you are generous — unstinting! Which in turn leads me back to the lovely word penurious. (Well, my dear Watson, if you don’t know by now what penurious means, you just aren’t trying!) Upward and onward to the next word . . . .

I was pondering the other day just how many words I will have written about after one year of doing this blog. In my humble estimation, it will be a prodigious amount of words! Prodigious (pruh-dij-uhs) is an adjective that means extraordinary in size, enormous, immense, huge, gigantic.

An elephant is prodigious in size — like me. Someone could get a prodigious research grant (meaning they got TONS of money). There could be a prodigious storm. I think Denver was hit with several prodigious snowstorms this winter!

It can also mean wonderful, marvelous, or extraordinary. Someone can have a prodigious talent of playing the piano. Like me. I am a virtuoso at playing Mary Had a Little Lamb. Someone could have a prodigious memory. Like me. Who remembers things for a whopping 3.4 seconds. Someone could extend prodigious kindness such as paying for all of a college student’s expenses.

I feel it’s time to shift gears a wee bit from all of the prim and proper words that I’ve been so prodigious at telling you about and share a slang word with you. That slang word is skosh. Skosh (skOsh with a long O sound) is a noun that means a small amount; a little bit. If 10 of your friends are trying to squish into a six-person booth at a restaurant, they might wish that they had a skosh more room. Husbands might want a skosh more time to finish reading the newspaper before coming to the supper table. Mothers are always trying to cajole their kids into eating a skosh more vegetables before they eat dessert or leave the table. Poor kids. . . .

It is of interest to note that this word comes from the Japanese word sukoshi that means a little bit. As that word has been Americanized, we have kept the meaning but not the pronunciation. That’s probably because we have no clue as to how to pronounce that word! But maybe if we exerted a skosh more effort, we would be able to say it correctly!

If I had a skosh more time, I’d write more. But I don’t. Adieu!

WordSmithie 15th Podcast

The 15th session of the WordSmithie podcast is now available. It covers the words morass, quagmire, and embrangle. Enjoy!

Oh What A Funeral!

Last week, an elderly neighbor lady passed away.  I didn’t attend the funeral – but I heard about it!  It was a normal funeral where the woman was eulogized and family members reminisced about the good times with their mother.  Toward the end, another neighbor spoke for a few minutes and then read a letter that the mother had earlier written to her children.  People were expecting the letter to be a loving mother’s last words.  Instead she had the effrontery to castigate them.

Effrontery (i-fruhn-tuh-ree) is a noun that means shameless boldness, presumptuousness, audacity, impertinence. Department stores sometimes hand out free samples of lotions or perfumes or lipsticks.  Most people will graciously accept one.  Some people will have the effrontery to ask for two samples.  They are shamelessly bold, gutsy, and rude to ask for more than one.  Sometimes people have the effrontery to call someone a liar to their face.  Sometimes people are brash and saucy to tell someone they look ugly in that outfit or that the outfit makes them look fat.  That is effrontery.

This woman had the effrontery (shameless boldness, the guts, the audacity) to castigate (or chastised) her children.  In public.  At the funeral.  In front of everybody that came.  (And the chapel was full!).   Apparently, some of the adult children had had a disagreement several years ago and were currently not speaking to each other.  So the mother wrote the letter and told the neighbor that if her children had not apologized and were still not speaking to each other at the time of her funeral to please read the letter.  They weren’t so the neighbor did.

Castigate is the next word for today.  Castigate (kas-ti-geyt) is a verb that means to criticize or reprimand severely, to chastise, to correct by punishing, to scold, to reprove.  Sometimes the press will castigate the president of the United States for how he is handling the war in Iraq.  They criticize severely.  They scold and reprove him.  Sometimes bosses may castigate a poor worker with the hopes that the criticism and scolding will motivate him to improve his work.

Maybe castigate is too harsh of a word to use about the letter read at the funeral.  The mother DID urge her children to repent of their ways, to forgive one another, and to get along.  She explained how family is the most important thing here on earth – far more important than fame or fortune — or the family farm.

So the mother was scolding and reprimanding her children.  But it sounded like it wasn’t severe or harsh.  It was more gentle and loving. To the listeners, it didn’t seem harsh.  But maybe the children felt otherwise.  Maybe they felt justified for their original umbrage . . . .

Umbrage (uhm-brij) is a noun that means offense or annoyance arising from some insult, displeasure, grudge, or resentment.  Apparently one family member did something (concerning the family farm) with which another member disagreed.  Now they both hold a grudge and resentment toward each other.  And the grudge (umbrage) is now dividing the family making it so they cannot get along.  It sounds like they can’t even be in the same room with each other.  From a mother’s point of view, I know how this must have saddened her heart.

Teenaged girls sometimes take umbrage when they feel they have been socially snubbed by someone they considered a friend.  A person can take umbrage when someone says something rude or hurtful.  A wife can take umbrage when a husband doesn’t do what she thinks that he should do – like clean up the messes he makes.  Umbrage – taking offense, holding a grudge or resentment, having resentment or displeasure.

If we were to love one another more, nobody would take umbrage.  Nobody would have to have the effrontery to castigate others.  And there would be a whole lot more peace on earth.  Love.  That’s what it’s all about.

Take a Poll

I have found a fun place that creates online polls.  I thought that I would give it a whirl.  Please click on the link below to vote for your favorite word.

Take My Poll

And — let me  know if you like taking the poll and seeing the results.  If enough people like the polls, I’ll occasionally do more.