Saturday, December 17, 2011


maunder [ˈmɔndər] v. i. also mander

1.) To grumble, mutter or growl. Obs.
2.) To move or act in a dreamy, idle, or inconsequent manner. Construed with along, away.
3.) To talk in the dreamy and foolish manner characteristic of dotage or imbecility; to ramble or wander in one's talk (O.E.D. 2nd Edition).

Etymology: Of obscure origin; perhaps imitative: with senses 2 and 3 cf. dander (v.).

"First, in the old days, when I was sick to death
with the horror of my life,
when I lusted to be driven into exile,
you refused that favor—for all my prayers.
But then, when I'd had my fill of rage at last
and living on in the old ancestral house seemed sweet...
then you were all for cutting, casting me away—
these ties of blood you maunder on about
meant nothing to you then."
(Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles, Robert Fagles (trans.), 1979)

(Oedipus at Colonus, Jean-Antoine-Théodore Giroust, 1788)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

hortus conclusus

hortus conclusus [ˈhɔːtəs kənˈkluːsəs] n.

1.) An enclosed, inviolate garden; in spiritual and exegetical tradition, the symbol of the soul, the Church, or the virginity of Mary. In Art, a painting of the Madonna and Child in an enclosed garden. Frequently in transferred sense (Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition).

Etymology: Latin, = enclosed garden, in reference to Song of Solomon 4.12.

"The heart of man is hortus, it is a garden, a Paradise, where all that is wholesome, and all that is delightful grows, but it is hortus conclusus, a garden that we ourselves have walled in; it is fons, a fountain, where all knowledge springs, but fons signatus, a fountain that our corruption hath sealed up" (John Donne, "Sermons No. 13: Preached to the Earl of Carlisle, and his Company, at Sion, on Mark 16.16", ~1622).

(Virgin and Child with Saints and Donor, Gerard David, ~1507)

Thanks to Bibi for bringing this one to my attention; I hadn't heard it before. I couldn't find a pronunciation, though. Can you record an mp3 and I'll post it for everyone? Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 9, 2011


cavil [ˈkævəl] v. i.

1.) To find fault unnecessarily; raise trivial objections.

cavil v. t.

1.) To quibble about; detect petty flaws in.

cavil n.

1.) A carping or trivial objection (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: French caviller, from Old French, from Latin cavillari, to jeer, from cavilla, a jeering.

Thy Justice seems; yet to say truth, too late,
I thus contest; then should have been refusd
Those terms whatever, when they were propos'd:
Thou didst accept them; wilt thou enjoy the good,
Then cavil the conditions?" (Paradise Lost, John Milton, 1667).

(The Temptation and Fall of Eve, William Blake, 1808)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

memento mori

memento mori [məˈmɛntoʊ ˈmɔraɪ] n.

1.) A reminder of death or mortality, especially a death's-head.
2.) A reminder of human failures or errors (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: New Latin memento mori, be mindful of dying : Latin memento, sing. imperative of meminisse, to remember + Latin mori, to die.

"—Bardolph: Why, Sir John, my face does you no harm.
—Falstaff: No, I'll be sworn; I make as good use of it as many
a man doth of a Death's-head or a memento mori: I
never see thy face but I think upon hell-fire and
Dives that lived in purple; for there he is in his
robes, burning, burning" (Henry IV Part One, William Shakespeare, 1597)

(Youth with a Skull, Frans Hals, ~1627)


ataraxia [ˌætəˈræksiə] also ataraxy n.

1.) Freedom from disturbance of mind or passion; stoical indifference (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Latin ataraxia, adoption of Greek ἀταραξία, impassiveness, from ἀ, privative + ταράσσ-ειν, to disturb, stir up. Cf. French ataraxie.

"All science (and not just astronomy alone, the humiliating and degrading effects of which Kant singled out for the remarkable confession that 'it destroys my importance' ...), all science, natural as well as unnatural—this is the name I would give to the self-critique of knowledge—is seeking to talk man out of his former self-respect as though this were nothing but a bizarre piece of self-conceit; you could almost say that its own pride, its own austere form of stoical ataraxy, consisted in maintaining this laboriously won self-contempt of man as his last, most serious claim to self-respect (in fact, rightly so: for the person who feels contempt is always someone who 'has not forgotten how to respect'...)" (On the Genealogy of Morality by Friedrich Nietzsche, Carol Diethe (trans.), 1994).

(The Triumph of Marcus Aurelius, Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, ~1770)

Monday, November 28, 2011


ambit [ˈæmbɪt] n.

1.) A circuit, compass, or circumference, esp. a space surrounding a house, castle, town, etc.; the precincts, liberties, ‘verge.’
2.) The confines, bounds, limits of a district.
3.) fig. Extent, compass, sphere, of actions, words, thoughts, etc.

Etymology: adaptation of Latin ambit-us a going round, a compass; from amb- about + -itus going, from ī-re to go.

"—Stephen: Yeah, and surprisingly, there's a very, very narrow ambit of temperature within which sperm can live, so if it's too hot, they need to dangle down and get a lot of air through them to cool them down, and if it's very cold they need to— [sucks inward and brings his hands tightly together].
—Alan: Once they're out, they're alive for eighteen hours, so you should leave the telly on if you're going out or something" (QI, John Lloyd (creator), 2006).

(A Fishing Boat Brought Ashore Near Conway Castle, Philip Jacques de Loutherbourg, 1800)

Hi all! Apologies for the long dearth of high diction, but I had to go back to London to defend my master's thesis. It was successful though so, barring a few administrative formalities, I'm now a Master of Philosophical Studies. And I will be insisting that you refer to me as "Master E" from now on. Anyway, good to be back in the blogosphere; I'll have to catch up on what you all have been up to. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


cortege [kɔrˈtɛʒ] n.

1.) A train of attendants, as of a distinguished person; a retinue.
2.) A ceremonial procession.
3.) A funeral procession.

Etymology: French cortège, from Old Italian corteggio, from corteggiare, to pay honor, from corte, court, from Latin cohors, cohort-, throng.

"Thebes, city of death, one long cortege
and the suffering rises
wails for mercy rise
and the wild hymn for the Healer blazes out
clashing with our sobs our cries of mourning—
O golden daughter of god, send rescue
radiant as the kindness in your eyes!"
(Oedipus the King by Sophocles, Robert Fagles (trans.), 1977)

(Cortege, Leonor Fini, 1960)

Anyone want to be in my cortege?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


nonce-word [nɒns] n.

1.) A word invented "for the nonce," that is, for one occasion only. There are related terms such as nonce-borrowing (=a word borrowed from a foreign language only for one occasion), nonce-compound, nonce-expression, and nonce-meaning (Garner's Modern American Usage 3rd Edition).

Etymology: The first editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, James A. H. Murray (1837-1915), invented this expression for use in the Dictionary's entries.

"What's with voguism? The reader will ask: 'Is it a word? Why isn't it in my dictionary?' It is not synonymous with nonce-word, which is 'a term used once for some special occasion.' Rather, voguism is a not-so-new neologism that was created in this space in 1982. Though picked up and used once by Newsweek, the word has since languished, out of print and out of sorts" (The Right Word in the Right Place at the Right Time: Wit and Wisdom from the Popular "On Language" Column in The New York Times Magazine, William Safire (ed.), 2004).

(The Elephant Celebes, Max Ernst, 1921)

Monday, November 7, 2011

break Priscian's head

break Priscian's head [ˈprɪʃiən] v. phr.

1.) To violate the rules of grammar (Garner's Modern American Usage 3rd Edition).

Etymology: In the 6th century, Priscian wrote an 18-volume Latin grammar that was copied by almost every library in Europe and influenced writers for several centuries. He is reputed to have been so devoted to the study of grammar that making an error in his presence hurt him as much as a blow to the head.

"Quakers, that like to lanthorns, bear
Their light within them, will not swear;
Their gospel is an accidence,
By which they construe conscience,
And hold no sin so deeply red,
As that of breaking Priscian's head."
(Hudibras, Samuel Butler, 1684)

(The Cornell Farm, Edward Hicks, 1848)

Today's phrase in honor of Lemons Don't Make Lemonade, the winner (again) of the weekly contest. She wrote:
Even though the Roman Catholic church is one of the biggest religious institutions in the world, few true votaries remain within its inner circles. Devotion to the Word of God is no longer a prerequisite for modern day cardinals, who usually possess the legerdemain to amass financial wealth and the savoir-faire to charm their way to the Pope's throne. To quash the chances of their opponents, cardinals running for the papacy often resort to bribery. And since the cliche "money talks" often proves to be accurate, a dirty cardinal's chances are often not bad at all.
Nicely done again, Lemons. You used litotes rather than the word "litotes", but that's okay. That was back before the days of the Sunday rhetoric feature, so it was unclear what you were supposed to do. Also, this is your 5th victory, so you're the 1st winner of a prize! Congrats! Which book do you want? (I wonder how much shipping to Singapore is going to cost.) Well, let's take another week off since I haven't been blogging regularly again; hopefully I'll get back into it this week. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


perquisite [ˈpɜrkwəzɪt] n.

1.) A payment or profit received in addition to a regular wage or salary, especially a benefit expected as one's due.
2.) A tip; a gratuity.
3.) Something claimed as an exclusive right (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: From Middle English perquisites, property acquired otherwise than by inheritance, from Medieval Latin perquisitum, acquisition, from Latin, neuter past participle of perquirere, to search diligently for: per- + quaerere, to seek.

"Give me glory! What greater glory could I win
than to give my own brother a decent burial?
These citizens here would all agree,
if their lips weren't locked in fear.
Lucky tyrants—the perquisites of power!
Ruthless power to do and say whatever pleases them" (Antigone by Sophocles, Robert Fagles (trans.), 1982).

(Η Αντιγόνη εμπρός στο νεκρό Πολυνείκη, Νικηφόρος Λύτρας, 1865)

Monday, October 31, 2011

pons asinorum

pons asinorum [pɒnz ˌæsəˈnɔrəm] n.

1.) A humorous name for the fifth proposition of the first book of Euclid, from the difficulty which beginners or dull-witted persons find in 'getting over' or mastering it. Hence allusively (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: New Latin pons asinorum, bridge of fools: Latin pons, bridge + Latin asinrum, genitive plural of asinus, ass, fool.

"Even as regards the Ricardian doctrine of rent, which it was customary to call the pons asinorum of Political Economy, a suspicion has begun to prevail that the part of it which is true is a mere truism; the wage-fund theory has suffered the same process of attenuation, and the "economic man" has been banished to the planet Saturn" ("Introduction to Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations", Joseph Shield Nicholson, 1884).

(Death of Euclid, Barnett Newman, 1947)

Okay, it's time to announce the winner of this week's contest. It's...Lemons Don't Make Lemonade! She wrote:
As I opened the envelope in my hand, I couldn't help but wonder if Lord Wessex's invitation was merely a beau geste. After all, I was the penseroso of his cousins and this could just be a kind attempt to inveigle me into the affections of his more garrulous relatives. Still, the palpitations of my heart told me that I hoped for more and I would continue hoping...even if he made it clear that I was just an ersatz companion to fill the void of heart. Replacing the card in the envelope, I hid it under my pillow and tried to fall asleep. Unfortunately, all I could think about was the scene in the sitting room where Lady Elizabeth had ridiculed me as "old-fashioned." Despite my anger, I had responded with a smile and a polite observation on how Lord Wessex favored her. Reculer pour mieux sauter is often the best action in war, and love IS war.
Good stuff there, LDML. Is this a continuous story by the way? Cause that would be pretty impressive. Also, I like "inveigle". I may have to use that one. Okay, for next week, let's do votary, legerdemain, savoir-faire, quash, and litotes. (Only 5 since I've been lazy and not posting very often.) Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 27, 2011


votary [ˈvoʊtəri] n.

1.) One who is bound by vows to a religious life; a monk or nun. One who has made, or is bound by, a special vow.
2.) One who is devoted to a particular religion, or to some form of worship or religious observance; a devotee. A devout worshipper. (Cf. next.)
3.) A devoted or zealous worshipper of God, Christ, one of the saints, etc. Used with reference to ancient or heathen deities, partly in fig. use.
4.) One who is devoted or passionately addicted to some particular pursuit, occupation, study, aim, etc. Constructed with "to" (now rare) or "of".
5.) A devoted adherent or admirer of some person, institution, etc. (Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition).

Etymology: from Latin vōt-, participle stem of vovēre, to vow + -ary, adaptation of Latin -āri-us, -āri-um.

"The little Love-god lying once asleep,
Laid by his side his heart-inflaming brand,
Whilst many nymphs that vowed chaste life to keep
Came tripping by; but in her maiden hand
The fairest votary took up that fire
Which many legions of true hearts had warmed;
And so the General of hot desire
Was, sleeping, by a virgin hand disarmed.
This brand she quenched in a cool well by,
Which from Love's fire took heat perpetual,
Growing a bath and healthful remedy,
For men diseased; but I, my mistress' thrall,
   Came there for cure and this by that I prove,
   Love's fire heats water, water cools not love."
("Sonnet 154", William Shakespeare, 1609)

(Amore e Psiche, Antonio Canova, 1793)

Monday, October 24, 2011


legerdemain [ˌlɛdʒərdəˈmeɪn] n.

1.) Sleight of hand.
2.) A show of skill or deceitful cleverness: "financial legerdemain" (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: Middle English legerdemayn, from Old French leger de main: leger, light (from Vulgar Latin leviarius, from Latin levis) + de, of + main, hand.

"Like as the fouler on his guilefull pype
Charmes to the birds full many a pleasant lay,
That they the whiles may take lesse heedie keepe,
How he his nets doth for their ruine lay:
So did the villaine to her prate and play,
And many pleasant trickes before her show,
To turne her eyes from his intent away:
For he in slights and jugling feates did flow,
And of legierdemayne the mysteries did know" (The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser, 1596).

(De goochelaar, Hieronymus Bosch, ~1510)

Hi, all. After a two-week hiatus it's time to announce the winner of this week's "Climbing the Mountain" challenge. It's...shari! She wrote:
Typically, I enjoy most cabbalistic festivities, but this party lacked the oneiric quality that I was longing for. I broodingly sat on the sofa, holding my bottle of lager and gazed about at the abderian nitwits John seemed to always invite to his parties. Taking off the bottle cap, I flipped it over to solve the rebus stamped inside. Most of these garish jezebels wouldn't be able to figure out the first symbol, I muttered to myself.... a bee, representing the letter B. A B and an image of an icicle. Bicycle. I stretched out my legs and took a large gulp of my beer. Bicycle built for two. So many perfumed and sweaty dancers gyrating in front of me... The miasma of eau-de-floozy wafted about me. I got up, festina lente, and in a final beau geste, gave my still cold and unfinished beer to a passing party-goer, then made my way out the front door and into the fresh autumn night air.
Great stuff, there, shari. Not sure about your use of "cabbalistic", but you definitely made up for it with the other words. (You do realize you only need to use 5 of the 7, don't you?) Okay, so for next week let's do beau geste, distaff, reculer pour mieux sauter, penseroso, fecundity, garrulous, and ersatz. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rhetoric - meiosis

meiosis [maɪˈoʊsɪs] n.

1.) A figure of speech in which something's importance is intentionally understated or implied to be less significant or substantial than it really is. The understatement actually heightens the force of the statement (Garner's Modern American Usage 3rd Edition).

Etymology: Greek µείωσις lessening, from µειοῦν, to lessen, from µείων less.

   "'No, everybody's fine at home,' I said. 'It's me. I have to have this operation.'
   'Oh! I'm so sorry,' she said. She really was, too. I was right away sorry I'd said it, but it was too late.
   'It isn't very serious. I have this tiny little tumor on the brain.'
   'Oh, no!" She put her hand up to her mouth and all.
   'Oh, I'll be all right and everything! It's right near the outside. And it's a very tiny one. They can take it out in about two minutes.'
   Then I started reading this timetable I had in my pocket. Just to stop lying. Once I get started, I can go on for hours if I feel like it. No kidding. Hours" (The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger, 1951).

(Philosophy, Salvator Rosa, 1640)

Thursday, October 20, 2011


penseroso [pɛnsəˈroʊsoʊ] a.

1.) Meditative, brooding, melancholy.

penseroso n.

1.) A brooding or melancholy person, or personality (O.E.D. 2nd Edition).

Etymology: From the title of John Milton's poem "Il Penseroso" (1632), adopted from obsolete Italian penseroso, now pensieroso, from pensiere thought.

"— Manly: I unintentionally intruded into this lady's presence this morning, for which she was so good as to promise me her forgiveness.
— Charlotte: Oh! ho! is that the case! Have these two penserosos been together? Were they Henry's eyes that looked so tenderly? [Aside.] And so you promised to pardon him? and could you be so good-natured? have you really forgiven him? I beg you would do it for my sake [whispering loud to Maria]. But, my dear, as you are in such haste, it would be cruel to detain you; I can show you the way through the other room.
— Maria: Spare me, my sprightly friend" (The Contrast, Royall Tyler, 1787).

(Il Penseroso, Thomas Cole, 1845)

I know, I know, two Thomas Cole's in a row. But it was too perfect to pass up. Also, I'm not sure why it's always the French words and phrases that put people up in arms. Maybe it's the pronunciation. But, again, I only include words and phrases from major English dictionaries that have been used in multiple works published in English. If you want to go back to speaking the Wessex dialect of Anglo-Saxon, go right ahead. Finally, it's a big day for us, MA readers: we've found a mistake in the O.E.D. 2nd Edition! It claims that The Contrast was published in 1887, rather than 1787, and that the pertinent line is "How I should like to see that pair of Penserosos together". Needless to say, they'll be getting a stern letter. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

reculer pour mieux sauter

reculer pour mieux sauter [rəkyle pur mjø sote] phr.

1.) Making use of a withdrawal or setback in such a way as to advance or succeed all the more (O.E.D. 2nd Edition).

Etymology: French, lit. 'to draw back in order to leap better'.

"If we are to build a better world, we must have the courage to make a new start—even if that means some reculer pour mieux sauter. It is not those who believe in inevitable tendencies who show this courage, not those who preach a 'New Order' which is no more than a projection of the tendencies of the last forty years, and who can think of nother better than to imitate Hitler" (The Road to Serfdom, Friedrich August Hayek, 1944).

(The Course of Empire: Destruction, Thomas Cole, 1836)

Don't worry, this is as political as I will ever get.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


distaff [ˈdɪstæf] n.

1.) A cleft staff about 3 feet long, on which, in the ancient mode of spinning, wool or flax was wound. It was held under the left arm, and the fibres of the material were drawn from it through the fingers of the left hand, and twisted spirally by the forefinger and thumb of the right, with the aid of the suspended spindle, round which the thread, as it was twisted or spun, was wound.
2.) The staff or "rock" of a hand spinning-wheel, upon which the flax to be spun is placed.
3.) As the type of women's work or occupation.
4.) Hence, symbolically, for the female sex, female authority or dominion; also, the female branch of a family, the "spindle-side" as opposed to the "spear-side"; a female heir.
5.) attrib. and Comb., as distaff-business, distaff-right, distaff-woman; distaff side, the female branch of a house or family; distaff's or St. Distaff's day, the day after Twelfth Day or the Feast of the Epiphany, on which day (Jan. 7) women resumed their spinning and other ordinary employments after the holidays; also called rock-day; distaff cane, a species of reed, the stems or canes of which are used for distaffs, arrows, fishing-rods, etc.; distaff thistle, a name of Carthamus lanatus (Cirsium lanatum), from its woolly flowering stems (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Middle English distaf, from Old English distæf: dis-, bunch of flax + stæf, staff.

"Women predominate not only, I think, because of matriarchal considerations, or claims to divine paternity, but also because Boiotian tradition leans in every way toward the distaff side. Yet, through entry and identification of the heroine 'like her who...,' one can file the heroes too, and their exploits, and so compose an account of the heroic age using a method different from Homer's and scarcely derived from him" (Hesiod: The Works and Days, Theogony, The Shield of Herakles, Richmond Lattimore, 1959).

(Hésiode et la Muse, Gustave Moreau, 1891)

Monday, October 17, 2011

beau geste

beau geste [boʊ ˈʒɛst] n.

1.) A gracious gesture.
2.) A gesture noble in form but meaningless in substance (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: French beau, noble + geste, gesture.

"It was in the rout that followed Issus that Darius fled the field of battle, leaving his wife, children, and even his mother behind in the baggage train. Alexander, with characteristic largesse and fondness for the beau geste—like most extravagant personalities, he had a capacity for generosity as great as his capacity for ruthlessness—honorably maintained the captives in royal state" (How Beautiful It Is and How Easily It Can Be Broken: Essays, Daniel Mendelsohn, 2008).

(Mégas Aléxandros, "Menas", ~350 B.C.)

I thought I'd give the ladies an aide-mémoire this time. (This is also pretty much what I look like when my toga is falling off.) And let's resume the weekly challenge this week, using 5 of rebus, cabbalistic, festina lente, abderian, miasma, oneiric, and jezebel. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 15, 2011


jezebel also iesabelle, jezabel, jesebel [ˈdʒɛzəˌbɛl] n.

1.) Name of the infamous wife of Ahab king of Israel; hence used allusively for a wicked, impudent, or abandoned woman or for a woman who paints her face (O.E.D. 2nd Edition).

"That I might have nothing to divert me from my Studies, and to avoid the Noises of Coaches and Chair-men, I have taken Lodgings in a very narrow Street not far from Whitehall; but it is my Misfortune to be so posted, that my Lodgings are directly opposite to those of a Jezebel. You are to know, Sir, that a Jezebel (so call'd by the Neighbourhood from displaying here pernicious Charms at her Window) appears constantly dress'd as her Sash, and has a thousand little Tricks and Fooleries to attract the Eyes of all the idle young Fellows in the Neighbourhood" ("The Spectator", Joseph Addison and Richard Steele (ed.), 20 Sep. 1711).

(Jezebel, John Byam Liston Shaw, 1896)

I can't believe none of my readers is an Ubuntu user! Free yourselves from your corporate shackles, people. See, Thursday marked the release of Ubuntu 11.10, nicknamed the "Oneiric Ocelot". That was why "oneiric" was chosen (plus I had no idea what it meant). I like that some of you thought I'd suddenly change tack and start blogging about my personal dream-narratives. However, that's between me, George Lucas, Carrie Fisher, and the attractive barista at my local coffee shop, thank you very much!

Thursday, October 13, 2011


oneiric [oʊˈnaɪrɪk] a.

1.) Of, relating to, or suggestive of dreams.

Etymology: Greek oneiros, dream + -ic.

"The interpretation of the Oedipus complex is placed among the examples of dreams of the death of loved relatives, which come under the heading of typical dreams; the latter appear in the chapter dealing with 'The Material and Sources of Dreams'—prior, therefore, to the great chapter on 'The Dream-Work.' This arrangement is quite misleading, and even more so the treatment of the Oedipus complex as a mere oneiric theme" ("Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation" by Paul Ricoeur, Denis Savage (trans.), 1977).

(The Nightmare, Henry Fuseli, 1781)

Extra nerd points if you know why I chose this word for today.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


miasma [maɪˈæzmə] n.

1.) Infectious or noxious exhalations from putrescent organic matter; poisonous particles or germs floating in and polluting the atmosphere; noxious emanations, especially malaria (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: modern Latin, adopted from Greek µίασµα, pollution, related to µιαίνειν, to pollute. Cf. French miasme.

"A door slammed. 'Primo,' I said—or meant to say. But he was gone. Never apologize. Never explain. I stepped carefully down the alley, leaned around the corner, and felt my way brick by brick back to my car. Some son of a bitch had snatched the flower off the hood. I got in and drove out of town, through the shining miasma of my drunkenness, turned off the highway, and went up a steep dirt road that led to a pass between a pair of cactus-studded hills" ("In Defense of the Redneck", Edward Abbey, 1979).

(Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah)

Here's a rare tribute to my Southwestern heritage (the quote and the picture, not the word). Extra points to anyone who had heard of Edward Abbey before!

Friday, October 7, 2011


abderian [æbˈdɛərɪən] a.

1.) Given to laughter; inclined to foolish or incessant merriment (Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary).

Etymology: Latin, from Abdera, adoption of Greek Άβδηρα, a town in Thrace where Democritus, the "laughing philosopher", was a native.

"—Heidelberg: Then let me bruise it in upon your brains that you should have the interest of my children as much at heart as my own interests, sir. Abderian ape! What are you grinning at?
—Markus: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ho, ho, hu, hu, ha, ha!
—Heidelberg: Baboon! hold down your risibility or he will trot you into trouble, sir" (Hernarne: a Comedy, William B. Felts, 1891).

(De jonge Rembrandt als Democritus de lachende filosoof, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, 1629)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

festina lente

festina lente [fɛsˈtinɑ ˈlɛntɛ] v. phr. (imper.)

1.) Make haste slowly, do not be impetuous (Dictionary of Foreign Words, Adrian Room (ed.), 2000).

Etymology: Latin, lit. "hasten slowly", from festina, imperative of festinare to hasten + lente, slowly. The phrase was originally a Greek proverb, quoted by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus in De vita Caesarum as a favorite motto of Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus.

"And thus also must that picture be taken of a dolphin clasping an anchor; that is, not really, as is by most conceived out of affection unto man, conveying the anchor unto the ground; but emblematically, according as Pierius hath expressed it, the swiftest animal conjoined with that heavy body, implying that common moral, festina lente: and that celerity should always be contempered with cunctation" (Pseudodoxia Epidemica, Thomas Browne, 1646).

(Battaglia di Azio, Lorenzo Castro, 1672)

This one in honor of HYDRIOTAPHIA. Also, it's nice to get back to the good old Ancient Greek and Roman foundations. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


cabbalistic [kæbəˈlɪstɪk] a. also cabalistic

1.) Pertaining to, of the nature of, or like the Cabbala or cabbalists; having a private or mystic sense; mysterious (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: from cabalist, adaptation of medieval Latin cabbalista, + ic, or direct adaptation of French cabalistique or medieval Latin cabbalisticus.

"Yet, by the mid-seventies, when the singer-songwriter school was wearing thin and with it the whole flaccid enterprise of California rock-and-roll, people were nonetheless realizing that literature had once again become cool, suddenly, with the words 'a screaming comes across the sky,' in the mad, cabalistic invention of Gravity's Rainbow, in the fury of Donald Barthelme's unequaled experiments in short prose, in John Ashbery's poems, or in the tremendous innovative assault of the Living Theater (a pride of New York artists walks into a theatrical space, takes off its clothes, and just starts talking—without script or theme or character), or in the violent electric period of Miles Davis (who probably comes closer, in his life's work, to embodying cool than any other single American artist)" ("About Cool", Rick Moody, 2004).

(Albero della Cabbala, Davide Tonato, 1985)

Hi all, no posts last week as I was trying to cram in as much fourteenering as possible whilst the warm weather held out. Managed to bag 3 of them (although 2 were ones I had already climbed). Anyways, it's time (a day late, actually) to announce the winner of this week's contest. It's...jos xx! She wrote:
As she waited anxiously on the huge velvet chair, she still couldn’t believe it. A personal invitation from the Count had arrived to her earlier in the morning, while she was happily singing over a large tin pan, containing a sort of olla podrida that had appeared on the table for the past three days. She was poor, she had nothing to offer to this noble man, what did he want from her? While she was lost in her deepest thoughts, they curled her hair, polished her neck with some fragrant powder, and they would have added a soupcon of rouge if she had not rebelled. She was then taken to a large hall, filled with large chandeliers and delicious wine, and while she stood rooted on the spot, she could easily feel all eyes on her. A music program developed under the aegis of a short chubby man opened the big dances and suddenly everyone was following an amazing waltz pattern. She looked away, through the large windows instead, and even in the darkness she could easily recognize the Count’s handsome figure walking rapidly through the fecundity of his enchanting garden while hailing at his youngest daughter with a sort of avuncular jocularity. If it wasn’t for the lad who insisted to dance with her, she would have have stayed there, staring outside the windows...all night.
Well done, jos. One more victory and you'll be the first big winner! But let's actually take a week-long hiatus from the contest, considering that I didn't post any words. As always, thanks for reading!

Monday, September 26, 2011


rebus [ˈribəs] n.

1.) An enigmatical representation of a name, word, or phrase by figures, pictures, arrangement of letters, etc., which suggest the syllables of which it is made up. In later use also applied to puzzles in which a punning application of each syllable of a word is given, without pictorial representation (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: adoption of French rebus, or Latin rēbus, ablative plural of rēs thing. The precise origin of this application of the Latin word is doubtful. It is variously explained as denoting 'by things', from the representation being non verbis sed rebus, and (in Ménage) as taken from satirical pieces composed by clerks in Picardy for the annual carnival, which dealt with current topics, and were therefore entitled de rebus quæ geruntur 'about things which are going on'.

"For whereas a Poesie is a speaking picture, and a picture a speechlesse Poesie, they which lackt the wit to expresse their conceit in speech, did use to depaint it out (as it were) in pictues, which they called Rebus, by a Latine name well fitting their device" (Remaines, Concerning Britaine 2nd Ed., William Camden, 1614).

(Sketch of the Rebus of Bishop Oldham, Unknown Artist, 1911)

Ian Rankin fans (my dad is a huge one) might be especially interested in this one. But now it's time to announce the winner of this week's challenge. Surprise, surprise, it's...Lemons Don't Make Lemonade! She wrote:
"It is invidious of the king to reward the Duke of Albertine a bejeweled sword when he refuses to give his other subjects even a few sacks of silver!" Lady Elizabeth's angry tones could be heard from across the room and I hastened to quiet her, for fear that we will both be accused of treachery against the king. "Hush, sister!" Moving towards her, I whispered: "The king is wise - the incipient jealousy of the nobles will breed disunity among them. And you know how paranoid his majesty is. Furthermore, you cannot fault the king for being partial to the duke...not after the duke's panegyric at court last Thursday. As opposed to your husband's megillah, which, to be honest, came across as redundant, fabulously boring, and lasted an entire hour!" Elizabeth frowned, but her lips twitched. "It is all very well for the duke to slake the king's thirst for flattery with a jug of oenomel, but we all know that King Henry's reign is not 'a paragon of virtue and sagacity to barbaric nations across the world.'"
Normally, I'd be impressed that you used 6 words instead of the required 5. But this week shari happened to have submitted this doozy:
E, are you mad at me for being a wild gardener? Is it because I choose to create my own fata morgana in the midst of my verdant oasis? Please forgive my intransigence, as I find the lushness and vim of unbridled greenery to be an oenomel to my soul. It seems that my love of chaotic gardening is invidious to those who crave order. Perhaps my panegyric ramblings on "Natural Gardening" will somehow spark an incipient love in you of uncontrolled proliferation? If not, it will still not slake my desire of writing my own megillah bombast for your blog.
10 of them! You would have won easily (I hadn't considered the possibility of being written into my own contest-paragraphs before!), shari, except that you used "megillah" as an adjective. Still, that's quite a paragraph: surprisingly readable, given all the inkhornisms! Okay, for next week, let's use (5 of!) fata Morgana, aegis, olla podrida, soupcon, avuncular, telos, and fecundity. Good luck, and thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Rhetoric - inkhornism

inkhornism [ˈɪŋkhɔːnɪz(ə)m] n.

1.) An arcane term; a bookish word. Also termed "inkhorn term" (Garner's Modern American Usage 3rd Edition).

Etymology: An inkhorn was variously a a portable case for holding writing materials or a portable ink bottle (originally made of horn). In the Renaissance, a pedantic, ostentatious writer would be said to "smell [or savor] a little of the inkhorn." Hence "inkhornism" came to be used in reference to a word that typifies a style with that particular odor.

"I'm just reporting the linguistic facts. But in a glossary like this one, a little sesquipedality—for the right reader—can be some some fun" (ibid., Bryan A. Garner (ed.), 2009).

(De geleerde in zijn studeerkamer, Willem van der Vliet, 1627)

Hi all, hope everyone had a good weekend. Just a reminder that today is the last day to submit your weekly challenge entries. Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 23, 2011

olla podrida

olla podrida [ˌɒlə pəˈdridə] n.

1.) A dish of Spanish origin composed of pieces of many kinds of meat, vegetables, etc. stewed or boiled together.
2.) A hotchpoch, medley; a mixture of languages (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: adoption of Spanish olla podrida = 'rotten pot', from Latin olla pot, jar; and Latin putrida putrid, rotten.

"What he is is a weird hybrid blend of classical Expressionist and contemporary postmodernist, an artist whose own "internal impressions and moods" are (like ours) an olla podrida of neurogenic predisposition and phylogenic myth and pyscholanalytic schema and pop-cultural iconography—in other words, Lynch is a sort of G. W. Pabst with an Elvis ducktail" ("David Lynch Keeps His Head", David Foster Wallace, 1995).

(Change the Fuckin Channel Fuckface, David Lynch, 2009)

Thursday, September 22, 2011


aegis [ˈidʒɪs] n.

1.) A shield, or defensive armour; applied in ancient mythology to that of Jupiter or Minerva.
2.) fig. A protection, or impregnable defence. Now frequently in senses 'auspices, control, etc.', especially in phrase "under the ægis (of)" (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Latin ægis, adoption of Greek αἰγίς, of uncertain etymology.

"Just where a cloud above the mountain rears
An edge all flame, the broadening sun appears;
A long blue bar its aegis orb divides,
And breaks the spreading of its golden tides;
And now that orb has touched the purple steep
Whose softened image penetrates the deep."
("An Evening Walk", William Wordsworth, 1793)

(Combat de Mars contre Minerve, Jacques-Louis David, 1771)

Hi all, I've compiled a list of the available prizes for the weekly contest, just to give everyone a little added incentive. It can be found on the contest page. Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 19, 2011

fata Morgana

fata Morgana [ˈfɑtɑ mɔrˈgɑnɑ] n.

1.) A kind of mirage most frequently seen in the Strait of Messina, attributed in early times to fairy agency. Also fig. (Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition).

Etymology: Italian fata, a fairy; Morgana, sister of the British legendary hero Arthur, apparently located in Calabria by the Norman settlers.

"The truth is, I now see, Coleridge's talk and speculation was the emblem of himself: in it as in him, a ray of heavenly inspiration struggled, in a tragically ineffectual degree, with the weakness of flesh and blood. He says once, he "had skirted the howling deserts of Infidelity;" this was evident enough: but he had not had the courage, in defiance of pain and terror, to press resolutely across said deserts to the new firm lands of Faith beyond; he preferred to create logical fata-morganas for himself on this hither side, and laboriously solace himself with these" (The Life of John Sterling, Thomas Carlyle, 1851).

(Fata Morgana, George Frederick Watts, 1865)

Hi all, it's time to announce the winner of this week's contest. It's...Lemons Don't Make Lemonade! She wrote:
"Nothing amuses me more than observing tyros go about their studies," William said, a smile playing on his lips. "I would fain disturb the first-years with sophomoric pranks, but I cower at the thought of the master's rod. The master's hand is as heavy as his wife." I couldn't help but giggle at his impertinent remark. "I disagree. The schoolmaster is a formidable man with the vim of people half his age, but my fear of his cruel philippics surpasses that of a sore bottom. He told Frederick that he was an obtuse baboon destined to a life of cuckoldry and shame...and all because Fred pronounced a French verb wrongly." "If we took the matter up to the headmaster, I'm sure he'll put a stop to such abuse." "Keep on dreaming, William. If the marquis couldn't get our schoolmaster to apologize for insulting his son, then, a fortiori, neither can a lowly headmaster."
Well done, Lemons. You even used "a fortiori" correctly. I'm starting to fear for my beloved copy of The Iliad already! Okay, so next week's words are oenomel, invidious, panegyric, intransigent, megillah, incipient, and slake. Good luck and thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Rhetoric - accismus

accismus [ækˈsɪzməs] n.

1.) A feigned refusal of something ardently desired. When people receive gifts or honors, they may use accismus by modestly declaring something like, "Oh, I couldn't possibly accept this!" or "I'm flattered, but I'm really not worth of the honor." Political candidates and appointees sometimes engage in something like this tactic by declaring that they would really rather be doing something else than being involved in public life (Garner's Modern American Usage 3rd Edition).

Etymology: Medieval or Modern Latin, adopted from Greek ἀκκισµός coyness, affectation.

"But this Oscar is a symbol, I think. And it is given for appreciation from those people who we never see. They are a part of our life. I refuse to believe that I beat Jack Lemmon, that I beat Al Pacino, that I beat Peter Sellers. I refuse to believe that Robert Duvall lost. We are a part of an artistic family" ("Best Actor Oscar Acceptance Speech", Dustin Hoffman, 1980).

Hi all, I couldn't really think of a relevant work of art for this one, so it's just text for today. Also, a reminder that today is the last day to submit your entries for the weekly challenge. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 17, 2011


oenomel [ˈinəˌmɛl] n.

1.) A mixture of wine and honey, used as a beverage by the ancient Greeks.
2.) fig.; esp. applied to language or thought in which strength and sweetness are combined (O.E.D. 2nd Edition).

Etymology: adaptation of Latin œnomeli (late L. -melum), adopted from Greek οἰνόµελι, from οἶνος wine + µέλι honey. So Modern French œnomel.

"With gracious gods he communed, honouring thus
At once by service and similitude,
Service devout and worship emulous
Of the same golden Muses once they wooed,
The names and shades adored of all of us,
The nurslings of the brave world's earlier brood
Grown gods for us themselves: Theocritus
First, and more dear Catullus, names bedewed
With blessings bright like tears
From the old memorial years,
And loves and lovely laughters, every mood
Sweet as the drops that fell
Of their own oenomel
From living lips to cheer the multitude
That feeds on words divine, and grows
More worthy, seeing their world reblossom like a rose"
("Song for the Centenary of Walter Savage Landor", Algernon Charles Swinburne, 1880).

(Porträt des Friedrich von Schiller, Gerhard von Kügelgen, 1809)

Thursday, September 15, 2011


invidious [ɪnˈvɪdiəs] a.

1.) Of a charge, complaint, report, etc.: tending or fitted to excite odium, unpopularity, or ill feeling against some one. Now rare.
2.) Of an action, duty, topic, etc.: entailing odium or ill will upon the person performing, discharging, discussing, etc.; giving offence to others.
3.) Of a comparison or distinction: offensively discriminating.
4.) Of a thing: fitted to excite ill feeling or envy against the possessor.
5.) That looks with an evil eye; envious, grudging, jealous. Now rare.
6.) Viewed with ill will or dislike; odious to a person. Obs. rare (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: From Latin invidiosus, envious, hostile, from invidia, envy.

"I felt particular interest in watching the combustion of American authors, and scrupulously noted by my watch the precise number of moments that changed most of them from shabbily printed books to indistinguishable ashes. It would be invidious, however, if not perilous, to betray these awful secrets; so that I shall content myself with observing that it was not invariably the writer most frequent in the public mouth that made the most splendid appearance in the bonfire" ("Earth's Holocaust" in Mosses from an Old Manse, Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1846).

(De goudweger en zijn vrouw, Quentin Massys, 1514)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


panegyric [ˌpænɪˈdʒɪrɪk] n.

1.) A public speech or writing in praise of some person, thing, or achievement; a laudatory discourse, a formal or elaborate encomium or eulogy. Construed with on, upon, formerly of.
2.) Elaborate praise; eulogy; laudation (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Latin panegyricus, from Greek panegurikos (logos), (speech) at a public assembly, panegyric, from paneguris, public assembly: pan-, + aguris, assembly, marketplace.

"'I cannot agree, Phaedrus, with the condition laid down for our speeches, that they should be a simple and unqualified panegyric of Love. If Love had a single nature, it would be all very well, but not as it is, since Love is not single; and that being so the better course would be to declare in advance which Love it is that we have to praise'" (The Symposium by Plato, Walter Hamilton (trans.), 1951).

(Das Gastmahl des Platon, Anselm Feuerbach, 1869)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


intransigent [ɪnˈtrænsɪdʒənt] n.

1.) Refusing to moderate a position, especially an extreme position; uncompromising (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: French intransigeant, from Spanish intransigente: in-, not (from Latin) + transigente, present participle of transigir, to compromise (from Latin transigere, to come to an agreement: trans-, + agere, to drive).

"Suppose someone had said to me, ten years ago, in Scarsdale, or on the commuter train, suppose the person had been my next-door neighbor, Rex Metalman, the corporate accountant with the unbelievable undulating daughter, suppose this was back in the days before his lawn mania took truly serious hold and his nightly paramilitary sentry-duty with the illuminated riding mower and the weekly planeloads of DDT dropping from the sky in search of perhaps one sod webworm nest and his complete intransigence in the face of the reasonable and in the beginning polite requests of one or even all of the neighbors that hostilities against the range of potential lawn enemies that obsessed him be toned down, at least in scale, before all this drove a wedge the size of a bag of Scott’s into our tennis friendship, suppose Rex Metalman had speculated in my presence, then, that ten years later, which is to say now, I, Rick Vigorous, would be living in Cleveland, Ohio, between a biologically dead and completely offensive-smelling lake and a billion-dollar man-made desert, that I would be divorced from my wife and physically distanced from the growth of my son, that I would be operating a firm in partnership with an invisible person, little more, it seems clear now, than a corporate entity interested in failure for tax purposes, the firm publishing things perhaps even slightly more laughable than nothing at all, and that perched high atop this mountain of the unthinkable would be the fact that I was in love, grossly and pathetically and fiercely and completely in love with a person eighteen count them eighteen years younger than I, a woman from one of Cleveland’s first families, who lives in a city owned by her father but who works answering telephones for something like four dollars an hour, a woman whose uniform of white cotton dress and black Converse hightop sneakers is an unanalyzable and troubling constant, who takes somewhere, I suspect, between five and eight showers a day, who works in neurosis like a whaler in scrimshaw, who lives with a schizophrenically narcissistic bird and an almost certainly nymphomaniacal bitch of a roommate, and who finds in me, somewhere, who knows where, the complete lover…suppose all this were said to me by Rex Metalman, leaning conversationally with his flamethrower over the fence between our properties as I stood with a rake in my hand, suppose Rex had said all this to me, then I almost certainly would have replied that the likelihood of all that was roughly equal to the probability of young Vance Vigorous, then eight and at eight in certain respects already more of a man than I, that young Vance, even as we stood there to be seen kicking a football up into the cold autumn sky and down through a window, his laughter echoing forever off the closed colored suburban trees, of strapping Vance’s eventually turning out to be a…a homosexual, or something equally unlikely or preposterous or totally out of the question" (The Broom of the System, David Foster Wallace, 1987).

(Timon d'Athènes, Thomas Couture, ~1857)

Credit to Bibi for bringing this word to my attention. And sorry about the long quote. I wanted to finish the sentence!

Monday, September 12, 2011


megillah [məˈgɪlə] n.

1.) Each of five books of the Old Testament, namely Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther, appointed to be read by adherents of the Jewish faith on certain feast days; freq. with particular reference to the book of Esther, read at the feast of Purim. Also, a copy of any one, or all, of these books.
2.) With allusion to the length of the Megillah: a long, tedious, or complicated story; frequently in the phrase "a whole Megillah" (O.E.D. 2nd Edition).

Etymology: Hebrew megillah roll, scroll.

"She laughed and seemed amenable, so I started with the list, expecting a one- or two-word answer to everything. Instead I got a whole megillah. Most people have a quick answer to 'How do you take your coffee?' Not Hillary. Sometimes she takes her coffee black, she explained, other times with lots of cream, sometimes she likes espresso, sometimes cappuccino." (The Girls in the Van: a Reporter's Diary of the Campaign Trail, Beth J. Harpaz, 2002).

(Esther before Ahasuerus, Jacopo Tintoretto, ~1548)

It's Monday again, which means it's time to announce this week's contest's winner. It's...Lemons Don't Make Lemonade! She wrote:
The gallimaufry of well-dressed women stood in a circle, fawning over the truculent but broodingly handsome male. At this moment, a young lady of more modest apparel stumbled into their midst. "My Lord," she said, curtseying. Lady Elizabeth, who was painstakingly trying to attract the squire's attention, glowered at the brazen girl. "Either that girl has been goaded by her ill-groomed parents or she has chutzpah none of us know about. Still, I pass that over, if only because she has seven siblings to feed and earning the favor of the squire is the only way." Surprisingly, the squire did not seem offended at the presence of the rosy-cheeked girl, although he was astonished at her audacity. "Courage is a good quality, but beware of the conflicts brought on by courage."
Well done, Lemons. All the more impressive that you used 2 of the rhetorical devices (paralipsis and epanadiplosis). However, I had intended you to use them in addition to the five vocabulary words, but we'll compromise by just giving you 1 point. Okay, so next weeks words are philippic; vim; Wein, Weib, und Gesang; a fortiori, tyro; nonplus; and fain. Good luck and thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Rhetoric - digressio

digressio [dɪˈgrɛsɪəʊ] n.

1.) Digressio is the handling of some matter going out from order, but yet for profit of some pertinent cause, we may digresse for the cause of praising, dispraising, delighting or preparing. Digressons are taken either from the declaration of deeds, the descriptions of persons, places and times, the reporting of Apollogies and similltudes, & likewise from common places (The Garden of Eloquence, Henry Peachum, 1593).

Etymology: from Latin dīgress-, participle stem of dīgredī, to go aside, depart, from di-, dis- + gradī, to step, walk, go.

"And, that it may not appear marvellous to any one of you, that I, in a formal proceeding like this, and in a regular court of justice, when an action is being tried before a praetor of the Roman people, a most eminent man, and before most impartial judges, before such an assembly and multitude of people as I see around me, employ this style of speaking, which is at variance, not only with the ordinary usages of courts of justice, but with the general style of forensic pleading; I entreat you in this cause to grant me this indulgence, suitable to this defendant, and as I trust not disagreeable to you,—the indulgence, namely, of allowing me, when speaking in defence of a most sublime poet and most learned man, before this concourse of highly-educated citizens, before this most polite and accomplished assembly, and before such a praetor as him who is presiding at this trial, to enlarge with a little more freedom than usual on the study of polite literature and refined arts, and, speaking in the character of such a man as that, who, owing to the tranquillity of his life and the studies to which he has devoted himself, has but little experience of the dangers of a court of justice, to employ a new and unusual style of oratory" ("The Speech of M. T. Cicero for Aulus Licinius Archias, the Poet" in The Orations of Marcus Tullius Cicero, C. D. Yonge and B. A. London (trans.), 1856).

(Fanciullo che legge Cicerone, Vincenzo Foppa, ~1464)

This one may seem obvious, but a good digression can be a powerful rhetorical device. Also, apologies for my absence from the blogosphere recently, but I've been moving house from London to the great state of Colorado. I turned in my thesis a week or so ago and, instead of waiting around in London for my viva, I decided to come back home and climb some 14ers while the weather was still good. Now comes the fun part of applying for PhD programs! Finally, today is the last day to write your paragraphs for the weekly challenge (although jos xx has already submitted one, so it's probably going to have to be good to win). Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


philippic [fɪˈlɪpɪk] n.

1.) Name for the orations of Demosthenes against Philip king of Macedon in defence of Athenian liberty; hence applied to Cicero's orations against Antony, and generally to any discourse of the nature of a bitter attack, invective, or denunciation.
2.) Used to render Greek ϕιλίππειον, "a gold coin coined by Philip of Macedon, worth £1 3s. 5d. of our money" (Liddell & Scott). Obs.

philippic a.

1.) Of or pertaining to any person called Philip (e.g. Sir Philip Sidney); of Philippi; of the nature of a philippic or invective.

—Hence Philippicize (-saɪz) v. intr., to utter a philippic or invective; also trans., to bring or put into some condition by doing this (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: adaptation of Latin Philippicus, adopted from Greek ϕιλιππικός, from Φίλιππος Philip (of Macedon). Compare modern French philippique.

"After spending the first day in seeking on every side some hole to get out at, like an animal first put into a cage, they gave up their resource. Yesterday they came forward boldly, and openly combated the proposition. Mr. Harper and Mr. Pinckney pronounced bitter philippics against France, selecting such circumstances and aggravations as to give the worst picture they could present" (The Writings of Thomas Jefferson: Correspondence, Henry Augustine Washington (ed.), 1859).

(Démosthène s'exerçant à la parole, Jean-Jules-Antoine Lecomte du Nouÿ, 1870)

Credit to Lemons Don't Make Lemonade for bringing this word to my attention. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


vim [vɪm] n.

1.) Ebullient vitality and energy. Also as adv. (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: Commonly regarded as an adoption of Latin vim, accusative singular of vis strength, energy; but the early adverbial use (see quote) suggests a purely imitative or interjectional origin.

"So I whipt up the mule I rid, the passun chirrupt and chuct to make his crittur gallop, but the animal didn't mind him a pic. I 'gan to snicker, an' the passun 'gan to git vext; sudden he thought of his spurs, so he ris up, an' drove them vim in his hoss's flanx, till they went through his saddle-blanket, and like to bored his nag to the holler." (Odd Leaves from the Life of a Louisiana "Swamp Doctor", Henry Clay Lewis and Felix Octavius Carr Darley, 1850).

(Pierwsze wyścigi konne na Polu Mokotowskim w Warszawie, January Suchodolski, 1849)

Another good scrabble word for you guys. Please keep the Linux jokes to a minimum!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Wein, Weib, und Gesang

Wein, Weib, und Gesang [vaɪn vaɪp ʊnt gəˈzaŋ] n. phr.

1.) Wine, women, and song, proverbially considered the essential ingredients for carefree entertainment and pleasure by men (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: German, first popularized as the title of a 1869 waltz by Johann Strauss. Strauss probably took it from the anonymous couplet found in Martin Luther's room at Wartburg Castle: Wer nicht liebt Wein, Weib, und Gesang / Der bleibt ein Narr sein Leben lang [He who loves not wine, women, and song / will remain a fool his life long].

"And the education of women will always correspond to the notion of her held by men. Now we all know what that is, how men look on women: Wein, Weib, und Gesang, and so it goes in the verses of the poets. Take all poetry, all painting, all sculpture, beginning with erotic verse and naked Venuses and Phrynes, and you will see that woman is an instrument of pleasure, such she is at Truba and at Grachevka and at the finest ball" ("The Kreutzer Sonata", in The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories by Leo Tolstoy, David Goldfarb (trans.), 2003).

(Wein, Weib und Gesang, Josef Danhauser, 1839)

Just to be clear, that quote doesn't really capture the essence of the phrase (don't think it's quite so misogynistic). But I couldn't pass up a Tolstoy quote.

Anyway, now it's time to announce the winner of this week's contest. This was a tough one, as veterans D4 and jos xx faced a strong challenge from newcomers Katie and Lemons Don't Make Lemonade. But, in the end, experience won out and the victor was...jos xx! She wrote (continuing the story from last week):
"Even though I was determined to leave town, his infinite kindness towards me always held me back from fleeing. On the other hand, the guilt of being so madly in love with his wife was eating my insides every day. Often her coming in interrupted his droll stories with which he entertained us every evening. Most of the time his trenchant words would hurt her deeply...and I would want to kill him. I would find myself staring at her and feel this tortured velleity to be with her. And I suddenly remember New Year's when she accepted my dance invitation with an alacrity that surprised me. I felt a sudden frisson down my neck when she held my hand and led me to the dance floor, away from her husband's gaze..."
Well done again, jos xx. You're setting a pretty high standard here. (I hope I don't have send a book to Malta, that must be expensive! Just kidding.) I also feel like I should share D4's entry, as it was, as always, hilarious. He wrote:
"As you whimpered I felt something of a frisson. I didn't want to, I admit I never liked you, but I didn't think I could be so cruel. To have you so near was a mere velleity in my arsenal of thoughts and to be frank, I never really thought I'd have it in me to be so.. trenchant. You're a droll, Mr. Mencia, you really aren't funny, and it is too much of a rara avis for me to have a loaded gun as you lay there, defenseless. I can't pass this opportunity. This is going to happen."
Okay, so for next week, the words are your favorite 5 of: gallimaufry, truculent, mutatis mutandis, chutzpah, trahison des clercs, limn, and slough. Good luck, and thanks for reading!