Sunday, February 7, 2010

coruscating


Recently, on another blog I write, I mentioned a new publishing venture called MatchbookStory.com, in which the publisher will publish a 300 character story on the inside of a matchbook. Peter Rozovsky and I were batting around some very short reviews that these stories might evoke, and one of his was "coruscating".

I am pretty sure I can understand the general drift of coruscating--it means something like "scalding, abrasive, harsh", right? A review that was coruscating would be dripping with venom.

But here is one of the problems of Latin having dropped from our curriculum. I can guess at the general meaning from context, but the sounder etymological roots I haven't a clue of.

The one clue I do have is that it must have something to do with either tinder or fire. Or at least matches...Here we go.


Oh, dear. So far off. Coruscating means "to give off flashes of light. To sparkle."

Diamonds coruscate. So do, apparently, flutists. But it doesn't mean to rake over the coals, as I somehow thought.

The one thing I was right about was the fact that a grounding in Latin would have stood me in good stead here. "Coruscating" comes from the Latin coruscare, "to flash".

Who knew?

Well, okay--maybe the Romans.

Looks like I'm going to be reading reviews in a whole new, uh, light.

24 comments:

  1. I suspect many people are misled by the similarity to corrosive into guessing wrong about this word's meaning. I know I was.
    ==============
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
    http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

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  2. Yes, I'm pretty sure that's the wrong path I took. Glad to be "enlightened", though.

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  3. Many folks might be led by corrosive and correct into spelling this word with two r's. I know I was.
    ==============
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
    http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

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  4. Yep. Even though I knew you would have spelled it right, I still had to check it as it went so against my own sense of it. That should have given me a clue right there. Well, only a clue that I was on the wrong track, as I don't think I would have guessed this one.

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  5. I had to check the spelling before I posted my comment. This thread will help me remember the spelling.
    ==============
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
    http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

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  6. The planet Coruscant from Star Track could have put you on the right track. Use Pop Culture tocompensate the dropping of Latin from your Curriculums!

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  7. Star Trek . Star Track is amusing, Star Trainweck would be descriptive.

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  8. Marco, I miss you when you're not posting on the blogs. Are you too busy changing the course of Italy's future to have time for this these days?

    Although I'm sure I must have seen the Star Trek that had the planet Coruscant, I obviously wasn't paying enough attention. Although I like the strategy in principle.

    Does coruscare have a modern day descendant in Italian?

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  9. I don't know, but I hear Corsicans can be coarse.
    ==============
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
    http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

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  10. Uh, no, Peter--that doesn't help.

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  11. Marco, I miss you when you're not posting on the blogs.

    Thanks!

    Are you too busy changing the course of Italy's future to have time for this these days?

    A bit of that, plus computer malfunctioning and family illnesses.

    Does coruscare have a modern day descendant in Italian?

    No.

    I don't know, but I hear Corsicans can be coarse.


    First time I went to Corsica as a kid, I got a bad sunburn. The sun was coarse and coruscating. I was left alone in the shadows of the pines to recover while my friends went to the beach, and I discovered a nudist beach on the other side. No, they weren't creepy swingers. I was the creepy one with the eyeballs popping out.

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  12. See, if I'd read that sentence a week ago, I would have gotten coruscating all wrong. I almost still do.

    If we gave bonus points here for using discussed words like Corsica, coarse and coruscate in a sentence you would win some.

    But we don't.

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  13. Does coruscare have a modern day descendant in Italian?

    Actually thinking about it, there's a very archaic and infrequent adjective, corrusco, which means "brightly replendent" so...

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  14. Sounds likely, though why the two 'r's if so, I wonder?

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  15. The doubling of consonants from Latin to Italian is quite common - there is probably a rule concerning vowel-syllable length and stress, but I'm hazy on the details possibly a consonant doubles if it's between a short and long vowel.

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  16. I see. So the single r in coruscating and the double in corrosive is not actually a clue at all.

    Pity.

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  17. It just occured to me as I was walking to work yesterday that all the times I've heard of someone's "coruscating wit", I have thought it meant scathing rather than sparkling.

    Much, much to unlearn.

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  18. That assumes it was being used correctly all those times heard it.
    ==============
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
    http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

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  19. Yes--the situation is pretty hopeless, isn't it?

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  20. I wonder if anyone has compiled a history of these changes in meaning, the sorts of things a more judgmental time would have called mistakes.

    Before I call this a degenerate, illiterate age, I'd want to know if misapprehensions and meaning shifts have always been a feature of English.

    I'm liberal in my understanding of how these changes happen but conservative in my application of the rules in my professional life. And there is the subject of an entirely new comment or post if not an entirely new blog.
    ==============
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
    http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

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  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  22. I wonder if anyone has compiled a history of these changes in meaning, the sorts of things a more judgmental time would have called mistakes.

    Before I call this a degenerate, illiterate age, I'd want to know if misapprehensions and meaning shifts have always been a feature of English.

    I'm liberal in my understanding of how these changes happen but conservative in my application of the rules in my professional life. And there is the subject of an entirely new comment or post if not an entirely new blog.
    ==============
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
    http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

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  23. One of the most interesting things of doing this blog watching the way meanings shift and slide, sometimes through extending the word into other realms, sometimes through sheer mistake.

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  24. I know what you mean, though no examples leap immediately to mind. And under what conditions is a mistake repeated so often or by such pretigious users that it becomes correct?
    ==============
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
    http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

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