How I chose “Golden Jubilee” and other random thoughts

English has three prefixes meaning half:

demi-, hemi-, and semi-.

Do we need three prefixes with the same meaning? No. But English is greedy like that … just grabbing words from anywhere and everywhere to add to the glorified, hard to learn, hard to spell, but fantastically FUN and USEFUL language it is.

demi- … demigod (a half god, not quite a god) … came from Latin
hemi- … hemisphere (a half sphere) … came from Greek
semi- … semicircle (a half circle) … came from French

Put together, you get one of my all-time favorite words:

hemi-demi-semiquaver (what Brits call a sixty-fourth note).

What fun writing a blog can be!  When I googled to double-check my facts, I stumbled on some new words for my all-time favorite list:

The Brits call a double whole note a breve and a single whole note a demibreve.

I can’t help it … these just make me think of “boxers or” and the enormous quantities of giggling that must break out whenever the junior choir master gives them any manner of instruction about their breves and semibreves.

Never mind junior. I once took down an entire college history lecture because the professor said something about what some historical legal genius had said in his briefs and … I couldn’t help it. I just flashed on this really famous, important guy wearing nothing but tighty-whiteys and started to giggle.

You know how, if one person is giggling, it’ll get the next person going until, pretty soon, the whole room is whispering and snickering?

So finally the prof asks, “What did I say that was so funny?” Which just made me laugh even harder.

He totally deserved it. He’d come into class and say something totally random that would only be funny to people who had watched his favorite show (Monty Python). Then he’d watch who laughed.

Anyway, back to the Brits wonderfully absurd music words.

The half note is a minim, the quarter note is a crotchet (snort) and the eighth is a quaver. From there, they go to sixteenth (semiquaver), thirty-second (demisemiquaver), and still my favorite, just because it’s so fun to say, sixty-fourth (hemidemisemiquaver).

Another factoid I just learned: there is actually a 128th note. I did not know this. The Brits have TWO words for this note that is so short, it’s hardly a sound at all. And both of them are longer than the note.

Quasihemidemisemiquaver and semihemidemisemiquaver.

I dare you to say that second one three times fast. Ha! I’m beginning to see why English is such a screwy (and fascinating) language. The Brits invented it.

How did I get on to this?

I was trying to remember (or find out) the something-centennial word for 50 years.

A friend is celebrating the SEMI-CENTENNIAL anniversary of taking his permanent vows into the Holy Cross brotherhood and I wanted to congratulate him.

The 50th anniversary is also called the Quinquagenary or Golden Jubilee.

I’m having another ah ha moment about why that first one isn’t in common use. Criminetly, it’s hard to say!

I think I’ll use “Golden Jubilee” for his congratulations message. It sounds much more celebratory than “Semi-centennial.”

Have I ever mentioned how much I love words?

P.S., quasi- (resembling in some degree) came from Latin.


Filed under Funny Stuff

5 responses to “How I chose “Golden Jubilee” and other random thoughts

  1. “Quinquagenary” would be a great play in Scrabble, especially if you could get it on a triple word score.

    As for the semiquaver, demisemiquaver, and hemidemisemiquaver, I think it’s funny that the shorter the note gets, the longer its name gets.

    One reason English is such a mixed-up language is that the Brits were conquered so many times by so many different people over the centuries. Every time a new bunch of invaders moved in, the English language evolved some more, adopting vocabulary and constructions from the current conquerors’ language and adding them into the mix. On the down side, this can make English difficult for non-native speakers to learn; on the plus side, it makes English one of the richest, most expressive, and beautiful of all languages — and is one reason so many of the greatest literary figures in human history just happen to be British.


    • chrissythehyphenated

      I think it is also why it has become the international language. English just sucks in new words, so it keeps up with changes in technology etc.

      A few minutes ago, Mama Buzz and I were discussing Santorum’s position on English Only. She said one of her college teachers told the class she had grown up speaking Ebonics and did not realize until college how much it limited her. So at that late age, she had to learn proper English.

      Clearly, her pandering ghetto NEA run public school did her a giant disservice in depriving her of the opportunity to learn proper English as a young child, when her brain was still wired to learn language quickly and her vocal apparatus had not experienced the “phoneme freezing” that makes people older than 10 struggle so hard with pronunciation of a new language.

      Requiring English Only is the OPPOSITE of racist, because only people who have a good command of proper English can compete in the real world.

      The real racists are the liberal elites who want to keep brown people poor by ensuring they only speak Spanish or Ebonics, can’t excel in mainstream schools, can’t get decent jobs, so can’t get off welfare.

      For goodness sake … every pilot and air traffic controller in the world has to speak English. How is it racist to require OUR OWN KIDS to learn it?


      • Hmmm… When you put it that way, I guess it’s no wonder the nanny-staters violently oppose teaching proper English to children. If all those little kids from poor families learn to speak English properly and fluently, they might be able to get good jobs and support themselves and work their way out of poverty and into the middle class. They might be able to pay their own rent and buy their own groceries with actual money that they actually earned. They might even be able to buy houses and get married and have legitimate children. They might even (gasp!) start successful businesses. And then they might start voting Republican!


    • I’m a musician, and never knew that. Of course, I LOATHED music theory, but I’m not sure that’s the whole explanation!