Holus-bolus

September 21, 2017Read More

holus-bolus
\hoh-lus-BOH-lus\
adverb

: all at once

Bolus comes from the Greek word bolos, meaning “lump.” In English it has also come to mean “a large pill,” “a mass of chewed food,” or “a dose of a drug given intravenously.” This all lumps together to make sense of why it means “all at once” or “all in a lump.”

This is a silly sounding word. It makes me think of hocus pocus, or cattywampus, or something one of the characters in Synonym’s many fairy books would shout out. My picture is of my laundry basket…..which is never not full.

Life comes at us a day at a time, although we often try to clump it together. I often wish I could lump unpleasant tasks together and get them over with for good. Though, I have yet to find a good way to get out of anything for that long. It is hard to get proper perspective when you are stuck in the daily grind. My mom always tells me to “pick one thing.” I simply can’t. I want to do everything. But instead I feel like I just do nothing.

Today is the start of Rosh Hashanah – Jewish New Year. It is a time to reflect on the past year and take stock. I spend a lot of time looking back and feeling like I made mistakes. I wish I was more care free and took better advantage of the situations I have been in. I feel like time is both flying and dragging. I want to figure out where I am going so I can be more productive with the scraps of time I find. So instead of trying to focus on one thing, I have split my focus into lots of things. Multi-tasked my way through life, sloppily taking on a thing too many to allow me to get it all together. I keep holding out hope that I will get it figured out and it will all fall into place. I am not there yet. I keep making the same mistakes…and biting off more than I can chew…or swallow. So I keep dribbling food all over myself and looking awkward. Maybe this will be my year. I keep hoping to find the chance to truly start over, and stop carrying around all these sins and petty criticisms and past negativity.

Glabrous

September 20, 2017Read More

glabrous
\GLAY-brus\
adjective

: smooth; especially : having a surface without hairs or projections

Yeahhhhh I really don’t know what to say for this other than, we as humans can be quite hairy. We think we have it under control and then suddenly it sprouts from totally unexpected places. We get it and we lose it. We spend a lot of time and money to remove it. I have done a lot of research about hair and goosebumps and why we have eye brows and the like to appease an inquisitive Synonym. I kinda feel like I wrote about goosebumps for one of these entries, but I can’t figure out which one. We have eyebrows to keep things out of our eyes. We don’t have hair on our palms because it would interfere with our grip. I really hope tomorrow’s word is better.

Amanuensis

September 19, 2017Read More

amanuensis
\uh-man-yuh-WEN-sis\
noun

: one employed to write from dictation or to copy manuscript

In Latin, servus a manu loosely translates to “slave with secretarial duties.” The noun manu means “hand” and starts off the word manuscript, which was usually handwritten. The words scribe or scrivener were used in the past for someone who copied things over, whereas today one might use secretary or administrative assistant.

Last night at the Emmy awards, the writers of the shows that won were thanked numerous times over. Without their scripts, the actors wouldn’t have anything to bring life to. Today’s Google Doodle is for the 308th birthday of Samuel Johnson, lexicographer extraordinaire.

There was an odd reading passage from an old SAT that told the story of a man who had a job to copy manuscripts. He didn’t like it and longed for more responsibility, but once he got it, he decided he had been better off just copying manuscripts.
My first job out of college was for the publisher Simon and Schuster. I was a marketing assistant. Essentially, like most entry level jobs, I had to answer phones, and prepare mailing lists and type memos, and order supplies. It was a secretarial job with low pay, and a lot of menial work without a ton of glamour, though I did work in Rockefeller Center and I did get free books.

Handwriting is a dying art. As Synonym explained to me yesterday, she doesn’t like to write because it makes her hand hurt. I totally get that. My handwriting has declined severely in the recent past. It bothers my wrists when I write or type for too long. My brain gets so far ahead of my words that I have to race to record them all. I am so far behind copying over my musings from the last year. They are stacking up and I don’t know what to do with them all. No wonder it all makes you feel like a slave. Perhaps that is all we are, but a slave to our thoughts.

Portentous

September 18, 2017Read More

So sometimes, it clicks – and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it does and you just can’t express it properly. Yesterday’s word was travesty. I struggled all day to think of a picture to pair with this word. I was unsuccessful, and my day ended at 8pm with the most excruciating headache….so perhaps that was my travesty.

travesty
\TRAV-uh-stee\
noun

1 : a burlesque translation or literary or artistic imitation usually grotesquely incongruous in style, treatment, or subject matter

2 : a debased, distorted, or grossly inferior imitation

This brings us to today’s word:

portentous
\por-TEN-tuss\
adjective

1 : of, relating to, or constituting a portent

2 : eliciting amazement or wonder : prodigious

3 a : being a grave or serious matter

b : self-consciously solemn or important : pompous

c : ponderously excessive

I use the word portent with my SAT students, with the definition of “early warning of impending doom.” Awesome word! I am struggling with this word because I am not sure if it is leaning in a good or a bad way. Omens can be both good or bad. I got a question wrong on an SAT test because I was taking omen to be a bad thing, and they used it as a good thing. I am forever searching for signs to make sense of the world around me. These birds in my picture migrate in big swaths across the sky in the fall and spring. It feels like a warning…change is coming.

Inoculate

September 16, 2017Read More

inoculate
\ih-NAHK-yuh-layt\
verb

1 a : to introduce a microorganism into

b : to introduce (something, such as a microorganism) into a suitable situation for growth

c : to introduce immunologically active material (such as an antibody or antigen) into especially in order to treat or prevent a disease

2 : to introduce something into the mind of

3 : to protect as if by inoculation

Ocular and inoculate both come from the Latin oculus, meaning “eye.” Inoculate was used in Middle English as “to insert a bud in a plant for propagation.” Buds of plants can resemble eyes. Inoculate was later applies to other forms of engrafting or implanting, including the introduction of vaccines as a preventative against disease. Interestingly enough innocuous means harmless – that is the version of this word I use with my SAT students. You get a harmless version of a disease to help build your immunity.

I am on the fence about getting the flu shot this year. I am always the one in four that feels like someone punched them in the arm really hard and is in pain for a few days after getting it. I even managed to give myself frostbite on my arm once by leaving an ice pack up my sleeve for two long. Last year I got the flu TWICE. Once within two weeks of getting my shot and once in March that left me in bed for a full week and not back to myself for a better part of a month. So I don’t know how harmless or helpful that was to my well being.

I, however, am drawn to the introduce into the mind line of the definition. I have been doing a lot of soul searching and trying to find the roots or the seeds or what have you of some of the thoughts that cycle in my head and get in my way. Where do they come from? Who planted them? What did they say? Did I take it the right way? Can I un-inoculate some of these things and find a better way?

~~~~~~
Perhaps I pressed publish too soon with an unfinished thought. Today I took a photography class at Longwood Gardens. I took the same class last year too. It was a wonderful experience. It got me to thinking about the things about photo classes that I struggle with. I have always loved art, but never thought I could be an art major. I cant stand the critiques. But the teacher today told us that he wanted us to fail at things so we could learn. I always saw failing as not getting the best grade. When I was in 9th grade, I, along with a group of my classmates, chose to give up our lunch period in order to take an art class – in addition to a music class. We would eat our sandwiches while we did our sketches. My friends all got 99s or 95s on projects, while I could never seem to score above an 92. It drove me nuts. Here I was giving up my lunch, the least the teacher could do was give me a higher grade for showing up and trying. I always judged myself harshly since then and lost some of the enjoyment in the process. We all got inducted into the Art Honor Society, but the rest of them were the teacher’s pets. I was not. I probably would have made a great art teacher. But I never allowed that path to open up to me. I still am not entirely sure where this is going, but maybe I found a seed.

Marginalia

September 15, 2017Read More

marginalia
\mahr-juh-NAY-lee-uh\
noun

1 : marginal notes or embellishments (such as in a book)

2 : nonessential items

This is a new Latin word that borrows from the Medieval Latin adjective marginalis, “marginal,” and originally fro the noun margo, meaning “border.” This is a new word that comes from the 19th century.
Margins are the side of the page, yet they are the white space where there is room to make a note. Marginal can be those who are not included in the main part of a group or a society. It can refer to things that barely meet minimum criteria.

I have always been a fan of doodling in the margins and all over my papers, books and notebooks. It helped me memorize and learn better when I was in school. In college, I was always armed with a purple pen, that I used to underline key facts and quotes. This is a skill I urge all my SAT students to sharpen: the ability to separate what is important from what is nonessential…or marginal! If they can find the most pertinent information when they read, there will be no need to re-read and waste precious time.

Precocious

September 14, 2017Read More

precocious
\prih-KOH-shus\
adjective

1 : exceptionally early in development or occurrence

2 : exhibiting mature qualities at an unusually early age

Precocious came from Latin and combined the prefix prae-, meaning “ahead of,” and the verb coquere, meaning “to cook” or “to ripen” and formed the adjective praecox, meaning “early ripening” or “premature.” By the mid-1600s, English speakers turned praecox into precocious and used it to refer to a plant that had blossoms before their leaves developed. By the 1670s, precocious was also being used to refer to humans who developed skills or talents before others.

We started Synonym early (I refer to her as my June SAT, as she was born on a Saturday the week after the June SAT at SAT time!)…my image is the one I use with my SAT Tutors when we cover this word. We staged it when she was barely three months old. She loves words and I teach her all of my big words so she will rock it when it comes to her SAT. I am afraid of what college will cost when she is ready to go.

It seems like kids these days are in such a hurry to grow up. We dress them the way we dress and we teach them the things we know at way earlier ages than we ever knew them when we were little. In some ways it can be a good thing that they practically come out of the womb playing sports and music and creating art…this will give them a foundation or a passion or a direction early in life. But I think there are also negative effects. By pushing a child too much too soon, it can provide the opposite result. They aren’t prepared to receive the attention or respond to the demands. My daughter is only six years old. I have to remind her that I have things in my house that are older than she is. She presents herself as very advanced, but she is still a child. If we peak too soon, where is there to go from there? We all develop at different rates in different areas. Not everyone will excel in every arena. You may see a child who is a talent in one area, but a complete terror in another. Just like an adult…they can also appear put together in public, but totally unglued in private. We are so quick to compare ourselves with other people and see them as perfect or how they surpass what we can do – but we don’t always judge our own performances accurately. What’s the hurry? Don’t rush to grow up. Adulting isn’t all the fun it is cracked up to be.

Scour

September 13, 2017Read More

scour
\SKOW-er\
verb

1 : to move about quickly especially in search

2 : to go through or range over in or as if in a search

There are two homographs (words that are spelled the same, but have different origins or meanings) of the verb scour. One is to clean something by rubbing it hard with a rough object. That meaning goes back to the early 14th century and likely derives from Late Latin (excurare: “to clean off”) to Old French and Middle Dutch. When I first saw today’s word, I didn’t read the in depth information and I quickly snapped a picture of a scouring pad from the kitchen…but then upon further reading, I saw that this word comes from Old Norse skūr, meaning “shower.” I, for one, am always scouring Synonym’s bed for missing stuffed animals.

When we lose something, we often try to clean things up in order to find it…or to try to make things be the way that we will never be in this position again…I am forever searching. Searching is a behavior that follows a loss. After losing my father, I would scour a crowded place to see if he was there somewhere. I would scour my mind to recall things about him, before I lost even more details from a quickly fading past. I scour my surroundings for signs that he is with me. I search for meanings and answers, most of which I will never fully understand or accept. What we have from the past is a cleaned up, sanitized version of what happened. We go over the events and rewrite them, organizing them and modifying them. We reassess and retell them until they are neater and fit into the spaces we have left in our heads. This is the only possible way we can heal and continue on. While I battle, I scour the foggy clouds for a silver lining. I read every article I can get my hands on to figure out how to kick this constant feeling of exhaustion from the thorough searching that is always going on in the background.

Bibelot

September 12, 2017Read More

bibelot
\BEE-bu-loh\
noun

: a small household ornament or decorative object : trinket

This word is synonymous with gimcrack – one of my words from April 4th – and gewgaw. It was taken from French, so it sounds fancier than the spelling of it makes it appear.
Trinkets and things are something I struggle with a lot. My grandparents were hoarders, so they kept just about everything. I strive to find the proper balance between throwing everything away and keeping everything. I want to have less things and be more free, yet when I try to pare things down, it just never seems to work as well as I hope it will. My heart is breaking for all the people in Texas and Florida who are impacted by these terrible hurricanes and their homes are flooded out and they have to get rid of everything they worked so hard to accumulate. If you had to leave your home and you might never get to go back, what would you grab to take with you? What tangible trinkets could you not live without? What things are necessary to hang onto and carry with you through life. I came across an article today that was censuring the Marie Kondo method of keeping what sparks joy. It explained that not everything we keep is for joy, but sometimes it is purely for necessity. It will fill a need, or check a box, or do the trick. We all need muddy shoes and messy jeans for certain occasions. I digress slightly, but this is a topic that I devote a lot of thought to. One man’s blemish is another’s bibelot.

And yes, my image is a salt and pepper shaker set of chickens. My grandmother had a large collection of salt and pepper shakers. I don’t have any of hers, but I felt like I had to start one of my own, before I realized it was just something to collect more dust. But these guys still sit on my china cabinet in the dining room.

Conversant

September 11, 2017Read More

conversant
\kun-VER-sunt\
adjective

: having knowledge or experience

Conversant and conversational are related words that descended from the Latin conversari, meaning “to associate with.” Conversant dates back to the Middle Ages, and an early meaning of the word was “to have familiar association.” A way to associate with someone is to talk to them, so that became part of the meaning in the 19th century. Today, conversant can mean the ability to speak in a foreign language, though it can also be in relation to having knowledge or familiarity with issues.

So this word almost broke me – but I was determined to keep my current streak going. How do you depict the possession of knowledge or experience? This is something I have been thinking a great deal about. I have been on the fence about what to do with my writing. I have been working at honing my craft, and I have been practicing and exercising a lot – yet it never feels like enough. I always hesitate to call myself a writer. It is not something I do as a profession, yet it is something I could see myself doing. November is coming…and I will try again to write another novel…or perhaps I will be an overachiever and do it in October. I have knowledge and experience, yet how can I prove that? I start so many things I never finish. So where does that leave me? With more knowledge and experience?