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Aug 15, 2011
This week's theme
Words that have many unrelated meanings

This week's words

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with Anu Garg

A few years back the summer was extra hot. Our daughter Ananya decided to set up a lemonade stand and invited a friend to take part in a joint venture. In the US a lemonade stand is one of the rites of passage that initiates children into the ways of entrepreneurship.

We drove to the neighborhood grocery store and bought a bag of organic lemons. Back home the girls started preparing the lemons: halving and squeezing them to the very last drop. Soon our kitchen smelled more lemony than Snicket himself.

Then it was time to mix all the ingredients -- sugar, lemon juice, and water. The final product turned out to be a bit too sweet, but we were out of lemons and in any case the girls were delighted with the taste.

At the corner of our cul-de-sac they set up a folding table with paper cups, napkins, a sign, a trash can, and a cash box. The lemonade stand was in business.

Soon a thirsty motorist stopped. They served him a cup and added, "It's very sweet."
The motorist paid a quarter, took a sip, and said, "No, it's not very sweet."
"It has a lot of sugar," they chimed again.
"I think it's fine," the motorist countered.

It became obvious to me that we had two different interpretations of the term "very sweet". For the girls, who liked the extra sweet taste, it was a selling point, while the motorist thought they were warning him that it was too sweet, some kind of truth-in-advertising.

That's how it goes with words: a word can mean many things, depending on the context, the frame of mind... and that's not even taking into account when a word has many meanings to begin with.

This week we'll feature five words that have multiple, unrelated meanings.



1. Of or relating to the crown.
2. Of or relating to the heart.
3. Of or relating to the arteries or veins of the heart.
4. A heart attack.
5. The office of a coroner.

From Latin coronarius (of a crown), from corona (crown). Ultimately from the Indo-European root sker- (to turn or bend), which is also the source of ranch, rank, shrink, circle, circa, crisp, search, ring, curb, ridge, curve, and corolla. Earliest documented use: 1610.

The literal meaning of the word refers to a crown. It came to be applied to the heart from the allusion to the blood vessels that encircle the heart like a crown. And a coroner is named so because he was an officer of the crown.

"Previously, patients with coronary issues had to travel to Lautoka to have their condition assessed."
Margaret Wise; Lifeline for Heart Patients; Fiji Times; Jul 22, 2010.

"In my fifth consulship I remitted thirty-five thousand pounds weight of coronary gold."
Kenneth John Atchity; The Classical Roman Reader; Oxford University Press; 1998.

"Many of the writs relate to the offices of Regality, Justiciary, Coronary, and Admiralty of St. Andrew's."
Report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts (London, UK); 1872.

See more usage examples of coronary in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

That sorrow which is the harbinger of joy is preferable to the joy which is followed by sorrow. -Saadi, poet (c. 1213-1291)

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