wotd: live by request

January 18, 2007

today’s word of the day comes to us per request of jennifer. any readers with similar burning desires to have words explicated should feel free to email yesterdayssalad @ gmail.com. some tips for getting your requests picked: 1) have a really interesting word, 2) send a word frequently misused, 3) send an accompanying anecdote involving intoxicated revelry, medical misanthropy, or bananas, 4) send baseball rookie cards, and/or  5) put out. i promise not to disclose which of the adnumbered reasons was the basis of my selections (see how smoothly we mix-in the old words around here).

jen requested yeoman, which is a good suggestion because of its broad currency in everyday speech and the fact that no-one really knows what it means. this is because yeoman has about 8 or 9 definitions. here are the most pertinent:
1) a servant in a household, between a sergeant (n7: The head of a specified department) and a groom (n4: The specific designation of several officers of the English Royal Household, chiefly members of the Lord Chamberlain’s department). as you can see, not having a stable of servants impairs one’s linguistic abilities. this definition also gives way to (b) an assistant generally, a (c) yeoman’s service e.g. good service.
2) a naval officer in charge of particular stores

3) a man holding a small estate, hence someone in good standing

4) a term of disparagement *rare

5) pawns on a chess board *rare

the word comes to us from middle english and is related to “youngman.” the most interesting philological element of the word is that it has a completely positive sense, and has dropped all negative connotations.

urbandictionary also, amazingly, gets the definition right: “A medieval term used to describe a naval officer in the English fleet. An important underling on one’s ship who assists the captain and his first mate. ”

whoever wrote the entry doesn’t seem to understand the purpose of dictionary quotations, however: “Doormen at Buckingham Palace are also called yeoman.” alas, the oed has nothing to worry about. perhaps i should start a new urbandictionary.

just for fun i tried to run a googlism of yeoman, and here’s what i came up with: “down due to maintenance.” let’s see what the OED does with that.

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2 Responses to “wotd: live by request”

  1. Jen Says:

    Number 4 was the basis of your selection.

  2. codyhess Says:

    I have some bananatastic anecdotes that will blow your mind.


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