Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words!
I get words all day through;
First from him, now from you!
Is that all you blighters can do?
Hand job [whoops – did I really say that?]
To be an old hand at something
You’re in good hands
If you want to know the meaning of these expressions, try the Urban Dictionary.
Then we can move down a notch: To have one’s finger in many pies, fickle finger of fate, etc.
Since my students and I are now back in school, I feel an obligation to make my posts more, um, instructional. I inherited some of my grandmother’s love of words, so today I’m inspired by the book I’m currently reading: The Man Who Loved China, by Simon Winchester. It’s the story of Joseph Needham, the scholar who authored the multi-volume Science and Civilization in China.
All right, class, are you ready? Our two words for today come from my current reading: peripatetic and phlegmatic. With a nod to Mr. Winchester, I’ll take my definitions from the Oxford English.
1. travelling from place to place.
2. working or based in a succession of places.
Derivatives: peripatetically (adverb)
Peripatetic is often linked with monks, many of whom have wandered far and wide in pursuit of wisdom or enlightenment. One of the more famous was Chinese monk Xuanzang who, in the seventh century AD, undertook an epic journey to India and back that lasted 18 years. His quest: to study Buddhist philosophy from the Indian masters and to retrieve sacred Mahayana Buddhist texts for the benefit of his homeland. His ultimate destination in India was Nalanda, an ancient Buddhist center of learning.
unemotional and stolidly calm
The word derives from phlegm, and supposedly phlegmatic has to do with the phlegm humor (one of the moods). That’s about all I want to know about it.
The British are generally regarded as being phlegmatic: unemotional, taking it all in stride; Simon Winchester certainly describes them that way. I guess it’s part of their national character, along with the famous stiff upper lip.
So there you have two very different words, both of which occur in one book and, now, in one blog. If you want to earn some extra credit, here are a few more “p” words to research: perspicacious, persnickety, persimmon, and parsimonious.
What? You want to leave class early? Do I look like I’m finished talking? Did you hear that sorry-ass excuse for a bell yet? You put your behind in that chair and look like you’re halfway interested in learning a language. Just for that, you will take a pop quiz right this minute!