Saturday, April 30, 2011


tyro [ˈtaɪroʊ] n. (also spelled tiro).

1.) A beginner in learning; one who is in the rudiments of any branch of study; a person imperfectly acquainted with a subject; a novice.

Etymology: Medieval Latin tyro, squire, variant of Latin tiro, recruit.

"It is difficult to acquit Plato, to use his own language, of being a 'tyro in dialectics,' when he overlooks such a distinction. Yet, on the other hand, we are hardly fair judges of confusions of thought in those who view things differently from ourselves" (Plato, Vol. IV, Benjamin Jowett, 1892).

I'd like to give a shout out to RaShelle, who became my 100th follower yesterday! Check out her blog here. Thanks to all my followers and readers for your support!

Friday, April 29, 2011


nonplus [nɒnˈplʌs, ˈnɒnplʌs] v. t.

1.) To put at a loss as to what to think, say, or do; bewilder.

nonplus n.

1.) A state of perplexity, confusion, or bewilderment (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: From Latin non plus, no more : non, not + plus, more.

"— Larry: Yeah, what's going on?
— Jeff: I sponsored a kid from the inner city to go to a summer camp.
— Larry: You sponsored an inner city kid?
— Jeff: An underprivileged kid, yeah.
— Larry: You're kidding.
— Jeff: No.
— Larry: I'm completely...nonplussed. Is that the right word?
— Jeff: I don't know what the right word is. I'm flabbergasted and I'll tell you why: he set fire to the canteen and his cabin. Who does that?!" (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David, 2000).

Thursday, April 28, 2011


fain [feɪn] adv.

1.) With joy; gladly; with wold.

fain a.

1.) Well-pleased; glad; apt; wont; fond; inclined.
2.) Satisfied; contented; also, constrained.

fain v. i. & t.

1.) (Obs.) To be glad; to wish or desire (GNU Collaborative International Dictionary of English).

Etymology: Middle English, from Old English fægen, joyful, glad.

"The port would fain give succor; the port is pitiful; in the port is safety, comfort, hearthstone, supper, warm blankets, friends, all that's kind to our mortalities. But in that gale, the port, the land, is that ship's direst jeopardy; she must fly all hospitality; one touch of land, though it but graze the keel, would make her shudder through and through. With all her might she crowds all sail off shore; in so doing, fights 'gainst the very winds that fain would blow her homeward; seeks all the lashed sea's landlessness again; for refuge's sake forlornly rushing into peril; her only friend her bitterest foe!" (Moby-Dick, Herman Melville, 1851).


I'd like to apologize to anyone who watched El Clasico last night on my recommendation. What a farce of a game. It was like an unconscious self-parody of Continental football. I have to say, though, that I find myself agreeing with Mourinho (who claimed that Barcelona receive consistently favorable decisions from the referees), mainly because of that ridiculous Van Persie red card a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


incipient [ɪnˈsɪpiənt] a.

1.) Beginning; commencing; coming into, or in an early stage of, existence; in an initial stage.
2.) Incipient species, a group of plants or animals in the process of becoming sufficiently distinct to be described as a full species.

incipient n.

1.) (Hebrew Grammar) The verbal ‘tense’ or form with prefixed servile letters, variously called Future, Present, and Imperfect.
2.) (Obs.) A beginner; inceptor (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: Latin incipiens, incipient- present participle of incipere, to begin.

"You love the boy reading in a book, gazing at a drawing, or a cast: yet what are these millions who read and behold, but incipient writers and sculptors? Add a little more of that quality which now reads and sees, and they will seize the pen and chisel" ("Experience", Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1844).

Today's post in honor of the big Champion's League clash between Madrid and Barcelona. Madrid have partially atoned for the humiliating 5-0 defeat at the Nou Camp, which Zonal Marking described as legendary and one of the great football matches, but this is their big chance to really put it behind them. I'm not sure who I want to win. Barcelona play the more beautiful football but it seems to me mechanical, soulless. This quote just about sums it up:

"There is no Messi and Ronaldo. There is only Real Madrid and Barcelona. Rivalry? How can you have a rivalry with this man, this autistic shepherd-boy? He has no personality. He is a footballing machine".

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


slake [sleɪk] v. t.

1.) To allay; to quench; to extinguish; as, to slake thirst.
2.) To mix with water, so that a true chemical combination shall take place; to slack; as, to slake lime.

slake v. i.

1.) To go out; to become extinct.
2.) To abate; to become less decided.
3.) To slacken; to become relaxed.
4.) To become mixed with water, so that a true chemical combination takes place; as, the lime slakes (GNU Collaborative International Dictionary of English).

Etymology: Middle English slaken, to abate, from Old English slacian, from slæc, slack, sluggish.

"With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,
We could not laugh nor wail;
Through utter drought all dumb we stood!
I bit my arm, I sucked the blood,
And cried, A sail! a sail!

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,
Agape they heard me call:
Gramercy! they for joy did grin,
And all at once their breath drew in,
As they were drinking all." (The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1798).


I figured the pronunciation was fairly self-explanatory on this one. Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 25, 2011


soupcon [supˈsɔ, ˈsupsɔ] n.

1.) A suspicion; a suggestion; hence, a very small portion; a taste; as, coffee with a soupcon of brandy; a soupcon of coquetry (GNU Collaborative International Dictionary of English).

Etymology: French, from Old French sospeçon, suspicion, from Latin suspectio, suspection-, fear, from suspectus, past participle of suspicere, to suspect.

"— Miles: Let me show you how this is done. First thing, hold the glass up and examine the wine against the light. You're looking for color and clarity. Just get a sense of it, okay?
— Jack: Okay.
— Miles: Thick, thin, watery, syrupy? Okay?
— Jack: Okay.
— Miles: All right. Now, tip it. What you're doing here is checking for color density as it thins out towards the rim. That's going to tell you how old it is, among other things. It's usually more important with reds. Okay?
— Jack: Okay.
— Miles: Stick your nose in it.
— Jack: [smells wine] Okay.
— Miles: Don't be shy. Really get your nose right in there, really. [smells wine deeply] Mm, a little citrus, maybe some strawberry. Passion fruit, and oh there's just like the faintest soupcon of like asparagus and there's just a flutter of like a nutty Edam cheese.
— Jack: Wow. [smells again] Strawberries, yeah...strawberries. Not the cheese" (Sideways, Jim Taylor and Alexander Payne, 2004).

Sunday, April 24, 2011


avuncular [əˈvʌŋkyələr] a.

1.) Of or pertaining to an uncle (GNU Collaborative International Dictionary of English).

Etymology: From Latin avunculus, maternal uncle.

"Balthazar Getty also has a loyal clientele at Richard Pryor's auto shop, one of whom, played by Robert Loggia, is an extremely creepy and menacing crime-boss-type figure with a thuggish entourage and a black Mercedes 6.9 with esoteric troubles that he'll trust only Balthazar Getty to diagnose and fix. Robert Loggia clearly has a history with Balthazar Getty and treats Balthazar Getty with a creepy blend of avuncular affection and patronizing ferocity" ("David Lynch Keeps His Head", David Foster Wallace, 1995).


Okay, so I think I got the embedding of the audio pronunciation working. Let me know if it is working in your browser or not. I contemplated just linking to the audio, but worried that would be frowned upon (I didn't want to credit them either because I think their site sucks). So this really is me you're hearing. Feels sort of weird.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


telos [ˈtɛlɒs] n.

1.) End, purpose, ultimate object or aim (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: adopted from the Greek τέλος, end.

"Thus we would put to Nietzsche the familiar form of the philosophical question. It asks after the essence of the Will to Power. The philosophical question 'what is … ?' is answered by supplying the quiddity, the essence. Philosophical thought is a questioning of appearances, an investigation of their essence, their organizing structure, their telos, their meaning" ("The Will to Power", Alphonso Lingis, 1977).


I've been looking into giving audio of the pronunciations. It seems like the best way is upload mp3s to an online file-hosting service, and then embed the links to the files on here with a media player. Does anybody have any advice about which file-hosting service and/or media player is the best for this? I'd like the files to be kept in perpetuity, because I'm eventually planning on having search functionality. Thanks in advance!

Friday, April 22, 2011


fecundity [fɪˈkʌndɪti] n.

1.) Of female animals: The faculty of reproduction, the capacity for bringing forth young; productiveness.
2.) (Bot.) The faculty or power of germinating.
3.) Of the earth: The quality of producing abundantly; fertility.
4.) Productiveness in general, the faculty or power of being fruitful, fertility: of both material and immaterial things.
5.) The capacity for making fruitful or productive, fertilizing power (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: adopted from French fecond, an adaptation of the Latin fēcundus, meaning fruitful. In the 16th century the spelling was refashioned after the Latin.

"He held here enclosed, soft, unutterably soft, and with the unrelaxing softness of fate, the relentless softness of fecundity. She quivered, and quivered, like a tense thing that is struck. But he held her all the time, soft, unending, like darkness closed upon her, omnipresent as the night. He kissed her, and she quivered as if she were being destroyed, shattered. The lighted vessel vibrated, and broke in her soul, the light fell, struggled, and went dark. She was all dark, will-less, having only the receptive will" (The Rainbow, D. H. Lawrence, 1915).

Thursday, April 21, 2011


garrulous [ˈgærələs, ˈgæryə-] a.

1.) Talking much, especially about commonplace or trivial things; talkative; loquacious.
2.) (Zool.) Having a loud, harsh note; noisy; — said of birds; as, the garrulous roller.

Usage: A garrulous person indulges in long, prosy talk, with frequent repetitions and lengthened details; talkative implies simply a great desire to talk; and loquacious a great flow of words at command. A child is talkative; a lively woman is loquacious; an old man in his dotage is garrulous (GNU Collaborative International Dictionary of English).

Etymology: From Latin garrulus, from garrire, to chatter.

"Then thought the Queen, 'Lo! they have set her on,
Our simple-seeming Abbess and her nuns,
To play upon me,' and bowed her head nor spake.
Whereat the novice crying, with clasped hands,
Shame on her own garrulity garrulously,
Said the good nuns would check her gadding tongue
Full often, 'and, sweet lady, if I seem
To vex an ear too sad to listen to me,
Unmannerly, with prattling and the tales
Which my good father told me, check me too
Nor let me shame my father's memory, one
Of noblest manners, though himself would say
Sir Lancelot had the noblest; and he died,
Killed in a tilt, come next, five summers back,
And left me; but of others who remain,
And of the two first-famed for courtesy—
And pray you check me if I ask amiss—
But pray you, which had noblest, while you moved
Among them, Lancelot or our lord the King?'" (Idylls of the King, Alfred Tennyson, 1885).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


ersatz [ˈɛrzɑts, -sɑts, ɛrˈzɑts, -ˈsɑts] a.

1.) Being an imitation or a substitute, usually an inferior one; artificial: e.g. ersatz coffee made mostly of chicory (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: German, replacement, from ersetzen, to replace, from Old High German irsezzan : ir-, out + sezzan, to set.

"If we look to physics to tell us what is possible, will we get all possible worlds? Or only the physically possible worlds, according to current physics? More, at least, than the latter. We will certainly construct ersatz worlds that disobey currently accepted physical laws; for instance, ersatz worlds where mass-energy is not conserved. Still, we cannot be sure of getting all possible worlds, since we cannot be sure that we have constructed our ersatz worlds at a high enough level of generality" (Counterfactuals, David K. Lewis, 1973).


Today's word in honor of Endless and my other German-speaking readers. Didn't want you guys to think I was only doing words of French and Latin origin. Also, looking at my stats, I see that I have some readers from Spain. Would love to hear from you. Any preference in the big Barcelona–Real Madrid showdown?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


savoir-faire [ˈsævwɑrˈfɛər] n.

1.) The ability to say or do the right or graceful thing (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: French : savoir, to know how + faire, to do.

"We walked over to my old elementary school and played in the dirt: made little dirt roads, bark bridges, and twig cottages on the ground beneath a tree. Fawn's friends at her school were doing the ordinary cool things—drinking, experimenting with sex and drugs—that I wasn't. I was scared of Fawn's beauty and her savoir-faire and was relieved to discover that she and I shared romantic views of childhood" ("Caught", Johnathan Franzen, 2004).

Has anyone else noticed the profound dearth of fashion blogs on the internet? There's the Sartorialist, but that's about it. How else am I going to know what brand top random girls are wearing on their nights out?

Monday, April 18, 2011


quash [kwɒʃ] v. t.

1.) To annul, to make null or void (a law, decision, election, etc.); to throw out or reject (a writ, indictment, etc.) as invalid; to put an end to, stop completely (legal proceedings).
2.) To bring to nothing; to crush or destroy; to put down or suppress completely; to stifle (esp. a feeling, idea, scheme, undertaking, proceeding, etc.).
3.) To crush, quell, or utterly subdue (a person); to squash. Now rare.
4.) [Obs.] To break or dash in pieces; to smash; also, to crush, squeeze, squash (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: Middle English quassen, from Old French casser, quasser, from Medieval Latin quassare, alteration (influenced by quassare, to shatter), of cassare from Latin cassus, empty, void.

"In one corner of this half-illumined recess there appeared an opening of about three feet wide, which seemed to lead to a place totally dark, and that, one of the natives assured us, contained nothing more than a reservoir of water. Upon this we tried, by throwing down some stones, which rumbling along the sides of the descent for some time, the sound seemed at last quashed in a bed of water" (A History of the Earth and Animated Nature Vol. I, Oliver Goldsmith, 1774).


That's one month down for MA. Thanks to all my readers!

Sunday, April 17, 2011


litotes [ˈlaɪtəˌtiz, laɪˈtoʊtiz] n.

1.) An understatement by which an affirmative is expressed by negation of its contrary, as in 'not a little' for 'very' or a weaker expression used to suggest a stronger one (Dictionary of Foreign Words and Phrases).

Etymology: Late Latin, from Greek litotes, form litos single, simple, meagre.

"— Vercotti: Doug (takes a drink) Well, I was terrified. Everyone was terrified of Doug. I've seen grown men pull their own heads off rather than see Doug. Even Dinsdale was frightened of Doug.
— 2nd Interviewer: What did he do?
— Vercotti: He used... sarcasm. He knew all the tricks, dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and... satire. He was vicious.
— Presenter: By a combination of violence and sarcasm, the Piranha brothers by February 1966 controlled London and the Southeast of England. It was in February, though, that Dinsdale made a big mistake ("Piranha Brothers", Monty Python, 1970).


Went out for my housemate's birthday last night to Shoreditch; saw no small amount of dirty hipsters with moustaches.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


execration [ˌɛksɪˈkreɪʃən] n.

1.) The act of cursing; a curse dictated by violent feelings of hatred; imprecation; utter detestation expressed.
2.) That which is execrated; a detested thing (GNU Collaborative International Dictionary of English).

Etymology: Latin execrari, execrat- : ex-, ex- + sacrare, to consecrate (from sacer, sacred).

"But what is the fury of those dumb beasts compared with the fury of execration which bursts from the parched lips and aching throats of the damned in hell when they behold in their companions in misery those who aided and abetted them in sin, those whose words sowed the first seeds of evil thinking and evil living in their minds, those whose immodest suggestions led them on to sin, those whose eyes tempted and allured them from the path of virtue" (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce, 1914).


Today's word for the builders next door who decided to start drilling at 8 o'clock on a Saturday morning.

Friday, April 15, 2011


assay [ˈæseɪ, æˈseɪ] v. t.

1.) To test the composition of (an ore, alloy, or other metallic compound) by chemical means, so as to determine the amount of a particular metal contained in it; to determine the degree of purity of one of the precious metals.
2.) To test the strength of a substance by means of a test on an organism.
3.) To try to know or learn; to inquire.
4.) To try the mettle of (any one) in fight, to try to conquer; hence to attack, assault, assail.
5.) To challenge to a trial of strength, skill, etc.
6.) To attempt, try to do anything difficult (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: Middle English, from Old French essai, assai.

He knew whats'ever's to be known,
But much more than he knew would own;
What med'cine 'twas that Paracelsus
Could make a man with, as he tells us;
What figur'd slates are best to make
On watry surface duck or drake;
What bowling-stones, in running race
Upon a board, have swiftest pace;
Whether a pulse beat in the black
List of a dappled louse's back;
If systole or diastole move
Quickest when he's in wrath or love
When two of them do run a race,
Whether they gallop, trot, or pace:
How many scores a flea will jump,
Of his own length, from head to rump;
Which Socrates and Chaerephon,
In vain, assay'd so long agon;
Whether his snout a perfect nose is,
And not an elephant's proboscis
How many diff'rent specieses
Of maggots breed in rotten cheese
And which are next of kin to those
Engender'd in a chandler's nose;
Or those not seen, but understood,
That live in vinegar and wood (Hudibras, Samuel Butler, 1684).

Thursday, April 14, 2011


blithe [blaɪð, blaɪθ] a.

1.) Heedless, careless.
2.) Exhibiting gladness: jocund, merry, sprightly, gay, mirthful. In ballads frequently coupled with gay. Rare in modern English prose or speech.
3.) Of men, their heart, spirit, etc.: Joyous, gladsome, cheerful; glad, happy, well pleased. Rare in English prose since 16th c., but frequent in poetry; still in spoken use in Scotland (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: Middle English, from Old English blythe.

From Bolton's old monastic tower
The bells ring loud with gladsome power;
The sun shines bright; the fields are gay
With people in their best array
Of stole and doublet, hood and scarf,
Along the banks of crystal Wharf,
Through the Vale retired and lowly,
Trooping to that summons holy.
And, up among the moorlands, see
What sprinklings of blithe company!
Of lasses and of shepherd grooms,
That down the steep hills force their way,
Like cattle through the budded brooms;
Path, or no path, what care they?
And thus in joyous mood they hie
To Bolton's mouldering Priory (The White Doe of Rylstone, William Wordsworth, 1815).


I'd like to give a shout out to Dini_Muetter who became my 50th follower yesterday. He runs a great automotive blog, which can be found here. Thanks for all the interest and support!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


anomie [ˈænəˌmi] n. also anomy

1.) Absence of accepted social standards or values; the state or condition of an individual or society lacking such standards.
2.) [Obs.] Disregard of law, lawlessness; esp. (in 17th c. theology) disregard of divine law (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: French, from Greek anomi, lawlessness, from anomos, lawless : a-, without + nomos, law.

"But young adults of the nineties—many of whom are, of course, the children of all the impassioned infidelities and divorces Updike wrote about so beautifully, and who got to watch all this brave new individualism and sexual freedom deteriorate into the joyless and anomic self-indulgence of the Me generation—today's subforties have very different horrors, prominent among which are anomie and solipsism and a peculiarly American loneliness: the prospect of dying without even once having loved something more than yourself" ("Certainly the End of Something or Other", David Foster Wallace, 1998).


Some of you might have noticed that I'm a big David Foster Wallace fan. His posthumous novel The Pale King is being published on Friday. Here's the review in the London Review of Books for those that are interested. I was somewhat annoyed by the reviewer's complaining about the weak ending of Infinite Jest, as though it was unintentional. That's always been sort of the point of DFW's fiction: it operates in pure form rather than narrative movement. Anyway, I don't know if I'll read The Pale King since it's not really DFW's book.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


ennui [ɑnˈwi, ˈɑnwi; Fr. ɑ̃ˈnwi] n.

1.) The feeling of mental weariness and dissatisfaction produced by want of occupation, or by lack of interest in present surroundings or employments.
2.) A cause of ennui.

ennui v. t.

1.) To affect with ennui; to bore, weary (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: French, from Old French enui, from ennuyer, to annoy, bore. The Classical Latin phrase mihi in odi est, meaning "I hate or dislike," gave rise to the Vulgar Latin verb inodire, "to make odious," the source of the Old French verb ennuyer.

"Undoubtedly the very tedium and ennui which presume to have exhausted the variety and the joys of life are as old as Adam. But man's capacities have never been measured; nor are we to judge of what he can do by any precedents, so little has been tried. Whatever have been thy failures hitherto, "be not afflicted, my child, for who shall assign to thee what thou hast left undone?" (Walden, Henry David Thoreau, 1854).


Don't know who to root for in tonight's Champion's League game. There's Judas one on hand, and Sham U on the other. Wish they could both lose.

Monday, April 11, 2011


dearth [dɜrθ] n.

1.) Scarcity which renders dear; want; lack; specifically, lack of food on account of failure of crops; famine (GNU Collaborative International Dictionary of English).

Etymology: Middle English derthe, from Old English deorthu, costliness, from deore, costly.

"As among the different provinces of a great empire, the freedom of the inland trade appears, both from reason and experience, not only the best palliative of a dearth, but the most effectual preventive of a famine; so would the freedom of the exportation and importation trade be among the different states into which a great continent was divided" (An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith, 1776).


Today's word in "honor" of the fact that my bike was stolen last Thursday night. I had lost my lock, so I just sort of draped another lock over the front wheel and left the bike at Uni overnight, hoping it would fool the thieves. Didn't work. Anyone in London have a bike I could buy on the cheap?

Sunday, April 10, 2011


jejune [dʒɪˈdʒun] a.

1.) Lacking matter; empty; void of substance.
2.) Void of interest; barren; meager; dry; as, a jejune narrative.
3.) Juvenile; childish; immature.
4.) Lacking nutritional value (GNU Collaborative International Dictionary of English).

Etymology: Latin jejunus fasting, hungry, dry, barren, scanty; of unknown origin.

"— Boris: Don't you know that murder carries with it a moral imperative that transcends any notion of inherent universal free will?
— Sonja: That is incredibly jejune.
— Boris: That's jejune?
— Sonja: Jejune!
— Boris: You have the temerity to say that I'm talking to you out of jejunosity? I'm one of the most june people in all of the Russias" (Love and Death, Woody Allen, 1975).

Saturday, April 9, 2011


mammon [ˈmæmən] n.

1.) The Aramaic word for ‘riches’, occurring in the Greek text of Matt. vi. 24 and Luke xvi. 9–13, and retained in the Vulgate. Owing to the quasi-personification in these passages, the word was taken by mediæval writers as the proper name of the devil of covetousness. This use appears in English in the 14–16th c., and was revived by Milton (P.L. i. 678, ii. 228). The word does not occur in the N.T. translations of Wyclif and Purvey (who substitute richessis), but it was used by Tindale (1526–34) and subsequent translators, with the exception of those of the Geneva version. From the 16th c. onwards it has been current in English, usually with more or less of personification, as a term of opprobrium for wealth regarded as an idol or as an evil influence.
2.) Sometimes jocularly for ‘money’ (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: Middle English, from Late Latin mammon, from Greek mamonas, from Aramaic mamona, riches, probably from Mishnaic Hebrew mamôn.

"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Gospel of Matthew, Unknown, ~75).

Friday, April 8, 2011


mantic [ˈmæntɪk] a.

1.) Of or pertaining to divination, or to the condition of one inspired, or supposed to be inspired, by a deity; prophetic (GNU Collaborative International Dictionary of English).

Etymology: Adaptation of Greek µαντικός, from µάντις prophet, diviner, literally one affected by divine madness, from root man-.

"And the men who held the land of Apaesus and Adrestia,
men who held Pityea, Terea's steep peaks—the units led
by Adrestus joined by Amphius trim in linen corslet,
the two good sons of Merops out of Percote harbor,
Merops adept beyond all men in the mantic arts.
He refused to let his two boys march to war,
this man-killing war, but the young ones fought him
all the way—the forces of black death drove them on" (Iliad, Tr. Robert Fagles, 1990).


I know the Iliad wasn't originally written in English, but I think Fagles's translation is worthy of being an exception to the rule.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


descant [ˈdɛskænt, dɛsˈkænt] v. i.

1.) To make remarks, comments, or observations; to comment (on, upon, of a text, theme, etc.).
2.) To discourse at large, enlarge (upon, on a theme).
3.) [Obs.] To work with intricate variation on; to fashion with artistic skill.
4.) To play or sing an air in harmony with a fixed theme; gen. to warble, sing harmoniously; also in phr. to descant it.

descant v. t.

1.) To sing in ‘descant’ (words, etc.).
2.) [Obs.] To comment on, discourse about, discuss; occas. to criticize, carp at.

descant n.

1.) A disquisition, dissertation, discourse.
2.) [Obs.] Varied comment on a theme, amplification of a subject; a comment, criticism, observation, remark; occas. censorious criticism, carping.
3.) Variation from that which is typical or customary; an instance of this. shift of descant: a change of ‘tune’, i.e. of argumentative position.
4.) A melodious accompaniment to a simple musical theme (the plainsong), sung or played, and often merely extemporized, above it, and thus forming an air to its bass: the earliest form of counterpoint.
5.) The soprano or highest part of the score in part-singing.
6.) A warbled song, a melodious strain.
7.) The art of singing or writing music in parts; musical composition, harmony; also, a harmonized composition.
8.) An instrumental prelude, consisting of variations on a given theme (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-Norman descaunt, from Medieval Latin discantus, a refrain: Latin dis-, dis- + Latin cantus, song from past participle of canere, to sing.

"Hark! how the cheerefull birds do chaunt theyr laies,
And carroll of Loves praise:
The merry larke hir mattins sings aloft;
The thrush replyes; the mavis descant playes;
The ouzell shrills; the ruddock warbles soft;
So goodly all agree, with sweet consent,
To this dayes meriment (Epithalamion, Edmund Spenser, 1595).


Today's word in honour of the blog: Necroticism - Descanting the Insalubrious. Next week, I'll find out what insalubrious means!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


commove [kəˈmuv] v. t.

1.) To move violently, disturb, agitate, stir up, set in commotion.
2.) To move in mind or feeling, stir to emotion, rouse to passion; to excite.
3.) fig. To put into general or universal motion (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: Middle English commeven, from Old French commovoir, commeuv-, from Latin commovare.

"Ne I sey not this al-only for these men,
But most for wommen that bitraysed be
Through false folk; god yeve hem sorwe, amen!
That with hir grete wit and subtiltee
Bitrayse yow! And this commeveth me
To speke, and in effect yow alle I preye,
Beth war of men, and herkeneth what I seye!"
(Troilus and Criseyde, Geoffrey Chaucer, ~1385)

(Ulisse alla corte di Alcinoo, Francesco Hayez, 1815)

I was able to use this one in an essay the other day.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


crank [kræŋk] v. i.

1.) To run with a winding course; to double; to crook; to wind and turn.

crank n.

1.) A twist or turn in speech; a conceit consisting in a change of the form or meaning of a word.
2.) Any bend, turn, or winding, as of a passage.
3.) (Mach.) A bent portion of an axle, or shaft, or an arm keyed at right angles to the end of a shaft, by which motion is imparted to or received from it; also used to change circular into reciprocating motion, or reciprocating into circular motion.
4.) [Prov. Eng.] A twist or turn of the mind; caprice; whim; crotchet; also, a fit of temper or passion.
5.) [Colloq.] A person full of crotchets; one given to fantastic or impracticable projects; one whose judgment is perverted in respect to a particular matter.
6.) [Obs.] A sick person; an invalid.

Etymology: Middle English, from Old English cranc-, as in crancstæf, weaving implement.

crank a.

1.) Full of spirit; brisk; lively; sprightly; overconfident; opinionated.
2.) [Prov. Eng.] Sick; infirm.
3.) (Naut.) Liable to careen or be overset, as a ship when she is too narrow, or has not sufficient ballast, or is loaded too high, to carry full sail (GNU Collaborative Dictionary of English).

Etymology: Of obscure origin, not easily connected with the other words of same spelling.

"Methinks my moiety, north from Burton here,
In quantity equals not one of yours.
See how this river comes me cranking in
And cuts me from the best of all my land
A huge half-moon, a monstrous cantle out.
I'll have the current ill this place damm'd up,
And here the smug and sliver Trent shall run
In a new channel fair and evenly.
It shall not wind with such a deep indent
To rob me of so rich a bottom here" (Henry IV Part One, William Shakespeare, ~1597).


A quote from Henry "Hotspur" Percy in honour of the Champion's League tie tonight. Come on you Spurs!

Monday, April 4, 2011


saturnine [ˈsætərˌnaɪn] a.

1.) [Astrol.] Born under or affected by the influence of the planet Saturn.
2.) Hence (in later use without allusion to the primary sense), sluggish, cold, and gloomy in temperament.
3.) Of appearance or mien: dark, grim, louring.
4.) [Rare] Pertaining to the planet Saturn.
5.) Of or pertaining to lead.
6.) [Path.] Of disorders: Caused by absorption of lead. Of a patient: Suffering from lead-poisoning.

saturnine n.

1.) A person born under the planet Saturn; a gloomy person (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: adaptation of the Medieval Latin Saturninus, from Saturnus, Saturn. Cf. French saturnin, and Spanish, Portugese, and Italian saturnino.

"What of George Willoughby, with his powdered hair and fantastic patches? How evil he looked! The face was saturnine and swarthy, and the sensual lips seemed to be twisted with disdain" (The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde, 1890).

Sunday, April 3, 2011


welter [ˈwɛltər] v. i.

1.) To roll, as the body of an animal; to tumble about, especially in anything foul or defiling; to wallow.
2.) To rise and fall, as waves; to tumble over, as billows.

welter v. t.

1.) To wither; to wilt.

welter a.

1.) (Horse Racing) Of, pertaining to, or designating, the most heavily weighted race in a meeting; as, a welter race; the welter stakes.

welter n.

1.) That in which any person or thing welters, or wallows; filth; mire; slough.
2.) A rising or falling, as of waves; as, the welter of the billows; the welter of a tempest (GNU Collaborative International Dictionary of English).

Etymology: From Middle English welteren, to toss about, as in high seas, from Middle Low German, or Middle Dutch, to roll.

"Into a gradual calm the breezes sink,
A blue rim borders all the lake's still brink;
There doth the twinkling aspen's foliage sleep,
And insects clothe, like dust, the glassy deep:
And now, on every side, the surface breaks
Into blue spots, and slowly lengthening streaks;
Here, plots of sparkling water tremble bright
With thousand thousand twinkling points of light;
There, waves that, hardly weltering, die away,
Tip their smooth ridges with a softer ray;
And now the whole wide lake in deep repose
Is hushed, and like a burnished mirror glows,
Save where, along the shady western marge,
Coasts, with industrious oar, the charcoal barge (An Evening Walk Addressed to a Young Lady, William Wordsworth, 1793).

Saturday, April 2, 2011


piquant [ˈpikənt, -kɑnt, piˈkɑnt] a.

1.) Pleasantly pungent or tart in taste; spicy.
2.) Appealingly provocative: a piquant wit.
3.) Charming, interesting, or attractive: a piquant face.
4.) [Archaic] Causing hurt feelings; stinging (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: French, from Old French, present participle of piquer, to prick.

"Infancy conforms to nobody: all conform to it, so that one babe commonly makes four or five out of the adults who prattle and play to it. So God has armed youth and puberty and manhood no less with its own piquancy and charm, and made it enviable and gracious and its claims not to be put by, if it will stand by itself" ("Self-Reliance", Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1841).