Thursday, December 31, 2009


Mendacity: Mendacity means dishonest, lying, untruthful, deceitful, and so on. It shares its etymology with amend. The initial a in amend is similar to amoral, asocial, apolitical, etc. Thus, amend is to remove a mendacity or fault.
But interlaced with his success is a tale of mendacity, deceit, coercion, and theft.
A Book for Today: The Informant by Kurt Eichenwald

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Proffer: Every wonder why lawyers get paid so much: they have to learn a second language. Proffer is legalese for offer and obviously share its etymology with offer.
Finally, Allison offered to submit to an interview under a proffer agreement, in hopes of leniency.
A Book for Today: The Informant by Kurt Eichenwald

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Venality: Venal shares its etymology (Sanskrit: vasna - price) with ware. Venality implies something that is for sale, usually with a negative connotation, such a a public official open to bribes. A similar word in meaning and connotation is mercenary.
His motivation was just garden-variety venality and greed.
A Book for Today: The Informant by Kurt Eichenwald

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Venire: Venire is a noun co-opted from a Middle English (Latin) phrase comprised of two verbs: venire facias. The phrase meant do come and was used in jury summonses. Today venire simply means the people summoned for a jury.
The courtroom was packed, half filled with the venire.
The way it works is that the judge has a computer-generated list from which he calls the first twelve citizens from the venire, and they take seats in the jury box.
A Book for Today: Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Vato: Vato is Spanish slang used by Mexicans meaning dude or homeboy.
You know, once a vato always a vato. So they took me off gangs.
A Book for Today: Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly

Friday, December 25, 2009


Raddled: A raddle might be a thin stick woven between vertical fence posts. A raddle might also be a series of posts to keep the warp properly spread on a loom. Raddle might also be a reddish dye derived from iron oxide. I imagine this final definition lends the best meaning in the context shown.
Eddie really wanted to see him raddled and spotted like the evil twin painting he was sure to have stashed in the attic.
A Book for Today: Judge by Karen Traviss

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Fora: This is the Latinate plural for forum (similar to data and datum, strata and stratum). After surviving for over two millenniums (millennia) , I suggest this might be the last time this word appears in print or in any other forums.
Combine that with a few totally unconnected comments she made in public fora about the state of her local waste management service, and I pin her down to one of three cities.
A Book for Today: Judge by Karen Traviss

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Yomp: Yomp is Royal Marine slang for a long, fast, difficult march with full packs. Check out the interesting Wikipedia entry.
We'll be back in an hour, even if we leave the transport here and yomp it.
A Book for Today: Judge by Karen Traviss

Monday, December 21, 2009


Bergen: Bergen (unknown provenance) means some kind of suitcase or duffle.
He dropped his bergen on the lobby's dusty inlaid floor and looked around the entrance to the hotel.
A Book for Today: Judge by Karen Traviss

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Chivvy: Chivvy is a synonym for tease assuming both senses of tease: to taunt and annoy (Stop chivvying your sister!) or to maneuver by small (difficult) steps (Can you chivvy any meaning from that pedantic diatribe?).
She stepped close up behind Esganikan to chivvy her along.
A Book for Today: Judge by Karen Traviss

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Nacre: Mother of pearl.
At this time of the morning Ceret had risen high enough to cast a peach light over the unbroken layer of nacre that covered the whole city, and gave it the name the colonists sometimes used: City of Pearl.
A Book for Today: Judge by Karen Traviss

Friday, December 18, 2009


Franger: Aussie slang for condom.
They can't do that with a franger on, can they?
A Book for Today: Judge by Karen Traviss

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Pillock: A generic UK (also NZ) derogatory word, i.e. fool, idiot, jerk, etc. Though to derive from a Scandinavian term for penis, but I would trust everything I read on the Internet.
It made him feel like a total pillock.
A Book for Today: Judge by Karen Traviss

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Bint: This is a derogatory UK term for a young woman. It derives from an Arabic word for unmarried daughter.
And I bet Esganikan told Marchant bint that Shan was coming with us.
A Book for Today: Judge by Karen Traviss

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Coryza: Latin for head cold or common cold.
He had a vague sore throat accompanied by mild coryza.
A Book for Today: Contagion by Robin Cook

Monday, December 14, 2009


Enervate: In general use, enervate means to weaken and demoralize. In medicine, it means to remove nerve cells - an excellent way to remember the meaning. Do no confuse it with its antonym: energize.
When he saw it close-up, Jack found true poverty enervating.
A Book for Today: Contagion by Robin Cook

During the past year Blomkvist had often regretted that they hired Dahlman, who had the enervating habit of looking at everything in as negative a light as possible.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Capitate: Capitate means to have a head. It shares its etymology with capital, captain, cadet, decapitate, and occipital. The example is unique to HMOs.
All four patients were people who'd been hospitalized frequently and hence were economically undesirable in a capitated system.
A Book for Today: Contagion by Robin Cook

Friday, December 11, 2009


Fulminant: Fulminate is a medical adjective meaning that a disease progresses very rapidly. Prior to the medicinal use of of the Latin root meaning to strike with lightening, the primary use was the compound mercury fulminate - a highly explosive isomer of mercury cyanate.

Also, all three were fulminant cases. The people all died within twelve hours or so of their first symptoms.
A Book for Today: Contagion by Robin Cook

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Lambent: Lambent is a gentle light, flickering or faint from a Latin root meaning lick.
The lambent reflections of the streetlights played over their faces as they regarded each other in the half-light of the taxi.
A Book for Today: Contagion by Robin Cook

She faced the window, and the morning sun fell lambent over her profile.
A Book for Today: Serena by Ron Rash

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pong (New Zealand)

Pong: Stink.
Owen Glenn has found that sucking up to politicians is a tricky business, with your lovely money treated as if it pongs when the wind changes. (Rosemary McLeod - Sunday Star Time)
If you think you can stomach the sick side of Science, then read on to find out about all kinds of illnesses from the common cold to cruel cholera, why ancient doctors thought nasty pongs caused disease and what happens to your body when it comes under attack. (Deadly Diseases (Horrible Science series))

Monday, December 7, 2009


Dottle: Dottle is the unburned and partial burned tabacco left in the bowl of a pipe.
Kerewin is scrapping the dottle from the bowl, attentive, but not urging him to continue. Joe goes on.
A Book for Today: The Bone People by Keri Hulme

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Ruction: A ruction is a disturbance and thought to be the precursor for ruckus.
Maybe that is why all the ruction.
A Book for Today: The Bone People by Keri Hulme

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Limpet: A variety of salt water and fresh water snails.
O spendid idea ... though did you notice those things whirling part the window a moment ago?
Yeah, the leaves?
No, they were limpets...
A Book for Today: The Bone People by Keri Hulme

Where the gold harvest was ready the peasants in their hats like limpets winnowed the rice against little curved shelters of plaited bamboo.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Shag: A shag is a sea bird similar to the cormorant. The only difference being a crest on the shag and none on the cormorant. Originally, the two names were used interchangeably.
Stewart Island shags, and I don't know the Maori for that ... kawau rakiura, perhaps?
A Book for Today: The Bone People by Keri Hulme

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Bach: A bach is a New Zealand beach house. As bach is pronounced batch, it is widely presumed to share its etymology with bachelor pad.
We own five baches, all of us owning them, not anyone separately.
A Book for Today: The Bone People by Keri Hulme

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Spindrift: Spindrift is the foam/mist that blows off the tops of cresting waves. Technically, this requires very high winds
She's standing on the orangegold shingle, arms akimbo, drinking the beach in, absorbing sea and spindrift, breathing it into her dusty memory.
A Book for Today: The Bone People by Keri Hulme

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Pundit: Pundit is borrowed from the Hindi/Sanskrit honorific for a learned person.
Most Pundits could not get enough of my questions and would speak with me in Sanskrit for as long as I could stay awake.
A Book for Today: Slipping into Paradise by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

Monday, November 30, 2009


Scupper: A nautical term for the holes in the gunwales to allow water that splashes into the desk deck to drain away.
What shall we do with a drunken sailor, ear-lie in the morning?
Put him the scuppers with a hosepipe on him ...
A Book for Today: The Bone People by Keri Hulme

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sea Biscuit

Sea Biscuit: A sand dollar.
The first thing he saw, right by his eyes when he wakened, was the sea biscuit shard.
A Book for Today: The Bone People by Keri Hulme

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Fossick: Originally, to fossick meant to search for gold or gems in the debris of a previous mining operation. This meaning has been generalized to include any search through a pile a discards.
He fossicks, picking up tide debris, bring it back to her.
A Book for Today: The Bone People by Keri Hulme

Friday, November 27, 2009


Palp: To touch. It shares it etymology with palpate, palpitate, palpably, and palpable.

A Book for Today: The Bone People by Keri Hulme

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Scry: To see distant events (in time or space) in some object, such as a crystal , a mirror, or a bowl of water.
She thought of the tools she had gathered together, and painstakingly learned to use. Futureprobes, Tarot, and I Ching and the wide wispfingers of the stars ... all these to scry and ferret and vex the smokethick future.
A Book for Today: The Bone People by Keri Hulme

It's been a long time since I did any scrying. An accidental glimpse; a spark, like static from a stranger's hand.
Quotation from:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dandelion Clock

Dandelion Clock: A dandelion clock is the white puffy ball of seeds. In the etymological history, this is the original meaning - clock referring to a flower shape. Later clock meant bell, as, possibly, the bell had the same shape as the flower. Even later, clock became a timepiece as we know it today, possibly, because early clocks employed bells.
She cultivates them, doping the ground with things dandelions like, and helpfully spreading seed by blowing the clocks.
A Book for Today: The Bone People by Keri Hulme

Monday, November 23, 2009

Kaibab Moccasins

Kaibab Moccasins: The Kaibab Plateau in an area of Arizona southeast of the Grand Canyon. The Kaibab Moccasin Company, no longer in business, made high-top moccasins and their name is still associated with shoes of this style.
She slips on thin leather kaibabs over woolen socks.
A Book for Today: The Bone People by Keri Hulme

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Inchoate: Inchoate means incipient, something just coming into being. Inchoate also implies unclear or formless. Though the meaning is similar to incoherent, the words do not share a common etymology.
And worst of all, he knows in an inchoate way that the greatest terror is yet to come.
A Book for Today: The Bone People by Keri Hulme

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Marae: The Maori word for a sacred place.
New marae from the old marae, a beginning from the end.
A Book for Today: The Bone People by Keri Hulme

Friday, November 20, 2009

Perspex & Plexiglas

Perspex & Plexiglas: These are two of the most popular trade names for a transparent plastic (PMMA). Evidently, Evonik Industries lost trademark protection for plexiglas in the Americans, but it retains trademark protection for Plexiglas in the rest of the world. Perspex is a trademark of Lucite Industries.
Which is why I was going to embalm the whole thing [The Bone People] in perspex (sic) when the first three publishers turned it down on the grounds, among others, that it was too large, too unwieldy, too different when compared with the normal shape of a novel.
A Book for Today: The Bone People by Keri Hulme

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Garth: A garth is a small yard. Garth shares its etymology with garden, kindergarten and yard.
Katherine and Langdon were alone now, dashing through the cathedral's annex, following signs for "The Garth." ... The cathedral garth was a cloistered, pentagonal garden with a bronze postmodern fountain.
A Word for Today: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Monday, November 16, 2009


Symbolon: Symbolon is the Greek root for symbol. It mostly occurs in mystical contexts with an esoteric (fabricated?) meaning assigned by the author.
Tonight, when I felt the tiny circumpunct at the bottom of the stone box, I realized that the ring is, in fact, part of the symbolon.
A Word for Today: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown


Nubbin: This 19th century nubbin referred to a stunted ear of corn and any other small/stunted growth. In the 20th century a nubbin was the little mouse controller in the middle of the IBM ThinkPad keyboard. Now in the 21st century nubbin refers to a third nipple or part of the female anatomy.
Langdon looked at his finger, but the only transformation he could see was that he now had an indentation on his skin my by the circular nubbin - a tiny circle with a dot in the middle.
A Word for Today: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Foliated: Foilated has three specialized meanings. In geology, foliated rocks are layered. In the arts, foliated means decorated with foil. In botany, foliated means having leaves. Foliated shares its etymology with foil and both go back a root meaning leaf.
This sacred space was dark, illuminated only by indirect reflections in the foliated vaults overhead.
A Word for Today: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Rood Screen

Rood Screen: Rood shares its etymology with rod and can mean a staff, or in a religious context - a cross or crucifix. Rood is the Anglo-Saxon word for crucifix.

A rood screen in church architecture is a screen aligned with a hanging rood that separates the congregation from the officiants.
When they reached the Great Crossing, the dean guided them through the rood screen - the symbolic divider between the public area and the sanctuary beyond.
A Word for Today: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Friday, November 13, 2009


Sigil: Sigil (usually used in occult/mystical contexts) simply means seal or sign. Sigil shares its etymology with many words: sign, seal, tocsin, assign, consign, signal, signify, and insignia.
Abruptly, Mal'akh drew his gaze downward, past the double-headed phoenix on his chest, past the collage of ancient sigils adorning his face, and directly to the top of his head.
A Word for Today: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Canticle: A canticle is a little song or verse. Canticle shares its etymology with accent, chant and another Dante word: canto. Decant and cantilever share a independent, but also Latinate, etymology.
The Araf? Hamistagan? The place to which Dante devoted the canticle immediately following his legendary Inferno?
A Word for Today: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown ***

The Lost Symbol is Dan Brown's third installment in the Robert Langdon sagas of mysticism, fanaticism, and brutality. Though somewhat less brutal than the previous volumes, it still suffers from the author's unfortunate tendency towards exposition where the action stops for some lecture or another. Readers of the first two volumes will not be surprised by the mystery quest plot, shallow characters, or violence. The puzzles are fewer and less satisfying, but if you skim the lectures, as I did, the pace is quite nice, though the resolution is reminiscent of Narnia.

This book demonstrates why I am not a fan of series, as the author delivers more of the same: a sequel in the worst tradition of franchise movies.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Demure: Demure is an adjective meaning modest, shy, with good manners. Do not confuse it with the verb demur meaning to object. The demure young lady in a long dress blushed when he demurred in a loud voice to her attire as inappropriate for Rap concert.
At the end of the meal, when the plates had been stacked and cleared, they filed out of the dining room as demurely as they could.
A Book for Today: Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo

Friday, November 6, 2009


Cobbled: In this context, cobbled is an adjective meaning a street constructed of cobblestones. Evidently, though of similar linguistic age, this word does not share its etymology with cobbled meaning an repair or ad hoc construction. And also of seemingly independent etymology are: cobbler the fruit dessert and cobbler the shoemaker. Another unrelated word is corncob. I imagine cob sound so nice to the Anglo-Saxon ear that it was used over and over with different meanings.
Here the streets were cobbled and narrow.
Charlie began to talk to himself as he struggled over the cobblestones and several people glanced at him suspiciously.
It landed on the cobbled street with a soft, musical tinkle.
A Book for Today: Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo

Monday, November 2, 2009


Purblind: In Middle English, purblind (pure blind) meant completely blind, but somehow over the centuries, purblind, now means partially blind.
Within my family on Bainbridge Island was Fanny's father, D C Challis, purblind but savoring the island life in a surprising way.
A Book for Today: Bretz Flood by John Soennichsen

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Quaternary: An geologic period comprising the most recent two and half million years. Quaternary implies the fourth something, and apparently there were primary, secondary, and tertiary deposits in the Italy in the 18th century, but presently, only Quaternary remains in the geological taxonomy of time. The Quaternary period includes the Pleistocene (most new) epoch (ice ages) and the Holocene (whole new) epoch (last 12,000 years).
He was invited to speak at a 1940 meeting of the [AAAS] in Seattle titled "Quaternary Geology of the Pacific."
A Book for Today: Bretz Flood by John Soennichsen

The moral conscience that so many thoughtless people have offended against and many more have rejected, is something that exists and has always existed, it was no the invention of the philosophers of the Quaternary, when the soul was little more than a muddled proposition.
Quotation from:

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Cannula: A cannula is (literally) a small tube - used in various medical applications to introduce liquids or gasses into the body. It shares its etymology with cane (botany), cannoli, cannon, and canal.

"Breathe it for five minutes. Long enough for me to shower." She relented and positioned the cannula.

A Book for Today: Smoke Screen by Sandra Brown

Friday, October 30, 2009


Anodyne: Anodyne is a synonym for analgesia, both Latinate words meaning without pain, using the popular prefixes (a-, an-) as in atonal, asocial, antagonist, and androgynous.
The amnesia of comfort, soothing, anodyne, too seductive. They were
all too soon back to themselves.
A Book for Today: The Piano Teacher by Janice Y K Lee

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Salver: A salver is a (usually silver) tray. How did this word, which shares its etymology with savior, save, salvation, and salvage, come to mean a simple silver tray? The history is that following tasting of the food for poison, a protective process caller salver in Spanish, the food was served on a silver tray. Eventually the tray took the name of the process and the word migrated to England in the 17th century.

The servants came in with a silver salver of drinks.

A Book for Today: The Piano Teacher by Janice Y K Lee

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Tiffin: A obsolete British term from colonial India for a light lunch.
But after that, they did nothing else unusual: they ate good meals, napped after tiffin, had champagne at the hotel bar, walked around and looked at Macau, so she assumed that was what he had come for.
A Book for Today: The Piano Teacher by Janice Y K Lee

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tael, Catty

Catty: Catty is a unit of weight in China and southeast Asia of approximately 500 grams or one pound. It is derived from a 16th century Malay word and shares its etymology with caddy, as in a box to hold tea - a tea caddy.

Tael: Tael is another 16th century Chinese unit of weight, also derived from the Malay. It is equal to 1/16 of a catty, thus the Chinese cliche: 1/2 a caddy, 8 taels (equivalent to six of one, a half dozen of the other).
Where if you catch two taels of houseflies, you are entitled to a catty of rice if you bring it to the district bureau.
A Book for Today: The Piano Teacher by Janice Y K Lee

Monday, October 26, 2009


Plimsoll: A 19th century British term for canvas shoes (aka sneakers, trainers, Keds, Vans, athletic shoes, etc.), often worn at the beach. This eponymous word is twice removed from its eponym: Samuel Plimsoll. Samuel Plimsoll, a British MP, took up the cause of regulating ship loading in the 19th century and thus came the eponymous Plimsoll line on the outside of a ship's hull indicating safe loading conditions. Somehow this term was transferred to beach shoes.
I think the only time I'd go there before I met you was when I needed plimsolls for the beach.
A Book for Today: The Piano Teacher by Janice Y K Lee

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Voile: Voile is a shear fabric used for lightweight (women's) clothing and curtains. Voile shares its etymology with veil and reveal.

Her blue linen shirt, just delivered from the tailor, was wrinkled, and she had on a white voile blouse that was splotched with moisture.

A Book for Today: The Piano Teacher by Janice Y K Lee

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Pinfold: Pinfold shares its etymology and semantics with pound - both being enclosures to contain stray animals.
The wooden pinfold nearest to the hut was large enough to contain a flock of sheep. ... Several older pinfolds lay some distance away, made of rough stone walling which had been collapsed in places.
A Book for Today: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

Friday, October 23, 2009

Trotters (edible)

Trotters: A search of esoteric recipes will turn up sheep trotters or pig trotters or even cow trotters. Unfortunately, they are just what you feared: feet. Trotters are usually boiled before being included a such delicacies as curry or stew.
We sent up some roasted meat, a trotter, and a little of the wine to the healer by way of payment for the herbs.
The we sat under the stars warming our stomachs with sweet roasted meat and picking the flesh off the trotters steeped in the rich blood gravy.
A Book for Today: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Croft: Croft is an interesting example of a word that got away from its etymology. The root for croft is a Dutch word for hill. However, croft now means a small enclosed field or even more afield from hill: a tenant farm. When croft becomes undercroft, the result is a crypt, arguably closer the the original hill than croft alone.
It was true that hunger in recent years had brought packs close to crofts and isolated villages in the dead of winter.
A Book for Today: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Snicket: A British word for alleyway or a narrow path.
The alleys and snickets were darker than before, but the odd squeal or yell which emanated from their depths suggested they were not deserted.
A Book for Today: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Chantry: A chantry is an endowment to support a priest to say/sing mass to save the soul of the person funding the endowment. Of course, the terms of the endowment might include other stipulations. In some cases, the endowment called for the construction of an independent chapel and the chapel was called a chantry. Chantry shares its etymology with chant.
"Are they dead or fled?"
It was a good question for the chantry chapel certainly appeared to be abandoned. ... The chantry was newly constructed.
A Book for Today: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

Monday, October 19, 2009


Palfrey: During the middle ages, there were three general horse classifications: war, riding, and working. The riding horses (palfreys) had smooth, ambling gaits and were used for hunting and by women. Both war horses and plafreys were expensive and prized by the upper classes. Modern horses that are similar to the medieval palfrey are the Tennessee Walking horse and the Peruvian Paso.
I didn't notice the man who sat on a palfrey in the shadows until he trotted forward and dismounted.
A Book for Today: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Rastons: Rastons is a bread preparation dating from the 15th century that may be as simple as bread and butter or embellished like this:
Pleasance had shown a couple of the lads how to make rastons in one of the cooling ovens, loaves sweetened with wild honey and scooped out to be stuffed with a mixture of breadcrumbs, butter and onions, then heated again until the butter melts
.A Book for Today: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Besom: Besom is an old Anglo-Saxon word for a broom made of twigs. However, besom might be more familiar to sport's fans for the broom used in curling. A book on curling was published in 1936 called: Mr. Besom Starts Curling. The besom was a common broom and has also been used metaphorically as a derogatory term for an old woman, perhaps referring to a witch that might ride a besom.
She was a spirited besom, ready to defend her property with a pitchfork in one hand and a dog whip in the other.
A Book for Today: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

Friday, October 16, 2009


Shrive: The confess one's sins to a priest and be forgiven, especially at the time of death. The sacrament of extreme unction.
And what of those who lay unshriven and unmourned in mass graves, would they ever be released from purgatory?
It was early December, the feast of Saint Barbara, to be exact, the saint who protects us from sudden death, lest we die unshriven with all our sins upon us.
A Book for Today: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Byre: Byre is the British word for a cow barn. It shares its etymology with bower.
It was not a well-trodden track and the only other travelers we saw were local people passing with wood for their fires or moving their livestock from field to byre and back again.
A Book for Today: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Poppet: Poppet is a expression of endearment. From the Latin root pupa meaning doll, it shares its etymology with puppet, pupil (student), pupil (part of the eye), pupa (stage in the life of an insect). The odd entry here is the pupil of an eye. The connection here is that when you look into someone's eye, you see a small reflection of yourself, a small doll, in their pupil.
Didn't I say she was a little poppet? Have you ever seen a child so angelic?
A Book for Today: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Compline: In the middle ages, the days were divided into a fixed sequence of hourly prayers known as canonical hours, often marked by the ringing of church bells. The last of these prayers/bells as called compline. Compline shares its etymology with complete.
A priest gave us until the compline bell to leave the bounds.
A Book for Today: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

Monday, October 12, 2009


Hurdle: The original meaning for hurdle (and one still used in England) is a portable section of fencing for constructing temporary pens for livestock, especially sheep.
The hut was constructed of three sheep hurdles bound together with rope, and with an assortment of broken planks nailed together to form a kind of roof which glistened green with slime.
A Book for Today: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Jacinth: Jacinth is a red zircon. It shares it etymology with hyacinth.
I displayed a few amulets and rings of amber, jacinth, and sardonyx, known cures for deadly fevers, and for those who could not afford gemstones, genuine or otherwise.
A Book for Today: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wifebeater Shirt

Wifebeater Shirt: A wifebeater shirt is a sleeveless, tank-top/singlet style, white shirt (undershirt). The name arose from news stories and movies (beginning in 1947) that associated this undershirt with actual wife beaters. Two good articles can be found in these word blogs: Word for Your Enjoyment and Words@Random.
He wore a wifebeater white T under an unbuttoned gray short-sleeve shirt.
A Book for Today: Long Lost by Harlan Coben

Friday, October 9, 2009

Mansard Roof

Mansard Roof: The mansard roof has eaves all the way around (hip roof) and two different slopes. The overall look is one of a pyramid with the top smashed down. It is named for a 17th century architect, oddly enough named Francois Mansart - yes, Mansart with a "t." This style saw a revival in the mid-19th century.
The mansard roofs were grey slate, as were the cone-capped towers scattered throughout the sprawl.
Up ahead, I saw a line of shrubs and over that, a little bit in the distance, I could make out a gray-blue mansard roof.
A Book for Today: Long Lost by Harlan Coben

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Pallor: A pallor is an abnormally pale complexion, most noticeable on the face, that usually indicates a health problem.
His eyes were bloodshot and his pallor could have been better, but his being up and about at all seemed a triumph considering how he'd felt earlier.
A Book for Today: Serena by Ron Rash

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Fatback: A fatty, inexpensive cut of pork (slab bacon).
His nose wrinkled as he chewed the soggy bread and fatback.
A Book for Today: Serena by Ron Rash

Monday, October 5, 2009


Corbel: A corbel is an extension built out from a wall to support a shelf, sill, or balcony. A corbelled chimney employs corbels widen the top of the chimney. Corbel shares its etymology with corvus, the genus of crows and ravens.
A drift of smoke rose from the corbelled chimney.
A Book for Today: Serena by Ron Rash

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Rusty: Rusty (from the author of an excellent blog on Appalachia) means: showing out, acting like a clown, making a fool of yourself, or even pitching a fit-like a little kid throwing a rusty. Although I have heard it used in my area of Appalachia-it's been several years-and it was from an older person.
Maybe nothing, just a rusty, the sheriff had told her, but he didn't want to take a chance.
It could have been just a rusty somebody was playing, couldn't it, like you said?
A Book for Today: Serena by Ron Rash

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Light words: Alpenglow, Burnished, Gloaming

Alpenglow: Originally, alpenglow described a pink, rose color seen on snow-covered Alpen peaks at sunset or sunrise. However, now it call be used to describe any pinkish lighting seen in the mountains. The phenomenon is related to the red sunsets and sunrises seen at the beach, but alpenglow is only applied to mountains.

Burnished: Strictly speaking burnished means polished, especially in reference to metallic surfaces. Metaphorically it can imply a bright, shiny surface. In the example metallic light and burnish refer to the same effect.

Gloaming: Gloaming is an old English word for twilight or dusk - the time between sunset and darkness. Gloaming pleasantly shares its etymology with glow.
Only the desk's lamp was on when he entered the office, and Pemberton's eyes took a moment to adjust to the gloaming.
At first there was only gloaming. As her eyes adjusted, Rachel saw a mattress made of corn shucks ...
A Book for Today: Serena by Ron Rash

After a few moments, when the alpenglow had faded, they would turn again and gaze at the lake and admire in silence the smooth surface of the water shimmering in the metallic light reflected of the burnished clouds. And then at last they would notice Vanessa Cole standing alone...
Red Ralston's suggestion that [Jordon Groves] ought to paint the early sunset, catch the alpenglow here at the Second Lake, went nowhere, and Ralston slipped off to the porch to smoke a cigar in the gloaming.
Quotations from:


Sodden: Sodden can mean drunk, soggy, or limp, as in the sodden tramp, the sodden swamp, or the sodden cake. Interestingly, sodden shares its etymology with seethe. How can seethe (boiling mad) shares its roots with sodden (soggy drunk)? Easy. After something has boiled for a long time it becomes limp and soggy!
Peeling her sodden hair back with both hands, she started up the step in the shallow end.
A Book for Today: Texas! Lucky by Sandra Brown

Friday, October 2, 2009


Hadicaw: Google search turned up a blank for this word - your help would be appreciated. Where did you see hadicaw?
But most of what adorned the graves attempted to brighten the bleak landscape, not just wildflowers and holly wreaths but something more enduring - yellow-feathered hadicaws, Christmas ornaments, military medals with trailing ribbons, on the grave itself bits of indigo glass and gum foil and rose quartz, which sometimes were cast over the soil like seeds for planting, other times set in elaborate patterns to spell what might be as discernible as a name or obscure as a petrograph.
A Book for Today: Serena by Ron Rash

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Moiling: Moiling means either roiling or toiling.
He pulled off the road and opened the door, waiting to see if his stomach was strong enough to hold its moiling contents.
A Book for Today: Serena by Ron Rash


Demiurge: My word decoding skills just sent me astray with demi-urge. I expected demiurge to share its etymology with demitasse or demi-semi-quaver, but no! Demiurge shares its etymology with democracy and demography. The urge shares its etymology with energy, synergy and erg (CGS energy: gm*cm^2/s^2). Thus, demiurge was originally a Greek term for an artisan, but these days it is used as the creator of the universe.
Plato's Demiurge has merely been replaced by the Christian God.
A Book for Today: The Dancing Universe by Marcelo Gleiser

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Alacrity: With alacrity (exclusively used with the preposition with) means enthusiastically, cheerfully, eagerly. Alacrity shares its etymology with the musical term for a lively, cheerful tempo: allegro.
She did all this with a frenetic alacrity, as if her mind had to make up for her body's inactivity.
A Book for Today: Serena by Ron Rash

They knew that tone and obeyed with alacrity, leaving me alone with him.


Teleology: Teleology at first appears to share its etymology with telephone, television, telekinesis, telepathy, and telegraph. All these words employ the Greek root tele for at a distance, but not so for teleology. Teleology actually shares its etymology with telomere, the extra DNA at the ends of chromosomes, that might be related to aging. These latter words employ the Greek root telos for end or purpose. Teleology is the study of ends or purposes, usually based on the assumption that everything has an end or a purpose. Most theology assumes teleology. The alternate philosophy is nihilism.
Borrowing from Plato's teleological ideas, [Aristotle] looked for final causes that explained not only the motions of the heavenly objects, but everything else that moved, from animals and plants to projectiles and people.
A Book for Today: The Dancing Universe by Marcelo Gleiser
In short, here as everywhere else, let us beware of superfluous teleological principles.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Choleric, Phlegmatic

Hippocrates believed human emotions were determined by the four bodily fluids or humours: blood (sanguine), yellow bile (choleric), black bile (melancholy), and phlegm (phlegmatic).

Choleric: Hot tempered, angry.

Phlegmatic: Slow and methodical.
The lack of humour is yours, Doctor, not mine. Yours is choleric while mine is phlegmatic.
A Book for Today: Serena by Ron Rash