Last Update : 19 april 2005

Words are the elementary bricks of every language, so they are the bricks of our "reasoning".

Many are misused, and many are "equivoque" : In poetry, this may add a value, but "meaning the same thing" in our communications will surely help a better understanding.

Here you'll find some reflections on some words, or what's related with playing with words :

A tribute to Orwell

Here is a part of  Orwell And Me about 1984 :

By expurgating all words that might be troublesome - "bad" is no longer permitted, but becomes "double-plus-ungood" - and by making other words mean the opposite of what they used to mean - the place where people get tortured is the Ministry of Love, the building where the past is destroyed is the Ministry of Information

I think that he would be glad to know a historical transformation in Persian language before and after the invasion of Islam : The word "rang" (color) is also used as a trick (if you color something, you want to show it not as it is really). In Zoroastrian era, they had some rituals to counterbalance (demoniac) tricks, calling them "ni-rang" (have a look at The Nirang-i Kusti).

Well, nowadays, "nirang", pronounced as "neyrang" in modern Persian, is simply a trick. Showing that the Muslims took a nirang as an equivalent for rang !

Misusing, better to say abusing, words is the first step to fool people :

Robert Fisk in Baghdad: The twisted language of war that is used to justify the unjustifiable

07 April 2003

Work to live, or live to work ?

Nowadays, most of the people don’t work to live: they live to work. This brings me to my own expression in Persian :
Some live (fuck) the life, some are fucked by it ! (Pâre i az mardom zendegi mikonand, pâre i râ zendegi mikonad !)
Untranslatable because "to live" is "to do life" (zendegi kardan). By its own, "do" can mean "fuck". Get it ?
Some people work increasingly longer hours because they need more than they consume, while others do the same in order to continue consuming more than they need.

Dervish (Noun)

Pronunciation: ['dęr-vish]

Definition 1: A Muslim friar or fakir belonging to a sect that induces mystical trances by dancing feverishly while chanting religious phrases ("whirling dervish" or "howling dervish"), hence anyone possessed of frenetic energy.

Usage 1: Whirling dervishes belong to the Mevlevi (Mawlawiyya) sect of the Sufi order of Islam. This sect was founded by Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi in the 13th century. In a ritual called the sema, the dervishes spin to the music of reed pipes and drums. Chanting religious aphorisms, they remove black cloaks to reveal underlying voluminous white skirts that flare outward. The belief is that the feverish dancing releases their souls from their earthly ties and allows them to interact freely with the divine.

Suggested usage: This word serves well in referring to someone who acts frenetically, "Thelma spends most of her days watching television but she works like a dervish the night before exams." The simile applies to any activity: "Darwin seems a normal guy during the day but at night he fiddles like a dervish at a country-western dance hall outside Sparta."

Etymology: "Dervish" is a Turkish word borrowed from the Persian "darvesh," the equivalent of Arabic fakir "beggar, mendicant, friar" from Middle Persian "dreeyosh." (Our thanks to Derrell Durrett of Denver for dropping off today's word.)


—Dr. Language,

"no-where" or "now-here" !

Have you ever remarked that "nowhere" can be read in 2 manners. As a matter of fact, the first step in learning a language is to be able to say when one word is finished and the next starts. Once on a French radio, I heard, I believe for a title of a song, the speaker talking about "now here". That did not make sense in her phrase. After a while, I found out that she had read "nowhere" in this manner, not knowing this word, she had cut it into 2 "known" parts !

This amused me a lot. And I consider it as a fantastic error ; because it's the easiest manner to make the only concrete concept (Here and Now) out of such an abstract one ! This is very close to Khayyâm, who thought that the only paradise (nowhere) is "Here and Now".

Thank you Mame, for your error !!!

Fanatic (Noun)

Pronunciation: [fę-'nć-tik]

Definition 1: Someone overly enthusiastic about or irrationally devoted to a cause.

Usage 1: The noun derived from today's word is "fanaticism" and the adjective is "fanatical." The verb, "fanaticize," may mean to make someone fanatical or to behave fanatically. As you can see, the adverb is created by adding "–ly" to the adjective. Nothing to it. In the world of sports, the word is clipped to one syllable: "fan," as in "football fan(atic)," "Indian cricket fan," "Atlanta Braves fan," or "Tottenham Hotspur fan."

Suggested usage: Household uses of today's word abound: "Murray, I know you are not a lawn-care fanatic, but you aren't a farmer, either, and the yard looks like a wheat field." The younger generation uses it all the time, "Hyacinth is such a fanatic about homework that she gets all three of her boyfriends to check hers before she hands it in."

Etymology: Latin fanaticus "inspired by divinities" from fanum "temple" via French "fanatique." The Latin root fan- devolved from a suffixed form of PIE *dhes- which also underlies feria "holiday" from which English "fair" was derived (via French "feire"). English "feast" and "festive" derive from the Latin word for "festive," festus, as does French "fęte." All go back to *dhes-, whence also Greek theos (thes-os) "god." For a full scoop of PIE, see our FAQ sheet. (Our thanks to Word-of-the-Day fanatic, Richard Everson of Pittsburgh, for today's word.)


—Dr. Language,

origin of "assassin"

Do you know where does it come from ?
Well, that's an old story, about 10 centuries !  It deals with Hassan Sabbaah, and his organisation (the Ismďlians, it had 2 branches : in Egypt and in Iran).
Many, at least in France, think that it is a transformation of "Hashishioun", an expression for his group (because he was giving Hashish to his adepts to show them that he could bring them to the paradise). But this does not seem right, mainly because the sound "sh" exists in other Indo-European languages, there is no reason to change it to "ss". Also Hassan was surely using stronger drugs, maybe wine, before bringing his guys to his "special gardens with beauties".
A better hypothesis is that "Assassin" comes from the word "Assaassioun", Arab word to designate the ones with very strict principles. That's what they were, at least at the time of Hassan. He did not hesitate to condemn to death (and kill) his own son according to the principles of the Organisation, saying that there should not be any exception to the rules. He was the founder of the political terrorism, training people who were ready to kill (assassinate) whoever he was telling them. You see the point ? Putting the name of the group on what they were doing in particular.
That's why the nowadays "Prince Agha Khans" are not his direct descendants.
Anyhow, he was a fascinating personality, surely much more complicated that what they learned us in our "shit" books of history in high school in Iran (time of Shah)..

origin of "talent"

In Ancient Greece, it was used as a measure of weight, designating about 19440 grams.
Later, as a "gold talent" or "silver talent", it was used as a measure for money. For example, there was a time when a "silver talent" was  equal to 4140 francs.
It was only later that, as an extension, it took its nowadays meaning (capacity, skill etc.). Interesting "extension", isn't it ?? This passage was not direct, there was an intermediate "meaning" (word) between the 2 meanings, can you guess what it was ?
Better than anywhere else in the World, this "extension" is quite vivid in US :
The more money you have, the more you're  generally considered to be "talented".
The rest of the World is "following".  Poor World !!


The word “disaster” has its origin in “astro” or “stars” in English. Back then, they believed that stars and their celestial positioning, controlled earthly events. Anything planned “contrary” to “stars” would end in unpleasant results

Most of the population didn’t do anything before consulting their Astrologer. In the same manner, Astrologers were quite close to the governors, whose day-to-day decisions were actually based on the interpretation of the Astrologer-in-charge.

Hitler was one of them. So was Churchill, since he knew that Hitler consulted his stars before moving a step forward.