Monthly Archives: November 2017

Scurrilous

November 30, 2017Read More

scurrilous
\SKUR-uh-lus\
adjective

1 a : using or given to coarse language

b : vulgar and evil

2 : containing obscenities, abuse, or slander

Scurrilous is related to a rare word scurrile, coming from Middle French, which came from the Latin scurrilis, from scurra meaning “buffoon” or “jester.” An 18th century lexicographer, Samuel Johnson, defined scurrilous as “using such language as only the license of a buffoon could warrant:” such qualities included vulgarity, irreverence and indecorousness.

I think of the word underhanded when I tell my students about the word scurrilous…though this morning, what popped into my head was “scurrilous – squirrelous!” The squirrels are running around in rare form, gathering up nuts to hide for winter before the last of them fall from the trees. They dart across the street in front of my car, and often it is a pretty close call. The worst is when they freeze in the middle of the street, or when they cross the road and then change their mind and go back the other way. I bet they are cursing or using whatever squirrel vulgarities they can devise. Haha!

Bludge

November 30, 2017Read More

bludge
\BLUJ\
verb

1 : (chiefly Australia & New Zealand) to avoid work or responsibility

2 : (chiefly Australia & New Zealand) to get something from or live on another by imposing on hospitality or good nature : sponge

Annoying, but typically harmless behavior, this word sounds like bludgeon, which is something one uses to attack a bully. My spellcheck wants to make this word into “budge,” which could be a good mnemonic device since when you try to shirk work you don’t want to budge. All day long I kept either confusing this word with bulge or budge…and I couldn’t shake the image of a sponge….yet I didn’t think it was exciting enough for a photo. I had a picture of Synonym lounging on her backpack at Lego League….
But then I thought of this gem of a cat, who is an “employee” of Longwood Gardens, asleep on the “job.” They employ cats to help chase the critters. I was at Longwood Gardens after hours 5 times last year. This was taken back in March. I have bludged this post long enough. Time to press publish…..

Harbinger

November 29, 2017Read More

harbinger
\HAHR-bun-jer\
noun

1 : one that initiates a major change : a person or thing that originates or helps open up a new activity, method, or technology : pioneer

2 : something that foreshadows a future event : something that gives an anticipatory sign of what is to come

As far back as the 12th century, medieval travelers sought harbingers to help them find lodging, or serve as a “host,” though this meaning is now obsolete. Then it became a person sent ahead of the main party, kind of like a scout. Those sent ahead would announce the approach of those behind, so harbinger came from the Anglo-French herberge, meaning “lodgings.” This is how it came to signify foretelling the future that is to come.

I always told my students that crocuses are the harbinger of spring, because they are an early sign that it is coming. Certain things in the stock market are harbingers of the ups and downs of the economy. Certain symptoms are the harbinger of illness. It doesn’t matter how good we think we are – it is nearly impossible to properly predict every aspect of the future. We like to think we can do it….but it is tough to think of all the possibilities. We like to try to predict the weather, or who will play in the Super Bowl and win it, or what our relatives or favorite celebrities will do next. I like to think that if I know a word, it will be easier for me to write about it and finish this piece before bedtime….but you know what they say about the best laid plans. I laid my groundwork early this morning, anticipating a busy day…but here it is after 10:30 that I am wrapping it up and posting it. I like to think I am a pioneer, but I am also old school…I predict that tomorrow’s word will be one I have never heard of.

Anneal

November 28, 2017Read More

anneal
\uh-NEEL\
verb

1 a : to heat and then cool (a material, such as steel or glass) usually for softening and making less brittle; also : to cool slowly usually in a furnace

b : to heat and then cool (double-stranded nucleic acid) in order to separate strands and induce combination at lower temperature with complementary strands

2 : strengthen, toughen

3 : to be capable of combining with complementary nucleic acid by a process of heating and cooling

The word is associated with one of the oldest technologies of humankind: fire. It derives from the Old English word onǣlan, which was formed from the Old English root āl, meaning “fire.” In its earliest known uses, anneal meant “to set on fire.” That sense has become obsolete; today anneal is associated with metalworking and glasswork as well as a recent technological DNA research development.

I have always wanted to try my hand at glassblowing – and metalsmithing. Bucket list! Annealing is not something I apply in my everyday life – but on second thought, maybe it is a process we undergo. Our weather heats up an cools down, our emotions do as well. We are put under pressure, which if it doesn’t crack us, it ultimately strengthens us.

“Love’s a different sort of thing, hot enough to make you flow into something, interflow, cool and anneal and be a weld stronger than what you started with.” ~Theodore Sturgeon

Illustrious

November 27, 2017Read More

illustrious:
\ih-LUSS-tree-us\
adjective

: notably or brilliantly outstanding because of dignity or achievements or actions : eminent

Illustrious people light up everything and everyone around them. Illustrious comes from the Latin illustris, which probably was a back-formation of the verb illustrare (“to illustrate”), which comes from lustrare, meaning “to purify” or “to make bright,” which is related to the Latin noun lustrum, which gave us luster. Illustrious was once used in the literal sense of “shining brightly with light,” but that meaning is now archaic. Today it is almost always used in its figurative sense to describe something that stands out brilliantly, like stars stand out in the dark night sky.

My image is of a t-shirt I have with the big dipper constellation on it. I added two glow stars for extra effect, and their placement worked out very well for my font! Brilliant! I found two quotes that captured the essence outstandingly. Interestingly enough both are from rulers. Someday I hope I am looked upon as an eminent author or wordsmith.

“It is not titles that make men illustrious, but men who make titles illustrious.” ~ Niccolo Machiavelli

“The greatest ornament of an illustrious life is modesty and humility, which do a great way i the character even of the most exalted princes.” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

Non sequitur

November 26, 2017Read More

non sequitur
\NAHN-SEK-wuh-ter\
noun

1 : an inference that does not follow from the premises

2 : a statement (such as a response) that does not follow logically from or is not clearly related to anything previously said

In Latin non sequitur means “it does not follow,” and it was borrowed into English in the 1500s by those who formally studied logic. They saw it as a conclusion that didn’t follow the statements that led to it. Today, we use non sequitur for any kind of statement that seems to come out of the blue. (Why is it blue and not any other color?) The Latin verb sequi (“to follow”) has produced many other English words, including sequel (that which follows an original book television show or movie), obsequious (following another about, flattering and fawning), and consequence (what follows an action).

I have always just thought of the comic strip with this word as its name…I never paid it any attention….but it is an interesting word. I struggled to conceptualize an image for it all day. Homonym says I am the Queen of the Non Sequitur. He’s probably right…but even so. Non sequitur has the word quit in it and sounds like nonsense. When I was in school we learned a lot about logic. If p then q, if q then r, so p then r……the problem is, that not every comparison is an apples to apples straightforward connection, These days everything is much more transparent because of the internet…the only problem is, places claim they will beat the prices of their competitors….but if their product is exclusive to them, how is it even possible to compare? It is beyond compare – incomparable! So much of what happens to us in life falls into this category. Odd, out of order components that it is up to us both individually and collectively to establish their meaning in a way that lets us coexist with the confusion of it all. The instructions we get with this life can be summed up by this pair of chopsticks: Good Luck!

Mucilaginous

November 25, 2017Read More


mucilaginous
\myoo-suh-LAJ-un-nus\
adjective

1 : sticky, viscid

2 : of, relating to, full of, or secreting mucilage

Mucilage came from Late Latin’s word for “mucus,” mucilago, and is used for the gelatinous substance found in plants, such as seaweeds or legumes. Scientists and foodies use it to describe sticky or mucous-y things.

For Thanksgiving, my mom and I made a “Raspberry Pretzel Salad” for dessert. Not sure about the name, if you ask me it turned out pretty good….though we got some mixed reviews….but we found it on Pinterest, my favorite source for cool things to eat and make. Well, we followed the directions, but it didn’t turn out exactly like the picture. Our jello layer seeped down through the cream cheese frosting layer into the pretzel crust. It occurred to us later that we probably should have chilled it further before pouring the jello liquid on top. Live and learn. When cooking you are confronted with many liquid-y ingredients. I always tell my students that viscosity means the ability to pour something. For my photo, I had to use some silly putty (because the slime trend has not been allowed to have legs in this house. Gotta draw the line somewhere.) and my shower speaker snail…snails leave a mucilaginous trail behind them wherever they go! Yum mucous. People love that word as much as they love the word moist…or yeasty!

Viand

November 24, 2017Read More

viand
\VYE-und\
noun

1 : an item of food ; especially : a choice or tasty dish

2 : (plural) provisions, food

Do we eat to live or live to eat? Viand came from Anglo-French viaunde or viande, meaning “meat,” which derives from Medieval Latin vivanda, an adjustment of vivendus, a participial form of the verb vivere, meaning “to live.” Vivere is the ancestor of a number of other lively and life-giving words in English, including victual, revive, survive, convivial, and vivacious. So there you have it – food = life! I hope all my lovely readers are enjoying viand and vivacious benevolence today as we give thanks and count all of our many blessings in this life. I know I am grateful for those who take the time to read my words. I hope they sustain you and make you feel more alive!

Obliterate

November 23, 2017Read More

obliterate
\\uh-BLIT-uh-rayt\
verb

1 a : to remove from recognition or memory

b : to remove from existence

2 : to make undecipherable by wiping out or covering up

The Latin source word is oblitteratus – from the prefix ob- meaning “in the way,” and littera, meaning “letter” in the mid-16th century it was a word for removing something from your memory. Then it meant to blot out or obscure something that was written, and eventually it generalized to removing anything from existence. Physicians used the word for the surgical act of filling or closing up a vessel, cavity, or passage with tissue. Finally, in the mid-19th century it acquired the meaning “to cancel a postage or revenue stamp.”

Wipe them out – all of them! This word, along with annihilate and decimate, appears frequently on the SAT. It is hard to obliterate anything, as there will always be a trace left behind. I tell my students that exterminators used to go by that moniker, but have since switched to be called pest control. Try as you might, you can’t wipe out pests; you can only hope to contain or manage an infestation. I pull weeds in my garden, and to my dismay, they spread their seeds in a final attempt at survival of their species. That will be fun for later. I always write with a little too much pressure to allow for my words to be erased from the page without leaving behind a trace of what they said. Maybe that is what we all hope for in this life: to pass through and leave our mark so that it won’t be wiped from the surfaces we touch.

“Beware of allowing a tactless word, a rebuttal, a rejection to obliterate the whole sky.” ~Anais
Nin “

“Ban, delete, shred, obliterate the words: ‘I’m not good enough.’” ~Karen Salmansohn

Wifty

November 22, 2017Read More

wifty
\WIF-tee\
adjective

: eccentrically silly, giddy, or inane : ditzy

This slang word has unclear origins. Great! When I googled it, one of my top hits was basically sandwiching together women over fifty – wifty. Please do not call me that when I turn 50. Ok? It isn’t a nice thing to call someone ditzy. I feel ditzy all the time when I am forgetful. Why is it that the word means strangely silly, yet the synonyms that are grouped together with it go to such lengths as to call a person featherbrained / birdbrained (stupid), harebrained 
(foolish or absurd), rattlebrained (flighty or thoughtless) scatterbrained (forgetful or unable to concentrate) , AHHH Yeasty (frivolous or unsettled – one of my previous words)!,etc.? I guess because when you go to any set of extremes, you are seen as going out of your mind. Let’s all try not to be too wifty now…..(my spell check wants to make it wifey or witty. My head is filling with air……time to log off before I get slap happy!