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acute

Posted September 5, 2013 By Joel

I read the word acute and thought, “a cute what?” It’s the final word in the dictionary starting with ac. I guess I’m getting a little giddy with excitement over that. Yeah, that’s what it is. That is a much better reflection on me than the more likely explanation, which is that I have poor reading skills.

Of course, none of the few very different meanings of acute is related to a cute anything at all.

The fact that acute has multiple disparate meanings brings up a question. Our alphabet has 26 letters. True, you can’t combine them any which way you want. Put too many vowels or consonants in a row would produce an unpronounceable word. Even two consonants in a row might cause a pronunciation problem if they were the wrong two consonants. Nevertheless, you can still produce millions of words without any of them having to be all that long.

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acupuncture

Posted September 5, 2013 By Joel

Acupuncture is an “alternative” medical technique that, according to Wikipedia, originated more than 2,000 years ago. An acupuncturist endeavors to relieve pain and negative emotions by sticking needles in people in specific places depending on the condition being treated.

Why is acupuncture called alternative medicine? Because it is not in western-trained medical community’s kit bag, that’s why.

Does it work? I haven’t the foggiest of ideas. I’ve never tried acupuncture, but some people swear by it. Some people in the Western medical community probably swear at it. Who is right? Like I said, I haven’t the foggiest.

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acumen

Posted September 5, 2013 By Joel

If you have acumen you have the ability to make appropriate judgements, particularly in a specific, practical functional area. For instance, if you are good at making business decisions, you could say you have business acumen.

Even if you are abysmal at business decision-making you could still say you have business acumen, but you’d be lying. You wouldn’t be the first business person to bend the truth for business purposes, but you might want to question your ethics if you do.

Someone hoping to corner the market on Web content by writing a comment about or vaguely related to every word in the dictionary cannot be honestly said to have business or Web-content acumen. Instead, he could be said to have lunacy.

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acuity

Posted September 5, 2013 By Joel

Acuity means sharpness, but not sharpness as in the sharpness of a knife. Instead, acuity refers to the sharpness of our senses—visual, auditory and olfactory. You’ll most often hear acuity spoken of in reference to sight, i.e., visual acuity, but, as I said, it can also refer to the other senses.

If, for example, you can hear sounds at lower volumes and at a greater range of frequencies than everyone else you could be said to have excellent auditory acuity. You might also have a brilliant future as a spy. Not all government-sponsored eavesdropping is necessarily done online.

What one means by visual acuity can vary. For example, does it include artificially enhanced vision or only natural vision? The answer is yes and no. It depends on the speaker’s intent.

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act up

Posted September 5, 2013 By Joel

To act up does not mean to give a theatrical performance on a raised stage. I suppose you could compose a sentence in which the word up immediately follows the word act in which act up indicates that the actor is performing on a raised stage, but that’s not the normal usage.

To act up means to behave badly. Contrast this with act out, which also means to behave badly, but specifically in response to suppressed negative feelings. Thus, in effect, acting up is a subset of acting out.

This make some sense because, when you think about it, up is a subset is out. Out, in this context, means away from. Up is away from something in one direction, namely above. Even when you don’t think about it, that is still the case.

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actuate

Posted September 5, 2013 By Joel

If someone says they are going to actuate a machine, that’s a fancy way to say that she or he is going to cause it to start to function or, in plainer language, turn it on.

Lest there be any doubt, turning on a machine is not the same thing as turning on a person. If you turn on a person there is a possibility that action will eventually result in you and/or that person having an orgasm. The same is not true when you turn on a machine unless it’s a personal vibrator.

But enough about orgasms.

It’s not just machines that can be actuated. People can also be actuated. If you actuate someone you incite them to take a particular action, which might, but not necessarily involve sex.

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actuary

Posted September 4, 2013 By Joel

Nobody knows with certainty when he or she will die. Nevertheless, some actuaries are paid to make educated guesses about when people will die, Their employers then use those guesses to place bets on when people will, as they say, kick the bucket. Sounds quite macabre, doesn’t it?

Nonetheless, that’s what’s going on. When you buy life insurance you are betting that you will die young. The insurance company is betting that you won’t. That makes you sound like a supreme pessimist, doesn’t it?

If you live as long as or longer than the actuary thinks you’re going to live then the insurance company makes a profit, even after paying their administrative costs and salespeople’s commissions. If you die young, you would, were you not dead, have had the satisfaction of knowing that you beat the insurance company. Bully for you.

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actuality

Posted September 4, 2013 By Joel

An actuality is something that is real, as opposed to something that occurs only in your or someone else’s mind but not in reality.

That having been said, philosophers would ask what is real and can we ever truly know what is real? Is, they might ask, reality real? Then again, philosophers ask all sorts of ridiculous questions that won’t help in the least to put food on the table or a roof over your head. Nobody wants to die of starvation or from exposure to the elements, so feel free to ignore the philosophers. Besides, can you be absolutely certain that philosophers exist in actuality? Maybe we have created them only in our minds.

How might you use the word actuality in a real-life situation? Consider this: I’m sure many people can’t believe that I’ve embarked on a project to write a comment on or related to every word in the dictionary. However, you can see with your own eyes that I have at least started it. Thus, you have evidence that the project is an actuality. However, it is doubtful that I will complete it in my lifetime. I’ll leave it up to philosophers, not to mention religionists, to debate endlessly whether I can complete it after my lifetime.

actual

Posted September 4, 2013 By Joel

Something that is actual is real as opposed to imagined or faked. Then again, if someone believed that concept x was a fact when it was instead a misconception, it would be appropriate, if more wordy than necessary by one word, to tell that person that concept x is actually false. Although, that brings up another point.

Actual is an adjective. Actually, the adverb form of actual, is overused. In most cases you can actually strip it out of a sentence without actually diminishing or changing the meaning of the sentence. There are some cases when the use of actually actually serves to emphasize what you are actually trying to say but, despite being or, more accurately, because it is used frequently, actually is actually grossly overused. See what I mean?

And use really to get around the overuse of actually. In this context, really is usually unnecessary too.

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Acts

Posted September 4, 2013 By Joel

When written with a lower case a, acts is merely the plural of act. And the singular form with a capital A, i.e., Act, generally refers to a specific piece of legislation passed by a government. But Acts, plural and capital A, is the second book of the New Testament of the Christian Bible. And what the hell is it doing here?

I don’t mean here in this Web site. The goal of this Web site is to provide comments or on or vaguely related to every word or phrase listed in the New Penguin English Dictionary (1986). Acts is there, so Acts is here.

What I meant to ask is why is a book of the bible in the dictionary? Atheists and people who believe in other religions (I fall into the atheist category) mostly believe that the New Testament is a work of fiction. Atheists and people of non-Abrahamic faiths also believe that the Old Testament is a work of fiction, but that’s irrelevant here.

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