Words Beginning with "S" and "K" II
Bill Long 10/23/08
Words beginning with "s" and "k" can produce huge numbers of confusing or difficult words. Most "K"-beginning words don't have a classical derivation; many of them are chemical terms or are words derived from Asian/"Down Under" cultures. The "S" words are the most numerous in our language and include everything from cheeses to trees to other living creatures to wines to helpful verbs, adjectives and nouns. Here are the words I will begin here: supraglottic, scunner, stacte, suppletory, skerrick, siphuncle, skillion, karaka, kalian, klystron, khellin, kyestein, kinin, and krimmer. Take your time with each and listen to its message.
1. Supraglottic is an adjective to describe the supraglottis, an area in the larynx. When discussing the body, it is always best to have a picture; this diagram shows the three areas of the larynx. The supraglottis (literally, "above the glottis") is the area above the vocal cords and Adam's apple that contains the epiglottis cartilage. The Greek prefix "epi" is equivalent to the Latin prefix "super/supra." Yet, epiglottis is a specific cartilage while the supraglotttis is a region. By the way, the epiglottis is defined as the "leaf-like cartilage at the root of the tongue, which during the act of swallowing is depressed, and forms a lid, or cover for the glottis." Hence "epi"--upon or on...the glottis.
2. When I first saw suppletory, I thought in terms of a supplication or prayer, but really its origin lies in the word supplement. The original meaning of the term, then, was "supplementary." So, from a legal treatise in 1874: "Equity..a portion of our juridical system--distinct from and suppletory to the common law." We don't use the word much anymore, but when we want to sound archaic, it is a great way to do so! By the way, there is a term from continentlal civil law, and ecclesiastical law, known as a suppletory oath, which should come in for comment. Under several legal systems in the past, the defendant or plaintiff couldn't be a lead witness in his case. Why? Because of the suspicion that an interest in seeing the case turn out the way he wanted would taint the testimony. That is where the suppletory oath came in. From Black's Law Dictionary, we have the following:
"In the civil and ecclesiastical law, the testimony of a single witness to a fact is called 'half-proof,' on which no sentence can be founded; in order to supply the other half of proof, the party himself (plaintiff or defendant) is admitted to be examined in his own behalf, and the oath administered to him for that purpose is called the 'suppletory oath,' because it supplies the necessary quantum of proof on which to found the sentence. This term....[is] without application in American law..."
Why do we, in American law, seem to "trust" the party to give unvarnished/unbiased testimony? Or, why to we let him/her testify? The suppletory oath at least brings this question to us.
3. Scunner is both a noun and a verb, with both usages emphasizing scorn, disgust or sickness at something. The verb can be transitive or instransitive. From 1643: "Seducers in this land have drawne on their followers to scunder at and reject our whole psalmes in meeter..." Or, transitively, "It always scunnered me, for I aye liked things tidy." Then, the noun is a feeling of disgust, loathing or sickness (though now muted to a grudge or dislike) and normally appears in the phrase "to take a scunner at.." or "against..." From 1957: "He remembered he had taken a scunner against McCoy when he had flown down to her wedding." Or, from 1977: "Thirty per cent of the calls..originated in personal spite, someone had taken a scunner against the next-door neighbours."
4. A skerrick, like a mammock, is a small amount or fragment. Skerrick originated in Australia in the 19th century. From Hamilton's cutely titled Nugae ("trifles, nonsense, stuff") Literariae (1841) we have: "Skerrick, the smallest thing or fraction. 'Not a skerrick remaining.' 'Not worth a skerrick.'" From Colleen McCullough's 1977 book Thorn Birds, made into a multi-part TV drama starring a far-too-handsome priest, we have: "If I had paid you a skerrick of attention, it would have been all over Gilly in record time."
5. While we are Down Under, we might as well do skillion, which is an Aussie and NZ term for "a lean-to, serving as a shed or as a small room." In this usage, skillion is an alternative form of skilling (shed or outhouse). But the most frequent appearance of it now on the Net is in the phrase "skillion roof," which describes a roof sloping from the side of the building. From 1911: "This kind (sometimes called a Skillion Roof)..is generally used only in rear buildings, or verandahs where no ceilings are required." So here is a picture of such a roof; you see it slopes to the side.
6. Let's move to a few "k's" before we have to kwit today. True to form, the word karaka is a Maori term (from NZ) to describe the bow-tree of New Zealand (the Corynocarpus laevigata). From 1845 we have: "The karaka-tree much resembles the laurel in its growth and foliage." It has fruit the size of an acorn. Oops, I just made a discovery I wish I hadn't made. Why? Well, this page tells us that the karaka is one of a unique range of 542 plant species in distinct ecological habitats in the Piha region of New Zealand. Well, only 541 to go!! In any case, the linked page provides pictures and description of the tree, leaves and fruit. We are told, for example, "it is beloved of the kereru--the native wood pigeon--which can get quite tipsy on the fruit..." The Piha region is on the north island, west coast just north of the Kaipara Harbor, pictured here. So we have the katipo spider just west of Palmerston North and the karaka with the kereru in Piha. We are learning the world...
7. But we can't learn it all in one day, and so let's close with kalian, also spelled kalioun. It is spelled different ways because it is from the Persian through Arabic, and we know how many different spellings that can bring... Well, it is a Persian form of the hookah or narghile (tobacco-pipe where smoke passes through water). By the way, hookah can also be spelled hooka and narghile as nargile or nargila (or in other ways). Well, here is a picture of the kalian for your viewing pleasure. I wonder what the Surgeon General says about this... Here is an article on the hookah/kalian, by smoking of which, as the site tells us, you have "a relaxing and increasingly trendy way to spend an evening out." Since I follow trends diligently, I might have to check this one out...
All for now. Hope to see you again soon.