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We use body parts in various expressions, as to disarm, to hearten, to have balls or to have by the throat and to stick in one's craw. (A 'craw' is the pouch in the passage that connects a bird's throat to its stomach.) This week we'll look at less-common extended uses of body parts.

blue blood – an aristocrat; of the aristocratic class
Translation of Spanish sangre azul, by which the oldest families of Castile claimed their lineage had never been contaminated by Moors, Jews or other (dark-skinned) foreigners. Probably from the notion that in a fair-skinned person, the veins will appear more visibly blue.
    So the possession of refinement of taste and manners or even blue blood does not alone guarantee upper-class status, but the lack of them necessarily marks out individuals as lower-class.
    – Patricia Ingham, Thomas Hardy
 
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As long as we're talking about blood, let's look at two more blood words, from the same Latin root but with very different meanings

sanguine – cheerfully optimistic [from the belief that an excess of blood caused this disposition]
sanguinary – involving or causing much bloodshed
[Online Etymology relates, "Latin distinguished sanguis, the generic word, from cruor "blood from a wound."]
    Cohn is sanguine about the future of composting. "I believe composters will be like dishwashers or microwave ovens - everyone will have one. … if everyone used a home composter, we would eliminate half the world's trash.
    – Journal Star (Peoria, IL), Oct. 6, 2005

    … medical evacuation helicopters are still hard at work, but few of the patients are traditional combat casualties. Now, most of the sanguinary work of these aircraft and their crews is dedicated to tragedies on the road. Some small percentage are victims of roadside bombs, but most are the product of traffic accidents.
    – Aviation Week & Space Technology, Feb. 16, 2004
 
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splenetic – bad-tempered, malevolent or spiteful.
[ultimately from Greek for 'spleen']
    Alan Clark, the outrageously acerbic Conservative Member of Parliament whose witty, waspish political diaries by turns skewered his colleagues, gave vent to his splenetic opinions, and unashamedly celebrated his love of women other than his wife, died suddenly … .
    – New York Times, Sept. 8, 1999
Bonus word: acerbic – sharp and biting; acid in tone [from Latin for 'sour-tasting']
 
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by wordcrafter:
splenetic – bad-tempered, malevolent or spiteful.
[ultimately from Greek for 'spleen']
Splenetic is a useful word, but as wordcrafters know, it's a good example of a word whose meaning has changed. Spleen was the seat of melancholy or sadness, a use now obsolete (but see below). It also was often used as the mood of mirth or laughter: "Some for laughter burst their reins, And others did split their spleens."(OED) This too, is now obsolete.

I hope this quote from Alexander pope's 'Rape of the lock', Canto IV, won't bore you. But I think it unveils the spirit of gloom.

"Down to the central earth, his proper scene,
Repaired to search the gloomy Cave of Spleen.
Swift on his sooty pinions flits the Gnome,
And in a vapour reached the dismal dome.
No cheerful breeze this sullen region knows,
The dreaded east is all the wind that blows.
Here in a grotto, sheltered close from air,
And screened in shades from days detested glare,
She sighs forever on her pensive bed,
Pain at her side, and Megrim [migraine] at her head."

It's remaining uses seem to be in the sense of high spirited courage, or, as a sudden outburst of impetuous behaviour, a sudden impulse; a whim or caprice (OED).

Just the spleen needed to describe your obsoletely splenetic mother- in- law, or a spouse out of earshot??? Frown
 
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sanguine – cheerfully optimistic

I am often called a sanguine person. Anyone surprised?

We used to talk much (in my circle of friends) about the 4 temperaments: Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic, Phlegmatic.

Anyone else know about these personality types?


*******
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
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I got an e-mail on Wordcrafter's latest post ("visceral") but it does not yet appear on the actual forum thread.

In any event -- question on the origin of the term "coal face." It is from mining. The most dangerous place is at the end of the tunnel, where miners blast and pick at the end of the seam, the coal face.

Now a metaphor for where the actual work gets done.


RJA
 
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viscera – the internal organs, esp. those in the belly
visceral – (of a feeling) deep and instinctive rather than rational.
But 'visceral' has more savor, more impact, than a pale definition can capture.
    Artists whose careers are measured in decades--Sinatra, McCartney, Dylan--eventually seem to inhabit an almost mythical realm of eternal fame in which their ties to the lives of ordinary beings are largely severed. Not B.B. King. Sixty years spent working with something as visceral as the blues has left him with no inclination to join the other immortals on music's Parnassus. Instead, he has chosen to remain right here with us, at the coal face of humanity, mining our rawest emotions to fuel a music that has the power to warm any heart.
    – Time International, Mar. 20, 2006
Can anyone explain the reference above to "coal face"?
 
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quote:
Originally posted by pearce: "Pain at her side, and Megrim [migraine] at her head."
[busily revising theme to include megrims. Thanks, Pearce! Cool]
 
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To Caterwauller's humours, we must add "bilious," which one becomes from an excess of Mencken or Bierce...

(Basic outline here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_humours)


RJA
 
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The "coal face" is the area of the mine from where the miners dig the coal. It is of course a nasty, dangerous, uncomfortable place. It is used here to show that he is working hard, however difficult he finds the job. Some writers might have used "cutting edge" as a metaphor, but I think this is better as it describes the sheer hard work very well. It also helps with the extension of the metaphor into "mining our emotions".


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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A fun word today. (Yes, I realize it's not a body part as the theme suggests, but a body condition. So sue me!)

mulligrubs – colic; hence sullenness; the sulks
    It is easy enough to say that a pessimist is a person afflicted with an incurable case of mulligrubs--one whom nothing in all earth or heaven or hades pleases; one who usually deserves nothing, yet grumbles if he gets it.
    – William Cowper Brann
 
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The jejunum is a part of the small intestine, and today's related word came to us through Latin meaning 'fasting; hungry'. You will see that its modern senses share the underlying concept of "empty and unsatisfying".

jejune
1. insipid; dull and uninteresting; unsatisfying to the mind or soul
2. lacking maturity; childish.
(also, lacking in nutrition)

Let's illustrate the first two senses.
    Hormel is one of those slow, dull, colorless, jejune companies the revenues, earnings and dividends of which are nearly impervious to inflation, recession and the economic cycle.
    – Charlotte (Florida) Sun-Herald, May 2, 2006

    Like most of his [Mr. Moussaoui's] jejune mock-provocative comments through this trial, this was mere bravado, and inaccurate to boot..
    – The Monitor (Mission, Texas?), May 5, 2006
 
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The word jejunum was coined because as a part of the small intestine, it contains no large masses or boluses of food, and therefore may appear empty. It dates to 1398 according to the OED and predates jejune that first appeared in the early 17th century.

As Wordcrafter says, the meanings of jejune: emptiness, unsatisfying to the mind; dull, flat, insipid, puerile, uninteresting or meagre clearly derive from this source—originally Latin, jejunus = fasting
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Caterwauller:
We used to talk much (in my circle of friends) about the 4 temperaments: Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic, Phlegmatic.

Anyone else know about these personality types?


Yes, we discussed these at some length : Posted 7 Feb, 2006 14:23
 
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quote:
no large masses or boluses of food
Duh ... what's a bolus?

(Yes, I could look it up, but others may be just as ignorant as I am.)
 
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A bolus is a small, round mass of something, especially chewed food.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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liverish – unhappy and in bad temper; irritable
(also, more literally: 1. like liver, esp. in color 2. slightly ill, as with a disordered liver)
    I returned from the City … pretty well disgusted with life. … The weather made me liverish, the talk of the ordinary Englishman made me sick, I couldn't get enough exercise, and the amusements of London seemed as flat as soda-water that has been standing in the sun.
    – John Buchan, The Thiry-Nine Steps (opening words)
 
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Liverish is not often heard in Britain nowadays, and seldom used in modern literature. Originally, referring to liver diseases it carried an implication of someone being 'bilious', that is nauseated, if not frankly jaundiced. Harking back to Galenic humours it acquired the meaning (from bilious ) of a person who was irritable, bad tempered or sad: not a million miles away from choleric which also derives from bile.
In my youth, one heard it used to express a more general, vague ill-health: fatigue, 'off-colour', disinclination for many activities .

Curiously, liverish was much more commonly used in France, and perhaps Italy, where despite its vague medical connotations, it was a rather respectable ailment of which to boast to impressionable friends. Perhaps it related to the more generous use of superior wine production of these countries, as compared to Britain, at that time.
 
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quote:
A bolus is a small, round mass of something, especially chewed food.

And we will give a bolus of fluid or a drug in medicine.
 
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splenetic – bad-tempered, malevolent or spiteful.

I have a question about "splenetic." My theme this week on Wordcraftjr has been Wordcraft words, and I used "splenetic." Now I am confused as to how it came to mean bad-tempered, malevolent or spiteful. Pearce said that the spleen was the seat of melancholy, which is now obsolete. Also it was used to mean the mood of mirth or laughter (which also is strange since it's the opposite of melancholy). Then it was used in the sense of high-spirited courage, a sudden impulse, or a whim. So...how did the "malevolent" definition come about?
 
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