Everything comes from the Earth.

This week I am cheating by posting a video. In this video, I talked about roots and how handy they can be when studying vocabulary.

I hope you enjoy the visual content once in a while.

Annotation:

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 20.44.58

一期一会   –    Ichigo ichie   –   Nhất Kì Nhất Hội

“Ichigo ichie” literally translates to “one time, one meeting” or “one opportunity, one encounter”, meaning every encounter, every occurrence can only happen once in a lifetime.

This is a Japanese term originated from CHADO – the Japanese tea ceremony. The philosophy behind it is contemplating. People can have multiple rendezvous, can savor multiple cups of tea, but each experience is singular, unique, and unduplicable. It is this very meeting; this very cup of tea for this very moment. Any recurrence of the event is diverging and incomparable to the others.
Each moment in life should be treasured and treated with utmost sincerity.

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A Report on the Banality of Clichés

cvcliche

Follow your heart.

Money can’t buy happiness.

Live each moment as if it is your last.

Good things come to those who wait.

When life gives you lemon, make lemonade.

What do those phrases have in common?

Yes, they have the impression of being captivating and powerful.  No, no one takes them seriously anymore.

To be fair, those expressions initially sound clever and inspirational. They describe the situation well. They are catchy. They are convenient to use, like instant noodles and microwavable meals. The problem is they get old quickly. Typically, people rely on these remarks because people either are lazy or lack imagination. They are unable to come up with anything fresh or original.

So at best, some people are dearly inspired by those expressions. These people find the need to share them, to repost them on Facebook. At worse, you see and hear them so frequently that you are sick of them. You cringe when your friend theatrically recites those remarks thinking she is restoring humanity’s passion, at the same time, wondering if everyone would realize how witty and ingenuous she is. Somewhere in the middle, those expressions were somewhat lovely and specific at first, but over time, they have become extremely poignant and generic. They got exploited to the point that they have lost their novelty, power and ingenuity.

So what do you call these remarks/sayings/expressions? Turns out that the English language has a handful of words to name them.

Cliché

Cliché is a borrowed word from French, which refers to a sentence or phrase that has been so overused that it has become dull, boring, and unoriginal. Think about the expressions “curiosity kills the cat,” or “never say never,” or “fake it until you make it.” A movie’s plot can also be called a cliché if it is trite and predictable through overuse.

Cliché is the French word for a printing plate. Since letters in a printing plate are fixed with the same expressions printed again and again, cliché is now used metaphorically to describe something copied and repeated without variation; a stereotyped idea, formula, plot, etc.

Platitude

Platitude is also a hackneyed saying that expresses a popular or common thought. You know it; everyone knows it. It is old and corny. The English language has plenty of theses recycled ordinary clichés, or platitudes. Phrases like “go with the flow,” “work smarter, not harder,” are so worn-out that they have lost their impact over time. Everyone is tired of listening to these lousy old remarks.

Platitude also originates from French, literally means flatness. If something is flat, it is dull, stale and unexciting. Similarly, a platitude is meaningless, conventional and prosaic.

Bromide

A bromide is a common phrase or proverb that is so obvious and trivial, like “it is what it is,” “what goes around comes around.” Such vô thưởng vô phạt, non-specific, clichéd sayings are bromides. A bromide is not helpful even though it is meant to offer comfort. Despite their good intentions, bromides don’t do anything to alleviate the situation.

The word bromide comes from the chemical binary compound made of the element bromine (Br), and another element. Historically, bromide was used as a sedative to suppress people’s feelings; making them dull and dormant, just as figurative bromides are dull and tiring.

Banality

A banality is a timeworn cliché, platitude or bromide. Banalities are sayings that everyone uses. They are so familiar, so ubiquitous to the point that they no longer spark any interest.

“Banality is a symptom of non-communication. Men hide behind their clichés.” -Eugène Ionesco

Banality is also the noun form of banal. As a noun, it is the state of being banal or mundane, as in ‘the banality of everyday life.’

Bonus:

Deus ex machina 

In a movie or a novel, when the plot develops to such a complex point that is unlikely to be resolved. Then at the climax, something ridiculous jumps out of nowhere and solves everything; that ridiculous thingy is a deus ex machina.  That thingy could be a fairy, a god, a super hero, an alien, a hidden treasure under the toilet, a new discovered ability of the protagonist, a resurrection of the main hero, a heart attack of the villain, a potato, or an everything-was-a-dream type of plot. In general, deus ex machina is the intervention of any unexpected character/event/object that has not been introduced earlier but now its presence offers an unconvincing solution to an impossible situation.

Deus ex machina is Latin, literally means “god from a machine.” In ancient theaters, a machine was used to hang actors who played god; he came out of nowhere, descended to the stage and cleaned up the unsolvable mess. In modern entertainment, the term has evolved with a negative connotation, referring to a mediocre denouement in a poorly written script.

Bồ.

January and Contronyms

Say hi to Janus.

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Janus is an ancient Roman god. His occupation is quite unimpressive. He keeps the gate of Heaven, so he becomes the god of…doors and gates. Now despite doing a mundane job that has nothing to do with the start or the change of anything, Janus the security guard is often associated with beginnings and transitions. He is depicted with two faces; one looking back to the past and one looking forward to the future. January is named after this dude. The concept of him being two-faced is now interpreted as one retrospecting on the year gone by and the other facing forward to the coming year.

Janus doesn’t mind very much that his name is borrowed to mark the first month of the Gregorian calendar, along with his fellow cool gods such as Mars, the god of war for March, Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty for April, Juno, the chief Roman goddess for June, etc. After all, he is a deceptive two-faced dude, who knows for sure what he thinks or believes. The term Janus-faced is often used to characterize people who are deceitful and duplicitous. That isn’t all, the western culture has milked his name to the last bit. A whole class of words in English known as contronyms are also called Janus words. Analogously, Janus words are contrasting and two-faced.

A contronym is one single word that consists two contradictory meanings simultaneously. To name a few, let’s say we dust furniture to remove dust particles, but we also dust cookies with powdered sugar to spread particles over it. If one overlooks something, he either fails to notice it or carefully supervises it. To cleave to something means to stick to it; conversely, cleave can also mean to split apart. Likewise, sanction as a verb means to authorize in some context and to penalize in others; as a noun, a sanction is sometimes a punishment, other times an approval. We clip things together to attach them but when we clip a photo from a magazine, we cut it out. Oh, and did you know that literally now means figuratively? As in “OH my god, that movie LITERALLY blew my head.” Nope, there wasn’t any explosion from that upper part of the body that contains the brain. “Literally” in this context no longer defines a matter in its literal sense; it is, in fact, used as a hyperbole to emphasize exaggeration.

I’ll end this post with a very common contronym, finish. Say, you are putting a finish on the surface of something, you are perfecting it, burnishing it so it comes out as complete as a whole. However, finish can also mean to destroy, to annihilate, to exterminate until nothing is left.
And this post is finished.

Bồ.

Set fire to the rain – Lyrics rewrite

I let it fall, my heart,
And as it fell you rose to claim it
It was dark and I was over
Until you kissed my lips and you saved me

I permit its declivity, my anatomical organ which is responsible for blood circulation.
And whilst the matter descented, thou aroused and authorized it
It sinisterly benighted as I arrived at my own conclusion.
Up to the time you orally impact my labium and you salvaged me

My hands, they’re strong
But my knees were far too weak,
To stand in your arms
Without falling to your feet

The appendages at the end of my limbs are mesomorphic
Nevertheless, my patellas were unproportionally enervated,
To position my body on top of your two upper limbs
And preclude the possibility of gravitating downwards to your two lower limbs

But there’s a side to you
That I never knew, never knew.
All the things you’d say
They were never true, never true,
And the games you play
You would always win, always win.

Nonetheless, there is a flaw of you being a man
That my mental capacity was not at all competent to comprehend
The accumulation of your verbal colloquy did not even possess an iota of veracity
As well as the entertaining activities you have participated.
The declaration of your victory has been perpetuated.

[Chorus:]
But I set fire to the rain,
Watched it pour as I touched your face,
Well, it burned while I cried
‘Cause I heard it screaming out your name, your name!

And I ignite the precipitation
Observe its downward motion
While I make a physical contact to your facial profile
I verbally sighed, it conflagrated while I wet my eyes.
By the reason me perceiving it vociferating out your pseudonym.

When I lay with you
I could stay there
Close my eyes
Feel you here forever
You and me together
Nothing is better

During the time at which I am in a horizontal position on a flat surface with you
I had the possibility to sojourn at that region
Restrict the light from penetrating my pupils
Perceive your eternal presence
The amalgamation of our companies
Not a single entity is more advantageous.

‘Cause there’s a side to you
That I never knew, never knew,
All the things you’d say,
They were never true, never true,
And the games you play
You would always win, always win.

For the reason that there exists a shadow in your perfection.
That I was on no occasion cognizant, cognizant.
The accumulation of your verbal colloquy did not even possess an iota of veracity
As well as the entertaining activities you have participated.
The declaration of your victory has been perpetuated.

[Chorus:]
But I set fire to the rain,
Watched it pour as I touched your face,
Well, it burned while I cried
‘Cause I heard it screaming out your name, your name!

And I ignite the precipitation
Observe its downward motion
While I make a physical contact to your facial profile
I verbally sighed, it conflagrated while I wet my eyes.
By the reason me perceiving it vociferating out your pseudonym.

I set fire to the rain
And I threw us into the flames
When we fell, something died
‘Cause I knew that that was the last time, the last time!

And I ignite the precipitation
Then I directed us toward the ablaze flame with the strength and speed of my arms’ movement
As the time we came down under the influence of gravity, an unidentified object perished.
On account of me acknowledging that it was terminated.

Sometimes I wake up by the door,
That heart you caught must be waiting for you
Even now when we’re already over
I can’t help myself from looking for you.

Periodically I arouse my body into a vertical position adjacent to an egress
That hearty organ which you captured is obligated to linger and anticipate for your beingness.
Albeit the fact that our termination has been currently established
I am not capable to refrain my disposition from aiming for your hereness

[Chorus:]
I set fire to the rain,
Watched it pour as I touched your face,
Well, it burned while I cried
‘Cause I heard it screaming out your name, your name

And I ignite the precipitation
Observe its downward motion
While I make a physical contact to your facial profile
I verbally sighed, it conflagrated while I wet my eyes.
By the reason me perceiving it vociferating out your pseudonym.

I set fire to the rain,
And I threw us into the flames
When we fell, something died
‘Cause I knew that that was the last time, the last time, ohhhh!

And I ignite the precipitation
Then I projected our bodies into the combustive operation
As the time we collapse under the influence of gravity, an unidentified object perished.
On account of me acknowledging that it was suspended.

Oh noooo
Let it burn, oh
Let it burn
Let it burn

This is a denial exclamation
Permit its combustion, exclamational sound.
Give it sanction to conflagrate
Grant it the authority to incinerate
Ditto the above statement

Dr.Q And Word Origins

First of all, Bồ would like to dedicate this second post to Dr.Q.

For over the years, Dr.Q has been a great source of academic inspiration. He is also a very knowledgeable and visionary mentor of mine.

I must accredit Dr.Q for the informative value of this entry. Not only for  all of these definitions (every single one of them) have I learned from him, but also for the explanations of their origins.

This entry is simply a revised narration of a conversation I once had with Dr.Q. As usual, Bồ asked Dr.Q for the definition of one word. And the question, after being thoroughly answered, triggered about ten more other terms.

The cue word of that day was maverick. And the story began…

Maverick

The term maverick is used to refer to someone who is a social outcast, a rebel. Nonconformists who insist on doing things their ways are called mavericks. The story behind this word dated back to the 1800s, where a cattleman named Maverick, let his cows run unbranded without any identification mark. Since then, people used his name to address anyone that acts against social conventions. Maverick was a maverick because he did not follow common practice of herding his animal.

After taking care of the term maverick, I then asked,“Do all English words have interesting origins like maverick?” Here is the answer, maverick is an eponym. Then, the term eponym arose…

Eponym

An eponym is a word that originates from a person’s name. An epic example is sandwich-that thing you ate this morning. It is named after the guy, who practically put the idea of eating two slices of bread filled with meat into actuality, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.

And so, the rest of the entry will be all eponyms.

Quixotic

I am pretty positive that most people have, at least one point in their lives, heard of the character Don Quixote (pronounced Don-kee-ho-teh). He is a fictional character from the Spanish novel “Don Quixote” who is overly idealistic to the point of impractical. The adjective quixotic, is used to direct to people, things, ideas that are unrealistic or implausible. A friend of mine believes that it is possible to completely wipe out all corruption and venality in our society; to obtain a sustainable utopia model of society where everything is pristine. He and his idea are quixotic.

Martinet

A martinet is a very strict disciplinarian. He or she demands absolute conformity and adherence to rules and regulations with no flexibility, no room for tolerance. So if you have a teacher that won’t accept your homework to be written in anything other than pencil, she is a martinet. Or a boss who punctiliously cavils over trifling flaws; flaws that aren’t allowed in his book of rules. He is a martinet. Just like other words, martinet is coined after a French military officer named Martinet. He was (surprise!) a martinet.

There were about five more eponyms Dr.Q mentioned, but please pardon my limited memory. Those above are all I could remember.

Prison Break and Similar Word Pairs.

This is the first entry written by Bồ.

I’d like to thank Đề for taking her time creating this blog and frequently updating it.

The purpose of this blog is to study lexicon. Now, one productive way, to digest new words the minute we encounter them, is to associate words we learn with contexts we know. Since Bồ and Đề are both big fans of the TV show Prison Break, today Bồ will borrow events, circumstances and assumable facts from the show to demonstrate definitions of some words. The vocab in this entry are commonly confused pairs, thus I think it’d be more efficient to put them aside for perusing.

Vindicate vs Vindictive:

Vindicate is a verb. To vindicate someone is to free the person from his previous blame and justify him as innocent. The synonyms are exonerate and exculpate. Most people are familiar with exonerate. And you probably recognize the root <culp> in exculpate. Remember culpable, meaning guilty, or culprit -the person who is responsible for a crime/wrongdoing. Now we add the prefix <ex->, meaning “out of” to <culp>, thus we just exclude the person out of his blame. Veronica tried to convince the Supreme Court to vindicate Lincoln Burrows.

Vindictive is an adjective. A vindictive person is a revengeful person, who is always seeking for revenge and looking to retaliate for a wrong that has been done.
At one point in the show, Lincoln Burrows becomes vindictive after Mahone killed his father.

Ingenuous vs Ingenious:

Ingenious means artful, adroit, resourceful and clever. Especially when the subject of speak shows creativity and inventiveness. Michael Scofield would be an exemplar of this adjective. Michael, without qualification, put together ingenious ideas to blueprint elaborate plans, and, adeptly, broke out of prisons.

Ingenuous, on the other hand, means artless, innocent, trusting, guile, or simple. It could be used as a compliment or an insult. Regarding to the show, I honestly don’t think any character would fit in the definition of this word. Perhaps those little children who haphazardly show up here and there as potential preys of Theodore Bagwell.

The only difference between Ingenuous and Ingenious is the letter ‘u’ vs ‘i’. One mnemonic I came up with is to correlate the ‘i’ with inventive, and the ‘u’ with trusting. Doesn’t sound cogent enough to serve as an adequate mnemonic. Feel free to come up with your own.

Preemptive and Peremptory:

To act before someone else does is to act preemptively. There are a number of situations in Prison Break where actions are anticipated and taken preemptively. Alexander Mahone, despite being wise and prudent, is almost always one step behind Scofield. Just as he is about to catch up with the brothers, Michael has preemptively made his way out of town.

Peremptory means arrogant, bossy and overbearing. Just to be nice, I will ascribe this word to Bradly Bellick, although I feel like this adjective sounds way too classy for his temperament. Bradley Bellick, when was in authority, exercised the little power he had, consistently put Michael in precarious situations. And of course, he was extremely peremptory, to the point of obnoxious.

Story No. 1

The introduction of Weird Stories Category.

This is the section where Bồ and Đề learn English together by sitting down and writing stories. Due to the distance, we use Google Docs for this live activity since it allows simultaneously editing. In the early days of their friendship, Bồ and Đề have composed Mọt Sách, a vocabulary list that consists of all the new “big” words that they wish to learn. Each of them would write one sentence and be able to lead the story as they might. And while doing so, they would have to scroll up and down the list to use as many words from it as possible.

This is the first Weird Story.

I wake up in a prairie, standing not far away is a grotesque creature.

The creature doesn’t notice my presence, it is voraciously imbibing a peculiar muddy liquid.

Where is this place? What time is it? And what is this monster? I am completely oblivious of what’s happening.

Suddenly, the sky darkens, the sunny day has switched to night time in a blink. It must be night, just like how I feel at this very moment, benighted.

Not knowing if this monstrous thing is a friend or an enemy, I think this is an auspicious time to get lost.

In my attempt to escape, I clumsily step on a puddle; making my movement noticeable to the thing. The creature turns around and gives me a baleful look.

I knew it, I always jeopardize myself by being persistently reckless. But before I can blame myself more, its face turns into a warm smile and said to me: “Where’re you going, darling?”

Oh, you think you can just vanish like that? Lemme tell ya, this is my territory. Like, I am the god of this land, you know. Like, I am omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, whatever those words even mean. Like, you know, every little move of yours is in my, like, control.” The thing talks to me, in an extremely annoying high-pitch female or, worse, gay accent.

“The god of this land? I doubt that. Look at you! A sovereign would never have to labour so hard that have such indubitably callous shoulders and palms. Tell me, my dearest lord, what kind god you are? A slavery one?”

The monster demurs for a moment to ruminate my words. One second, two seconds passes. Then it bursts into tears and dashes into the forest. While I feel like I just survive a heart attack, I can hear it yells at me from the deep, “How can you talk to me in such an atrocious manner? I will seek for retaliation.”

What is going on? Who is this sensitive little creature? Despite its rough appearance, it doesn’t seem to be formidable at all, actually quite estimable and eminent instead. But never mind, I still need to find out who I am and where I belong. So I run. Toward the sun .

Then the monster comes back with a couple hundreds of its minions. They attack me and devour me.
The End.