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This week we'll look at words that have two very different meanings, and I hope the comparison and contrast will make you smile. Let's start with a word that also fits last week's theme of vibrant verbs.

confabulate – [akin to fable]
1. to converse casually together; to chat
2. Psychology: to fill in gaps in one's memory with fabrications that one believes to be facts
    The two proud dowagers, Lady Lynn and Lady Ingram, confabulate together.
    – Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

    It is not that they lie in the experimental situation, but that they confabulate; they fill in the gaps, guess, speculate, mistake theorizing for observing.
    – Daniel C. Dennett, Consciousness Explained

    Thus the coping strategies of the two hemispheres are fundamentally different. The left hemisphere's job is to create a belief system or model and to fold new experiences into that belief system. If confronted with some new information that doesn't fit the model, it relies on Freudian defense mechanisms to deny, repress or confabulate – anything to preserve the status quo.
    – Oliver Sacks, et al., Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind
Bonus word:
dowager
– a widow of high social rank who has a title and property because of her marriage
 
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The first meaning is from the 17th century, from the noun confabulation from the late 15th. My Oxford Etymological dictionary doesn't have the second meaning. I wonder how it arose.
 
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talus¹ (plural taluses) – a sloping mass of loose rock at the foot of a cliff (also, a like slope of an earthwork or tapering wall)
    Bricks had spilled down in a talus to the floor of the tunnel. Boxer half scrambled, half slid in, raising clouds of dust.
    – Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child, The Cabinet of Curiosities
talus² (plural tali) – the anklebone [also called the astragalus]
    Hairston underwent surgery in November to remove the talus bone from his left ankle. He described it as a minor procedure during which he had a bone chip removed.
    – Chicago Sun-Times, Jan. 30, 2005
Today's two meanings come from separate roots, so they are technically separate words with identical spelling and pronunciation.
 
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Originally posted by wordcrafter:.


Confusing. I think that talus (astragalus) the ankle bone which does slope down on its dorsal aspect is directly derived from talus, the slope of a stone or cliff. Thus two meanings, but possibly one common root.
The OED gives its etymology as :

[a. F. talus (16th c.), in Dict. Acad. 1696 talut, OF. (12th c. in Hatz.-Darm.) talu slope:late pop. L. *tlt-um, deriv. of tlus ankle (taken in sense of F. talon heel): cf. next.]

1. A slope; spec. in Fortification, the sloping side of a wall or earthwork, which gradually increases in thickness from above downwards.
 
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Originally posted by gooofy:
The first meaning is from the 17th century, from the noun confabulation from the late 15th. My Oxford Etymological dictionary doesn't have the second meaning. I wonder how it arose.

1. Confabulate, to converse or chat surely just illustrates that (without reference to gender Wink ) people often exaggerate or make up stories (fables) in order to enliven their chatter.

2. Confabulation is characteristic of organic syndromes with memory impairment called the dysmnesic syndromes. The classic example is so-called Korsakoff's psychosis seen after alcoholism, injury or subarachnoid haemorrhage of the brain. Afflicted patients make up stories or information (fables) because they are aware of the gaps in their memory: hence confabulate.
 
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Not sure that talus1 is in fact independent from talus2.

talus (1) "anklebone," 1693, from L. talus "ankle, anklebone, knucklebone" (pl. tali), related to L. taxillus "a small die, cube" (they originally were made from the knucklebones of animals).

talus(2)
"slope," 1645, from Fr. talus (16c.), from O.Fr. talu "slope" (12c.), probably from Gallo-Romance *talutum, from L. talutium "a slope or outcrop of rock debris," possibly of Celtic origin (cf. Breton tal "forehead, brow"). OED, however, suggests derivation from root of talus (1) in the sense of "heel" which developed in its Romanic descendants. Mainly used of military earthwork at first; meaning "sloping mass of rocky fragments that has fallen from a cliff" is first recorded 1830.


RJA
 
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I'm not sure we should take etymology as a guide as to whether talus1 and talus2 are separate words. I think the fact that they have different plural forms tells us that they are two different words.
 
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Then there's Ralph Vaughn Williams's's's one and only foray (not to be confused with Faurè, of course) into rock music, Fantasia on A Theme of Thomas Talus. It was favourably reviewed by that famous heel, Cal Canius.
 
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Fantasia on A Theme of Thomas Talus
Hey! I object to my neighbour (a few years ago admittedly) having his name taken in vain. His name was Thomas Tallis! He's buried under St Alfege's, a church near me.

http://www.greenwich-guide.org.uk/stalfege.htm


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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And my wife used to sing under RVW...


Richard English
 
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Originally posted by Richard English:
And my wife used to sing under RVW...


As opposed, I presume, to someone singing under an RV...
 
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vamp1. the upper front part of a shoe or boot 2. [abbreviation of vampire] a woman who uses sexual attraction to exploit men (verb: to so use)
    It went with his elegant clothes, his shoes with woven vamps, the glaze of his hair.
    – Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex: A Novel

    Playing Lola calls for a woman alluring enough to seduce a man into selling his soul to the devil. Gillentine succeeded … in creating a vamp who prowls across the stage …
    – Kate Mattingly, Dance Magazine, June, 2006

    … first I must have a new dress. I can't vamp this man with these dirty rags I am in.
    – Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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quote:
Originally posted by arnie:
quote:
Fantasia on A Theme of Thomas Talus
Hey! I object to my neighbour (a few years ago admittedly) having his name taken in vain. His name was Thomas Tallis! He's buried under St Alfege's, a church near me.


Uhhh, arnie, that was supposed to be a pun. Did I hit on something sacrosanct, or wonder of wonders - did you REALLY think I didn't know any better!?!? Barbarian American I am, but I own the above mentioned recording! Smile

Thanks for the Tallis link! Neat!

BTW, it uses the expression, "...hold him TO ransom." Over here we'd say "for" rather than "to." Another difference!
 
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vamp – 1. the upper front part of a shoe or boot 2. [abbreviation of vampire] a woman who uses sexual attraction to exploit men (verb: to so use)

In jazz vamp refers to a short repeating sequence of chords.
 
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Uhhh, arnie, that was supposed to be a pun.
I realise that. Wink

It just seemed a good chance to get Thomas Tallis's name mentioned. He's not appreciated nowadays, and, as I said, he was a neighbour of mine.


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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So if the stones used to cover his tomb had originally been rubble, they could be Thomas's talus. Roll Eyes
 
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slough1. a swamp or mire 2. a situation of lack of progress or activity
[rhymes with 'bough' or, in the US, with 'glue']
    Our electioneering racers have started for the prize. … Oh what a rare sport it will be! Through thick and thin, through mire and dirt, through bogs and fens and sloughs, dashing and splashing and crying out, the devil take the hindmost.
    – John Adams, quoted in his biography by David McCullough

    … the sloughs of abjection and misery …
    – Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
slough – [rhymes with 'rough'] to cast off or shed skin or other outer layer; the item so shed [also fig., as in quote]
    But here in the North I would slough off my Southern ways of speech.
    – Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
 
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slough1. a swamp or mire 2. a situation of lack of progress or activity
[rhymes with 'bough' or, in the US, with 'glue'][list]Our electioneering racers have started for the pr
 
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Slough is the name of a rather boring town west of London. It was made infamous by John Betjeman in 1937 with a famous poem that made the place seem even worse that it is. See it here http://www-cdr.stanford.edu/intuition/Slough.html

Slough was also the setting the the hit TV series "The Office" - now being aired in the USA - but with a US cast and location.


Richard English
 
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tump (noun) – a hillock; or a clump of trees, shrubs, or grass, esp. in a dry spot in a bog
    Parts of our spongy tract [the definition of a 'novel'] seem more fictitious than other parts, it is true: near the middle, on a tump of grass, stand Miss Austen … and Thackeray … But no intelligent remark known to me will define the tract as a whole. All we can say of it is that it is bounded by two chains of mountains … the opposing ranges of Poetry and of History …
    – E. M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel
tump (verb) – Southern US: to overturn, or to tip over
    I've never myself been a true football fan; I just like watching the players tump over on the field.
    – Kinky Friedman, Spanking Watson
 
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quote:
It just seemed a good chance to get Thomas Tallis's name mentioned. He's not appreciated nowadays, and, as I said, he was a neighbour of mine.


And a dead neighbor (16th century!) at that. I'm sure the two of you were very close!

Tallis, not to be confused with the prayer shawl tallis.

Wordmatic
 
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Yet Tallis' compositions were almost all liturgical, so maybe his name and the prayer shawl had a connexion.
 
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We have already seen one definition of today's word.

mead – a meadow
mead – an alcoholic drink of fermented honey and water
    Small-volume luxury food imports [to Greenland] probably included honey to ferment into mead, plus salt as a preservative.
    – Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
 
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isinglass – 1. a gelatin obtained from fish; previously used to clarify wine
    Leave the mead to ferment and when this has ended, put in a quarter of an ounce of isinglass (available from wine-making supply stores) and bung the cask tightly.
    – Raymond Buckland, Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft
isinglass – 2. chiefly US: mica in thin transparent sheets, a heat-resistant substitute for glass
    The fire roared and the flames winked yellow behind the little isinglass windows in the front of the stove.
    – John Steinbeck, East of Eden

    I went out and saw the thin pools of water standing on the black ground, like sheets of isinglass.
    – Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men
Bonus word: bung – the plug for a hole in a barrel, etc. verb to close with a bung
 
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I thought it was one of the towers in Lord of the Rings. Confused
 
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    Small-volume luxury food [to Greenland] probably included honey to ferment into mead, plus salt as a preservative.
    – Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed


If Mr. Diamond is refering to historical matters here, I doubt that salt would have been either small-volume or a luxury item. I expect that it would have been an essential, everyday commodity used in substantial quantities for curing salt codfish.
 
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If Mr. Diamond is refering to historical matters here, I doubt that salt would have been either small-volume or a luxury item. I expect that it would have been an essential, everyday commodity used in substantial quantities for curing salt codfish.

I think one of the arguments of the book was that the Greenland settlements behaved as though they were in northern Europe and farmed and raised animals accordingly; they didn't fish. From the New Yorker review:
quote:
The Inuit survived long after the Norse died out, and the Norse had all kinds of advantages, including a more diverse food supply, iron tools, and ready access to Europe. The problem was that the Norse simply couldn’t adapt to the country’s changing environmental conditions. Diamond writes, for instance, of the fact that nobody can find fish remains in Norse archeological sites. One scientist sifted through tons of debris from the Vatnahverfi farm and found only three fish bones; another researcher analyzed thirty-five thousand bones from the garbage of another Norse farm and found two fish bones. How can this be? Greenland is a fisherman’s dream: Diamond describes running into a Danish tourist in Greenland who had just caught two Arctic char in a shallow pool with her bare hands. “Every archaeologist who comes to excavate in Greenland . . . starts out with his or her own idea about where all those missing fish bones might be hiding,” he writes. “Could the Norse have strictly confined their munching on fish to within a few feet of the shoreline, at sites now underwater because of land subsidence? Could they have faithfully saved all their fish bones for fertilizer, fuel, or feeding to cows?” It seems unlikely. There are no fish bones in Norse archeological remains, Diamond concludes, for the simple reason that the Norse didn’t eat fish. For one reason or another, they had a cultural taboo against it.
 
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