Welcome

My name is David Burrows and I am a freelance translator of Spanish into English. This blog contains some of my favourite words, a (mostly) amusing explanation of said words as well as some of my musings about translation. I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Ephemeral

Adjective - lasting a very short time.
Noun - a plant with a very short life cycle.
Origin - from the Greek ephemeros: lasting only a day.
Derivatives - ephemerality, ephemerally and ephemera.
I produced the most amazing piece of ephemeral art ever created. Oh, you must have missed it.


My liking of 'ephemeral' stems from the concept behind it. I like things that only last long enough for your appreciation not to diminish. Some examples are sand castles, snow men and pieces of origami that you screw up and throw away as soon as the novelty wears off. There is nothing more satisfying than building a great big sand castle (yes, I may be 29 but I still take my bucket and spade to the beach) and then kicking it in at the end of day.
As much as I like the sound of the word... actually, now that I have written and read it a few times, my admiration is beginning to wear off quite quickly. It is starting to sound like 'effeminate' and the spelling actually quite annoying. Shame, but I guess that is the nature of the thing.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Iconoclast

Noun:
1) A person who attacks or criticizes cherished beliefs or institutions.

2) A destroyer of images used in religious worship, in particular:
  • A supporter of the 8th and 9th century movement in the Byzantine church, which sought to abolish the veneration of icons and other religious images.
  • A puritan of the 16th or 17th century.
 Origin: Via medieval Latin from ecclesiastical Greek - from eikonoklastes, from eikon:likeness and klan:to break.
I AM THE ICONOCLAST! Well, not really, I'm that chicken who appears when the author couldn't find anything else. Bet you'd forgotten about me.

This word gets all medieval (good word although the spelling is irritating, much like the irritating spelling of irritating, actually) on your ass. If iconoclast was a person he would be over six feet tall, musclebound, gripping a broadsword and have an overwhelming sense of justice, if only to mete it out to the unworthy. All excessive Conan the Barbarian worship aside (oooo, that'll get all the faithful iconoclasts angry) there really isn't much to say about this word. Every one loves a good movement from the Byzantine church though, especially one from the 8th and 9th centuries (the best centuries, by far).
It's also yet another word that suits heavy metal music, as proved by the band Heaven Shall Burn, who used it to title their latest album and who are heavier than a really heavy thing which has been painted jet black using lead paint.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Terpsichorean

Adjective: relating to dancing
Noun: a dancer
Origin: From Terpsichore, used in the 18th century to denote a female dancer or the art of dance.


I like this word as it sounds really hard while describing something that is presumably beautiful, depending on how you dance of course. The combination of 'terps' (also used to scrub graffiti off walls) and 'chore' (as in hardcore punk) give a tough-sounding word which has a soft centre (kind of like an armadillo).
Perhaps the best thing about this word is the source from which I heard it: the one and only Lemmy Kilminster from Motörhead. Despite consuming "a bottle of Jack Daniels a day, whether I need it or not" the man's wit and wisdom is clearly only surpassed by the noise level at his concerts. Let's face it, you would never hear a band like the Killers asking 'Are we human or are we terpsichorean?' would you.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Nefarious

Adjective - (typically of an action or activity) wicked or criminal.
Origin - from the Latin nefarius, from nefas, nefar: wrong (from ne:not and fas:divine law)
Oh no, it's the Archfiend Marmot of Nefariousness!. Ha ha ha, I'm soooo scared. Ow! It just stabbed me in the eye with its nefarious horn.
 
What? Yet another word ending in -ous? Yes, call me wicked, criminal or, better yet, nefarious but I like words ending in -ous. And it's my choice and if you don't like it, I'll slip a scorpion into your breakfast cereal. That's my style of nefariousness.
I think it is the classiness that attracts me to this word: it takes a certain type of criminal to be not merely wicked or nasty. An evil genius would probably fit the bill. And not one that always fails due to overly elaborate schemes a successful evil genius who never gets caught. And with glasses as well. And possibly a mustache, but it's not obligatory.
Also, I think cats are quite nefarious.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Psychotic

Adjective - relating to, denoting or suffering from a psychosis
Noun - a person suffering from a psychosis.
Psychosis: Noun - a severe mental disorder in which thoughts or emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality
Origin - from the Greek psukhosis 'animation', from psukhoo 'I give life to', from psukhe 'soul, mind.'
They thought he was cute. He knew he was psychotic.

One of the few words with not one but two silent consonants: the spelling of this word is enough to drive anyone psychotic. "What do you mean it starts with P? Who the hell put that H there? I'm losing contact with external reality! Aaaaah!"
Anyway, moving on. If you can get it right without losing too much of your sanity then you can see it for what it is: a nice looking and sounding word with a lot of power behind it. You have to be really crazy to qualify as psychotic. None of this "Ooo, look at me, I wear funny clothes, I'm a bit mad!", we are talking "Ooo look at me, I've just eaten a live rat and regularly bathe in old lemonade with my invisible friend, Timmy the antique spoon-maker." Or something along those lines (it's quite scary what I can come up with sometimes, perhaps I'm psychotic. At least that's what my fountain pen tells me.)

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Gawk

Verb: to stare openly and stupidly.
Noun: an awkward or shy person.
Origin: perhaps from the obsolete gaw - to gaze, from the old norse gá - heed.
Star Trek: inventor of the extreme space gawk.

This is perhaps the first word on this blog which made me chuckle upon checking the definition. I find the idea of someone standing and 'staring openly and stupidly really quite amusing. Try imagining your friends, or yourself for that matter, gawking as described and I defy you not to at least smile. Don't you want to just walk up to this imaginary person and close their gaping jaw with a satisfying clunk?
I also like the fact that gawking is virtually uncontrollable: the fact that something can make you stop and stare stupidly is an hilarious exmaple of how we are susceptable (good word) to our instincts and emotions. I, however, am actually training myself to gawk at will.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Tautology

Noun - the saying of the same thing twice over in different way, generally considered to be a fault of style.
  • A phrase or expression in which the same thing is said twice in different words.
  • A statement that is true by necessity or by virtue of its logical form.
Origin - Via late Latin from Greek, from tautologos: repeating what has been said, from tauto:same and logos: word.
This picture says a thousand words, that's right 1000.

The thing about tautology is that it is not only very good but it is also great. To give an example of how amusing and funny it is, let's look at the following examples that follow: "I'll kill you to death!" - Superman (Quite hard to kill someone with any other result, isn't it?); "Beliefs we can believe in." - Barack Obama (Not much of a belief if you don't believe it); "Free gifts." - Some evil marketing guy (Show me a gift that isn't free.) and "The Lone Rangers" - A band from the film Airheads (How can you pluralise Lone Ranger?).
It also has a copious plethora of derivatives: tautological, tautologically, tautologist, tautologise and tautologous.
But anyway, all this repeating myself is getting repetitive. Especially because I keep saying the same thing more than once.