December 7, 2017Read More


1 : whiteness, brilliance

2 : freedom from prejudice or malice : fairness

3 : unreserved, honest, or sincere expression : forthrightness

The origins of candor have a chance to shine through in its first definition. Candor comes from the Latin verb candēre (“to shine or glow”), which in turn comes from the same ancient root that gave the Welsh language can, meaning “white,” and the Sanskrit language candati, which translates to “it shines.” Other descendants of candēre in English include candid, incandescent, candle, and the somewhat less common candent and candescent (both of which are synonyms of incandescent in the sense of “glowing from or as if from great heat”). There is even excandescence, an uncommon word that refers to a feverish condition brought on by anger or passion.

Very few of my students over the years properly understood this word…or candid, which this word sounds like, which means honest or true. They have all heard of “Candid Camera” – though less so recently. They hear about candid photos, which I say are when you don’t have the chance to fake smile or pose. Those aren’t truth. The truth is telling it like it really is. Nowadays with Photoshop and Facebook and other forms of social media, it is hard to know where the truth is. False advertisements and facades are posted in an effort to sell product or keep up appearances. I think it creates more harm than good. They say if you tell the truth then you don’t need a good memory…It boggles my mind how anyone in public life can think they aren’t going to get caught eventually. We are being recorded, unbeknownst to us, most of the day. Best to be honest….because basically the truth will always come to light….or find a way to shine through. May you treat others with candor so your dealings will be free of malice or prejudice and full of fairness and honesty.


December 6, 2017Read More


1 : to enclose in or as if in a capsule

2 : to show or express in a brief way : epitomize, summarize

3 : to become enclosed in a capsule

Encapsulate and its related noun, capsule, both extract from capsula, a diminutive form of the Latin noun capsa, meaning “box.” Capsa also gave us our noun case (the container kind; the legal sense has a different origin). The original sense of encapsulate, meaning “to enclose something in a capsule,” first appeared in the late 19th century. Its extended meaning, “to give a summary or synopsis of something,” plays on the notion of a capsule being portrayed as something compact, self-contained, and often easily digestible – like a pill we swallow.

The elementary school I went to had a time capsule that was buried behind the capstone in the building. I was always enamored with the idea of buying things that summarized a time period, and unearthing them later to retell the story. When we visited Jamestown last summer, they were doing archeological digs. Synonym was doing her Junior Ranger Badge activity and they asked her what would remain in her house four hundred years later. Homonym joked that it would the the eyes of her Beanie Boos! Ha!

My image is of a necklace I got to commemorate my Dad. Each item in the Origami Owl locket has a special meaning. It signifies a part of our relationship or who he was. It serves as a reminder pressed between two pieces of glass. Love made visible. Encapsulated.

The word abstract is a synonym. It is a summary. It can also be disembodied – which is essentially what something can become when it is taken out of context and stripped down to the most basic level.


December 5, 2017Read More


1 : drunk enough to be emotionally silly

2 : weakly and effusively sentimental

Maudlin derives as much to the Bible as to the bar. The biblical Mary Magdalene is often (though some say mistakenly) identified with the weeping sinner who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears to repent for her sins. This association led to the frequent depiction of Mary Magdalene as a weeping penitent, and even the name Magdalene came to suggest teary emotion to many English speakers. It was then that maudlin, an alteration of Magdalene, appeared in the English phrase “maudlin drunk,” which, as one Englishman explained in 1592, described a tearful drunken state whereby “a fellow will weepe for kindnes in the midst of his Ale and kisse you.”

We all know that too much of a good thing crosses a line…but up until that point it can be amusing. We need to loosen up a little and let our emotions out. We often get a little maudlin with our BFFs or soul sisters. My image today is Synonym cracking me up. I actually used it last year for a Gratitude Challenge question about how you are grateful for laughter. So this is actually both hilarious and sentimental for me. I know I cherish those moments when girlfriend makes me laugh until I cry. Just tonight she wanted me to do a “school” assignment for her while she took a quick bathroom break – but instead I called my mom to share the news of Synonym’s wonderful report card. Well, needless to say she called me out on it and wrote me up a demerit and put it in a sealed envelope. Oh my! A few fun synonyms of maudlin include cloying (annoyingly sweet), mawkish (childishly emotional) and saccharine (sugar sweet).


December 4, 2017Read More


1 : a wooden frame for public punishment having holes in which the head and hands can be locked

2 : a means for exposing one to public scorn or ridicule

Pillory comes from Anglo-French pilori. The word also expanded to a verb form that encompassed the act of putting someone in the pillory. Why is it that all these words seem to refer to our president? At least if you hop on Merriam Webster’s Twitter or Facebook, most of the comments echo those types of sentiments. We like to publicly shame others. It starts at a young age and carries through life. We tattle and point and whisper or shout it out so everyone knows what someone else did wrong. This is all fine and good until we get caught doing something we shouldn’t. Today’s image was from Williamsburg – one of the few places you can hop into the stocks, or pillory in the village square. I had a pic of Homonym and Synonym from when we went a year ago. I also had one of me and Homonym from when we went a decade ago. I liked this one for the random little kid lurking in my photo, waiting for us to move along so he could have his turn. It is actually quite a popular feature in this colonial village. It is all fun and games to pose for a picture, but not if you really had to stand there for an extended amount of time. It would be like the Survivor endurance challenges, where you have to outlast your competitors in the blazing sun. When you do the crime you have to do the time. Hopefully when we have to swallow the bitter pill of shame, we won’t soon forget the lesson learned.


December 3, 2017Read More


1 : to play something at intervals in or among

2 : to insert at intervals among other things

Intersperse comes from Latin interspersus, combining the prefix inter- (“between or among”) with sparsus, the past participle of spargere, meaning “to scatter.” In sparsus one finds an ancestor to our adjective sparse, as well as a relative of spark. (The relationship of spark to a word that describes something being scattered about makes sense when you think of sparks bursting or scattering off a flame.) An interesting similar word is: asperse, which is to sprinkle with holy water or to attack with false charges. Hmm.

When I was searching for an idea for an image, some of the synonyms were sprinkle…
We were in Lowe’s perusing the holiday decorations and some purple poinsettias caught my attention. Someone had posted some ice blue ones on a group I follow the day before. I had never seen those or these before. As if dying them wasn’t quite unnatural enough, they took it one step further and sprinkled them with glitter. I just read that glitter is bad for the environment. Don’t let anyone dull your sparkle. As I was reminded this evening, when Synonym pitched a full out fit about being asked to help out and put some of her laundry away, life is basically spent doing lots of things we don’t really want to do, interspersed with some things your want to do. So you need to find ways to manage the juxtapositions of the oppositions. Savor the good and speed through the dull. Hopefully the things you don’t enjoy will become sparser and sparser as they scatter further apart.


December 2, 2017Read More


1 : an error in chronology; especially : a chronological misplacing of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other

2 : a person or a thing that is chronologically out of place; especially : one from a former age that is incongruous in the present

3 : the state or condition of being chronologically out of place

One of my favorites…if you pick this word apart chron is like chronological order and anarchy is a lack of order, therefore an anachronism is out of order, out of place. George Washington on a motorcycle is anachronistic; that could never happen. Abraham Lincoln with a boom box is anachronistic. When movies come out and they are anachronistic, people get very upset. In the movie “A Knight’s Tale,” a medieval crowd sang “We Will Rock You.” That is not how it happened.

Things have a context for a reason – don’t take it out of it!


November 30, 2017Read More


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!


November 30, 2017Read More


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…..


November 29, 2017Read More


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.


November 28, 2017Read More


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