During this month’s appointment with my chiropractor, I learned a new use for the word “embarrassment.”

During this month’s appointment with my chiropractor, I learned a new use for the word “embarrassment.”

No, I wasn’t embarrassed, but apparently some of my tissues were.

In medical terms, to “embarrass” means “to impair the activity of (a bodily function)” or “to impair the function of (a bodily part),” as defined in Webster’s unabridged dictionary.

And I’m not embarrassed to say I had never heard that before.

Also interesting is the evolution of the word “embarrass.” Webster’s New World College Dictionary, my standard reference, says its immediate ancestor is the French “embarrasser,” literally, “to encumber, obstruct.” Its root is the Italian “imbarrare,” meaning “to bar, impede,” a word that resulted from combining a form of the Latin prefix “in-” and the Medieval Latin “barra,” for “bar.”

Webster’s unabridged chips in that the root might be the Portuguese “baraca,” meaning “noose, rope.” Now that could definitely be an impediment.

Usually we use “embarrass” for “to cause to feel self-conscious, confused and ill at ease; disconcert; fluster.”

But, more in tune with its heritage, it also can mean “to cause difficulties to; hinder; impede” and “to make more difficult; complicate.”

And it can be associated with money troubles, too: “to cause to be in debt; cause financial difficulties to.”

That’s plenty of embarrassment to go around.

“Tissue,” which I used earlier, is another word with an interesting lineage. Its closest ancestor is the Middle English “tissu,” for “rich cloth.”

All tissues, including cloth, paper, biological and even figurative ones, like a tissue of lies, share one characteristic: an intricate structure as if woven.

And wouldn’t you know it, the root of “tissue” is the Latin verb “texere,” meaning “to weave.”

The Latin noun from that verb, “textus,” meant “fabric, structure, text.” This word family contains not only the obvious “text” in English, but also “textile,” “texture,” and all the “techno-” terms, including “technical,” “technique” and “tectonics.”

All in all, that’s a lot of weaving.

Here are a couple of other bits of word lore for your amusement:

“Bless.” This verb has several religious applications, including “to consecrate,” “to ask divine favor for,” “to praise or glorify” and “to make the sign of the cross over or upon.” As with many such terms, it also can turn a bit devilish, with the use of “blessed” as an intensive to mean “confounded; cursed.”

Its origin has been traced to the Old English “blod” — yes, that would be “blood.” Webster’s explains that the reference is to the “rite of consecration by sprinkling an altar with blood.”

“Scrupulous.” This adjective means “extremely careful to do the precisely right, proper or correct thing in every last detail,” “extremely conscientious” and “full of scruples; hesitant, doubtful or uneasy, especially constantly and obsessively, in deciding what is morally right or wrong.”

Whew, that’s a mouthful! I chose to give everything Webster’s has on this word to underscore that having scruples can be a bit of a pain. And that makes perfect sense when we consider that the root is the Latin “scrupus” — “sharp stone.”

In its wonderful way, Webster’s adds parenthetically “hence small weight, difficulty, doubt.”

Clearly, having a sharp stone in the wrong place can keep the mind occupied. It also can be embarrassing.

Contact Barry Wood at bwood@rrstar.com or read his blog at blogs.e-rockford.com/woodonwords/.