Monday, December 31, 2012


falstaffian [fɔlˈstæfiən] a.

1.) Characterized by joviality and conviviality (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: After Sir John Falstaff, a character in Henry IV, Parts I and II, and The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare.

"An affable Irregular,
A heavily-built Falstaffian man,
Comes cracking jokes of civil war
As though to die by gunshot were
The finest play under the sun."
("Meditations in Time of Civil War", William Butler Yeats, 1923)

(Falstaff in the Laundry Basket, Henri Fuseli, 1792)

Friday, December 28, 2012


raisonneur [ˌrɛz əˈnɜr] n.

1.) A character in a play, etc., who gives expression to the author's message, standpoint, or philosophy (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: French, lit. ‘one who reasons or argues’.

"What is the true role of the raisonneurs, and what do they stand for? There is a distinct family likeness between the two Aristes (in L'Ecole des maris and Les Femmes savantes), Chrysalde (L'Ecole des femmes), Cleante (Tartuffe), and Beralde (Le Malade imaginaire): all of these are mature characters 'd'un certain age', standing somewhat to one side of the dramatic action, but showing a sympathetic interest in the fortunes of the central figure, with whom they are connected by family ties or by longstanding friendship" (Moliere: A Playwright and His Audience, W. D. Howarth, 1982).

(Louis XIV et Molière, Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1863)

Thursday, December 27, 2012


scarify [ˈskær əˌfaɪ] v.t.

1.) To make shallow cuts in (the skin), as when vaccinating.
2.) To create a design on (the skin) by means of shallow cuts that are sometimes rubbed with a colorant or irritant to enhance the resulting scar tissue.
3.) To break up the surface of (topsoil or pavement).
4.) To distress deeply, as with severe criticism; lacerate.
5.) Botany. To slit or soften the outer coat of (seeds) in order to speed germination (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: Middle English scarifien, from Old French scarifier, from Late Latin scarificare, alteration of Latin scarifare, from Greek σκαρῑϕᾶσθαι, recorded in the senses ‘to scratch an outline, sketch lightly, to do anything slightly or slovenly’ from σκάρῑϕος, pencil, stylus.

"Critics continue to disagree about the tone and meaning of Troilus and Cressida. The modern theatre has decided firmly, and surely rightly, that the play is a brilliant but scarifying vision of a world in pieces, all value and coherence gone. Despite its energy and wit, the picture of man which it presents is pessimistic almost to the point of nihilism" ("General Introduction" to The Riverside Shakespeare, Anne Barton, 1974).

(Eine Szene vom Troilus und Cressida, Angelica Kauffman, 1789)

Friday, December 21, 2012


entrain [ɛnˈtreɪn] v.t.

1.) To draw away with or after oneself; in early use fig. to bring on as a consequence; in mod. use lit. but rare.
2.) Of a fluid: to carry (particles) along by its flow; specifically of steam which carries along particles of water through a pipe or particles of sugar from an evaporating pan during the manufacture of sugar; also, to incorporate (air-bubbles) in concrete (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: adaptation of French entraîner, from en- (Latin inde), away + traîner, to drag.

"That infancy looketh forward and age backward; was it not that which Janus his double visage signified? yeares entraine me if they please: but backward. As far as mine eyes can discerne that faire expired season, by fits I turne them thitherward" (The Essayes of Lord Michaell de Montaigne, John Florio (trans.), 1603).

Allegoria del tempo (Chronos ed Eros), Johann Schönfeld, ~1630

Monday, December 3, 2012

verbum sap

verbum sap [ˈvɜr bəm ˈsæp] int.

1.) A phrase used in place of making a full statement or explanation, implying that an intelligent person may easily infer what is left unsaid, or understand the reasons for reticence. Also frequently further abbreviated to verb sap (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Abbreviation of Latin verbum sapienti sat est, "a word is sufficient for a wise person." The proverb echoes a line from Plautus's Persa: Dictum sapienti sat est, "A sentence is enough for a sensible man."

"(Mem., under what circumstances would I not avoid the pit of hell?) Omnia Romœ venalia sunt. Hell has its price! verb. sap. If there be anything behind this instinct it will be valuable to trace it afterwards accurately, so I had better commence to do so, therefore—" (Dracula, Abraham Stoker, 1897).

(Vampyr, Edvard Munch, 1894)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


brio [brio] n.

1.) Liveliness, vivacity, ‘go’ (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Italian, lit. mettle, fire, life; in the musical phrase con brio. From Spanish brio, or Provençal briu, both of Celtic origin.

"The brio of the text (without which, after all, there is no text) is its will to bliss: just where it exceeds demand, transcends prattle, and whereby it attempts to overflow, to break through the constraint of adjectives—which are those doors of language through which the ideological and the imaginary come flowing in" (The Pleasure of the Text by Roland Barthes, Richard Miller (trans.), 1975).

(Allegro con brio, Tom Roberts, 1886)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


quotidian [kwoʊˈtɪdiən] a.

1.) Everyday; commonplace.
2.) Recurring daily. Used especially of attacks of malaria (The American Heritage Dictionary of English).

Etymology: Middle English cotidien, from Old French, from Latin quotidianus, from quotidia, each day: quot, how many, as many as + dia, ablative of dias, day.

"Tonight on The Report: death, sadness, despair, and disease; the myriad miseries of our quotidian existence; life as suffering; the world as sorrow; history as a nightmare from which no man can awake; and time as the dolorous thread doomed to perpetually circumnavigate—in ever wider circles—the pool of fate. Jon?" (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Steve Bodow (Head Writer), March 29 2007).

(L'Absinthe, Edgar Degas, 1876)

Monday, October 29, 2012


avoirdupois [ˌævərdəˈpɔɪz] n.

1.) (More fully avoirdupois weight) The standard system of weights used, in Great Britain, for all goods except the precious metals, precious stones, and medicines.
2.) Weight; degree of heaviness. (Common in U.S.) (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Middle English avoir de pois, commodities sold by weight, alteration of Old French aveir de peis, goods of weight: aveir, avoir, to have (from Latin habre) + de, of + peis, pois, weight (from Vulgar Latin pesum, from Latin pensum, past participle of pendere, to hang).

"For nonperishable goods bought of Moses Herzog, of 13 Saint Kevin's parade, Wood quay ward, merchant, hereinafter called the vendor, and sold and delivered to Michael E. Geraghty, Esquire, of 29 Arbour Hill in the city of Dublin, Arran quay ward, gentleman, hereinafter called the purchaser, videlicet, five pounds avoirdupois of first choice tea at three shillings per pound avoirdupois and three stone avoirdupois of sugar, crushed crystal, at three pence per pound avoirdupois, the said purchaser debtor to the said vendor of one pound five shillings and six pence sterling for value received which amount shall be paid by said purchaser to said vendor in weekly instalments every seven calendar days of three shillings and no pence sterling: and the said nonperishable goods shall not be pawned or pledged or sold or otherwise alienated by the said purchaser but shall be and remain and be held to be the sole and exclusive property of the said vendor to be disposed of at his good will and pleasure until the said amount shall have been duly paid by the said purchaser to the said vendor in the manner herein set forth as this day hereby agreed between the said vendor his heirs, successors, trustees and assigns of the one part and the said purchaser, his heirs, successors, trustees, and assigns of the other part" (Ulysses, James Joyce, 1922).

(Le Cyclope, Odilon Redon, 1898)

This hurricane is annoying!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


marmoreal [mɑrˈmɔriəl] a.

1.) Resembling marble or a marble statue; cold, smooth, white, etc., like marble.
2.) Made or composed of marble.

Etymology: from Latin marmoreus (from marmor, marble) + -al.

"Is it a young and comely peasant-nurse
That poseth? (be the phrase accorded me!)
Each feminine delight of florid lip,
Eyes brimming o'er and brow bowed down with live,
Marmoreal neck and bosom uberous,—
Glad on the paper in a trice they go
To help this notion of the Mother-maid:
Methinks I see it, chalk a little stumped!"
(The Ring and the Book, Robert Browning, 1869).

(Madame X, John Singer Sargent, 1884)

Monday, September 24, 2012


turbid [ˈtɜːbɪd] a.

1.) Of liquid: Thick or opaque with suspended matter; not clear; cloudy, muddy. Of air, smoke, clouds, etc.: Thick, dense; dark.
2.) fig. Characterized by or producing confusion or obscurity of thought, feeling, etc.; mentally confused, perplexed, muddled; disturbed, troubled (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: adaptation of Latin turbidus, full of confusion or disorder; troubled, muddy; perplexed, violent, etc.; from turba, crowd, disturbance.

"Once more you near me wavering apparitions,
That early showed before the turbid gaze.
Will I now seek to grant you definition,
My heart essay again the former daze?"
(Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Walter Arndt (trans.), 1976).

(Le damnation de Faust, Ignace Henri Jean Fantin-Latour, 1888)

Sunday, September 16, 2012


chopfallen [ˈtʃɒpˌfɔlən] a. Also chapfallen

1.) With the lower jaw fallen, hanging down, or shrunk; fig., dejected, dispirited, miserable, crest-fallen (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: chop + fallen. Chop is another form of chap, jawbone; and the more usual one in several senses. Choip in The Flyting of Dumbar and Kennedie (1505) is the earliest trace of the word in any form: with this exception the chap form is evidenced earlier. The variation may have arisen from association with the other words in which chap varies with chop. Fallen is the past participle of fall, from Middle English fallen, from Old English feallan.

"                                          Hounds
Twitch in their sleep, or try their best to run,
Give tongue, and sniff the air, as if they caught
Scent of their quarry. If you wake them up,
They'll chase the phantom of the stag they view
Bounding away from them, until at last
They come to learn the error of their ways,
Returning gloomy to their wiser selves
Chopfallen in their disillusionment."
(The De Rerum Natura of Titus Lucretius Carus, Rolfe Humphries (trans.), 1968)

(Fireside Dreams, Julian Alden Weir, 1887)

Woohoo, 200th post!

Friday, September 14, 2012


flagitious [fləˈdʒɪʃəs] a.

1.) Disgracefully or shamefully criminal; grossly wicked; scandalous; shameful—said of acts, crimes, etc.
2.) Guilty of enormous crimes; corrupt; profligate—said of persons.
3.) Characterized by scandalous crimes or vices; as, "flagitious times" (GNU Collaborative International Dictionary of English).

Etymology: Middle English flagicious, wicked, from Latin flagitiosus, from flagitium, shameful act, protest, from flagitare, to importune, to demand vehemently.

"Of all the disreputable and flagitious acts of which he was guilty in this visit, one that particularly hurt the feelings of the Athenians was that, having given command that they should forthwith raise for his service two hundred and fifty talents, and they to comply with his demands being forced to levy it upon the people with the utmost rigour and severity, when they presented him with the money which they had with such difficulty raised, as if it were a trifling sum, he ordered it to be given to Lamia and the rest of his women, to buy soap" (Plutarch's Lives Translated From the Greek by Several Hands, John Dryden (trans.), 1683).

(The Lamia, Herbert James Draper, 1909)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


cynosure [ˈsaɪnəˌʃʊər] n.

1.) The northern constellation Ursa Minor, which contains in its tail the Pole-star; also applied to the Pole-star itself.
2.) fig. Something that serves for guidance or direction; a ‘guiding star’. Something that attracts attention by its brilliancy or beauty; a centre of attraction, interest, or admiration (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: adoption of the French cynosure (16th c.), which was an adaptation of the Latin cynosūra, itself an adoption of the Greek κυνόσουρα = dog's tail, Ursa Minor.

"Shakespeare's women are not content to be mere cynosures; they are the pursuers of the men, as Bernard Shaw pointed out in a characteristic overstatement. The battle of the sexes becomes a banter of wits" ("General Introduction" to The Riverside Shakespeare, Harry Levin, 1974).

(Dante and Beatrice, Henry Holiday, 1883)

Monday, September 10, 2012


coign [kɔɪn] n.

1.) In the Shaksperian phrase 'coign of vantage': a position (properly a projecting corner) affording facility for observation or action. (The currency of the phrase is apparently due to Sir Walter Scott.)
2.) Occasionally used in the following senses, where 'quoin' is the ordinary modern spelling: a corner-stone; a projecting corner or angle of a building; a wedge (in Printing or Gunnery).
3.) Geology. An original angular elevation of land around which continental growth has taken place (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: An archaic spelling of 'coin', 'quoin', retained chiefly in connexion with the phrase in (1). 'Coin' is an adoption of the French coin, wedge, corner; also die for stamping money or medals (so called because the die had the form or action of a wedge).

"This guest of summer,
The temple-haunting martlet, does approve,
By his loved mansionry, that the heaven's breath
Smells wooingly here: no jutty, frieze,
Buttress, nor coign of vantage, but this bird
Hath made his pendent bed and procreant cradle:
Where they most breed and haunt, I have observed,
The air is delicate."
(The Tragedy of Macbeth, William Shakespeare, 1623).

(A Coign of Vantage, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1895)

Saturday, September 8, 2012


threnody [ˈθrɛnədi] n.

1.) A song of lamentation; specifically a lament for the dead, a dirge.

Etymology: adaptation of Greek θρηνῳδία, dirge, from θρῆνος, threne + ᾠδή, song.

"Electra attains twofold intensity by its portrayal of grief and then intrigue. The first half of the action reviews Electra's compulsive threnody. It is not so much that mourning becomes Electra as it is that Electra becomes mourning: she apologizes to the chorus for her undending refrains
Dear women! I am ashamed to have you think
my laments are too many, my grief too much;
but since I cannot help it, please forgive me."
(Sophocles: King Oedipus, David R. Slavitt and Palmer Bovie (eds.), 1999).

(Electra at the Tomb of Agamemnon, Frederic Leighton, 1869)

Thursday, September 6, 2012


quondam [ˈkwɒndəm] adv.

1.) At one time, formerly, heretofore, ‘whilome’. rare.

quondam [ˈkwɒndəm] n.

1.) The former holder of some office or position; one who has been deposed or ejected.

quondam [ˈkwɒndəm] adj.

1.) That formerly was or existed: of persons (the most frequent use), things, qualities, etc. (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Latin, from quom, when.

"— Hector: Who must we answer?
— Aeneas: The noble Menelaus.
— Hector: O you, my lord? By Mars his gauntlet, thanks!
Mock not that I affect the untraded oath;
Your quondam wife swears still by Venus' glove.
She's well, but bade me not commend her to you.
— Menelaus: Name her not now, sir; she's a deadly theme."
(Troilus and Cressida, William Shakespeare, 1609)

(Les Amours de Pâris et d’Hélène, Jacques-Louis David, 1788)

Saturday, September 1, 2012


puling [ˈpyulɪŋ] ppl. a.

1.) Crying as a child, whining, feebly wailing; weakly querulous. Mostly contemptuous.

puling [ˈpyulɪŋ] vbl. n.

1.) The action of the verb "pule"; whining, plaintive piping; a complaint (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Perhaps an adoption of the French piauler, to cheep, chirp, whine = Italian pigolare, Neapolitan piolare, to cheep as a chicken; of echoic origin. But the English may be merely parallel to the French.

"There is always this great elemental deadlock,
This warfare through all time. The keen for the dead
Blends with the cry that new-born babies raise
At their first shock by the light. Night follows day,
Dawn follows eventide, and never a one
That has not heard these feeble pulings sound
Through the more dark and somber threnodies."
(The De Rerum Natura of Titus Lucretius Carus, Rolfe Humphries (trans.), 1968)

(De geboorte van Christus, Jheronimus Bosch, ~1568)

Thursday, August 30, 2012


agon [ˈægoʊn] n.

1.) Gr. Antiq. A public celebration of games, a contest for the prize at those games; also fig.
2.) A verbal contest or dispute between two characters in a Greek play. Also in transferred sense (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Greek ἀγών, originally ‘a gathering or assembly’ (from ἄγ-ειν, to lead, bring with one), especially for the public games; hence ‘the contest for the prize at the games,’ and by extension, ‘any contest or struggle.’ The plural is usually in the Greek form ἀγῶνες, agones.

"'Wrestling Jacob' is a powerful image, particularly in Protestantism, where the agon is essential seen as a loving struggle between Jacob and God. But the nameless being who cannot overcome Jacob cannot be Yahweh, at least not Yahweh in all his power and will, and there is absolutely nothing loving about this sublime night encounter, which exalts Jacob to Israel yet leaves him permanently crippled, and which is fought between a mortal and a supernatural being who fears the break of day, almost as a vampire or a ghould would" (The Book of J, Harold Bloom, 2004).

(Jacob en de engel, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, 1659)

Hi, all. I'm in the middle of driving from Colorado to Princeton. Writing this from a hotel room somewhere. I hate semis! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 23, 2012


paramour [ˈpærəˌmʊər] n.

1.) A person beloved by one of the opposite sex; a ‘love’, a lover, a sweetheart; also of animals.
2.) The lady-love of a knight, for whose love he did battle; hence, the object of chivalrous admiration and attachment.
3.) An illicit or clandestine lover or mistress taking the place, but without the rights, of a husband or wife. Now, the illicit partner of a married man or woman (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: Middle English adoption of Old French adverb phrase par amur, amour, -s, by or through love. From an early date the phrase was written as one word, and came to be treated (in English) as a noun, both in sense of ‘love’ and ‘beloved, lover’. This may have come partly through a mistaken analysis of the phrase 'to love paramour'.

"While I was your wife, Magnus, you led happy triumphs home:
your fortune changed with your marriage-bed, and that paramour,
Cornelia, condemned by Fate to drag her mighty husbands down
always to disaster, married into a warm tomb."
(Civil War by Lucan, Susan H. Braund (trans.), 1992).

(An Odalisque, Joseph Douglas, 1921)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


tintinnabulation [ˌtɪntɪˌnæbyəˈleɪʃən] n.

1.) A ringing of a bell or bells, bell-ringing; the sound or music so produced (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Middle English, from Latin tintinnabulum, from tintinnare, to jingle, reduplication of tinnire, to ring, of imitative origin.

"Then the Holy Mother of the Gods recalled
that these pines had been felled upon the summit
of Mount Ida, and at once she filled the air
with the tintinnabulation of her cymbals
and the shrill ululation of her boxwood flutes;
and lightly carried through the parting air
in a chariot drawn by her familiar lions,
the goddess cried, 'Your sacrilegious hand
flings torches at these ships to no avail,
Turnus, for I will rescue them from danger;
I will not let your hungry flames devour
limbs that were mine, that grew in my own groves'"
(Metamorphoses by Ovid, Charles Martin (trans.), 2004)

(La fuente de Cibeles, Ventura Rodríguez, 1782)

Hi, all. You know I don't usually brag about my (myriad) accomplishments, but I had to share this scrabble move I played the other day:

So proud of myself. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 19, 2012


tohu-bohu [ˈtoʊhuˈboʊhu] n. also tohu and bohu, tohu-vavohu, tohu-vabohu, and tohubohu.

1.) That which is empty and formless; chaos; utter confusion (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: adoption of Hebrew thōhū wa-bhōhū, ‘emptiness and desolation’. Rendered in the KJV Genesis as ‘without form and void’. Cf. French thohu et bohu (Rabelais 1548) and tohu-bohu (Voltaire 1776).

"Who before Iago, in literature or in life, perfected the arts of disinformation, disorientation, and derangement? All these combine in Iago's grand program of uncreation, as Othello is returned to original chaos, to the Tohu and Bohu from which we came" (Shakespeare: the Invention of the Human, Harold Bloom, 1998).

("De Opere Prime Diei", from the Liber Chronicarum, Michael Wolgemut, 1493)

Friday, August 17, 2012


crepuscular [krɪˈpʌskyələr] a.

1.) Of or pertaining to twilight.
2.) fig. Resembling or likened to twilight; dim, indistinct. esp. Resembling or likened to the morning twilight as preceding the full light of day; characterized by (as yet) imperfect enlightenment.
3.) Zool. Appearing or active in the twilight.

Etymology: from Latin crepusculum, twilight, a diminutive formation related to creper dusky, dark, and creperum, darkness.

"There is a hollow mountain near the land
of the Cimmerians, and deep within
there is a cave where idle Sleep resides,
his special place, forbidden to the Sun
at any hour from the dawn to dusk;
the earth around it breathes out clouds of fog
through dim, crepuscular light."
(Metamorphoses by Ovid, Charles Martin (trans.), 2004)

(Morphée et Iris, Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, 1811)

Hi all, I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner, but I finally added a link to a random word on the right there, so you should check it out and tell me if it works for you. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


pollyanna [ˌpɒliˈænə] n.

1.) A person regarded as being foolishly or blindly optimistic (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: After the heroine of the novel Pollyanna, by the American writer Eleanor Hodgman Porter (1868-1920).

"Job's crops are destroyed, his barns burned, his children taken sick, and he himself breaks out all over with boils. In this condition he is visited by a group of three friends—professional moralists and Pollyannas—and between them and him the dramatic debate ensues" (The Man and the Book Nobody Knows, Bruce Barton, 1959).

(Job and His Daughters, William Blake, 1800)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


fin-de-siecle [fɛ̃ də ˈsyɛklə] a.

1.) Of or characteristic of the last part of the 19th century, especially with reference to its artistic climate of effete sophistication (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: French fin, end + de, of + siècle, century.

"Zionism and modern European anti-Semitism dripped out of the same fin-de-siècle intellectual spout" (How Soccer Explains the World, Franklin Foer, 2004).

(Au Moulin Rouge, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1895)

Hi, all. I was a little weirded out to see that someone had searched for "who is e mount aenos" on Bing the other day. I would have thought my readers would be staunch Google users!

Friday, August 3, 2012


protean [ˈproʊtiən] a.

1.) Of or pertaining to Proteus; like that of Proteus; hence, taking or existing in various shapes, variable in form; characterized by variability or variation; variously manifested or expressed; changing, varying.
2.) Zoology. Varying in shape; of or pertaining to the proteus-animalcule; amœboid, amœbiform, proteiform.
3.) Of a theatrical performer: characterized by the ability to take several parts in the same piece; quick-change; also, in transferred sense: of such a performance. Originally U.S.
4.) Of animal behaviour: unpredictable, following no obvious pattern (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: from Latin Prōteus, adoption of Greek Πρωτεύς: a sea-god, the son of Oceanus and Tethys, fabled to assume various shapes.

"There is one point connected with individual differences which seems to me extremely perplexing: I refer to those genera which have sometimes been called 'protean' or 'polymorphic,' in which the species present an inordinate amount of variation; and hardly two naturalists can agree which forms to rank as species and which as varieties" (On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin, 1859).

(Aristée et Protée, Sébastien Slodtz, 1714)

Sunday, July 29, 2012


lucre [ˈlukər] n.

1.) Gain, profit, pecuniary advantage. Now only with unfavourable implication: Gain viewed as a low motive for action; ‘pelf’ (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: adoption (either directly, or through French lucre) of Latin lucrum, from Aryan root lau-, leu-, lou-, whence Greek ἀπολαύειν to enjoy, Gothic launs, Old High German lôn, and Modern German lohn wages, reward.

"For a bisshoppe must be fautelesse as it be commeth the minister of God: not stubborne not angrye no dronkarde no fyghter not geven to filthy lucre: but herberous one that loveth goodnes sobre mynded righteous holy temperat and suche as cleveth unto the true worde of doctryne that he maye be able to exhorte with wholsom learnynge and to improve them that saye agaynst it" (The Epistle of Paul to Titus, William Tyndale (trans.), 1526).

(Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Unknown artist, ~950)

Friday, July 20, 2012


mulct [mʌlkt] v. t.

1.) To punish (a person, an offence) by a fine. Also occas. to subject to a penalty of any kind. (The penalty or amount is expressed by a second object, or introduced by in.)

2.) To deprive or divest of.

mulct n.

1.) A fine imposed for an offence. Also occasionally in wider sense, a compulsory payment (usually implying unfair or arbitrary exaction).

2.) A penalty of any kind.

3.) Misused by Massinger for: A blemish. Cf. quote 1619 in sense 2, which Massinger has unintelligently imitated (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: From Middle English multen, to fine, from Latin multare, mulctare, from mulcta, fine.

"To take from
The workmanship of heaven is an offence
As great as to endeavour to add to it;
Of which I'll not be guilty. Chastity,
That lodges in deformity, appears rather
A mulct imposed by Nature, than a blessing;
And 'tis commendable only when it conquers,
Though ne'er so oft assaulted, in resistance:
For me, I'll therefore so dispose myself,
That if I hold out it shall be with honour;
Or if I yield, Miranda shall find something
To make him love his victory."
(The Knight of Malta, John Fletcher and Francis Beaumont, 1619)

(La Tentation de saint Hilarion, Nicolas François Octave Tassaert, ~1857)


Hi, all. Sort of a specialized word, I guess, but I couldn't resist an OED entry that insults the intelligence of the author of one of its citations! Here's the Massinger quote for those that are interested:

— Bertoldo: If so, what diverts
Your favour from me?
— Camiola: No mulct in your selfe,
Or in your person, mind or fortune.
(The Maid of Honour, Philip Massinger, 1632)

Friday, July 13, 2012


atrabilious [ˌætrəˈbɪlyəs] a.

1.) Affected by black bile or ‘choler adust’; melancholy, hypochondriac; splenetic, acrimonious (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: From Latin atra bilis, black bile (translation of Greek melankholia): atra, black; + bilis, bile.

"She liked London constantly, and stood in defence of it against me and my atrabilious censures of it, never had for herself the least wish to quit it again, though I was often talking of that, and her practice would have been loyal compliance for my behoof" (Reminiscences, Thomas Carlyle, 1881).

(Mr and Mrs Andrews, Thomas Gainsborough, ~1750)

Sunday, July 8, 2012


rodomontade [ˌrɒdəmɒnˈteɪd] n. Also rodomantade, rhodomontade, rhodomantade.

1.) A vainglorious brag or boast; an extravagantly boastful or arrogant saying or speech; an arrogant act.

2.) Boastful or inflated language; extravagant boasting or bragging (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: French, from Italian rodomontada, from Rodomonte, arrogant Saracen leader in Orlando Innamorato by Matteo Boiardo and Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto.

"Cato himself says, that he took more cities than he stayed days in Spain. Neither is this a mere rhodomontade, if it be true, that the number was four hundred" (Plutarch's Lives Translated From the Greek by Several Hands, John Dryden (trans.), 1683).

(The Artist Moved by the Grandeur of Antique Fragments, Henry Fuseli, 1779)

Sunday, July 1, 2012


caitiff [ˈkeɪtɪf] n.

1.) Expressing contempt, and often involving strong moral disapprobation: A base, mean, despicable ‘wretch’, a villain (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: adoption of Old Northern French caitif, caitive, captive, weak, miserable: from Latin captīv-um captive. The central Old French form chaitif (whence modern French chétif, -ive, of little value, wretched, sorry, miserable) gave the English variant chaitif, frequent in 14–15th c., but did not displace the earlier Norman form. The transition of meaning has taken place more or less in most of the Romanic languages.

"O thou caitiff! O thou varlet! O thou wicked
Hannibal! I respected with her before I was married
to her! If ever I was respected with her, or she
with me, let not your worship think me the poor
duke's officer. Prove this, thou wicked Hannibal, or
I'll have mine action of battery on thee."
(Measure for Measure, William Shakespeare, 1623)

(Marats død I, Edvard Munch, 1907)

Sunday, June 24, 2012


supernal [sʊˈpɜrnl] a.

1.) That is above or on high; existing or dwelling in the heavens.
2.) Belonging to the realm or state above this world or this present life; pertaining to a higher world or state of existence; coming from above.
3.) Situated above or at the top, upper; above ground; high up, lofty in position. rare.
4.) High in rank or dignity, elevated, exalted.
5.) Supremely great or excellent, ‘divine’ (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: Middle English, from Old French, from Latin supernus.

"— King John:
From whom hast thou this great commission, France,
To draw my answer from thy articles?
King Philip:
From that supernal judge, that stirs good thoughts
In any breast of strong authority,
To look into the blots and stains of right:
That judge hath made me guardian to this boy:
Under whose warrant I impeach thy wrong
And by whose help I mean to chastise it."
(The Life and Death of King John, William Shakespeare, 1623)

("The Separation of Light from Darkness", Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michaelangelo Buonarroti, ~1512)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


redintegrate [rɛdˈɪntɪˌgreɪt] v.t.

1.) To restore to a state of wholeness, completeness or unity; to renew, re-establish, in a united or perfect state (O.E.D. 2nd Edition).

Etymology: from participle stem of Latin redintegrāre to make whole again, restore, renew, from red- re- + integrāre to integrate.

"Redintegrate the fame first of your house,
Restore your ladyship's quiet, render then
Your niece a virgin and unvitiated,
And make all plain and perfect, as it was,
A practice to betray you, and your name?"
(The Magnetic Lady, Ben Johnson, 1641)

(Le Sacre de Napoléon, Jacques-Louis David, 1807)

Monday, June 18, 2012

inter alia

inter alia [ˈɪntɛr ˈɑlɪˌɑ] adv.

1.) Among other things (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: Latin inter, among + alia, neuter accusative plural of alius, other.

"Knowing French is an intellectual disposition; generosity is a disposition of the will. There is a difference between dispositions of the two kinds. To be generous is inter alia to be able when occasion demands to put others' interests before one's own. To know French is inter alia to be able when the occasion demands to conjugate correctly irregular verbs" (Summa Theologiae by Thomas Aquinas, Fathers of the English Dominican Province (trans.), 1912-36).

(God As Geometer, Unknown Artist, ~1250)

Thursday, June 14, 2012


manqué [mɑŋˈkeɪ] a. also manquée

1.) After its noun: that might have been but is not, that has missed being.
2.) In other uses: defective, spoilt, missing, lacking, etc. (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: French, past participle. of manquer to miss, be lacking.

"Herbert Pratt was there for a month, and I saw him tolerably often; he used to talk to me about Spain, and the East, about Tripoli, Persia, Damascus; till it seemed to me that life would be manquée altogether if one shouldn't have some of that knowledge" (Notebooks, Henry James, 1947).

(Portrait of Henry James, John Singer Sargent, 1913)

Friday, February 24, 2012


mountebank [ˈmaʊntəˌbæŋk] n.

1.) An itinerant quack who from an elevated platform appealed to his audience by means of stories, tricks, juggling, and the like, in which he was often assisted by a professional clown or fool.
2.) fig. An impudent pretender to skill or knowledge, a charlatan; one who resorts to degrading means to obtain notoriety. So, "to play the mountebank" (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Italian montambanco, from the phrase monta im banco, one gets up onto the bench: monta, one gets up, third person sing. present tense of montare, to get up (from Vulgar Latin montare) + in, on, onto + banco, bench (variant of banca, from Old Italian, bench, table, from Old High German bank).

"—Will Ferrell: That's beautiful. And finally, Sean Connery's also here let's move on to Double Jeopardy where the categories-
—Darrell Hammond: Not so fast Trebek.
—Will Ferrell: I really thought that was going to work.
—Darrell Hammond: Well, you were wrong, you mountebank. I pose a conundrum to you, a riddle if you will.
—Will Ferrell: I don't want to hear it.
—Darrell Hammond: What's the difference between you and a mallard with a cold? One's a sick duck and I can't remember how it ends, but your mother's a whore."
(Saturday Night Live, Tina Fey and Dennis McNicholas (head writers), 2000)

(A Mountebank At His Stand In A Rural Fair, With A Church Beyond, Joachim van den Heuvel, 1636)

Hey all, sorry about the lack of posts recently. I'm teaching at a community college while I wait to hear from PhD programs, and it zaps a lot of my energy (as does waiting to hear from PhD programs). Hopefully now I've reached equilibrium and we can get the contest up and running again (are you enjoying that book you won, Lemons Don't Make Lemonade?). Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 27, 2012


Lethean [lɪˈθiən] a.

1.) Pertaining to the river Lethe; hence, pertaining to or causing oblivion or forgetfulness of the past.

Etymology: from Latin Lēthæ-us (adoption of Greek ληθαῖος, from λήθη Lethe, one of the five rivers of the Greek underworld) + -an.

"From the slain Victims pour the streaming Blood,
And leave their Bodies in the shady Wood:
Nine Mornings thence, Lethean Poppy bring,
T' appease the Manes of the Poets King:
And to propitiate his offended Bride,
A fatted Calf, and a black Ewe provide:
This finish'd, to the former Woods repair."
(Georgics by Virgil, John Dryden (trans.), 1697)

(The Waters of Lethe, Thomas Benjamin Kennington, 1890)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


elan [eɪˈlɑːn] n.

1.) An impetuous rush (e.g. of troops).
2.) In English use chiefly abstract: Ardour, impetuousness, vivacity (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: French; believed to be from élancer, from Latin ex, out + late Latin lanceāre, from lancea, lance.

"But Blondel contests the very idea of a natural happiness for man, just as he contests the idea of a natural religion, based on no more than human musings about the divine, without some revelation from God in his transcendence, that is, for a nature whose very elan is a quest for the infinite, an aspiration at once congenital and inefficacious by itself, for a knowledge that saturates and a fruition that leaves nothing to be desired" (Maurice Blondel: A Philosophical Life, Oliva Blanchette, 2010).

(Trasfigurazione, Raffaello Sanzio, 1520)