Tuesday, January 7, 2014


nonpareil [nɒnpəˈrɛl] a.

1.) Having no equal; unequalled, peerless.

nonpareil [nɒnpəˈrɛl] n.

1.) A person or thing having no equal; something unique.
2.) Printing. A size of type intermediate between emerald and ruby (in America, between minion and agate).
3.) A kind of comfit.
4.) A kind of apple.
5.) A small beautifully coloured finch of the southern United States, Cyanospiza (Emberiza) ciris.
6.) The rose parrakeet, Platycerus eximius.
7.) A kind of wheat.
8.) A name for several beautiful moths (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Middle English nounparalle, from Old French nonpareil: non- + pareil, equal (from Vulgar Latin pariculus, diminutive of Latin par, equal.

"For Whom, intoned, toneless, zombily stoned; and the little For Whom jingle—J.D. Steelritter has an ear nonpareil for jingles—has stuck and sunk through that sleep-deprived ear and is there, rattling, unfindable-penny-in-drier-like, in the head of J.D. Steelritter, a head that is fine, perfectly round, freckled of brow, scimitarred of nose, generous and wet of lower lip, quick to center on anything oral" ("Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way," David Foster Wallace, 1989).

(Helen of Troy, Edward Poynter, 1881)

Monday, December 30, 2013


bespoke [bɪˈspoʊk] a.

1.) Custom-made. Said especially of clothes.
2.) Making or selling custom-made clothes: ''a bespoke tailor'' (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: Old English be-, weak or stressless form of the preposition and adverb (biᴁ), by. The original Teutonic form was, as in Gothic, bi, with short vowel, probably cognate with second syllable of Greek ἀµϕί, Latin ambi; in Old High German and early Old English, when it had the stress, as a separate word, and in composition with a noun, it was lengthened to (, ), while the stressless form, in composition with a verb or indeclinable word, remained bi-; in later Old English, as in Middle High German and modern German, the latter was obscured to be- (also occasionally in Old English as an unaccented form of the preposition): cf. Old English bígęng, practice, bigangan, begangan, to practise + spoke, from Old English sprecan.

"Not impossibly, as it struck me on reflection, the spiteful individual might have a theory: he might conceive that, if a catholic chancery decree went forth, restoring to every man the things which truly belonged to him—your things to you, Cæsar's to Cæsar, mine to me—in that case, a particular brickbat fitting, as neatly as if it had been bespoke, to a contusion upon the calf of his own right leg, would be discovered making its way back into my great-coat pockets. Well, it might be so" ("A Sketch of My Childhood," Thomas De Quincey, 1851).

(Il sarto, Pietro Longhi, ~1741)

Monday, May 27, 2013


uroboros [jʊərəʊˈbɒrəs] n. also ouroboros, uroborus.

1.) The symbol, usually in the form of a circle, of a snake (or dragon) eating its tail (O.E.D. 2nd Edition).

Etymology: adaptation of Greek οὐροβόρος, devouring its tail (frequently connected with δράκων, dragon).

"At times, I found myself marvelling at the way that HBO has solved the riddle of its own economic existence, merging "Hookers at the Point" with quasi-Shakespearean narrative. In the most egregious instance so far, Littlefinger tutored two prostitutes in how to moan in fake lesbianism for their customers, even as they moaned in fake lesbianism for us—a real Uroboros of titillation." (The New Yorker, Emily Nussbaum, 2012).

(Eternity Seated by a Fire, Holding a Tablet with the Ouroboros in Her Left Hand, Her Right Hand Leaning on a Sphere, as Wisdom Stands Nearby Leaning on a Staff Encircled with a Scroll Inscribed Rerum Magistra, Arnould Houbraken, ~1690)