Wordmaster: anyone

When anyone is used as an indefinite pronoun to mean “anybody”, it is written as one word:  Anyone could tell you the answer. Do you know anyone else who could help?

Otherwise, it is written as two words:  Any one of us could have scored a high mark. A maximum of six people are allowed in this lift [elevator] at any one time.

Anything and anywhere are written as one word; any time as two words.

Source:  The Penguin Wordmaster Dictionary, Martin Manser and Nigel Turton, eds., 1987.

It all makes intuitive sense to me, as a native English speaker. But you can understand why someone for whom English is a second language would be completely befuddled — as so often with this magnificent, exasperating tongue of ours!

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Wordmaster: racket

The instrument used for striking the ball in games such as tennis, badminton, and squash is known as a racket. This word derives via the Middle French raquette and Italian racchetta, from the Arabic rahah meaning “palm of the hand”.

Source:  The Penguin Wordmaster Dictionary, Martin Manser and Nigel Turton, eds., 1987.

I’m surprised that the Wordmaster dictionary uses the spelling “racket”. In my own use, I have always distinguished between “racket”, meaning “lots of noise” (as in, Stop making that racket!) and “racquet”, in reference to that thing you use to hit the ball in tennis or badminton.

When Canadian spelling differs from an American variant, usually we’re retaining the original English spelling. Wordmaster is an English dictionary, but here it uses what I consider to be an American spelling. Perhaps, in this instance, we Canadians are following the French?

Wordmaster: galvanize

The word galvanize is derived from a person’s name:  Luigi Galvani, a physician and physicist of Bologna. It’s an example of an eponym (a word that derives from the name of a person).

Galvani observed that the legs of a frog would twitch when brought into contact with certain metals. The twitching was the result of a kind of animal electricity—hence galvanize, “to stimulate into sudden action”.

Other eponyms include:

  • cardigan from James Thomas Brudenell, seventh Earl of Cardigan (1797-1868);
  • Hoover (i.e., a vacuum cleaner) from W.H. Hoover (1849-1932);
  • mackintosh from Charles M. Macintosh (1766-1843);
  • sandwich from John Montagu, fourth Earl of Sandwich; and
  • silhouette from Étienne de Silhouette (1709-67).

Source:  The Penguin Wordmaster Dictionary, Martin Manser and Nigel Turton, eds., 1987.

Wordmaster: amiable, amicable

These two words, amiable and amicable, should be carefully distinguished.

Amiable is used to describe people or expressions and means “appearing pleasant, agreeable, and friendly”:  an amiable mood, an amiable smile.

Amicable is used to describe arrangements or agreements and means “showing friendly goodwill”:  The two sides reached an amicable agreement. They settled their differences in an amicable manner.

Source:  The Penguin Wordmaster Dictionary, Martin Manser and Nigel Turton, eds., 1987.

Wordmaster: cut to the quick

A person who is cut to the quick is one whose feelings have been deeply hurt. The expression provides an illustration of the original meaning of quick, which comes from the Old English adjective cwic, meaning “alive”.

A cut which penetrates the quick is one which goes through the skin and enters the painfully sensitive living flesh, as found beneath the nails.

Source:  The Penguin Wordmaster Dictionary, Martin Manser and Nigel Turton, eds., 1987.

A better illustration might be, cutting through a callous to reach the living, sensitive skin beneath. (But does a callous consist of dead skin? I dunno.)

Another example of quick meaning “living” immediately comes to mind:  quickening, the first time a mother-to-be feels her baby move inside her. The quickening indicates that the baby is alive — i.e., cwic.

Wordmaster: galore

“Galore is an example of an adjective that follows the noun referred to. [As in Pussy Galore, I suppose.] This is different from the normal pattern of the adjective coming before the word being modified. Other examples of adjectives like galore are:

elect, “soon to take office”: the president elect;
proper, “as strictly defined”: the City of London proper;
regent, “governing during the minority, incapacity, etc., of the rightful monarch”: a prince regent.”

Source:  The Penguin Wordmaster Dictionary, Martin Manser and Nigel Turton, eds., 1987.

Wordmaster: alligator

alligator

“The Spanish name for a lizard is lagarto. When the Spaniards first came across the alligator during their travels in the New World, they called it el lagarto or “the lizard” because of its lizard-like features. To English ears the two words el lagarto sounded like a single word. Hence the English name alligator.”

From The Penguin Wordmaster Dictionary, Martin Manser and Nigel Turton, eds., 1987.