Wondrous Words Wednesday: from the Internet

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) and interesting (to us, again) words we encountered in our readings. See this week round-up at BermudaOnion’s blog!

My word for this week comes from something I read on the Internet:

I do have pretty good Google-fu.

Hmmm. I think I understand this as “skill”, but where did I see it before? Oh, yes, in the GIMP, a menu item there is called “Script-fu” and defined as follows:

Script-Fu is what the Windows world would call “macros”. (source)

Now that is not really helpful, because I have a very vague idea of what a macro is. But let’s get back to the -fu suffix. It must be from Chinese or Japanese, that much is clear. Wiktionary to the rescue:

-fu (slang) Expertise; mastery. From kung-fu

Problem solved, -fu means skill in English. But wait, there’s more. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about kung-fu:

Kung fu is a Chinese term referring to any study, learning, or practice that requires patience, energy, and time to complete, often used in the West to refer to Chinese martial arts. In its original meaning, kung fu can refer to any skill achieved through hard work and practice, not necessarily martial. In Chinese, Gōngfu (功夫) is a compound of two words, combining 功 (gōng) meaning “work”, “achievement”, or “merit”, and 夫 (fū) which translates into “man”, so that a literal rendering would be “achievement of man”.

Let me highlight that for you:

夫 (fū) which translates into “man”

So, we should really say “I do have pretty good kung-Google” instead. I imagine this use of -fu must be puzzling Chinese people! But that’s etymology for you 🙂

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Wondrous Words Wednesday: cicerone

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) and interesting (to us, again) words we encountered in our readings. See this week round-up at BermudaOnion’s blog!

This week I have no word to share from my readings, but I thought I would look up something that came up lately.

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A couple of weeks ago we (as Italians in Portugal) had a guest from Greece and as we were driving her to the sights the word “cicerone” came up. Cicerone is Italian for Cicero, and we use it to mean a guide, especially a tourist guide. A Portuguese colleague explained that you can use the same word in that sense in Portuguese as well. As we spoke in English, we wondered if the same was true in English: can you say “cicero” to mean a guide? But because no English mother tongue was present, at the time we were left wondering.

Well, apparently the answer is no. In English, you use the Italian word, “cicerone”. I guess this comes from the times when English-speaking people came to Italy on the “Grand Tour”.

I know this won’t be a great find for many of my readers, but I thought it was funny enough to be worth sharing!

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(All definitions are taken from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary © 2008 via WordReference.com unless otherwise stated.)

Wondrous Words Wednesday: George R.R. Martin

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) and interesting (to us, again) words we encountered in our readings. See this week round-up at BermudaOnion’s blog!

My words for this week come from A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin.I’d like to start by saying that in the very first pages I found the word “wyvern”, which was explained by Read Handed in her WWW post last week. Here’s the bit:

The maester stood on the windswept balcony outside his chambers. It was here the ravens came, after long flight. Their droppings speckled the gargoyles that rose twelve feet tall on either side of him, a hellhound and a wyvern, two of the thousand that brooded over the walls of the ancient fortress.

So thank you Read Handed and thank you Wondrous Words Wednesday! And now to my new words.

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Ser Hobber trotted in from the east, riding a black stallion caparisoned in burgundy and blue.

Be caparisoned: v. be decked out in rich decorative coverings.
Caparison:
n. an ornamental covering spread over a horse’s saddle or harness.

Photo credits: huvisian on Flickr

I had found a better photo, almost in the right colors too, but it’s copyrighted, so I’ll just point you over to it. If you enjoy jousts and medieval costumes, have a look at the rest of the page where I found it.

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Do you think he would like me better if I wore a hair shirt and never smiled? Well, I will not do it. I am an honest man, he must suffer me in silk and samite.

Samite: n. a rich silk fabric interwoven with gold and silver threads, made in the Middle Ages.

Photo credits: Chi (back in Oz) on Flickr

Not really samite in the picture, but still, that’s the idea. Luxurious! 🙂

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He had given him a place of honor at his table, a war galley to sail in place of a smuggler’s skiff.

Skiff: n. a light rowing boat or sculling boat, typically for one person.

While I couldn’t see exactly what kind of boat it was, I knew immediately it was something to sail on. Etymologically, it’s clearly the same word as ship. And by the way, if you like etymology, have a look at Anatoly Liberman’s piece on this subject (i.e. ships): part 1, part 2, and, oh, boat  too!

Photo credits: M J M on Flickr

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(All definitions are taken from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary © 2008 via WordReference.com unless otherwise stated.)