Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Chopsticks Not Required

I just love old maps, don't you? This one seemed apropos tonight because I wanted to tell you about a wonderful web site that was created by a friend of a friend (thanks, Jules!) and it's not only for a genuinely good cause, fighting World Hunger, it's a way of actually improving yourself while having fun and helping others -- for free. Translation: how to waste time without feeling guilty -- or wasteful.

You may notice, in the top spot on the sidebar, a new link and picture for a site called Free Rice. It's a vocabulary game and, I'll warn you, terribly addictive. When you get there, be sure to read the FAQ page, which will explain how everything works, from how your vocabulary level is determined (and fluctuates as you learn) to how the rice is actually purchased and delivered where it's needed.

I've been keeping track of the words I miss. The helpful thing is, they give you the correct definition immediately, so I write down the word and the definition. That helps me remember because that word is going to get thrown at me again, somewhere down the line. I sure wish, though, when they show the definition, they would show the word in the context of a sentence. Some of those words seem pretty awkward and leave me wondering just how the hell I can possibly use them.

Take "prehension." That means: "1: The act of taking hold, seizing or grasping." In the rice game, they simply said, "prehension = seizing" and I sat there scritching my head, wondering how to use it. Somehow "Prehension the day!" doesn't quite have the proper zing, does it? Can you imagine reading a police report that says, "The perpetrators were caught prehensioning the jewels."? Or a newspaper story that says, "The mugger prehensioned the purse and ran down the alley." See? It would be really helpful to see the word used in Real Life.

Maybe it's one of those words that isn't ever used in Real Life. Maybe it's only for learned articles in obscure but prestigious magazines. I've been browsing online dictionaries and have yet to see it used in a sentence. Instead, they keep using synonyms like grasp and clutch. Although I did discover that, as a verb, it should be "prehend." The mugger prehended the purse... To use the secondary meaning of prehension, "2 a: understanding, comprehension b: apprehension by the senses," I don't seem to be comprehending this clearly.

But, by golly, I sure know which definition to pick the next time they pop the word up. And now you do, too. That's ten grains of rice to throw in the sack, folks. You've gotta prehend every grain you can clutch in your hot little hands. Chopsticks are not required.

UPDATE: Hats off to Wendy, who tipped me to a little treatise called "Whitehead's Ontology" by John W. Lango. If you go here, and scroll down three paragraphs and a diagram, you'll see prehension used in all its glory, both noun and verb form. And after reading a few of the pertinent paragraphs, my brain hurts. It feels like it's been prehended by the claws of a very large, hungry bird of prey. I need more coffee.


John Bailey said...

I've scratched me head for an age, Dee, and I cannot for the life of me ever recall 'prehension' used. Why would I say 'prehend' where 'aprehend' is what I've always, well, 'aprehended'? I'll look it up in my big heavy dictionary when Graham's awake enough to lift it down from the shelf for me.

Meantime... sleep well!

Anonymous said...

Dee, I'm with John on that one. I can use it the other way, going with "prehensile," but by itself I'm not grasping it.

Anonymous said...

I love words! I must admit you have me there with prehend. Never heard that one used before. I do know I had a 'possum once with a prehensile tail.

I got a lot of rice in the bowl.