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3/27/16

Atone

v. 1. To make amends for wrongdoing; to appease by making amends.

2. To be reconciled.

 

“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” -the apostle John (1 John 2:2)

 

This Easter season, you may hear the word atonement tossed around, often used in reference to Christ’s sacrifice as a means of bringing about forgiveness of sin. If it looks like the words ‘at one,’ that is because it literally is those two words combined, meaning being united or reconciled with someone, in this case, God.

The word is often used more generally too, however, to mean making up for any wrong, such as making restitution after a crime, or making amends to a friend after an argument.

 

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3/26/16

Turncoat

(turn’-kōt)

n. 1. Someone who switches to an opposing side; traitor.

 

Comes from the coats historically worn by soldiers or members of parties, displaying a particular color to identify the group to which the wearer belongs. A traitor or spy might turn their coat inside out, either to hide the color or to change colors so as to appear to belong to the other side.

Usually used figuratively, for anyone who changes sides or otherwise betrays the group to which he or she was allied.

 

Q: What do you call a treacherous monk?
A: Benedictine Arnold.

3/25/16

Solipsism

(sä’-ləp-siˌ-zəm)

n. 1. The philosophical theory that the only thing one can be sure of is the fact of one’s own existence.

2. The attitude of being extremely egocentric or self-centered.

 

“I think, therefore I am.” When French philosopher René Descartes wrote this, he was trying to differentiate between what he knew for certain and what he merely believed to be true. Since even his senses could sometimes deceive him, he decided that the only thing he could be absolutely, positively sure of (at least to start with) was that he existed (because he was able to think about the issue).

That is the classic example of solipsism; however, it has also come to describe, in a slightly tongue-in-cheek manner, someone who is so self-centered that they may as well be the only person in existence.

 

From Latin solus ‘alone’ + ipse ‘self.’

 

“I obviously invented solipsism.” -Dean Cavanagh

3/24/16

Solecism

(sä’-lə-ˌsi-zəm)

n. 1. A mistake, as of grammar or style, in speech or writing

2. A breach of etiquette or manners

3. Something incongruous, absurd, or out-of-place.

 

“A government without the power of defence! It is a solecism.”
-James Wilson, Pennsylvania Convention on the adoption of the Federal Constitution, 1787

 

In Case You’re Interested

From Latin soloecismus, from Greek σολοικισμός (soloikismos) ‘speaking incorrectly.’ Named for the city Soloi in Cilicia, whose inihabitants supposedly spoke a corrupt dialect of Greek.

Originally relating solely to language, it has come to mean figuratively something out of place in conduct, or something that occurs so rarely as to be almost absurd.

Unfortunately, the use of solecisms these days, is not a solecism…

3/23/16

Soliloquy

(sə-li’-lə-kwē)

n. 1. Talking to oneself; speaking one’s thoughts aloud without addressing anyone.

2. A literary device, especially in theater, in which a character reveals his or her thoughts in this way.

“It is notorious that we speak no more than half-truths in our ordinary conversation, and even a soliloquy is likely to be affected by the apprehension that walls have ears.”
-Eric Robert Linklater

 

From Latin solus ‘alone’ + loqui ‘speak’. “To be or not to be…” begins one famous soliloquy. The word ‘monologue’ has a similar meaning, except that a monologue may be addressed to others, while a soliloquy is a speech to oneself.

 

“To soliloquize or not to soliloquize, that is the question…”

3/22/16

Solstice

(sōl’-stəs)

n. 1. Either of the two times each year when the sun is furthest from the equator

2. A stopping or turning point, or a culmination of something.

 

Comes from Latin solstitium, from sol ‘sun’ + sistere ‘to stand still.’ This is because, even though the sun clearly continues to rise and set, its course appears to gradually move across the sky between the spring and autumn equinoxes (remember that word?), and then back again, while at the solstices its course stops before beginning to move the other direction.

Marks the first day of summer, (the summer solstice, which is the longest day of the year) and the first day of winter (winter solstice, shortest day).

The same root gives us armistice (a ‘standing still’ of arms, or weapons) and assist, literally ‘helping to stand.’

3/20/16

Equinox

(ē’-kwə-näks, e’-)

n. 1. The point in time when the sun crosses the earth’s equator.

2. The day (twice a year) when day and night are of equal length.

 

In Case You’re Springterested…

This one’s pretty straightforward. It comes from Latin aequinoctium, that is aequus ‘equal’ + nox ‘night.’ It occurs on the first day of spring (the vernal equinox) and the first day of autumn (the autumnal equinox). Winter and summer, however, each begin on a ‘solstice.’ But if I told you what that means, I’d have to call this “Words a Day,” so…