Today’s quiz: Sop can mean : a. Concession b. Cessation c. Cry d. Crystal

Do you revel in controversy? In the realm of linguistics we call it a logomachy, a war of words or a war about words!

Case in point: sanguine, sanguinity and sanguineness, rooted in the Latin word for blood, convey optimism. There is agreement among all dictionaries on this. But some dictionaries — not all — say derivatives of the word, like sanguinary, and sanguineous, refer to literal blood or even bloodthirsty, as in sanguinary pirates. After you ruminate on that one, note that bats are sanguivores!

How about inchoate, communicating something that’s not fully formed, like a proposed plan of action. The befuddlement is that the prefix ‘in’ often means ‘not’ — but not in this case. The word inchoate is from Greek, so the common meaning of the prefix ‘in’ doesn’t apply. Nevertheless, by removing the ‘in’ some conclude that the non-word ‘choate’ indicates fully formed! Choate isn’t a word. Use cohesive, legible, cognizable or crystallized instead. Or cohere for a verb. Tangentially, there’s a Choate prep school in Connecticut named for its founder.

Pace, when pronounced pah-chay, impresses listeners. Often italicized, it’s a polite way to disagree, with all due respect. “Pace my friends, I do intend to attend.”

Here’s a dynamic duo: numeracy and numerology. The former indicates ability with numbers (analogous to literacy). The latter invokes the occult study of numbers, imputing meaning to them.

Low-down implies sleazy…or emotional.

But down-low signifies secret.

Front-facing equates to bold.

A doodlebug hints a European beetle — amongst other senses.

“Let’s not have an argument over this!” But if you do have to spat, you can say ‘argufy.’ It’s an archaism but it can be resurrected for a comical touch. Other nuggets for an argument include brannigan, blowup, blowout, rhubarb, donnybrook, imbroglio, stand-up, set-to…and (in the U.K.) barney.

Quiz answer: a. Concession



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