Daily Archives: October 28, 2008

sherbet

This word could sound like a a reliable wager but comes across more like an agreement with reservations. To some it may also sound like a pack-bearing Himalayan or a whispering frog. Its bivalency extends to its meaning: originally a drink of fruit juice and water, sometimes cooled with snow (a Byzantine slushy, perhaps), and still used for that at times (or for a fizzy fruit-flavoured drink), but now also an ice-cream-like dessert made with water instead of milk. The duality extends further: it has a fraternal twin, sorbet, which comes from the same Turkish and Persian word (sherbet or shorbet) and means the same thing as the newer meaning of sherbet (for another dollar or two). The Turks and Persians got their word from an Arabic verb meaning “drink.” One thing they all have in common: the slurping noise one may make while consuming them, which is like the sound you make when offered one: “Sure!” But why not?

conjunctiva

This word sounds, perhaps, like a comic-book villainess (succubus, perhaps) who wields ampersands and marries people forcibly. But in truth, the eyes have it. So do the i‘s in this word – you may think there is only one, but the j, in English history (and Latin roots) whilom an i, is really an i-lid in closed position. And the conjunctiva would thus be on its inside. But what is this conjunctiva, famous mostly for the infection to which it is prey (conjunctivitis)? Is it junk, is it a con? No, it’s a juncture, a joining together – the “and” between eyeball and eyelid. The full Latin is membrana conjunctiva, which means our noun was their adjective – but, in the body, a conjunction no less.