Some words are so familiar that use them without realizing that they sound as if they have a sexual meaning. "Joystick" is an example, and no doubt our posters will come up with others.
Only with less familiar words does the lusty sound register in our ears. This week we present some of those lusty-seeming words to titivate our speech.
titivate – to spruce up
The word in use, in a Barnes & Noble online ad:
"Titivate your classroom, coffee table, and conversation with this text."
One should not confuse this with titilate = "excite", as did Mr. Alan Clark is speaking in in the United Kingdom Parliament, 3/11/98:
A very interesting word, used in press today:
cunctation – procrastination; delay.
The etymology suggests that "cunctation" is not pejorative, but rather means wise delay to gain advantage. (But the word is too rarely used to check that suggestion against actual usage.)
Would one of our classicists care to tell us of the Roman leader known as The Cunctator?
The word in use, this very day:
Quintus Fabius Maximus (275-203 BC) was a Roman general who was appointed consul five times (233, 228, 215, 214, 209) and was made Dictator (supreme general) in 217. After Hannibal's defeat of the Roman army at Cannae in 216 BC, Fabius successfully pursued a strategy of delay and guerrilla warfare to wear down the Carthaginian invaders. This earned him his nickname, Cunctator, which, as wordcrafter has said, means "The Delayer".
From Plutarch's life of Fabius:
His slowness in speaking, his long labour and pains in learning, his deliberation in entering into the sports of other children, his easy submission to everybody, as if he had no will of his own, made those who judge superficially of him, the greater number, esteem him insensible and stupid; and few only saw that this tardiness proceeded from stability, and discerned the greatness of his mind, and the lionlikeness of his temper.
But as soon as he came into employments, his virtues exerted and showed themselves; his reputed want of energy then was recognized by people in general as a freedom of passion; his slowness in words and actions, the effect of a true prudence; his want of rapidity and his sluggishness, as constancy and firmness.
One of my all time favorite words is....
A petcock is a valve on the bottom of an automobile radiator. It is opened to drain or flush the cooling system of a car. But I just lurve that word!
”Decoction” does not have anything to do with “abridgement” or “bobbitry”.
decoction – concentrating a flavor by boiling down (or the concentrate made, as a herbal decoction)
pricket – 1. a small spike to hold a candle upright; a candlestick with that spike;
-- 2. a buck in its second year, before the antlers branch
Shakespeare makes bawdy puns around this word in Love’s Labour’s Lost, Act IV. Scene II, also playing on sorel and sore (older deer) and L as the Roman numeral fifty.
To complete the deer terminology: A male fallow deer is a fawn in his first year, and in years 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 is a pricket, sorel, sore, buck of the first head, and great buck respectively. The female is a doe. The male red deer is a stag or hart (not a buck), and the female is a hind. (Webster’s 1913)
A ballcock is the water supply valve inside your toilet tank! But isn't it a dirty sounding word?
cockshy - the throw in a throwing contest, or the target aimed at
quote:Here is a malaprop by an 1867 author misled by the word “sounding dirty”: "Then there were the cockshy-men and the Aunt-Sally men, and the men who were not to be mistaken for tailors because they carried a thimble in their pocket"
I've always been partial to Rubbermaid products.
assize - a session of a court
Words that sound dirty? How about syntax? If the government can ever figure out how to tax that, all budget deficits will be instantly cured.
testaceous - reddish-brown or brownish-yellow, the color of bricks
also pertaining to shells; having a hard shell.
This word unhappily has been confined to scientific usage. In fact, its use as a color seems largely confined to the biology of beetles. Here is an example from Charles Darwin’s The Descent of Man, Chapter 9 - Secondary Sexual Characters in the Lower Classes of the Animal Kingdom
quote:I came across the tidbit that the word titivate was originally tidivate, which presumably ties into "tidy".
Cunniculus sounds somewhat lewd, but it's only so if you're given to looking down one to watch the resident rabbits making more rabbits.
When this thread was prepared I had more than a week's worth of "candidate words". Let's now add one of the extra ones, which is brought to mind by shufitz's recent post, informing us that the moons of Jupiter were named for the various sexual partners of the god Zeus.
formicate - to creep or crawl like ants; to swarm like ants.
"An open space which formicated with peasantry." --Lowell
formication - sensation like that made by ants creeping on one's skin
But why does shufitz's post bring that to mind? I'll pause, and leave a chance for someone familiar with Greek mythology (muse?) to explain the connection.
Answering my own question, from the above post.
According to myth, Zeus conducted many of his seductions by taking the form of an animal. He thus seduced Leda (as a swan) and Europa (as a bull). Each of those maids has given her name to a moon of Jupiter.
According to Shipley (whom I've been unable to confirm elsewhere), Zeus seduced still another nymph by taking the form of a swarm of ants -- thus providing the sole, but non-linguistic, link between formication and fornication. However, it is exceedingly unlikely that that nymph's name will chosen to grace a moon of Jupiter. For her name was "Clytoris".
Wordcrafter gave us titivate – to spruce up. I stumbled across it in a lovely insult.
Ms. Campbell was not merely some incompetent actress skewerd by Shaw's pen. She and Shaw carried on a close correspondence for over forty years. Shaw wrote the letter wordnerd quotes upon hearing that she had decided to marry a certain gentleman. She responded, giving him is good as she got. Here are his entire letter and her response.
Very well, go: the loss of a woman is not the end of the world. The sun shines on: it is pleasant to swim: it is good to work: my soul can stand alone. But I am deeply, deeply, deeply wounded. You have tried me; and you are not comfortable with me: I cannot bring you to peace, or rest, or even fun: there is nothing really frank in our comradeship after all. It is I who have been happy, carelessly happy, comfortable, able to walk for miles after dinner at top speed in search of your, singing all the way (I had walked eight miles in the morning, by the way, and written a scene in my play) and to become healthily and humorously sleepy afterwards the moment I saw that you were rather bored and that the wind was in the wrong quarter. Bah! You have no nerve; you have no brain: you are the caricature of an eighteenth century male sentimentalist, a Hedda Gabler titivated with odds and ends from Burne Jones's ragbag: you know nothing, God help you, except what you know all wrong: daylight blinds you: you run after life furtively and run away or huddle up and scream when it turns and opens its arms to you: you are a man's disgrace and infatuation and not his crown "above rubies" instead of adding the world to yourself you detach yourself, extricate yourself, guard yourself: instead of a thousand charms for a thousand different people you have one fascination with which you blunder about – hit or miss – with old and young, servants, children, artists, Philistines: you are a one-part actress and that one not a real part; you are an owl, sickened by two days of my sunshine: I have treated you far too well, idolized, thrown my heart and mind to you (as I throw them to all the world) to make what you could of; and what you make of them is to run away. Go then: the Shavian oxygen burns up your little lungs: seek some stuffiness that suits you. You will not marry George! At the last moment you will funk him or be ousted by a bolder soul. You have wounded my vanity: an inconceivable audacity, and unpardonable crime. Farewell, wretch that I love.
Her response two days later:
You vagabond you – you blind man. You weaver of words, you – and black and purple winged hider of cherubs – you poor thing unable to understand a mere woman ... No daughters to relieve you cravings – no babes to stop your satirical chatterings, why should I pay for all your shortcomings. You in your broom-stick and sheet have crackers and ashes within you. I in my rags and my trimmings have a little silver lamp in my soul and to keep its flame burning is all that I ask. That I pray. My friend – my dear friend all the same.
Beautifully written, both his and hers, but it does strike me as a bit odd to see Shaw use the adjective "Shavian" in reference to himself. I would have thought that that word would have been coined by someone else, possibly after Shaw's death.
The sentiments expressed are a delight to read and, as such, very clearly point out how immensely valuable a command of the language can be. I once knew a young man and woman who were in a situation similar to the one which prompted the above. Their conversation went along the following lines:
Him: "Well, you suck!"
Her: "No, you suck!"
Him: "No, you suck!!"
Her: "No, you suck!!"
(It's just not the same, is it?)
Quote "...Him: "Well, you suck!"
Her: "No, you suck!"
Him: "No, you suck!!"
Her: "No, you suck!!"..."
Could I ask - were these comments injunctions or were they observations?