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a – ab Archive

a

Posted July 21, 2013 By Joel

A is so short, just one character, that you’d almost lose it in a sentence. And, unlike the only other legitimate one-letter word, I, a is unpretentious. In contrast to that first-person personal pronoun, I, a doesn’t insist on being capitalized and it isn’t the least bit narcissistic.

Yet, for such a short and unassuming word, a is incredibly useful. For starters, its use as an indefinite article is greatly underrated. Consider for example that without the word a, I’d be jerk.

That’s ridiculous. Nobody has ever tried to cook me Jamaican style and serve me for dinner. And if anyone did try to do that, they’d only be able to do it once. Then I’d cease to exist as a person and start to exist as a bowel movement.

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A1

Posted July 21, 2013 By Joel
A1: Word or not, you be the judge.

A1: Word or not, you be the judge.

WTF? I mean, really, WTF?

After you get past all of the standalone, suffix and prefix usages of the word a, the second word in my dictionary is A1.

I forget. Did I ask WTF? Read the remainder of this entry »

aback

Posted July 21, 2013 By Joel
A back, not a back.

Aback, not a back.

I don’t enjoy admitting to the great deficiencies in my vocabulary, but if I am to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, I must acknowledge that I was taken aback to learn that aback has another meaning in addition to “by surprise” as in “taken aback”.

When referencing a sail, Aback also means to be unintentionally in a position to catch the wind on what would normally be the side sheltered from the wind. I’m still puzzled over how a sail can have an intention, but never mind that.

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abacus

Posted July 22, 2013 By Joel
Abacus

Abacus

Wow, now here’s a blast from the past. Kids today don’t know what an adding machine or pocket calculator is, but the dictionary is still talking about abacuses? Maybe they should pull this entry out of the dictionary and put it into an archaeological textbook.

For the benefit of anyone who is not in the know about this ancient device (damned, young whippersnapper), an abacus is a contraption with beads that sit on rows of rigid wires. By sliding the beads back and forth the user can somehow, allegedly, perform calculations.

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abandon

Posted July 22, 2013 By Joel

People who know the way I think likely expect me to take advantage of quickly reaching the word abandon to abandon my project of providing commentary on every word in the dictionary. But, no, much to my shock and awe, I don’t give up that easily. I always thought I did. Who knew? Although, we’ll see what happens when I reach some of abandon’s synonyms such as stop, quit, forgo, drop, dispense with, or, better yet because it arrives earlier in an alphabetic listing of words, cease.

Of course, abandon doesn’t mean only to give up on something. It also can mean to leave someone or something behind. For example, you might abandon your spouse or children. In which case, you are a the epitome of scumbaggery, now aren’t you? (Note to self: Don’t start coining new words. You might feel obliged to provide a commentary on them.)

Used in a particular context, such as “wild abandon”, abandon also means free from restraint and inhibition. Personally, I don’t like being in the wild—it gives me creeps and raises the frightening possibility of having to interact with wildlife—so I wouldn’t know about this.

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abandoned

Posted July 22, 2013 By Joel

I suppose it makes some poetic sense for the word abandon to toss out the word abandoned and force it to get its own entry in the dictionary, but would it have been terribly difficult to include it as part of one big, happy abandon family? I think not.

Sure, abandoned works as an adjective only with that ed on the end, whereas abandon serves as a verb or a noun on its own. But its not as if the abandon entry in the dictionary turned its back on abandoned altogether. It still accepts abandoned within its tribe when it’s the past tense of the verb abandon.

If abandon and the adjective abandoned had learned to get along and they were, then, able to share a dictionary entry, it would have consumed less space. If the dictionary sold well that reduced space requirement would have saved a tree or two in the forest. And the world would have been an environmentally better place, not to mention a more lexically congenial place.

abase

Posted July 22, 2013 By Joel

Illiterate sports fans probably think abase has something to do with baseball, as in, “He stole abase.” No, that’s not what it means. Not at all. However, I do have an urge to abase people who think that.

It means to do something to belittle or degrade someone else. A good usage would be, ‘Turnabout is fair play. Therefore, I feel justified in abasing people who abase other people for no good reason.”

Oh, for the benefit of illiterate music fans I should point out that musicians do not play abase, nor do they play a base. They play a bass. However, I’m just fishing for an bad pun here, so let’s move on.

abash

Posted July 23, 2013 By Joel

Copy editors have to be very careful with the word abash. They must make certain that a space doesn’t surreptitiously slip in between the a and the bash. Otherwise, there could be legal problems.

Rather than thinking that someone’s self esteem was destroyed (the meaning of abashed) they might think that they were physically struck (i.e., they were bashed) or they were disturbing the peace at a raucous party (a bash).

That having been said, psychopaths might not be abashed if they are caught bashing someone. And dedicated party animals might not be abashed when others think they are getting a little too loud at a bash. Responsible party hosts will, however, almost certainly be abashed if they are found to have invited psychopaths to a bash. And those hosts will be especially abashed if they are found to have invited psychopaths to engage in bashing at a bash.

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abate

Posted July 23, 2013 By Joel

When you say that something abates you mean that something that has a negative quality to it diminishes or, at least, the negative aspect of it diminishes.

How might you use abate in context? Here’s an example: “Despite having only just barely begun this words project, the thought of continuing it sickens me violently. But then, when I think of the millions of dollars I’ll surely make from advertising when I corner the market on Web content, those loathsome feelings abate.”

Ooh. I’d better get on with it quickly, hadn’t I? Those millions aren’t going to flow in until I’ve gotten well into the project. And, as I said, I’ve only just started. Alright, then. Enough said about abate.

abattoir

Posted July 23, 2013 By Joel

Wow! I haven’t made it off the first page of the dictionary and we’re already talking about killing. Then again, it’s only the killing of animals that are destined for our dinner tables, so who the hell cares one whit?

OK. The vicious, possibly physically violent attacks from members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) should begin in 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 …

For the benefit of anyone who didn’t know what an abattoir was and hasn’t figured it out from the preceding statement, an abattoir is a slaughterhouse.

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