Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Spade, Shovel

Spade, Shovel: A spade is a straight handled garden tool to dig/break up the dirt. A shovel has a curved neck to facilitate lifting and moving the dirt. Because of their different functions, the spade is often smaller than the shovel.
Having covered and wrapped the body, the wife went in search of a spade or shovel.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Fictive: Fictive means fictional with one of two contradictory connotations: deceptive or creative. In the following example, it means authors of fiction. I love English.
The lonely, like the fictive, love one-way watching.
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Threnody: An expression (poem, song, ululation) of mourning.

The siren on top of the Philo Middle School was a different pitch and cycle from the one off in the south part of Urbana, and the two used to weave in and out of each other in a godawful threnody.

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Glabrous, Hirsute

Glabrous: Smooth, often bald. Hirsute (hairy) is the antonym of bald.
I felt, as I became a later and later bloomer, alienated not just by my own recalcitrant glabrous little body, but in a way from the whole elemental exterior I'd come to see as my coconspirator.
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Monday, November 17, 2008


Nosocomial: A disease acquired in a hospital.

Critical by Robin Cook is a medical mystery about a unexplained nosocomial disease that is killing people.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Nares: Nostrils.
It is truly a superbug, capable of killing someone in a frightfully short time while the same strain is able to merely colonize an individual, usually just within the nares.
An example of gratuitous medical jargon from:


Mullion: A vertical divider in a window. In a mullioned window the individual panes are called lights. The horizontal divider is called a transom.

I still can't figure out this quote.
She looked away, and her gaze found one of the bedroom windows in this colonial town house, with bubbled mullions and thick wooden sills, two-hands deep.


Chignon: A hair style where a woman's hair is collected at the back of her head. It might be a simple bun or a more ornate braid or twist. The word comes from a French phrase meaning the nape of the neck.
She leaned back against the seat but her chignon got in the way, so she loosened it with her fingers.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Errant, Arrant

Errant: Wandering.

Arrant: Completely.
He was likely to be reduced to the usual expedient of knights errant, who, on such occasions, turned their horses to graze, and laid themselves down ... with an oak tree for a canopy.
I have late experience that arrant thieves are not the worst men in the world to have to deal with.
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Gage: A glove delivered as a challenge to a duel (from Shakespearean England).
There I throw by gage,
To prove it on thee to the extremest point
Of martial daring.
Shakespeare's Richard II quoted in:


Gramercy: An expression of thanks from the middle ages.
"Gramercy for thy caution," said the Palmer.
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Essoine (Essoin)

Essoine: The right to trial by combat through the services of a champion to fight in the accused place. A brief search of the Internet seems to indicate that this word only survives in Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. Essoin is a term in English Law that means an excuse not to appear.
Here standeth the good knight, Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert, ready to do battle with any knight of free blood who will sustain the quarrel allowed and alloted to the Jewess Rebecca, to try by champion, in respect of lawful essoine of her own body.
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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Doors: Postern, Wicket

Postern: A back door or gate, possibly the private entrance as opposed to the public entrance in the front.

Wicket: A small door, possibly built into a larger door. The doors built into large castle gates are wickets, and we might resurrect this meaning to refer to pet doors.
The travellers crossed the ditch upon a drawbridge of only two planks' breadth, the narrowness of which was matched with the straitness of the postern, and with a little wicket in the exterior palisade, which gave access to the forest.

Note that straitness is not an archaic spelling of straightness, but more closely related to strait and means narrow.

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Orison: prayer.
"To say our orisons, fool," answered the Pilgrim, "to repent our sins, and to mortify ourselves with fastings, vigils, and long prayers."
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Palmer: During the times of the crusades, a palmer was a pilgrim who had been to the holy lands and carried a palm branch as proof of their travels.
Coarse sandals, bound with thongs, on his bare feet; a broad and shadowy hat, with cockle-shells stitched on its brim, and a long staff shod with iron, to the upper end of which was attached a branch of palm, completed the Palmer's attire.
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Kirtle: A one-piece, sleeveless garment of varying lengths, depending on the fashion of the time. A kirtle is similar to a tunic, though a tunic might have sleeves.
"She is but changing her head-gear. You would not wish her to sit down to the banquet in her hood and kirtle?"
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Horses: Jennet, Palfrey, Sumpter

Jennet: A small Spanish horse breed, noted for its ambling gait - a smooth four beat gait.

Palfrey: A riding horse prized by knights in the middle ages (not a specific breed), also known for its ambling gait.

Sumpter: A pack animal.
A lay brother, one of those who followed the train, had, for his use on other occasions, one of the most handsome Spanish jennets ever bred in Andalusia.
The saddle and housings of this superb palfrey were covered by a long foot-cloth.
Another lay brother led a sumpter mule, loaded probably with his superior's baggage.
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Murrain: Formerly, any deadly disease. Today, it primarily refers to a disease of cattle.
"A murrain take thee!" rejoined the swineherd; "wilt thou talk of such things, while a terrible storm of thunder rumbles!"
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Monday, November 3, 2008


Pavane: The pavane was a slow Renaissance dance. The hesitation step used by brides to walk down the aisle is thought to be derived from the pavane.
A strange tune began, a slow pavane that seemed to come from inside his own head. The beat grew more insistent, the dance that would end only when he, along with Melody and Sofia, were at the center of the maze.
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Surplice, Cotta

Surplice: This is a white cotton garment worn over a cassock. It is a loose blouse with full sleeves. Originally it was long, reaching the feet, but has been shortening since the 13th century. Today, it might be the length of a very short dress. It might be adorned with lace or embroidery.

Cotta: This is the medieval Latin word for a surplice.
He had plenty of room to sew, but the [bomb] loaded pouches might bulk up a bit at the sides. Fortunately, the white cotton cotta that each of the children would wear over the [altar server] cassock would cover any bulges.
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Bishop, Archbishop, Cardinal

Bishop: A Bishop is the middle tier of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. Bishops are managed by the Pope. In turn, they manage the parish priests in their diocese.

Archbishops: Archbishops are bishops of archdioceses. The arch prefix indicates a bigger diocese, not an additional layer of hierarchy with the church organization. Organizationally, Archbishops are just bishops. They report to the Pope and the parish priests report to them.

Cardinal: A Cardinal is just a bishop who has been selected to advise the Pope and select a new Pope when the need arises. Once again, the Cardinal is not an additional layer of hierarchy with the church organization.
Of course, the Cardinal was gone now and while Archbishop Jonathan Rand was certainly a competent administrator, it simply wasn't the same. A Cardinal was a Cardinal, and an Archbishop and Archbishop, and that was that.
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Penes: Plural of penis.
And pulled behind the disks, the harrows combing with iron teeth so that little clods broke up and the earth lay smooth. Behind the harrows, the long seeders - twelve curved iron penes erected in the foundry, orgasm set by gears, raping methodically, raping without passion.
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Roached: To be shaved. Today roached is primarily used in reference to manes. A horse's mane might be roached for show or to keep the mane out of the way on a working horse.
The boys in overalls and nothing else, ragged patched overalls. Their hairs was light and it stood up evenly all over their heads, for it had been roached. Their faces were streaked with dust. The went directly to the mud puddles under the hose and dug their toes into the mud.
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