Wednesday, August 31, 2011

mutatis mutandis

mutatis mutandis [mjuːˈtɑːtɪs mjuːˈtændɪs] advb. phr.

1.) 'Things being changed that have to be changed', i.e. with the necessary changes; with due alteration of details in comparing cases (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Latin, from mutatis, mutandis, ablative plural respectively of past participle and gerundive of mūtāre to change.

"I know nothing more contemptible in a writer than the character of a Plagiary, which he here fixes at a venture; and this not for a passage, but a whole discourse, taken out from another book, only mutatis mutandis" (A Tale of a Tub, Jonathan Swift, 1704).

(De brug in de regen (naar Hiroshige), Vincent van Gogh, 1887)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


chutzpah [ˈhʊtspə] n.

1.) Utter nerve; effrontery: "has the chutzpah to claim a lock on God and morality", New York Times (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: Yiddish khutspe, from Mishnaic Hebrew huspâ, from hasap, to be insolent.

"The best example of chutzpah is the lad who killed his father and mother and then asked the judge for mercy because he was an orphan. Chutzpah is guts, boldness, and outrageousness, and it is one of the most essential qualities for a filmmaker" (Writing, Directing, and Producing Documentary Films and Videos, Alan Rosenthal, 2007).

(Abramo e tre angeli, Sebastiano Ricci, 1695)

Monday, August 29, 2011

trahison des clercs

trahison des clercs [traizɔ de klɛrk] n.

1.) The betrayal of standards by intellectuals influenced by politics (Dictionary of Foreign Words, Adrian Room (ed.), 2000).

Etymology: French, lit. "treason of the clerks". The phrase originated in La Trahison des Clercs (1927), by Julien Benda, in which the author denounces as moral traitors those who betray truth and justice for racial and political considerations.

"The truth is a little more complicated, not least by Orwell's evident conviction that deceit and domination, to be effective, would have to be refracted through the medium of the intelligentsia. It is this stress on the trahison des clercs that links Animal Farm retrospectively with Homage to Catalonia and prospectively with Nineteen Eighty-Four. The extent to which Newspeak and Ingsoc itself are direct examples or expressions of a trahison des clercs has rarely been acknowledged" (Culture and the State, David Lloyd and Paul Thomas, 1998).

(Anthem of the People's Love, Oleksi Shovkunenko, 1951)

It's time to announce this week's winner of the paragraph challenge. It's...jos xx! She wrote:
From the huge golden windows of the ancient palace, I could see her pale skin as she walked alone through the autumn leaves of the orchard. And I suddenly wanted to touch her face. As she looked up and met my gaze, her sinuous lips suggested a smile...but her eyes were hard. I moved with great celerity when I heard steps coming my way, but instead of going back to the dining hall—where a huge retirement party, featuring many paeans, was being held for his long years of military service—I crossed the hall and entered the garden, while hiding behind some trees. “why aren’t you celebrating your husband’s victories with all of his friends?” I whispered. Suddenly she breathed short and she might have broken out into some dangerous ebullition, had not I touched her gently on the arm. Two failed marriages, she sobbed, while she whispered: “plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose..."
Great stuff, jos xx. You even managed to work in a little poignancy. Okay, for next week, let's use: alacrity, rara avis, trenchant, shibboleth, droll, velleity, and frisson.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rhetoric - epanadiplosis

epanadiplosis [ˌɛpænədɪˈpləʊsɪs] n.

1.) Emphasis produced by repeating a word or phrase at the beginning and end of a sentence or clause. This is a subspecies of epanalepsis (Garner's Modern American Usage 3rd Edition).

Etymology: Latin, adoption of Greek ἐπ(ί) upon, in addition + ἀναδίπλωσις, noun of action from ἀναδιπλό-εσθαι to be doubled back, from ἀνά back + διπλό-ειν to double, from διπλό-ος double.

"Believe not all you hear; tell not all you believe" (Tamil Proverbs with their English Translation: Containing Upwards of Six Thousand Proverbs, Peter Percival, 1874).

(Galilée devant le Saint-Office au Vatican, Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury, ~1847)

I know I don't usually talk about myself on this blog, but I recently received the pictures from my recent trip to Wales, and I couldn't resist demonstrating to my friend (and everyone else) the disparity I was discussing (not complaining about) on our mountain-climbing excursion. And plus it's a chance to big up Colorado (where I'm from), which I'm realizing the rest of the world knows next to nothing about. Here's the reward for climbing to the top of a Coloradan peak (Mount Sneffles):

And here's the reward for climbing to the top of a Welsh "peak" (Cadair Idris):

I know, I know, it's all about the journey, rather than the destination (there are no sheep to keep you company in Colorado, for example). Also, a quick reminder that today is the last day to submit your weekly challenge entries. (See here for this week's words.) Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 25, 2011


alacrity [əˈlækrɪti] n.

1.) Cheerful willingness; eagerness.
2.) Speed or quickness; celerity (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: Latin alacritas, from alacer, lively.

"And having thus displayed more sagacity than Butler expected from him, he courteously touched his gold-laced cocked hat, and by a punch on the ribs, conveyed to Rory Bean, it was his rider's pleasure that he should forthwith proceed homewards; a hint which the quadruped obeyed with that degree of alacrity with which men and animals interpret and obey suggestions which entirely correspond with their own inclinations" (The Heart of Midlothian, Walter Scott, 1818).

(Alexandre et Bucéphale, Hilaire Germain Edgar de Gas, 1861)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

rara avis

rara avis [ˈrɛərə ˈeɪvɪs] n.

1.) A person of a type seldom encountered; an exceptional person, a paragon. Occas. without article.
2.) That which is seldom found; an unusual occurrence, etc.; something very remarkable.
3.) lit. A rare bird (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Latin rara avis : rara, feminine of rarus, rare + avis, bird.

"Sit formosa decens dives fecunda, vetustos
porticibus disponat avos, intactior omni
crinibus effusis bellum dirimente Sabina,
rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cycno:
quis feret uxorem cui constant omnia?"

(Satura, Decimus Junius Juvenalis, ~100).

"Suppose her free from strife,
Rich, fair, and fruitful, of unblemish'd life;
Chaste as the Sabines, whose prevailing charms
Dismiss'd their husbands, and their brother's arms:
Grant her, besides, of noble blood that ran
In ancient veins ere heraldry began:
Suppose all these, and take a poet's word,
A black swan is not half so rare a bird.
A wife, so hung with virtues, such a freight,
What mortal shoulders could support the weight!"
(The Satires of Decimus Junius Juvenalis, John Dryden (trans.), 1693).

(Cornelia refuse la couronne des Ptolémées, Laurent de La Hyre, 1646)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


trenchant [ˈtrɛntʃənt] a.

1.) Forceful, effective, and vigorous: a trenchant argument.
2.) Caustic; cutting: trenchant criticism.
3.) Distinct; clear-cut (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: Middle English, from Old French, cutting, from present participle of trenchier, to cut.

"'So won't you young men shed this empty whinnying and prancing over victory? You should cower in abject humility in the face of the future, ever watchful for the end, whatever it may be, that the gods will cause to strike each and every one of you in retribution for your current success.' It is said that Aemilius went on in this vein for some time before dismissing the young men, with their vain and insolent pride well and truly curbed by the bridle of his trenchant words" (Roman Lives by Plutarch, Robin Wood (trans.), 1999).

(Le Triomphe d'Amelius Paulus, Antoine Charles Horace Vernet, 1789)

Monday, August 22, 2011


shibboleth [ˈʃɪbəlɪθ] n.

1.) The Hebrew word used by Jephthah as a test-word by which to distinguish the fleeing Ephraimites (who could not pronounce the sh) from his own men the Gileadites.
2.) transf. A word or sound which a person is unable to pronounce correctly; a word used as a test for detecting foreigners, or persons from another district, by their pronunciation. A peculiarity of pronunciation or accent indicative of a person's origin. loosely. A custom, habit, mode of dress, or the like, which distinguishes a particular class or set of persons.
3.) fig. A catchword or formula adopted by a party or sect, by which their adherents or followers may be discerned, or those not their followers may be excluded. Hence, a moral formula held tenaciously and unreflectingly, esp. a prohibitive one; a taboo. The mode of speech distinctive of a profession, class, etc. (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: adoption of Hebrew shiˈbbōleth; in the Vulgate transliterated sciboleth. The word occurs with the senses "ear of corn" and "stream in flood"; modern commentators prefer the latter, on the ground that on this view the selection of the word is naturally accounted for, as the slaughter took place "at the fords of Jordan".

"And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites: and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go over; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay: Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousands" (Judges, Unknown Author, ~600 B.C.).

(Shibboleth, Doris Salcedo [Photo: Tate Modern Museum], 2007)

There's some modern art for you, Ala mode 7. I know you think I'm unaware of anything after the Franco-Prussian War, but I actually saw this exhibit at the Tate Modern, so there. Okay, it's time to announce the winner of this week's contest. It's...D4! He wrote:
And the Lacrimae Rerum award goes to... Herbert Hemp!" Yelped the gaucherie MC as he pulled a baroque simulacrum of some demon, the "award". Herbert's face paled, overwhelmed with lassitude and shame, finally working his way out of his seat to slump through the crowd as they pointed, laughed and booed. That's when he fell off the bed and saw he had overslept.
Well-played, sir. The only flaw is that you used "gaucherie" as an adjective instead of a noun (it should have been "gauche"). So, that means D4 overtakes Intraman as the outright leader and gets one step closer to a free book (my O.E.D. is off-limits, though!). Next week's words are plus ca change, paean, hirsute, bellwether, ebullition, celerity, and sinous. Good luck and thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rhetoric - bathos

bathos [ˈbeɪθɒs] n.

1.) A humorous descent from the sublime to the commonplace (Garner's Modern American Usage 3rd Ed.)

Etymology: adoption of Greek βάθος, depth. Introduced into English by Alexander Pope in his treatise Peri Bathous, or the Art of Sinking in Poetry (1727), the title being a parody of περὶ ὕψους (Peri Huphous, "On the Sublime"), written by an unknown author in the 1st century.

"—Arthur: The Castle Aaaagh. Our quest is at an end! God be praised! Almighty God, we thank Thee that Thou hast vouchsafed to us the most holy...[a sheep is catapulted onto Arthur] Jesus Christ!
—French Guard: Allo, dappy English k-niggets and Monsieur Arthur King, who has the brain of a duck, you know. So, we French fellows outwit you a second time!" (Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin, 1975).


A little video to spice things up today (it's the scene from Holy Grail). Also, a quick reminder that today is the last day to submit your weekly challenge entries. See here for details. Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 19, 2011


bellwether [ˈbɛlˌwɛðər] n.

1.) The leading sheep of a flock, on whose neck a bell is hung.
2.) fig. A chief or leader. (Mostly contemptuous.)
3.) fig. A clamorous person, one ready to give mouth. (Sometimes opprobrious.) (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.)

Etymology: Middle English bellewether, from belle, bell + wether, a castrated ram.

"'Tell me dear child
who is that officer? The son of Atreus
stands a head taller, but this man appears
to have a deeper chest and broader shoulders.
His gear lies on the ground, but still he goes
like a bellwether up and down the ranks.
A ram I'd call him, burly, thick with fleece,
keeping a flock of silvery sheep in line.'

And Helen shaped by heaven answered him:

'That is Laertes' son, the great tactician,
Odysseus'" (The Iliad by Homer, Robert Fitzgerald (trans.), 1974).

(Ulysse de retour dans son palais, après avoir tué les amants de Pénélope, Nicolas-André Monsiau, 1791)

Thursday, August 18, 2011


hirsute [ˈhɜrsut] a.

1.) Having rough or shaggy hair; hairy, shaggy.
2.) Bot. and Zool. Covered with long and stiffish hairs.
3.) Of or pertaining to hair; of the nature of or consisting of hair.
4.) transf. and fig. Rough, shaggy; untrimmed. Of manners or style: Rough, unpolished (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Latin hirsutus, hairy, bristly.

"Juan, I said, was a most beauteous boy,
And had retain'd his boyish look beyond
The usual hirsute seasons which destroy,
With beards and whiskers, and the like, the fond
Parisian aspect which upset old Troy" (Don Juan, George Byron, 1819).

(Untitled, Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, ~1821)

For those occasions when you need to use the word "hairy" in an essay but don't want to lower the tone.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


paean [ˈpiən] n.

1.) In reference to Greek Antiquity: a hymn or chant of thanksgiving for deliverance originally addressed to Apollo or Artemis; especially a song of triumph after victory addressed to Apollo, also a war-song in advancing to battle addressed to Ares; hence any solemn song or chant. The full phrase Io pæan occurs poetically as a noun in same sense.
2.) In modern use: a song of praise or thanksgiving; a shout or song of triumph, joy, or exultation (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: adopted from Latin pæan, an adaptation of Greek παιάν a hymn or chant, properly one addressed to Apollo invoked under the name Pæan (Παιάν, Attic Παιών, Epic Παιήων), originally the Homeric name of the physician of the gods. The invocation being by the phrase Ἰὼ Παιάν, Io Pæan, the song or hymn came itself to be called the pæan.

"When, wide in soul, and bold of tongue,
Among the tents I paused and sung,
The distant battle flash'd and rung.
I sung the joyful Paean clear,
And, sitting, burnish'd without fear
The brand, the buckler, and the spear—
Waiting to strive a happy strife,
To war with falsehood to the knife,
And not to lose the good of life—" ("The Two Voices", Alfred Tennyson, 1842).

("Detail of Apollo Citharoedus, Musei Capitolini, Rome", Ricardo André Frantz, 2006)

A potentially useful Scrabble word for you, Lemons Don't Make Lemonade.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

plus ca change

plus ca change [ˌplu sɑ ˈʃɑnʒ] int. phr.

1.) Used to express the view that superficial changes cannot alter the essential nature of something, especially human nature (Dictionary of Foreign Words, Adrian Room (ed.), 2000).

Etymology: In full, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. French, literally "the more it changes, the more it stays the same".

"On change quelquefois le prix, quelquefois le bouchon, mais c'est toujours la même piquette qu'on nous fait boire.—Plus ça change—plus c'est la même chose" (Les Guêpes, Alphonse Karr, 1849).

"They sometimes change the price, sometimes the cork, but it's always the same plonk we're given to drink. The more they change it, the more it stays the same" (ibid., translation from A. Room, op. cit.).

(Ideale Ansicht der Akropolis und des Areopags in Athen, Franz Karl Leopold von Klenze, 1846)

Hi, all. I finished the 2nd draft of my thesis last week so I went off to Wales to celebrate with some backpacking in Snowdonia National Park. We had some good times, drank some ale, got completely soaked, and now all my clothes smell of mildew. So, the complete British experience IMO. But, I'm back now so I can announce the belated winner of last week's Climbing the Mountain challenge. It's...JayJay! She wrote:
"Angry didn't even touch on the minatory look that she shot toward the man holding the camera. His insouciant attitude fueled her ire a fond, as he continued to snap away. Turning her head she uttered a quick oath that included something about the photographer being condenmed to languish on on a bed of nails while being stabbed by a thousand pitch forks. Her companion chuckled at her ben trovato statement and he couldn't help the small smile that played across her lips as she leaned in toward him, momentarily forgetting the photographer."
Nicely done, JayJay. I'm not entirely certain why her statement is ben trovato, but it definitely piqued my curiosity. An honorary mention also has to go to D4, who wrote a hilarious entry about Bill and Hillary that included the phrase "nascent twinkie". Okay, next week's words are: gaucherie, simulacrum, saeva indignatio, sophistry, baroque, lacrimae rerum, and lassitude (pick your favorite five). Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 12, 2011


baroque [bəˈroʊk] a.

1.) Irregularly shaped; whimsical, grotesque, odd. ('Originally a jeweller's term, soon much extended in sense.' Brachet.) Applied specifically to a florid style of architectural decoration which arose in Italy in the late Renaissance and became prevalent in Europe during the 18th century. Also in transferred sense in reference to other arts. This term and "rococo" are not infrequently used without distinction for styles of ornament characterized by profusion, oddity of combinations, or abnormal features generally.

baroque n.

1.) Grotesque or whimsical ornamentation (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: French, from Portuguese barroco, imperfect pearl.

"The Advanced Basics chairperson looks like a perfect cross between pictures of Dick Cavett and Truman Capote except this guy's also like totally, almost flamboyantly bald, and to top it off he's wearing a bright-black country-western shirt with baroque curlicues of white Nodie-piping across the chest and shoulders, and a string tie, plus sharp-toed boots of some sort of weirdly imbricate reptile skin, and overall he's riveting to look at, grotesque in that riveting way that flaunts its grotesquerie" (Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace, 1997).

(Madonna del Popolo, Federico Barocci, 1579)

Today's word in honor of Diego Sousa, the well-informed survivalist who wanted me to feature a word of Portuguese origin. Also, if anyone knows any words of Finnish origin (besides "sauna"), let me know, because I promised akissfromthepast that I'd feature one. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 11, 2011


sophistry [ˈsɒfəstri] n.

1.) Specious but fallacious reasoning; employment of arguments which are intentionally deceptive. An instance of this; a sophism.
2.) The use or practice of specious reasoning as an art or dialectic exercise.
3.) Cunning, trickery, craft. Obs.
4.) The type of learning characteristic of the ancient Sophists; the profession of a Sophist.

Etymology: From sophist, adaptation of Latin sophista, sophistēs, adopted from Greek σοϕιστής, from σοϕίζεσθαι to become wise or learned. Hence also Spanish and Italian sofista, French sophiste.

"It is only thanks to cinema that workers in the most far-flung corners and the countryside can be familiarized with the productions of the world's best artists of stage and screen, with the best plays of the world repertoire, and this way can be introduced to cultured life, given a healthy, rational means of entertainment, and thus turned away from drunkeness and home-brew. And it goes without saying that film-plays should above all be realistic, precise, vivid, clear, and comprehensible by the masses. There is absolutely no need here for any intellectual sophistry, which would be utterly inappropriate" ("Novoe techenie v kinematographie", Dziga Vertov, 1923, translation from Lines of Resistance: Dziga Vertov and the Twenties, Yuri Tsivian, 2004).

(Autorretrato con traje de terciopelo, Frida Kahlo, 1926)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

saeva indignatio

saeva indignatio [ˈsaɪvə ɪndɪgˈnɑːtɪəʊ] n. phr.

1.) An intense feeling of contemptuous anger at human folly. Originally and in later allusive use with reference to the epitaph of Jonathan Swift (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Latin, lit. "savage indignation".

"Swift beating on his breast in sibylline frenzy blind
Because the heart in his blood-sodden breast had dragged him down into mankind,
Goldsmith deliberately sipping at the honey-pot of his mind,
And haughtier-headed Burke that proved the State a tree,
That this unconquerable labyrinth of the birds, century after century,
Cast but dead leaves to mathematical equality;
And God-appointed Berkeley that proved all things a dream,
That this pragmatical, preposterous pig of a world, its farrow that so solid seem,
Must vanish on the instant if the mind but change its theme;
Saeva indignatio and the labourer’s hire,
The strength that gives our blood and state magnanimity of its own desire;
Everything that is not God consumed with intellectual fire" ("Blood and the Moon", William Butler Yeats, 1929).

(De toren van Babel, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1563)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


simulacrum [ˌsɪmyəˈleɪkrəm] n.

1.) A material image, made as a representation of some deity, person, or thing.
2.) Something having merely the form or appearance of a certain thing, without possessing its substance or proper qualities.
3.) A mere image, a specious imitation or likeness, of something (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Latin simulacrum, from simulare, to simulate + -crum, n. suffix.

"And yet after reading of him in scores of volumes, hunting him through old magazines and newspapers, having him here at a ball, there at a public dinner, there at races and so forth, you find you have nothing—nothing but a coat and a wig and a mask smiling below it—nothing but a great simulacrum" (The Four Georges, William Makepeace Thackeray, 1869).

(Bacco, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1595)

Can't believe it has taken me this long to use a Caravaggio.

Monday, August 8, 2011


gaucherie [ˌgoʊʃəˈri] n.

1.) An awkward or tactless act, manner, or expression.
2.) A lack of tact; awkwardness (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: French, from gauche, awkward, lefthanded, from Old French, from gauchir, to turn aside, walk clumsily. Of Germanic origin.

"The ideas of gaucherie and that of the Primitive are so inseparable that when a modern artist draws with a true naivete, when he paints as he feels, and throws out accepted formulae—which themselves do not imply that he will create beauty—one accuses him of both anarchism and gaucherie" ("De la gaucherie des Primitifs", Maurice Denis, 1904, translation from Cézanne's Bathers: Biography and the Erotics of Paint, Aruna D'Souza, 2008).

(Portret van Giovanni Arnolfini en zijn vrouw, Johannes de Eyck, 1434)

It's time to announce the winner of this week's Climbing the Mountain challenge. It's...JayJay! She wrote:
There was something about the way he acted. He had about him an echt sense of his own identity which made me feel relaxed in his presence. Though his conversations dipped into an almost prolix state from time to time it wasn't enough to make me worry. There was, however, the incident where he referred to me as a virago but the sly smile that made its way onto the corner of his mouth, eo ipso, made everything okay. It was never the surfeit of passion that made me leave.
Well done, JayJay. I debated this one for a while, because jos xx and shari also had very strong entries, but ultimately JayJay's use of "eo ipso" won it for her, I think (I will always be partial to the philosophical jargon terms). For next week, let's use (five of) a fond, nascent, ben trovato, languish, minatory, bedizen, and insouciant. Also, as per the excellent suggestion from D4, a bonus point will be awarded if you use any of the rhetorical devices I've defined so far in your entry. But you have to use the device, not mention the term (dear Lord, I've become my old English teacher). Okay, good luck and thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Rhetoric - metastasis

metastasis [məˈtæstəsɪs] n.

1.) A sudden change of subject; an abrupt transition (Garner's Modern American Usage 3rd Ed.)

Etymology: Late Latin, adoption of Greek µετάστασις, removal, change, noun of action of µεθιστάναι, to remove, to change.

      "In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and future, which is precisely the present moment; to toe that line. You will pardon some obscurities, for there are more secrets in my trade than in most men's, and yet not voluntarily kept, but inseparable from its very nature. I would gladly tell all that I know about it, and never paint "No Admittance" on my gate.
      I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle dove, and am still on their trail. Many are the travellers I have spoken concerning them, describing their tracks and what calls they answered to. I have met one or two who had heard the hound, and the tramp of the horse, and even seen the dove disappear behind a cloud, and they seemed as anxious to recover them as if they had lost them themselves" (Walden, Henry David Thoreau, 1854).

(Diptyque de Melun, Jean Fouquet, 1450)

Hi readers. Yep, another week has already gone by and it's the final day to submit your weekly challenge entries. The D4 juggernaut was held at bay by jos xx last week, but will anyone be able to stop him this week? Will Intraman finally come back from vacation and take the lead outright? Only time will tell...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

a fond

a fond [aˈfɔ̃] adv. phr.

1.) Thoroughly, fully (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: French, literally "to the bottom".

"I mean we are all agreed on one point, and that is that the Comte de la Roche knows one subject a fond: Women. How was it that, knowing women as he does, he did not foresee that Madame would have kept that letter?" (The Mystery of the Blue Train, Agatha Christie, 1928).

(La Grande Baigneuse, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1808)

I realized it had been a while since I had a nice French word (or phrase) on here. Hope everyone is having a good weekend. It's working on my thesis, helping my housemates dig up our garden, and a barbecue on the docket for me. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 4, 2011


nascent [ˈnæsənt] a.

1.) Commencing, or in process of development; beginning to exist or to grow; coming into being; as, a nascent germ.
2.) (Chem.) Evolving; being evolved or produced; as, nascent oxygen (GNU Collaborative International Dictionary of English).

Etymology: Latin nascens, present participle of nasci, to be born.

"Assuredly the being able to reach, at each stage of increased size, to a supply of food, left untouched by the other hoofed quadrupeds of the country, would have been of some advantage to the nascent giraffe" (On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Charles Darwin, 1859).

(Dante Alighieri, Giotto di Bondone, ~1310)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

ben trovato

ben trovato [bɛn trəˈvɑtoʊ] a.

1.) Characteristic or appropriate, if not true.
2.) Well made up or invented (Dictionary of Foreign Words and Phrases, Adrian Room (ed.), 2001)

Etymology: Italian, lit. "well found". The phrase is familiar from the 16th century Italian saying "se non è vero, è molto ben trovato".

"The parallel—and the competition—between preachers and professional entertainers was often remarked in our period, notably by Denis Diderot, describing Venice as a city where
in a single square you can see on one side a stage with mountebanks performing merry but monstrously indecent fares, and on the other, another stage with priests performing farces of a different complexion and shouting out: 'Take no notice of those wretches, gentlemen; the Pulcinello you are flocking to is a feeble fool; here (displaying the crucifix) is the genuine Pulcinello!'
The story that the French Jesuit preacher Emond Auger had been a bear-ward in secular life was certainly ben trovato and may even have been true" (Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe, Peter Burke, 1978).

(Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening, Salvador Dali, 1944)

Hi all, there's been some interest in the etymology of "Minotaur" after I posted about the word "minatory" the other day. "Minotaur" is from the Greek Μινώταυρ-ος (Minōtaur-us), which just a conjunction of Μίνως (Minos) and ταῦρος (tauros = bull) because the Minotaur was the son of Minos's wife and a bull (okay, it doesn't make perfect sense). "Minatory" comes from the Latin minari, which is the same root as the word "menace". So, the fact that they sound the same is just a coincidence. However, since the false etymology helps you to remember the definition of "minatory", you might say that it's...ben trovato (so proud of myself). Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


languish [ˈlæŋgwɪʃ] v. i.

1.) Of living beings (also of plants or vegetation): to grow weak, faint, or feeble: to lose health, have one's vitality impaired; to continue in a state of feebleness and suffering. To live under conditions which lower the vitality or depress the spirits. In early use, often: to be sick (construed with of).
2.) Of appetites or activities: to grow slack, lose vigour or intensity. Of light, colour, sound, etc.: to become faint. Of health: to fall off
3.) To droop in spirits; to pine with love, grief, or the like. To waste away with desire or longing for, to pine for. Also construed with infinitive. To assume a languid look or expression, as an indication of sorrowful or tender emotion. Also quasi-trans.
4.) quasi-trans. (usually with out): To pass (a period of time) in languishing (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Middle English languishen, from Old French languir, languiss, from Latin languere, to be languid.

"Well, Jon, as a journalist I have to maintain my objectivity, but I would say the feeling down here was one of a pervasive and a palpable evil, a thick demonic stench that rolls over you and clings like hot black tar, a nightmare from which you cannot awaken, a nameless fear that lives in the dark spaces beyond your peripheral vision and drives you towards inhuman cruelties and unspeakable perversions; the delegates' bloated pustulant bodies twisting from one obscene form to another: giant spider-shapes and ravenous wolf-headed creatures who feast on the flesh of the innocent and suck the marrow from the bones of the poor, and all of them driven like goats to the slaughter by their infernal masters on the podium, known by many names: Beelzebub, Baʿal Zebul, Mammon, Abaddon, Theritus (sic.), Asmodeus, Satan, Lucifer, Nick, Old Scratch, The Ancient Enemy, and He Who Must Not Be Named. This is Hell, Jon, where the damned languish forever in a black flame that gives no heat, sheds no light, yet consumes the flesh forever and will not go out. Jon?" (The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, Ben Karlin (head writer), August 4th 2000).

("Illustration for Paradise Lost by John Milton", Gustave Doré, 1866)

Monday, August 1, 2011


minatory [ˈmɪnəˌtɔri] a.

1.) Expressing, uttering, or conveying a threat; also, of the nature of a threat or menace; threatening, menacing (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: French minatoire, from Late Latin minatorius, from Latin minatus, past participle of minari, to threaten.

"Number 3, Lauriston Gardens wore an ill-omened and minatory look. It was one of four which stood back some little way from the street, two being occupied and two empty. The latter looked out with three tiers of vacant melancholy windows, which were blank and dreary, save that here and there a 'To Let' card had developed like a cataract upon the bleared panes" (A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle, 1887).

(La Barque de Dante, Eugène Delacroix, 1822)

I'm so excited to finally get to use a Conan Doyle quote. All right, time to announce this week's winner of the paragraph challenge. It's...jos xx! She wrote:
"As she walked hurriedly through the dark narrow streets, she repined for her two kids she could no longer see. Silently she cried, knowing that her rather quixotic self had led her there - a place unknown, discovered only by beasts. Once an assiduous teacher, striving for she only waits for men. There's no a priori reason for her to think she's safe. She can't turn back, she's almost there. Everyone's quiescent at that time of day. She slowly pushes the gate enters the cheap motel. And waits."
Very nice. The only criticism I guess would be that you used the rare definition of "repine"="pine", but that's technically correct. Honorable mentions go to JayJay and D4, who gave jos xx a run for her money. Glad to see the competition heating up. The words for this week are (five of) echt, Arcades ambo, prolix, virago, surfeit, eo ipso, and uxorious (again, I exclude the rhetoric terms because I don't actually recommend using them outside of a technical context; they're just knowledge for knowledge's sake). Thanks for reading!