Monday, May 07, 2007

Short word, long definition

Short words seem to have the longest definitions. Probably because since they are so easily used, they are more frequently altered in their meanings little by little over time, or additional meanings are given to them. Long, complicated words tend to be more precise for converse reasons.

A fun word, and one in which I recognised a couple quotations, both are from one of my favourite authors, PG Wodehouse and both are to illustrate sense 2. d. I'll include them below in the proper place.

ace, n.

1. a. One at dice, or the side of the die marked with one pip or point, and counting as one; afterwards extended to cards, dominos, etc., and meaning the throw of one, or the card, etc. so reckoned. ambs ace, the first connexion in which the word occurs in Eng. (OFr. 12th c. ambes as), both aces; deuce ace (OFr.) two aces, at one throw (now taken as deux + ace = 2 and 1; so trey ace, syce ace, etc.)

b. At cards.

c. In lawn tennis, badminton, etc.: an unreturnable stroke, esp. a service that the opponent fails to touch; a point thus scored.

d. A point scored at racquets, badminton, etc.

e. U.S. slang. A dollar; a one-dollar bill.

2. fig. a. As the ace at dice was the lowest or worst number, ace was frequently used for bad luck, misfortune, loss. Esp. in ambs ace and deuce ace the lowest possible throw, and hence, naught, worthlessness, nothing. b. But in some games at cards, the ace is the most valuable, and hence the ‘ace of men’ the perfection or highest. See also AMBS-ACE.

c. [After F. as.] In the war of 1914-18, an airman who had brought down ten enemy machines; a crack airman.

d. Chiefly U.S. A person outstanding in any activity or occupation; also attrib. Also (U.S. slang), in pl., anything or anyone outstandingly good.

1919 WODEHOUSE Damsel in Distress ii. 35 Put it in your diary, Mac, and write it on your cuff, George Bevan's all right. He's an ace. 1932 WODEHOUSE Hot Water vi. 113 You're aces, boy.

e. on one's ace, on one's own. Austral. and N.Z. slang. Now rare.

f. Phr. ace in the hole, an advantage so far concealed; a card up one's sleeve, a trump card. slang (chiefly N. Amer.).

3. fig. A single point, a minute portion, a jot, particle, or atom.

b. to bate an ace: To abate a jot or tittle, to make the slightest abatement.

c. within an ace of: On the very point of, within a hair's breadth of.

4. attrib. ace-high a. N Amer. colloq., valued or esteemed highly (orig. in Poker, used of a hand in which the highest card is an ace); ace-point: the first of the points or divisions of the tables in backgammon.

ace is in many dialects pronounced yace, yas, yess, whence in the following: O ace, a curious spelling of OYEZ! or O yes! with plural O's ace for Oyezes.

DRAFT ADDITIONS JUNE 2005

ace, n.

Golf (orig. U.S.). A hole-in-one.