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: