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)