What’s In A Word: Rogue

Sarah Palin’s book, Going Rogue: An American Life, sold at least 469,000 copies in the first five days, according to Nielsen BookScan data.

People either love Sarah Palin or hate her, there’s no in-between.

If you hate her, here’s bad news: “Polls show that Palin’s favorability numbers are a mirror image of those of Obama,” says Matthew Dowd of the Washington Post.

Could that mean as many people adore Sarah Palin as do President Obama?

Makes you think. After all, this is the country that elected George Bush president, twice.

I have yet to meet a “Palinista,” but I don’t talk to many people besides my wife and my dog Princess. They’re not into politics.

Anyway, Ms Palin might have taken a little more care with the title of her memoir.

My sister Bonnie shared this examination of the word rogue, Sarah Palin’s self-descriptor, by one of Bonnie’s colleagues, fellow teacher Justin Gillam:


Main Entry: 1rogue

Pronunciation: rōg
Function: noun
Etymology: origin unknown
Date: 1561

1 : vagrant, tramp
2 : a dishonest or worthless person : scoundrel
3 : a mischievous person : scamp
4 : a horse inclined to shirk or misbehave
5 : an individual exhibiting a chance and usually inferior biological variation


Justin Gillam
History Teacher
Mt. View Middle School

Mark Twain said it best:
“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”

My favorite antonyms

déjà vu vs. jamais vu

Déjà vu is French for “already seen.” Déjà vu is an uncanny feeling or illusion of having already seen or experienced something that is being experienced for the first time.

If we assume that the experience is actually of a remembered event, then déjà vu probably occurs  because an original experience was neither fully attended to nor elaborately encoded in memory. If so, then it would seem most likely that the present situation triggers the recollection of a fragment from one’s past.

The experience may seem uncanny if the memory is so fragmented that no strong connections can be made between the fragment and other memories.

Jamais vu is the contrary of déjà vu. In jamais vu, “never seen.” an experience feels like it’s the first time, even though the experience is a familiar one. Jamais vu occurs in certain types of amnesia and epilepsy.

From the Skeptic’s Dictionary http://www.skepdic.com/

Everyone has experienced déjà vu. For me, it sometimes happens when I meet someone for the first time and we begin to talk and I suddenly have this feeling that I’ve had this exact same conversation with this individual before.

You’ve probably experienced jamais vu too without realizing it. An example of jamais vu is to walk into a room and your mother is sitting there. For a moment, you see her just as other people see your mother, without recognition or any emotional attachment.

Spell check flails me

Mention of the Skeptic’s Dictionary reminds me that for some reason I keep spelling skeptic sceptic. It’s one of those words that, if I didn’t have spell check, I’d always get it wrong.

Words I habitually have trouble spelling are judgement for judgment, nuerologist for neurologist, perscription for prescription, and deisel for diesel.

There are a host of other words that trip me up, but I can’t recall them now. Oh, yeah: heros for heroes.

When I come across a word like “discrepancy” or “fluorescent” I either take a stab at it and let spell check correct it or I turn to the dictionary to make sure I have the right word and not one of those pesky homonyms—a situation beyond the ken of spell check.

For example, if I had typed “florescent light,” spell check wouldn’t bat an eye (unless I misspelled florescent). “Florescent” means a flower while “fluorescent” means radiating light. Hey! Two homonyms for my list: florescent and fluorescent.

OK, I’m not a great speller. All the more reason I’m in awe of the kids who have won the National Spelling Bee.

Here are words that challenged contestants and when correctly spelled brought top honors in the last five national spelling bees:

appoggiatura (2005) a musical term: an embellishing note or tone preceding an essential melodic note or tone and usually written as a note of smaller size. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary

ursprache (2006) a hypothetically reconstructed parent language, as Proto-Germanic, the ancestor of the Germanic languages (Huh?). Random House Unabridged Dictionary

serrefine (2007) a small forceps for clamping a blood vessel. Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary

guerdon (2008) a reward, recompense, or requital. Random House Dictionary

Laodicean (2009) a synonym for “lukewarm,” especially applicable to religious matters. The winner was thirteen-year-old Kavya Shivashankar from Kansas.

My spell check missed 3 of the 5 words, only recognizing appoggiatura and guerdon.

My parting shot: “One cannot be Laodicean in one’s reaction to Sarah Palin and the guerdons her celebrity have brought her, among which the title of bestselling author is just the appoggiatura of her time on the world stage,” says Serrefine Ursprache.


Homonyms, Homophones, and Other Confusingly Similar Words

Since I’ve been doing this feature on my blog, I’ve really started to notice homonyms, homophones–even antonyms and synonyms, in everyday conversations and on the radio (I listen all day and into the evening to my local public radio stations, KPCC Pasadena and KVCR San Bernardino, and talk radio KFI Los Angeles ).

It’s amazing what you discover when you listen carefully to a person’s choice of words. What is it they’re really trying to say? Especially when someone is speaking spontaneously and not from a prepared statement.

When moving quickly, sometimes the mind will slip on a word. Reminds me that I should explore malapropisms in my next post.

If you find yourself noticing homonyms, homophones, and other confusingly similar words, please leave a comment with your favorites.

compleat kuhm-pleet (adjective)  Highly skilled and accomplished in all aspects; complete
complete kuhm-pleet (adjective)  Having all parts or elements; lacking nothing; whole

exercise ek-ser-sahyz (verb)  To use; to exert oneself physically or mentally
exorcise ek-sawr-sahyz (verb) To expel, as an evil spirit

gouache goo-ahsh; Fr. gwash (noun)  A technique of painting with opaque watercolors prepared with gum
gauche gohsh (adjective)  Lacking social grace or sensitivity; awkward; crude

liter lee-ter (noun)  A unit of volume equal to 1000 cubic centimeters or 1 cubic decimeter (1.0567 quarts)
leader lee-der (noun)  A guiding or directing head, as of an army, movement, or political group

See my master list of all the homonyms, homophones, and other confusingly similar words I’ve posted to date

Two interesting antonyms

Regulation vs. Dysregulation
(noun) a law, rule, or other order prescribed by authority, esp. to regulate conduct
dysregulation (medical) impairment of a physiological regulatory mechanism
People with Borderline Personality Disorder often experience emotional dysregulation.

OK, dysregulation is a stretch, you don’t hear it very often. Actually, you never hear it outside of medical school. I heard the word “dysregulation” for the first time last week at a NAMI meeting (check out my blog postings for more on the National Alliance on Mental Illness) when dysregulation was mentioned in a talk about borderline personality disorder (BPD). BPD, a form of mental illness, explains why there are so many really annoying people among us. BPD is biologically based, so those people can’t help being assholes, and you have to grit your teeth and forgive them for they know not what they do.

Utopia vs. Dystopia
(noun) any visionary system of political or social perfection
dystopia (noun) a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding
I don’t know if California has ever been a utopia, maybe before any Europeans showed up, but it sure is headed towards a dystopia, thanks to our dysfunctional “leaders” in Sacramento.

Other interesting “U” words
I like browsing through the u’s in my dictionary. First, it doesn’t take long because there are relatively few words beginning with “U,” nothing like the A’s, M’s, S’s, and T’s, but more to offer than the Q’s, X’s, and Z’s. And second, a lot of intriguing words start with “U.”

In a recent visit, I stumbled on “ultra” and its variations…
ultra going beyond others or beyond true limits; from the Latin “ultra,” beyond.
ultraconservative extremely conservative
ultrahigh frequency a radio frequency between 300 and 3000 megahertz
ultralightultralight a very light recreational aircraft capable of carrying only one person
ultramarine a very bright deep blue color
ultramodern extremely or excessively modern in idea, style or tendency
ultramontane 1: of or relating to countries or peoples beyond the mountains 2: favoring greater or absolute supremacy of papal over national or diocesan authority in the Roman Catholic Church ( I actually had reason to look up “ultramontane” last month as I was reading a book about the Spanish Inquisition).
ultrapure of the utmost purity
ultrashort having a wavelength below 10 meters; short duration
ultrasonic having a frequency too high to be heard by the human ear
ultraviolet having a wavelength shorter than those of visible light and longer than those of X rays
ultra vires beyond the scope of legal power of authority

Then there’s all the words that “un” unravels the base word behind it, my favorites being “unlikely” and “unbelievable.”  Check it out, and let me know your ultrafavorite “un”-prefixed word. “Unforgettable” anyone?


Ultra Underpants, Unbelievable!