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)