Thursday, February 28, 2013


lave [leɪv] v. t.

1.) To wash, bathe.
2.) Of a river, a body of water: To wash against, to flow along or past.
3.) To pour out with or as with a ladle; to ladle. Also absolute. Construed with in, into, on, upon.

lave [leɪv] v. i.

1.) To bathe, lit. and fig. (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: Two distinct formations appear to have coalesced—(1) Old English had lafian, to wash by affusion, to pour (water), corresponding formally to Middle Dutch, Dutch laven, Old High German labôn (Middle High German, modern German laben), to refresh; cf. Old High German laba, modern German labe, refreshment. By some scholars the Old English, Dutch, and German words are considered to represent a West German adoption of Latin lavāre, to wash. This view involves some difficulty, as the numerous Old High German examples refer to refreshment by food, drink, or warmth, so that the assumed primary sense 'to wash', if it ever existed, must have been quite forgotten. The Latin origin, however, accounts well for the senses of the Old English word, which perhaps may be only accidentally similar in form to the continental words. (2) In Middle English the representative of the Old English verb blended indistinguishably with the verb adopted from French laver from Latin lavāre = Gr. λούειν, from Old Aryan root lou-, to wash (whence lather).

"And I am seized by long-unwonted yearning
For that domain of spirits calm and grave,
To tenuous notes my lisping song is turning,
Like Aeol's harp it fitfully would wave,
A shudder grips me, tear on tear is burning,
With softening balm the somber heart they lave;
What I possess I see as from a distance,
And what has passed, to me becomes existence."
(Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, William Arndt (trans.), 1976)

(Diane et Actéon, Jean-Baptiste Corot, 1836)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


styptic [ˈstɪptɪk] a.

1.) Having the power of contracting organic tissue; having an austere or acid taste; harsh or raw to the palate; having a binding effect on the stomach or bowels.
2.) Of a medicament, etc.: That arrests hæmorrhage, e.g. a styptic pencil, a stick of styptic substance used to stem the bleeding of small cuts.
3.) fig.

styptic [ˈstɪptɪk] n.

1.) A substance having the power of contracting organic tissue.
2.) A remedy for hæmorrhage.
3.) fig. (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: adaptation of late Latin stypticus, adopted from Greek στυπτικός, from στύϕειν, to contract, have an astringent effect upon. Cf. French styptique.

"Murphy says he's 'just swung by' to provide the press corps with some context on the strident press release and to give the corps 'advance notice' that the McCain campaign is also preparing a special 'response ad' that will start airing in South Carolina tomorrow. Murphy uses the word 'response' or 'response ad' nine times in two minutes, and when one of the Twelve Monkeys interrupts to ask whether it'd be fair to characterize this new ad as Negative, Murphy gives him a styptic look and spells 'r-e-s-p-o-n-s-e' very slowly" ("Up, Simba", David Foster Wallace, 2000).

(Le citron, Edouard Manet, 1880)

The "Twelve Monkeys" mentioned in the quote are elite reporters from the New York Times, Washington Post, etc., in case anyone was confused. I would highly recommend that essay to anyone interested in American politics, by the way. Also, how's that for a painting? See, you don't need fancy mythological scenes in order to make a great painting. Just get yourself a lemon. Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 25, 2013


zaftig [ˈzɑftɪk] a. Also zoftig, zoftick.

1.) Of a woman: plump, curvaceous, 'sexy' (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: Yiddish, adoption of German saftig, juicy.

"Everyone, without exception, is flummoxed; how could this demure but zoftick freshman, with a brain rivaling Spinoza's encased in the body of a Lollobrigida, have consented to pose in her birthday suit for Leer magazine?" ("The Skin You Love to Watch", S. J. Perelman, 1969).

(La Naissance de Vénus, Alexandre Cabanel, 1863)

I had to go out into the cold to the library to get this quote, I want you to know, gentle readers. (I guess I didn't have to, but I really like it and the googs hasn't digitized the book yet.) Also, be careful: this word is borderline slang. Still, it might be nicely euphemistic in the right circumstances.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Rhetoric - zeugma

zeugma [ˈzugmə] n.

1.) The use of a word in the same grammatical relation to two nearby words, one having a metaphorical sense and the other a literal sense (Garner's Modern American Usage 3rd Edition).

Etymology: modern Latin, adoption of Greek ζεῦγµα, a yoking, from ζευγνύναι, to yoke, related to ζυγόν, yoke (of land).

"This day, black Omens threat the brightest Fair,
That e'er deserv'd a watchful spirit's care;
Some dire disaster, or by force, or slight;
But what, or where, the fates have wrapt in night.
Whether the nymph shall break Diana's law,
Or some frail China jar receive a flaw;
Or stain her honour or her new brocade;
Forget her pray'rs, or miss a masquerade;
Or lose her heart, or necklace, at a ball;
Or whether Heav'n has doom'd that Shock must fall."
(The Rape of the Lock, Alexander Pope, 1717)

(Plöjningen, Carl Larsson, 1905)

Thursday, February 21, 2013


seriatim [ˌsɪəriˈeɪtɪm] adv.

1.) One after another, one by one in succession.

seriatim [ˌsɪəriˈeɪtɪm] a.

1.) Following one after the other. rare. (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition)

Etymology: Medieval Latin seriatim, from Latin series, series.

"To all of which flattering expressions, Mr and Mrs Kenwigs replied, by thanking every lady and gentleman, seriatim, for the favour of their company, and hoping they might have enjoyed themselves only half as well as they said they had" (Nicholas Nickelby, Charles Dickens, 1839).

(Marter der zehntausend Christen, Albrecht Dürer, 1508)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


panglossian [pænˈglɒsiən] a.

1.) Blindly or naively optimistic (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: After Pangloss, an optimistic professor in Candide, a satire by Voltaire. Pangloss believes that 'all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds,' parodying the philosophy of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.

"Thales, serene and apparently wise, argues for water as the first principle, while remaining blind to the catastrophes of Walpurgis Night. Anaxagoras, apostle of fire, is a revolutionary apocalyptic like Blake's Orc or the actual visionaries who helped bring on the French Revolution. Since Anaxagoras is left prostrate upon the ground, adoring Hecate while blaming himself for disasters, the palm is clearly awarded to the sweet-tempered if rather too Panglossian Thales" (The Western Canon, Harold Bloom, 1994).

(Un philosophe et un ours dans un paysage fluvial montagneux, Jean-Charles Tardieu, ~1828)

I'm not actually sure that that's how the painting is referred to in French. I could not find the answer anywhere on the google. So, if anyone out there is a French-speaking art historian (I'm looking at you here Bibi), I'd appreciate some help. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


dolorous [ˈdɒlərəs] a.

1.) Full of grief; sad; sorrowful; doleful; dismal; as, a dolorous object; dolorous discourses.
2.) Occasioning pain or grief; painful (Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary).

Etymology: Middle English, from Old French doloros, from Late Latin dolorosus, from dolor, pain, from dolare, to suffer, feel pain.

"As soon as I had heard those souls tormented,
I bowed my face, and so long held it down
Until the Poet said to me: 'What thinkest?'
When I made answer, I began: 'Alas!
How many pleasant thoughts, how much desire,
Conducted these unto the dolorous pass!'"
(Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (trans.), 1867)

(Les ombres de Francesca da Rimini et de Paolo Malatesta apparaissent à Dante et à Virgile, Ary Scheffer, 1835)

Monday, February 18, 2013


marl [mɑrl] n.

1.) A kind of soil consisting principally of clay mixed with carbonate of lime, forming a loose unconsolidated mass, valuable as a fertilizer.
2.) "Burning marl": used symbolically, after Milton, for the torments of Hell.
3.) Poetical. Used generically (like clay) for: Earth (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: adoption of Old French marle (still in dialects; replaced in modern French by the variant marne), from late Latin margila (whence Old High German mergil; Middle High German, modern German, and Dutch mergel; Danish mergel; Swedish märgel), diminutive of Latin marga (whence Italian and Spanish marga), said by Pliny to be a Gaulish word. It does not, however, occur in the modern Celtic languages: the alleged Breton marg does not correspond phonetically; the Breton merl is from French, and the Welsh marl and Irish and Gaelic marla are from English.

"— Leonato: Well, niece, I hope to see you one day fitted with a husband.
— Beatrice: Not till God make men of some other metal than earth. Would it not grieve a woman to be overmastered with a pierce of valiant dust? to make an account of her life to a clod of wayward marl? No, uncle, I'll none: Adam's sons are my brethren; and, truly, I hold it a sin to match in my kindred" (Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare, 1600).

(Beatrice, Frank Dicksee, 1888)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Rhetoric - parataxis

parataxis [ˌpærəˈtæksɪs] n.

1.) The coordination of successive, equal clauses without expressly showing their syntactic relationship, so that the reader must infer how they are related (Garner's Modern American Usage 3rd Edition).

Etymology: modern adoption of Greek παράταξις, a placing side by side, from παρατάσσειν, to place side by side, from παρα, beside + τάσσειν, to arrange, τάξις, arrangement.

"The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star" (Walden, Henry David Thoreau, 1854).

(Looking Down Yosemite Valley, Albert Bierstadt, 1865)

Thursday, February 14, 2013


reck [rɛk] v. i.

1.) To make account; to take heed; to care; to mind;—often followed by of.

reck [rɛk] v. t.

1.) To make account of; to care for; to heed; to regard.
2.) To concern;—used impersonally (Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary).

Etymology: Middle English recken, from Old English reccan.

"I kepe noght of armes for to yelpe,
Ne I ne axe nat tomorwe to have victorie,
Ne renoun in this cas, ne veyne glorie
Of pris of armes blowen up and doun;
But I wolde have fully possessioun
Of Emelye, and dye in thy servyse.
Fynd thow the manere hou and in what wyse:
I recche nat but it may bettre be
To have victorie of hem, or they of me,
So that I have my lady in myne armes
("The Knightes Tale", Geoffrey Chaucer, ~1386)

"I care not to boast of arms
Nor do I ask to have victory tomorrow,
Nor renown in the event, nor vain glory
Of praise of arms proclaimed up and down;
But I would fully have possession
Of Emelye, and die in thy service.
Find thou the manner how and in what way:
I reck not if it may better be
To have victory over them, or they over me,
Just that I have my lady in my arms."
("The Knight's Tale", Geoffrey Chaucer, ~1386)

(Sogno del cavaliere, Raffaello Sanzio, ~1504)

You'll notice that I included a little "translation" from the Middle English in case there are any babies out there who don't want to read it. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


pullulate [ˈpʌlyəˌleɪt] v.i.

1.) To put forth sprouts or buds; germinate.
2.) To breed rapidly or abundantly.
3.) To teem; swarm (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: from Latin pullulāt-, participle stem of pullulāre, to sprout out, spring forth, spread, grow, increase, from pullulus, diminutive of pullus, young of any animal, chick.

"I do not want to describe it; a chaos of heterogeneous words, the body of a tiger or a bull in which teeth, organs and heads monstrously pullulate in mutual conjunction and hatred can (perhaps) be approximate images" ("The Immortal" by Jorge Luis Borges in Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings, Donald A. Yates and James E. Irby (ed.), 1964).

(Hercule et l'Hydre de Lerne, Gustave Moreau, 1876)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


sclerotic [sklɪˈrɒtɪk] a.

1.) Of or pertaining to, or connected with the sclerotic coat of the eye.
2.) Of medicines: Adapted to harden the tissues.
3.) Pathology. Of or pertaining to sclerosis; affected with sclerosis.
4.) Botany. Hardened, stony in texture.
5.) fig. Unmoving, unchanging, rigid (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: adopted from medieval and modern Latin sclērōticus (feminine form sclerotica), an adoption of late Greek σκληρωτικός, having the property of hardening, pertaining to sclerosis or hardening, from σκληροῦν, to harden, from σκληρός, hard.

"On the one side, there were the economic conservatives. These were people that anybody following contemporary Republican politics would be familiar with. They spent a lot of time worrying about the way government intrudes upon economic liberty. They upheld freedom as their highest political value. They admired risk-takers. They worried that excessive government would create a sclerotic nation with a dependent populace" ("The Conservative Mind", David Brooks, 2012).

(Quinto Fabio Massimo davanti al senato di Cartagine, Giambattista Tiepolo, ~1729)

Monday, February 11, 2013


roue [ruˈeɪ] n. also roué

1.) One devoted to a life of sensual pleasure; a debauchee; a rake (Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary).

Etymology: French roué, past participle. of rouer, to break on the wheel. The name was first given to the profligate companions of the Duke of Orleans (~1720), to suggest that they deserved this punishment.

"The couple were thus revealed to me clearly: both removed their cloaks, and there was 'the Varens,' shining in satin and jewels,—my gifts of course,—and there was her companion in an officer’s uniform; and I knew him for a young roué of a vicomte—a brainless and vicious youth whom I had sometimes met in society, and had never thought of hating because I despised him so absolutely" (Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte, 1847).

(Le déjeuner sur l'herbe, Édouard Manet, 1863)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Rhetoric - symploce

symploce [ˈsɪmploʊsi] n.

1.) The repetition of one word at the beginning and of another at the end of two successive clauses. Symploce combines anaphora and epistrophe (Garner's Modern American Usage 3rd Edition).

Etymology: Late Latin symplocē, an adoption of Greek συµπλοκή, an interweaving, from σύν, together, similarly, alike, + πλέκειν, to twine, plait, weave. Cf. French symploque.

"All seems beautiful to me,
I can repeat over to men and women You have done such good to me
      I would do the same to you,
I will recruit for myself and you as I go,
I will scatter myself among men and women as I go,
I will toss a new gladness and roughness among them,
Whoever denies me it shall not trouble me,
Whoever accepts me he or she shall be blessed and shall bless me."
("Song of the Open Road", Walt Whitman, 1856).

(Frau vor untergehender Sonne, Caspar David Friedrich, ~1818)

Friday, February 8, 2013


contumely [ˈkɒntʊməli] n.

1.) Insolent reproach or abuse; insulting or offensively contemptuous language or treatment; despite; scornful rudeness; now, especially such contemptuous treatment as tends to inflict dishonour and humiliation.
2.) An instance of contumely; an insult, an insolent reproach, a piece of scornful or contemptuous insolence.
3.) Contemptuous insult as it affects the sufferer: disgrace, reproach, humiliation (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: from Middle English contumelie, from Old French, from Latin contumelia; akin to contumax, insolent, in which the stem part tum- is of disputed etymology.

"For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despis'd love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th' unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin?"
(Hamlet, William Shakespeare, 1604)

(Tarquinio e Lucrezia, Tiziano Vecellio, ~1515)

Thursday, February 7, 2013


ludic [ˈludɪk] a.

1.) Of or relating to play or playfulness (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).

Etymology: French ludique, from Latin ludus, play.

"Who am I? Who are you?—The question of identity, the Sphinx's question, is at once the tragic and the ludic question par excellence, that of tragedies and that of societies' games; this does not prevent the two levels from occasionally coinciding: in the Maxims (derived from parlor games), in the Truth Game, etc." (The Fashion System by Roland Barthes, Matthew Ward and Richard Howard (trans.), 1983).

(Œdipe et le Sphinx, Gustave Moreau, 1864)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

homo homini lupus

homo homini lupus [ˈhəʊməʊ ˈhɒmɪnɪ ˈlupəs] int.

1.) The contention that humans are by their nature aggressive and hostile towards each other (Dictionary of Foreign Words, Adrian Room, 2000)

Etymology: Latin, literally man is a wolf to man, from homo, man + homini, dative singular of homo + lupus, wolf. The phrase ultimately derives from Titus Maccius Plautus's Asinaria: Lupus est homo homini, non homo ('A man is a wolf rather than a man to another man').

"This logic also allows us to see what is wrong in the Hobbesian vision of the Monarch as the One who brutally but necessarily imposes peaceful coexistence upon the multitude of individuals who, left to themelves [sic], would descend into a state where homo homini lupus" (Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism, Slavoj Zizek, 2012).

(Kindermoord van Bethlehem, Peter Paul Rubens, ~1611)

Thanks again to the amazing and talented Bibi for the Latin pronunciation!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


punctilio [pʌŋkˈtɪliˌoʊ] n.

1.) A minute detail of action or conduct; a nice point of behaviour, ceremony, or honour; a small or petty formality. Formerly sometimes, A fine-drawn or fastidious objection, a scruple.
2.) (without pl.) Strict observance of or insistence upon minutiæ of action or conduct; petty formality in behaviour; punctiliousness (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: adoption of Italian puntiglio and Spanish puntillo, diminutive of punto, point, from Latin punctum, from neuter past participle of pungere, to prick.

"Eumenes had designed to engage in the plains of Lydia, near Sardis, both because his chief strength lay in horse, and to let Cleopatra see how powerful he was. But at her particular request, for she was afraid to give any umbrage to Antipater, he marched into the upper Phrygia, and wintered in Celaenae; when Alcetas, Polemon, and Docimus disputing with him who should command in chief, 'You know,' said he, 'the old saying: That destruction regards no punctilios'" (Plutarch's Lives Translated From the Greek by Several Hands, John Dryden (trans.), 1683).

(Teatime, Georges Croegaert, ~1900)

Monday, February 4, 2013


topos [ˈtɒpɒs] n. Plural topoi.

1.) A traditional motif or theme (in a literary composition); a rhetorical commonplace, a literary convention or formula (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: adoption of Greek τόπος, place. The use of τόπος for a class of considerations which would serve as a "place" in which a rhetorician might look for suggestions in treating his theme, goes back to Isocrates. By Aristotle, τόπος was especially appropriated to classes of considerations of a general character, common to many kinds of subjects, the use of which was open to any one dealing with his subject as a rhetorician or dialectician, not with special knowledge, with a view to scientific demonstration. Such were more fully described as κοινοὶ τόποι, loci communes, commonplaces.

"I am sorry. I have such respect for this woman that I just cannot show her to you in the light he shadow deserves. I am lovesick, and ungrown, and know no trope or toponymic topoi, no image worthy. I have to play the supplicant here; ask you simply to eat some raw bare propositions I can't prepare or flavor enough to engage your real imagination" ("Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way", David Foster Wallace, 1989).

(Autoritratto come allegoria della Pittura, Artemisia Gentileschi, ~1639)

Friday, February 1, 2013


glozing [ˈgləʊzɪŋ] vbl. n.

1.) The action of glossing or commenting; exposition, interpretation. Also a gloss, a comment.
2.) The action of glossing or explaining away; extenuation, palliation.
3.) Flattery, cajolery, deceitful blandishment, specious talk or representation.

glozing [ˈgləʊzɪŋ] ppl. a.

1.) That glozes; flattering, coaxing, cajoling (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: from French glose, an adaptation of Medieval Latin glōsa, Latin glōssa, a word needing explanation, hence later the explanation itself, an adoption of Greek γλῶσσα, originally tongue, hence language, foreign language, a foreign or obscure word.

"...And now
Through all restraint broke loose he wings his way
Not far off Heav'n in the precincts of light
Directly towards the new created world
And Man there placed, with purpose to assay
If him by force he can destroy or worse
By some false guile pervert. And shall pervert,
For Man will hearken to his glozing lies
And easily transgress the sole command,
Sole pledge of his obedience."
(Paradise Lost, John Milton, 1667)

(Eva, die Schlange, und der Tod, Hans Baldung, ~1511)

Can anyone guess what I'm reading at the moment?

Parthian shot

Parthian shot [ˈpɑrθiən ʃɒt] n.

1.) A final hostile remark or gesture made while leaving (Microsoft Encarta College Dictionary).

Etymology: The Parthian horsemen were accustomed to baffle the enemy by their rapid manœuvres, and to discharge their missiles backward while in real or pretended flight: hence used allusively in Parthian fight, Parthian shaft, Parthian shot, Parthian glance, etc. (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).'

"The climactic piece of dental-dramatic advice is the Old Man's Parthian shot: 'The next time, floss!' Indeed flossiness is all, and if you enjoy two and a half hours of smart-ass chatter and campy subversion—e.g., the honeymoon lament 'It's a real busman's holiday with you around: you could f--- up a wet dream!'—this may be your cup of…whatever ("Bodying Forth", John Simon, 1990).

(Defaite de Crassus, Augustyn Mirys, ~1750)