Monday, August 27, 2012

Learn Something New Every Day

Today I am on top of things.  I woke up bright and early.  Matt had gotten the coffee ready last night, so I only had to press a button.  I set a 30 minute timer on my stove and stumbled back to bed.

When I next got up, I was ready to roll.  When I heard the oven timer beep, I quickly grabbed my glasses and my (newly found, second hand, paper) copy of Jane Eyre, and dashed out to turn off the timer before it could wake anyone else.  I filled my coffee cup and continued around the corner toward the living room.  When I got to the top of the stairs, I put down my book and coffee, and scooted down to the laundry room to put a quick load in.  While there, I sorted any of the stuff from the chute that had built up yesterday.

So here I sit, two jobs done and it's not even 6:00.  I read a paragraph from my book.
A little solace came at teatime, in the shape of a double ration of bread--a whole, instead of a half, slice--with the delicious addition of a thin scrape of butter.  It was the hebdomadal treat to which we all looked forward from Sabbath to Sabbath.  I generally contrived to reserve a moiety of the bounteous repast for myself; but the remainder I was invariably obliged to part with.  from Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, Jane describing her meager existence at Lowood School for Orphans.
In that one brief paragraph I found two words with which I was unfamiliar, and whose meanings I was to work out from roots and similar words.  Good thing for google, and online dictionaries.  I quickly did a search on each unfamiliar word, hebdomadal and moiety, and opened up a couple of pages for each one. 

But before I could even read the definitions, Matt stumbled up the stairs and said, "Sorry, Mom, I overslept.  Can you help me throw my lunch together, please?"  And so my definitions sat.  All those tabs open with those various meanings.  And they had to wait.  Tickling the back of my brain.  That curious corner of my consciousness that is sometimes so active I feel like a child.  Why?  What?  How?

I made Matt six sandwiches for his lunch, and I added a little something for supper, since he'll be going straight to football practice after work.  My fingers were going through the motions of spreading peanut butter and dispersing sandwich meat.  My mouth was conversing with Matt about his day and coming week. 

But all the while, in that little curious corner of my brain, I had two unfamiliar words bouncing around.  "Hebdomadal.  Moiety.  Moiety.  Hebdomadal.  What could they mean?" 

"I must know some other words that could give me a clue.  Especially," thought I, "Hebdomadal.  It sounds so Greek.  I think.  Is that Greek or Latin?" 

Having never studied either, I couldn't say for sure.  But it just had that sound as though I ought to be able to figure it out.  But all I could grasp was the dom part.  "Could that have something to do with dwelling or home, as in domicile?  Hmmm.  Contextually, it doesn't work.  Plus it feels Latin, and the word as a whole feels Greek." 

But now, after that brief pause, Matt is off to work.  I am again in my living room, sitting with my cup of coffee.  My wash machine is in its final spin, so soon I'll have to scurry back down there to start the next load.  Soon, too, I have to meet my neighbor ladies for our walk. 

But first,...FIRST..., I indulged in scanning the waiting definitions. 

I discovered that indeed I ought to have recognized part of hebdomadal.  And it was Greek not Latin.  The first syllable, heb, as in hepta-, as in heptadecagon, a seventeen sided polygon.  I still can't figure the dom or om part, but really, it feels as thought there must be something.  Maybe hebdom is the Greek for week, and we add the other letters as our adjectival ending?  Maybe?

hebdomadal:  weekly

Simple.  Fun.  A new word.  Heb: seven.  Awesome. 

I love words.

But moiety...moiety?...moiety.  There seems to be no pattern there.  No clue with this word.  No familiar roots from which to draw. 

Moiety:  Half or portion.

One drawback of the online dictionaries is that they seem to change their formats quite often.  That's why I always open several different ones.  Mirriam-Webster, Free Online Dictionary by Farlex,  Whichever.  I like to read several definitions, in the hopes of getting the most well-rounded idea of a given word.  But today none of them have included any roots.  Seems strange.  It's been awhile since I've engaged in this somewhat geeky activity.  But I think these online sources used to include roots.

The roots of moiety must remain a mystery.  I must be content with that.  I'll probably eventually check a paper dictionary if I happen to find one lying around in my heaps and piles of books that never seem to get put back where they belong. 

Until then, I must be content with having learned two new words first thing this morning.  It's a good start to a new week. 

Silly as it may be, it makes me happy.


Marge said...

Moiety looks and sounds French to me. Love learning new stuff. New what I learned today? In a fit of jealousy, poet Robert frost started a fire at a poetry reading, in order to disrupt the reading of another! As Greg Brown sings: Who Would Have Thunk It!

theMom said...

Interesting about Robert Frost. I don't know anything about him.

But I do know that Henry David Thoreau accidentally started a forest fire once. Read a pathetic excuse for historical fiction about it. But I'd never recommend the book to anyone. Blech. Ish.