Saturday, June 12, 2010


Pounce: Pounce (noun) shares its etymology with punch, as in the ubiquitous 3-hole punch used by school children. The sharp, cutting tool, pounce (noun), was metaphorically applied to the claw or talons of carnivorous birds. Eventually, the term became applied to the act of hunting by these bird, and ultimately the common use of pounce (verb) today, as in the cat pounced on the mouse.

Those big claws are called pounces. The ones at the back are called talons - the ones they carry the prey off with.
A Book for Today: Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

Friday, June 11, 2010


Pavane: The pavane is a courtly, formal dance from the Italian Renaissance, that survives today in the hesitation step used in weddings and various metaphorical and fantasy references.
And now they were milling backwards and forwards in a ghastly pavane.
A Book for Today: Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
From the wings I heard and watched the pavane of tragedy move steadily towards its climax.

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.
Quotation from:

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Louche: Moral decadence.
You're thinking we're a couple of louche evil clowns who booze away in a world of smoke and mirrors.
A Book for Today: Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
Rather than sophistication and tolerance, the profession was intent on strangling secular humanism, if that meant some louche tolerance of wandering affections and legal separations.

I was reasonable experienced in that area for an undergraduate, but this was for me a new expansive level of the louche - Gibsons and naked girls in the broad light of day.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Bledlow: This is a Discworld neologism for the Unseen University police.
Beside them, and looking extremely embarrassed, were two of the university's bledlows, not knowing what to do with their feet and wishing they were having a quiet smoke somewhere in the warm.
A Book for Today: Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Fettle: Fettle (noun): condition or state (usually of health) and fettle (verb): to prepare a furnace for smelting ore evidently derive from independent sources. Fettle (verb) shares its etymology with fetch, as in fetch the sand to line the furnace.
Everywhere he went, men stopped work to show him how to plane and carve and mould and fettle and smelt iron and make horseshoes - but not how to fix them, because any horse went mad when he entered the stables.
A Book for Today: Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Orlop: The orlop deck is the lowest deck, overlapping the hold.
Above her, on the orlop deck, animals rattled and stamped in their cramped pens.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Settle: A settle is a wooden bench with a back and a base that can be used for storage.It shares its etymology with sit and seat and the verb settle.
When the taverner was gone, Deseluse took the quilt from Elizabeth and laid it carefully across the back of a wooden settle.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Mercer: A mercer (British) is a dealer in expensive fabrics. Mercer shares its etymology with merchant, mercantile, and merchandise.
If such a fate was preferable to the future that had beckoned her in Saint-Denis, married according to the arrangements of her aunt or confined to repeat forever the same dreary day behind the counter of the mercer's shop, there was poor comfort in it.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Mousseline: Mousseline is the French word for Muslin, a plain, loosely-woven, cotton fabric used for clothing, curtains, sails, and stage scenery (flats). It is named after Mosul, Iraq, where Marco Polo said the fabric originated.
She had gazed in wonder as her aunt took down the heavy bolts of silk and velvet and gossamer mousseline, billowing them out so the customers might appreciate their fineness, the grace of their fall.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Shantung: Shantung is a silk fabric with a rough finish, originally imported from Shantung (now Shandung - literally mountain east) China. Shantung sometimes refers to the finish alone for rayon of cotton fabric.
It was a little cold for the shantung two-piece costume I had acquired from the famous actress Oona Sheehan while working on an assignment for her, but I was prepared to shiver a little to make sure I looked right.
A Book for Today: In a Gilded Cage by Rhys Bowen

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Hob: A hob is a shelf inside a fireplace where food may be placed to stay warm. It shares its etymology with hub. In current British use, a hob is the top of the stove - where the burners are.
He took the kettle from the hob and filled the teapot.
A Book for Today: In a Gilded Cage by Rhys Bowen

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Quaddy: A Quaddy is a 4WD ATV, or the Italian distributor of Quaddies.
Wheeled tracks led in and out through the lock at the end; someone was still driving a quaddy through here on a regular basis.
A Book for Today: Empress of Mars by Kage Baker

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Concupiscence: A concupiscence is a strong desire, especially a sexual desire. Concupiscence shares its etymology with covet and cupidity. Interestingly, the latter is not closely related to the Roman god of love - Cupid (Greek: Eros).
[Trixia] ascertained Essie swooned for William and she swooned too, although Essie said she didn't and Leona said she did. I saw concupiscence in her eyes.
A Book for Today: Where I Must Go by Angela Jackson

Friday, April 23, 2010


Oast: An oast is a kiln (or house) used to dry hops or malt.
Flames were leaping and flickering from the oast house.
Offices could be replaced, she told herself, even oasts.
It's like the fox finial on you oast.
A Book for Today: Murder Takes the Stage by Amy Myers

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Picture Hat

Picture Hat: A picture hat is an ornate, wide-brimmed hat, after the style painted in pictures by Gainsborough.
There were a fair number of people definitely 'dressed up' and not all of them elderly. She could see that Gemma, for instance, was wearing a large pink picture hat.
A Book for Today: Murder Takes the Stage by Amy Myers

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Trilby Hat

Trilby Hat: A eponymous trilby hat, after a novel by George du Maurier, first gained popularity in the 1920s, but continues to be revived for its casual look.
The wide skirts and the trilby hats clearly spoke of the fifties [sic].
A Book for Today: Murder Takes the Stage by Amy Myers

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Obdurate: Stubborn - hard against. Obdurate shares its etymology with durable, during, endure, durum wheat, and durometer, many connecting hardness with lasting and durable.
Certainly, Stanton's spine was stiffened by the controversies, and she plunged into the future with characteristic steadfastness, over obduracy.
A Book for Today: Elizabeth Cady Stanton by Lori D Ginzberg

Monday, April 19, 2010


Recce: British slang probably derivative of reconnoiter.
I agreed to join the crew and, a few months later, flew to Beijing for the "recce" (pronounced RECK-ee; British jargon for a reconnaissance mission) to select locations for filming.
A Book for Today: Warrior Women by Jeannine Davis-Kimball

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Ithyphallic: Ithyphallic is a academic term used by archaeologists to indicate that picture or a statue displays an erection.
The Greek men were often portrayed nude (sometimes ithyphallic), and although the Amazons manage to keep their clothes on during battle, occasionally a breast or shapely leg will erupt from a well-placed gap in their garments.
A Book for Today: Warrior Women by Jeannine Davis-Kimball

Friday, April 16, 2010

Torque (also Torc or Torq)

Torque (also Torc or Torq): A torque is a metal collar or necklace. Torque shares its etymology with a wide range of words: tort, contortion, torture, distort, extortion, the verb torque, and torch - all from the Latin root to twist.
A middle-aged Late Sarmation priestess in the Kobyakova kurgan ... was buried with a cast-gold torque ...
A gold torque whose terminals ended in snarling snow leopards encircled the youth's neck.
A Book for Today: Warrior Women by Jeannine Davis-Kimball

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Steppes: While steppe is a geography word with a precise technical meaning, the steppes generally refers to a high prairie that spans the middle of Asia.
Steppes is derived from the Russian word for plains or grassland.
A Book for Today: Warrior Women by Jeannine Davis-Kimball

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Amazon: In Greek mythology, Amazons were fierce women warriors. In the book Warrior Women by Dr. Davis-Kimball, she both establishes the historical basic for Amazons, and explains how the Greeks used the myth as a cautionary tale to remind the Athenian women to maintain their subservient, docile roles.

The etymology is popularly thought to mean without breasts, suggesting that breasts would be detrimental to women archers. However, women in Mongolia regularly demonstrate archery skills unfettered by their breasts. The name more likely derives from no husbands.

A Book for Today: Warrior Women by Jeannine Davis-Kimball

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Chess Pie

Chess Pie: Chess Pie is a plain, but very sweet, southern dish, variously described as pecan with pecans, cheesecake with cheese, or plain custard. Of course, since it's unadorned, there are also many variations with different flavors added, such as fruits, nuts, corn and vinegar. The pie can be traced back to England and the name most likely derives from cheese (aka curd) pie, though many other stories abound.
Abraham handed me a huge slice of chess pie.
A Book for Today: Alex Cross's Trial by James Patterson

Monday, April 12, 2010

Poke Sallet

Poke Sallet: Poke Sallet is a spring weed from the American southeast, originally eaten by poor folks, but now revived as a delicacy here and there. It was popularize in the song: Poke Salad Annie. The etymology seems to be lost along with the spelling.
They ate squirrel and possum, poke sallet and dandelion greens.
A Book for Today: Alex Cross's Trial by James Patterson

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Scuppernong: The scuppernong is a large, green grape native to the American southeast. It is the state fruit of North Carolina.
I rode the bicycle two circuits around the tiny park in front of the Methodist church, took a left at the minister's house and another left at the scuppernong arbor.
A Book for Today: Alex Cross's Trial by James Patterson

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Hopsack: Hopsack is a weave where several woof and the warp yarns are woven together. Twill is another variation from the plain (1 warp, 1 woof) weave.
On the other hand, Miss C would have commended [Miss] Wallace's no-nonsense attire: a gray hopsack suit with a white blouse cinched at the neck with a brooch.
A Book for Today: Hollywood Buzz by Margit Lewis

Friday, April 9, 2010


Stygian: Stygian means hellish, dark and gloom and refers to the River Styx.
In the Stygian gloom he saw the late rose.
A Book for Today: Redwall by Brian Jacques

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Hessian: Hessian is an alternate term for burlap. The word more popularly is taught to every elementary school student in the United States to refer to the German mercenaries used by the British in the Revolutionary War against the Americans. The connection is that the uniforms for this soldiers, presumably the enlisted men, were made from burlap (hessian).
One of the legs collapsed and it fell backwards, revealing crossed lattice strips of hessian on its underside.
A Book for Today: Redwall by Brian Jacques

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Palliasse or Paillasse

Palliasse: A Palliasse is a straw mattress and shares its etymology with pallet, as in John 5:12 "Pick up you pallet and walk."

It was nothing special as Sparra habitations went: a straw palliasse, some butterfly wings stuck to the wall b way of decoration.

A Book for Today: Redwall by Brian Jacques

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Garrulous: Garrulous means to chatter, to talk incessantly about nothing of import. Garrulous is an apocryphal etymology for girl. However garrulous does shares its etymology with the bird genus garrulus (European jays) for obvious reasons.
He sat down and took his lunch with Mr and Mrs Squirrel, the Vole family, Silent Sam, and Basil the garrulous hare.
A Book for Today: Redwall by Brian Jacques

Monday, April 5, 2010


Lychgate: A lychgate is a gate to a church yard that was originally used as part of the funeral ceremony. Lych (Lich) is a Saxon/German root for corpse.
They carried with them the long plank from St. Ninian's lych-gate fence.
A Book for Today: Redwall by Brian Jacques

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Piebald: Piebald refers to a spotted animal, often a horse, but it was not always a horse. Piebald goes back to European birds: magpies and woodpeckers (family: picidae; genus: picus) who sported odd, black and white coloration.
His fierce eye gazed out across the mighty army: black rats, brown rats, grey rats, piebald rats, skulking weasels, furtive stoats and sinuous ferrets, all gathered around, their weapons glistening and dripping with the rain.
A Book for Today: Redwall by Brian Jacques

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Skittle: A skittle is a precursor to the bowling pin. Skittle possibly shares its etymology with shuttle.
Report to me or I'll have your skulls for skittles.
A Book for Today: Redwall by Brian Jacques

Friday, April 2, 2010


Cavil: To cavil is to quibble. It shares its etymology with calumny.
It would be too easy to cavil at the ignorance of point 7 (research into sex differences have been going on for 50 years).
A Book for Today: The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer
If the beauty be there in the picture, why cavil at the method by which it was obtained?
A Book for Today: The Crimes of Paris by Dorothy Hoobler

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Valetudinarianism: Valetudinarianism is a synonym for hypochondriacism with the signaler benefit of being two letters longer.
Likewise the exaggeration of illnesses, to the point of valetudinarianism and hypochondria, is often motivated by the continual reproach and not organic at all.
A Book for Today: The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Obloquy: Obloquy is speech against something. It shares it etymology with soliloquy. Obloquy also shares its etymology with obtuse, obstreperous, oppose, offend, obese, oppress, and obsess. However obloquy does not share its etymology with object, obvious, obtain, oblivion, obnoxious, obstruct, and occlude.
Sub-pornographic magazines still carry advertisements for girdles with built in cushions for inadequate arses, but generally the great quivering expanses of billowing thigh and buttock which titillated our grandfathers have fallen into obloquy.
A Book for Today: The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Immure: Immure means to be imprisoned or entombed. Immure shares its etymology with mural and intramural.
When a group of girl students presented a rather churlishly expressed list of grievances to the principal of a women's college in which I had the misfortune to be immured for a whole year before I could escape, she and her cronies clung together in her Hollywood-interior lodge, refusing to deal with the matters expressed in the petition, except to complain that they wanted us to be so happy, and we had hurt them.
A Book for Today: The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

Monday, March 29, 2010


Gnomic: Gnomic, gnome, and gnostic all share the same etymology: a Greek root for knowledge. So how did gnome become little magical people, gnostic become a mystical religious movement, and gnomic become an aphorism, brief and opaque?
There pronouncements are characteristically gnomic and rigorous; to the average confused female they musty seem terrifying.
A Book for Today: The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Thanatos: Thanatos is the Greek daemon of death, twin of the more popular daemon of sleep: Hypnos. Thantos often represents the urge to die.

Our life-style contains more thanatos than eros, for egotism, exploitation, deception, obsession and addiction have more place in us than eroticism, joy, generosity and spontaneity.

A Book for Today: The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Opusculum: An opusculum is a minor work. It obviously shares its etymology with opus. However opusculum also shares its etymology with molecule, both being diminutives. The plural of opusculum is opuscula (like datum and data).
All that such an opusculum can reflect is Sarah's facility on emulation.
A Book for Today: The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

Friday, March 26, 2010


Etiolate: Etiolate means to make a green plant pale by depriving it of sunlight. Metamorphically it mean describes anything that is a paler version of reality. Etiolate does NOT share its etymology with etiology.
We no longer subscribe to the notion of the heated lust of the marriageable virgin, except in its etiolated form in the Lolita syndrome.
The joy of the struggle is not hedonism and hilarity, but the sense of purpose, achievement and dignity which is the reflowering of etiolated energy.
A Book for Today: The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Incommode: Incommode means inconvenient. Incommode shares its etymology with the similarly spelled and variously defined: accommodation, commodity, commode, and accommodate. The common thread is the Latin for convenient or suitable.
In fact no little girl who finds herself bleeding from an organ which she didn't know she had until it began to incommode her feels that nature is a triumph of design and that whatever is, is right.
A Book for Today: The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Prolapse: Prolapse (in medicine) means to move out of place. Prolapse shares it etymology obviously with relapse, elapse, and collapse, but more subtly with labile (changeable, unstable) and lava. All link back to the Latin for slip and slide.

Although few men have still to watch the horror while their wives breed themselves through miscarriage and [uterine] prolapse to death, we still have not come to terms with the sinister womb.

A Book for Today: The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Etiology (variation: Aetiology)

Etiology (variation: Aetiology): The study of causes. Used often in medicine in reference to the causes of disease.
The aetiology of her case was particularly important but the word hysteria seemed to supply all the answers.
A Book for Today: The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer
Until the causes were established, or, to use the appropriate terms, the etiology of the white evil, as, thanks to the inspiration of an imaginative assessor, this unpleasant sounding blindness came to be called, until such time as treatment and a cure might be found, and perhaps a vaccine that might prevent the appearance of any cases in the future, all the people who had turned blind, as well as those who had been in physical contact or in any way close to these patients, should be rounded up and isolated so as to avoid any further cases of contagion, which, once confirmed, would multiply more or less according to what is mathematically referred to as a compound ration.
Quotation from:

Monday, March 22, 2010


Atavistic: Atavistic refers to one relatives, something inherited. Atavistic possibly shares its etymology with avuncular (like an uncle).
Since time immemorial the womb has been associated with trouble, and some of the reluctance shown by doctors to attend to anxieties that women feel about their tricky apparatus stems from the atavistic fear.
A Book for Today: The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer
In 1876, his book Criminal Man presented his theory of the "atavistic" or born criminal.
... Believed that all women were biologically inferior to men and hence inherently atavistic.
A Book for Today: The Crimes of Paris by Dorothy Hoobler

With some atavistic instinct her body had moved closer and closer to the only source of heat as the room grew colder during the night.
A Book for Today: The Bone People by Keri Hulme

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Frangible: Frangible means fragile or breakable. Frangible shares its etymology with: fragment, fraction, defray, refract, infringe, and fractal (among others).
If we may take the imposition of tight corsets on 'O' as any guide, we might assume that the tiny waist is chiefly valued as a point of frangibility for the female frame, so that it gratifies sadistic fantasies.
A Book for Today: The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Lineament: Lineaments are outlines or contours, and metamorphically distinguishing characteristics. Lineament shares its etymology with line and linear.
She must know her friends, her sisters, and seek in their lineaments her own.
A Book for Today: The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

Friday, March 19, 2010


Deliquesces: Deliquesce means to dissolve, to become liquid. Deliquesce shares its etymology with liquid, liquefy, prolix, and liquor.
The most generous, tender, spontaneous relationship deliquesces into the approved mold when it avails itself of the approved buttresses, legality, security, permanence.
A Book for Today: The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Appetent: Having a strong desire. Appetent shares its etymology with appetite.
These distortions masquerade under various mythic guises, of which two follow - Romance, an account of the fantasies on which the appetent and the disappointed woman is nourished, and The Object of Male Fantasy which deals with the favorite ways in which women are presented in specifically male literature.
A Book for Today: The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Memento: A memento is a remembrance or a souvenir. The Latin word shares its etymology with the Latin phrase memento mori meaning a reminder of death, or more specifically: human mortality.
Her death is the memento mori that time must also catch him at his crime.
A Book for Today: Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Virginal: A virginal is a simple harpsichord - a keyboard instrument where the strings are plucked. The etymology is metamorphic and related to the sound (a virgin's voice), the music (in praise of the Virgin Mary) or expected performers (virgins).
The candles are lit, the tables spread with linen, and Henrika has seated herself at the virginal.
A Book for Today: Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

Monday, March 15, 2010


Pilaster: A rectangular column, most often constructed against a wall with only a portion visible.
To the other side, opening off the salon, a small garden, Italianate in design, with pebbled paths and orderly plantings, and pilasters at regular intervals surmounted by granite balls.
A Book for Today: Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Stroppy: A stroppy person is unreasonably grumpy, belligerent, and obstreperous.
She was considered a stroppy child - sullen, secretive, and ordinary.
A Book for Today: Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

Sorry, I'm a stroppy old cow lately.
Age hadn't tempered Serrimissani's stroppiness.
A Book for Today: Judge by Karen Traviss

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Recruit: Recruit means to increase either in numbers or in health and strength. The latter definition was evidently popular in the 19th century where it was used by several journalists traveling to California. Recruit shares it etymology with crescent and crescendo, but only crescendo directly hints at the root meaning of increase. Crescent refers to the crescent moon, a waxing (increasing) moon.
We will stay here a few days to recruit our stock [cattle, horses and oxen].
A Book for Today: Ho for California edited by Sandra L Myers

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Hoardings: A hoarding is a temporary wooden structure such as a fence around a construction site or a roof over castle ramparts to deflect flaming arrows. In the UK, hoardings also refers to billboards. Note: Hoardings does not shares its etymology with hoard.
The whole area behind the hoardings was like this - rides in pieces, towers of fiberglass detritus sandwiched between layers of aerogel.
A Book for Today: Makers by Cory Doctorow

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Viridian: Viridian shares its etymology with verdant and means green.
He was used to sh*tkickers and tourists gawping at his shock of black hair with its viridian green highlights.
A Book for Today: Makers by Cory Doctorow

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Agitprop: A combination of agitation and propaganda (but the Russian words which sound similar), agitprop is political performance art, usually associated with the left, and often used with negative connotation.
It's the goddamned fatkins agitprop games.
A Book for Today: Makers by Cory Doctorow

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Franken-: This is a prefix indicating something (monstrous) made of alien/scavenged/inappropriate parts. Refers to Frankenstein - more the popular culture movie character than the character in the Mary Shelley novel: Frankenstein
They drove over at speed, Suzanne wedged into Lester's frankensmartcar, practically under his armpit, and Perry traveling with Francis.
A Book for Today: Makers by Cory Doctorow

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sybaritism (Hedonism, Dionysian)

Sybaritic: The ancient Greeks must have lived in wonderfully pleasurable times. They've given us three words to dedicated to lives of pleasure. First is Hedonism, from the Greek word for pleasure, as the doctrine that pleasure is the most important thing in life. The next is Dionysian to describe any person, party, or group dedicated to pleasure, named for the Greek god of wine. Finally, we have sybaritic, an adjective denoting luxury and pleasure. Sybaritic derives from a Greek colony in southern Italy named Sabyris. This colony was famous for luxurious decadence.
They were attractive enough, but the monotonic fatkins devotion to sybaritism was so tiresome.
Lester seemed to like bragging about the meltdowns they experienced, each one an oddity of sybaritic fatkins culture to boast about.
A Book for Today: Makers by Cory Doctorow

Sage popped a fat, juicy strawberry into her mouth and chewed with sybaritic enthusiasm.
A Book for Today: Texas! Lucky by Sandra Brown

Your father admitted that when he handed over to me and went off to the Chateau du Four in Grimaud for a well-earned and sybaritic retirement.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Shoal: One meaning of shoal shares its etymology with shallow and refers to a shallow place in a deeper body of water. A shoal might be formed by a sandbar.

An independent meaning of shoal is a crowd or large group. The etymology of school of fish comes from shoal and is separate from school of students which share its etymology with scholar.
His wife and daughters, however, made much of me, and introduced me to their friends, who came in shoals to call upon me.
A Book for Today: Erewhon by Samuel Butler

Friday, February 12, 2010


Mulct: Penalty or fine.
The tribute of respect was thus paid to the deceased, the public sculptures were not mulcted, and the rest of the public suffered no inconvenience.
A Book for Today: Erewhon by Samuel Butler

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Desuete: Unused. Desuete shared its etymology with insuete (a synonym) and mansuete (tame).
There has been no Act to repress statues [monuments, not laws] that are intended for private consumption, but as I have said, the custom is falling into desuetude.
The last alternative was so little to the taste of the Erewhonians, that laws against the killing of animals were falling into desuetude.
A Book for Today: Erewhon by Samuel Butler

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Contumacious, Contumely

Contumacious: Stubborn, rebellious.
Contumely: Insolent, arrogant.
Even in England a man on board a ship with yellow fever is held responsible for his mischance, no matter what his being held in quarantine may cost him. He must take his chance as other people do; it would be desperate unkindness to add contumely to our self-protection, unless, indeed, we believe that contumely is one of our best means of self protection.
A Book for Today: Erewhon by Samuel Butler

The main problem from my perspective is that you are so god damned contumacious.
A Book for Today: Contagion by Robin Cook

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Bibelot: Trinket.
Sandy, no doubt, found the need for secrecy strange, but he'd assumed the cross was merely a bibelot, and Billy eccentric.
The piece sat incongruously among priceless bibelots on the top of Mrs. Houghton's bureau.
A Book for Today: One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bugle Bead

Bugle Bead: Bugle beads are cylindrical beads.
Schiffer had already picked out a dress - a short white sheath covered in silver bugle beads - which Oprah held up for the cameras.
A Book for Today: One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell

Monday, February 1, 2010


Spume: Spume is a foam or froth. Spume shares its etymology with foam and spumoni.
Marshall maneuvered the Sno-Cat as g quickly as he dared through the spume of snow and ice.
A Book for Today: Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child

Sunday, January 31, 2010


Redoubt: (Temporary) fortifications. Redoubt distantly shares its etymology with reduce.
Looks like a pretty secure redoubt to me.
A Book for Today: Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Vibrissae: The formal word for whiskers. Its etymology reflects the function of these facial hairs or feathers and is shared with vibrate and vibrato.
The overhung upper jaw, fronted by an array of huge fangs and flanked by two tusks, behind which - horribly - hung hundreds of narrow, razor-sharp tendrils, like the vibrassae of a walrus.
A Book for Today: Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child

Friday, January 29, 2010


Monody: A monody is a chant or dirge sung in one voice. The obvious etymology is shared with mononucleosis, monogram, monopoly, and monorail. The other etymology is shared with ode and melody.
He was holding his medicine bundle in both hands and chanting a low monody.
A Book for Today: Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Frag: When a solider is killed or injured by a fellow solider, it may be accidental (friendly fire) or on purpose (fragged).
"It was not a frag," the shaman said, opening his eyes.
Marshall looked at him in surprise. "Were you in the service?"
A Book for Today: Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Coruscate: Sparkle.
There was the truck, covered with tiny yellow lights like some immense holiday offering, its headlights lancing the coruscating snow.
A Book for Today: Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Fairing: A fairing is a structure with the primary purpose of creating an aerodynamic shape and reducing drag.
Marshall had been there only once before, for a butterfly bandage and a tetanus booster after gashing his arm on a rusty fairing.
A Book for Today: Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child

Monday, January 25, 2010


Kerf: Kerf shares its etymology with carve and refers to cutting with a blade (knife, saw, sword, etc.).
The sudden thawing, the creature going missing, the kerf marks...
Those kerf marks ... I don't know. Under the scope they don't look like they were made by a saw.
A Book for Today: Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Duxelles: Chopped mushrooms, eponymously named for the Marquis d'Uxelles.
Waiters in white shirts and black ties offered bite-size hamburgers, miniature Ruebens, lamb chops, and little phyllo-dough bundles full of what the waiter said was mushroom duxelles.
A Book for Today: Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner

Friday, January 22, 2010


Palettes: A palette, from the Latin for shovel, is either the board an artist uses to mix colors, or a set of colors, as in an autumn palette. Metamorphically, it might refer to other sets such a palette of textures or sounds. The examples below seem to be unique to the author.
Watching the palettes catch the light, hearing beads on the hem click against each other, I could imagine myself dancing in the dress.
The skirt brushed softly at the skin just below my knees, and the silver palettes shimmered, making it look as if the dress were actually made of light.
A Book for Today: Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Calimny: A calumny is a slanderous statement. It shares its etymology with cavil.
.... in France we have no law to protect us against the calumnies of the press ...
Ceccadli's calumnies were interjected into the trial at Caillaux's request.
A Book for Today: The Crimes of Paris by Dorothy Hoobler

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Catafalque: A catafalque is a structure to display a coffin. This is a unique latinate word in the in that its etymology appears to be unshared with any other words. But, you might notice, the latinate prefix cata- is widely represented with cataracts, cathedral, cation, catalog, catheter, etc. I don't count this as the root cata (Latin meaning down) is so non-specific that it only provides a hint to the meaning in cataracts (waterfalls). The interesting root is fala meaning scaffold, wooden tower, or, even, seige engine. This root seems to be unique, though I'd be happy to be proven wrong here.
Dozens of wreaths were laid upon the catafalque, which was drawn by horses through the streets as a tribute to the brave man who had died to bring the dreaded Bonnot to justice.
A Book for Today: The Crimes of Paris by Dorothy Hoobler

The casket bearing Anne's remains was moved to the catafalque beside the grave.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Sibyl: A prophetess - from the Greek.
It was during the night; the rain poured down in torrents; thunder rumbled; as a result a relative, who combined the functions of midwife and sibyl, drew the conclusion that my career would be a stormy one.
A Book for Today: The Crimes of Paris by Dorothy Hoobler

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Recidivism: The tendency of criminal to repeat their criminal behavior.

You explain to them that the recidivism rate for pedophiles is less than five percent, and then you ask them if they think the piece of human refuse should have his balls cut off.

A Book for Today: Extreme Measures by Vince Flynn