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Here’s a timely word, from yesterday’s Fox Trot comic strip:


This makes no sense unless you know what a kraken is.
So what is a kraken?

kraken – a mythical sea-monster of enormous size [from Norwegian]
    Luzin had disturbed a kraken in the ocean trenches of mathematics, which is now swimming toward us with its lurid mouth agape. … Luzin’s creature may not be is definitively devastating –but it is menacing enough, since its irresolvable paradox threatens to devour mathematics.
    – Robert Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan, Hidden Harmonies: The Lives and Times of the Pythagorean Theorem
The concept of a Kraken goes back at least as far as a 1250 text in Old Norwegian. It is called a kraken in the English translation, made 1917 (see next-to-last paragraph of chapter 12) but that word is not in the 1250 original, which calls the monster a hafgufu.

What does this kraken-monster look like? Unclear. Tennyson gave it “giant fins”, but later changed those fins to “giant arms”. Sometimes it’s a vertebrate (as the fish in Fox Trot; the gigantic four-armed fish-man in the movie Clash of the Titans (1981), which becomes dinosaurian in the 2010 re-make), but more typically (as in Pirates of the Caribbean) it’s a giant octopus that can engulf and drag down a ship at sea.

Enjoy the video clips.

Interestingly, the word for “octopus” is similar to “kraken” in German (“Krake”) but not in other Germanic tongues: English, Icelandic, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish.

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Not to be confused with Dagon...


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mandation – the issuance of a mandate; that is, of an an official order or to do something
    … government take-over and mandation of health care …
    – Sarah Palin, Jan. 27, 2010, as television commentator following President Obama's State of the Union address
Palin’s detractors hooted her for this statement, asserting that this “mandation” isn’t in any dictionary. And indeed it isn’t. [OED has it, but with a totally different definition: “The action of committing a speech, etc., to memory”.]

The dictionaries are wrong. The word is not at all uncommon. Here’s a recent example, from a respected person of note.
    … if you have a particular project and you are restrained by budget caps, there are lots of alternate ways in which you do it, by regulation, mandation of actions on the private sector and this would be an additional one.
    – Alan Greenspan, Federal Reserve Board Chairman, speaking before House Ways and Means Committee, Jan. 20, 1999
Early users include Jeremy Bentham in 1839 (Principles of Judicial Procedure, ch. XVIII §3), Walter Scott in 1822 (The Fortunes of Nigel), and a 1783 etymological work.

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A shady word. From Latin umbra, shadow.

adumbrate1. to report or represent in outline, giving the high points
(also 2. to indicate faintly or partially;
. . . .3. to foreshadow or symbolize;
. . . .4. to overshadow)
    He [Benjamin Franklin] strongly advocated federation and drew up the Albany Plan (1754), which adumbrated the U.S. Constitution.
    – Paul Johnson, Humorists: From Hogarth to Noel Coward
 
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temerity – rashness; foolhardy contempt of danger; excessive boldness
    Anyone who has the temerity to write about Jane Austen is aware of [two] facts: first, that of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness; second, that there are twenty-five elderly gentlemen living in the neighbourhood of London who resent any slight upon her genius as if it were an insult to the chastity of their aunts.
    — Virginia Woolf
 
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Here is an untimely response to a timely word.

In norwegian, although the word "blekksprut" (literally "ink-spray" is often used for octopus, "blekksprut" is really a generic word for cephalopods, and octopus would be "åttearmet blekksprut" or "eight-armed ink-spray".

However, another word in Norwegian for the common octopus (Polypus vulgaris) is actually "krake", and the definitive form of this would be "kraken". Thus, one would imagine that the original imagining of the kraken took the form of an octopus.
 
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Oh, I love 8-armed ink-spray!

I have to tell a story on my husband. When he was a little boy, he asked his mother how babies got "out of the stomach." His mother said that the baby came out "between the legs." He thought for a moment and said, "But what about an octopus?" Big Grin
 
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diamanté – fabric covered with rhinestone or a sequins (also, the stones themselves)
    Michael Jackson's famous white diamanté glove sells for £254,000 at auction
    - Daily Mail online [headline], Nov. 23, 2009
And on the much-discussed subject “What is art?”, a British comedy duo argues that strip-tease is a form of art. (see here, starting at 0:56)
    It's not dirty; it’s burlesque. It would be hurtful and grotesque
    To suggest that there was something untoward
    In watching this women do the splits while they liberate their bits
    From lacy panty, diamanté and the law.
 
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fugleman – a leader, especially a political leader
[Wordcrafter note: I would add that its usually a contemptuous term for a two-bit underboss serving under a more important leader. Do readers agree?]
    Regarding the first George Bush, when he was Vice President:

    George Bush … stood revealed after last week's debate … as an Ivy League fugleman who forswore his own convictions on moral and political issues so completely to identify himself with his leader.
    - Boca Raton News, Oct. 16, 1984
 
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Quite literally "wing man."

In the US in particular, a wing man is a best friend. When a fellow wants to pursue a girl at a bar, for example, his wingman will chat up her inevitable companion, to give his friend the opportunity.

In military context, it is the demonstrator whom the other soldiers follow in a drill.

In more than a few decades, have not run into the negative sense cited; rather surprised we'd stretch for such an example.


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I've never run into it in a particularly negative context either. As Robert says, it's from the German, meaning a wing man in the military.


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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Today’s word has several meaning. The etymology is evident in the first.

pommel – [from Old French pomel little apple]
1. a rounded knob on end of the handle of a sword [counterbalancing the weight of the blade] or a dagger
2. the part of a saddle projecting up in front of the rider
3. gymnastics: on a pommel horse, either of the two rounded handles that the gymnast grips

The etymology is also evident in an old, poetic use of the term, to mean a woman's breast.
    ~1586 With yvoire [ivory] nek, and pomellis round, And comlie [comely] intervall.
 
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Today’s word is in the news and, interestingly, it is etymologically akin to coffin.
    I cannot guarantee that those [social security] checks go out on August 3rd if we haven't resolved this issue. Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it.
    – President Obama, July 12, 2011
coffer – a strongbox or small chest for holding valuables;
figuratively, coffers – the financial reserves of an organization
. . . (also, a decorative sunken panel in a ceiling)
 
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For many years Obama's colleagues brayed on about the "well-funded" and "secure" "Social Security lockbox." (Germanic roots there.)

Now that it is found to be empty, the language switches to Latin roots, with fitting overtones of death.

Alas for taxpayers unborn.


RJA
 
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SS was looted long before Obama arrived.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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