Monday, February 05, 2007

trivia images placeholder

Just looking for a place to host some images for awhile.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

It's been a long time...

...since my last post. The same caesura happened last winter and I am at a loss to explain it. It seems to relate to some swing in mood, but one I can't explicate to any further extant. At the same time, my sense of humor has diminished lately. Not absolutely, but to the extent that I haven't found headlines and obituaries as humorous lately, and I haven't been able to come up with any funny trivia team names. The two things are related I'm sure.

But without further ado, I found a page of headlines on that seemed to capture a certain, crystalline, decrepitude of American culture. Almost poetic in it's brevity and clarity. I reproduce the links for you below:

NYC School Assignment Results In Man's Arrest
Mom, Fending Off Rats, Accidentally Suffocates Baby
4th Teen Arrested in Girl's Videotaped Beating
Woman Charged With Running Over Boyfriend
Baby Found at Bottom of Bronx Trash Chute

They seem to depict a society filled with such barbarity and harsh comedy as to resemble Grand Guignol theater, or a descent into brutishness and animalistic behaviour depicted repeatedly in the Old Testament and requiring God's destructive and punitive intervention. And of course the truth is that these things are most likely not more common now, only that we are more aware of them. I am inclined to believe the world is not much different than it has ever been and while this view may seem cynical, it actually gives me hope against the doomsayers and Jeremiahs...

...but then I consider global warming and George Bush.

I will try to post more. I have been wanting to write on the word cattywampus, its possible relation to caterwaul, its certain relation to cattycorner, and other words similar in meaning or use like cock-a-hoop. And I've had another post in mind wherein I ruminate on the words jocose, jocund, and jocular and why we need all three (joy, joy, joy.)

Until then.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Word(s) of the Day Addendum

Inre: the post below I learned two new terms related to childbirth. I will quote directly from my nursing student friend's email below:

Cheese-like is exactly the way [vernix] was described to me, and in fact, the way it looks in person. Did you know that the later in gestation the baby is delivered, the less vernix it will have? More fun-OB-terminology/fun facts: when the placenta is delivered, they examine it to see how it detached from the uterus. It can come two different ways - with the baby's or mother's side on the outside. These two placental presentations are called, respectively, Shiny Shultze and Dirty Duncan. How weird is that? Doesn't Dirty Duncan in particular sound like some sordid sex act?
Yes, Dirty Duncan does sound like some sordid sex act, like a Dirty Sanchez to be precise. However, in obstetric terminology, I am inclined to suppose that the two phrases have no real importance and are only used as more colorful and easy to remember replacements for up/down or yes/no signifiers.

As an aside. Here is the full OED entry on Placenta:

PLACO- (comb. form) + -, suffix generally forming adjectives. Cf. French placenta (1642 in sense 1, 1694 in Tournefort in sense 2), Italian placenta (1694 in sense 2, 1698 in sense 1), German Plazenta (16th cent. as Placenta in sense 1). In plural form placentae after the Latin plural form.]

1. Anat. and Zool. A round, flat, spongy, vascular organ to which the fetus of most mammals (i.e. those other than monotremes and marsupials: see PLACENTAL

adj. 2) is attached by the umbilical cord, through which oxygen and nutrients pass from the maternal blood, and which is expelled as the afterbirth. Also: a structure having a similar function in other animals, such as certain viviparous fishes, ascidians, etc.
1638 A. READ Man. Anat. Body of Man (new ed.) I. xxvi. 252 About the upper part of the bottom, unto the which the placenta uteri is tyed, it becommeth almost two inches thick. 1667 Philos. Trans. (Royal Soc.) 2 510 He giveth a particular account of the double Placenta or Cake, to be found in Rabbets, Hares, Mice, Moles, &c. 1692 J. RAY Wisdom of God (ed. 2) I. 67 The Blood still circulates through the Cotyledons or Placenta. 1728 E. CHAMBERS Cycl., Placenta, in Anatomy, a softish Mass, found in the Womb of a pregnant Woman. 1782 Philos. Trans. 1781 (Royal Soc.) 71 359, 5 women had the puerperal fever, of whom four died. In one of these the placenta was undelivered, and continued so to her death. 1832 London Med. & Physical Jrnl. 68 72, I have observed..many placentæ expelled in natural labour. 1875 C. C. BLAKE Zoology Pref., Sharks bring forth their young alive, and nourish them while in the womb by a temporary structure called ‘placenta’. 1888 G. ROLLESTON & W. H. JACKSON Forms Animal Life (ed. 2) 445 In Salpa the developing embryo is nourished by a placenta formed, in part at least, by follicle cells. 1923 J. M. M. KERR et al. Combined Text-bk. Obstetr. & Gynæcol. xxvii. 390 In binovular twin pregnancy there are, no matter how closely the placentæ are approximated, two distinct chorions. 1986 A. S. ROMER & T. S. PARSONS Vertebr. Body (ed. 6) v. 134 Some lizards and snakes have chorioallantoic placentae, reduced yolk, and other features normally thought of as purely mammalian. 1990 Birder's World Aug. 58/1 They frequent pupping grounds of seals, feeding on the feces and placentas of the seals. 2002 R. PORTER Blood & Guts i. 7, Immunities passed via the placenta or mother's milk provide infants with some defence.

2. Bot. The place or part in an ovary where the ovules are attached. Also: (in ferns and fern allies) the point on a leaf where the sporangia arise.
1681 N. GREW Mvsævm Regalis Societatis II. iii. 233 The seat of the Placenta, black; which reaches almost half round the Bean. 1682 Anat. Plants IV. III. vii. 191 The Seeds stuck all round about upon the Ambit or Sides of the Case; or upon a great Bed or Placenta within it. 1727 R. BRADLEY Family Dict. s.v. Flower of Parnassus, A Membranous cell full of seeds, fastened to a placenta which is often very square. 1750 Philos. Trans. 1748 (Royal Soc.) 45 565 Every Seed is fastened by its Point to the Placenta, as to a common Centre. 1830 J. LINDLEY Introd. Nat. Syst. Bot. 75 Its ovarium contains, instead of three ovules adhering to a central placenta, one only, which is pendulous. 1865 G. BENTHAM Illustr. Handbk. Brit. Flora p. xxx, Placentas are axile, when the ovules are attached to the axis or centre. 1875 A. W. BENNETT & W. T. T. DYER tr. J. von Sachs Text-bk. Bot. 395 The sporangia arise..from some of the superficial cells of the placenta or part to which the sorus is attached. 1914 F. E. FRITSCH & E. J. SALISBURY Introd. Study Plants xix. 245 In an apocarpous ovary the carpels are folded so that their margins meet, each edge usually bearing a number of seed-rudiments or ovules..and being generally somewhat swollen to form a placenta. 1965 P. BELL & D. COOMBE tr. E. Strasburger Textbk. Bot. 580 At the base of the submerged leaf [in the Salviniaceae] are several globose sporocarps..; these enclose the sporangia, which arise from a columnar placenta. 1998 Jrnl. Torrey Bot. Soc. 125 272/2 Placentae range in size from small bulges to prominent protrusions within the locules.

The etymology is intriguing and bears no relation to the etymology of place or placid. However, the word Placent has two meanings, one, an adjective, means eager to please. The other, a noun, while being both obsolete and rare, means a flat cake or tablet. I can find no other word in common use sharing the same etymology as placenta. Kind of a shame, nu? This is why language can be endlessly disappointing, even while we enjoy its riches we are also struck by how rich it could be and is not.

I am tempted here to explore the meanings of puerperal but better stop.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Word(s) of the day

My posting tempo has been slowing down. No good reason, but my apologies.

I have a new niece! The very first niece in my immediate family (there are already three nephews.)

And to celebrate, I have three nifty words concerning childbirth and newborn imps:


2. Med. and Veterinary Med. The dark, greenish-brown sticky contents of the intestine of the mammalian fetus in the later stages of gestation, forming the first faeces of the newborn.

1706 Phillips's New World of Words (ed. 6), Meconium,..the Ordure of a young Child, which sticks to the Entrails after the Birth, so call'd from its Colour, resembling that of Poppy-Juice. 1732 J. ARBUTHNOT Rules of Diet iv. 404 All of them [sc. newborn infants] have a Meconium, or sort of dark-colour'd Excrement in the Bowels. 1844 H. STEPHENS Bk. of Farm III. 913 It [sc. colostrum] has a different composition from milk, and acts as a purgative to the new-born calf,..removing the sticky sort of dung called the meconium, from its bowels. 1890 J. CAGNEY tr. R. von Jaksch Clin. Diagnosis vi. 165 The term ‘meconium’ is applied to the substance discharged from the rectum of the child immediately after birth. 1952 D. M. STUART Daughter of Eng. 328 The passage of meconium led to the suspicion that the child might be dead. 1968 New Eng. Jrnl. Med. 7 Mar. 530/2 Severe meconium staining was seen with the birth of the buttocks. 1989 J. A. B. COLLIER & J. M. LONGMORE Oxf. Handbk. Clin. Specialties (ed. 2) ii. 128 Meconium (passage of babies' bowel contents) is seen in 13% of labours of >38 weeks' gestation.

In other words, meconium is baby shit that is usually expelled during the stress of birth. I have heard too that mothers also occasionally shit during birth, they're trying to strain every darn muscle down there, so it kind of makes sense. The etymology is interesting as it's greek and is the same word as used for the poppy or for a particular variety of poppy, and then for the thickened juice extracted from the poppy. I can only imagine (but will try not to) that the thickened juice of the poppy is somehow similar to a baby's first shit. Think about that the next time you're shooting up heroin.


or, in precise terminology, vernix caseosa

2. Med. In full, vernix caseosa [mod.L. casesus, f. L. caseus cheese]. A greasy deposit covering the skin of a baby at birth.
1846 DUNGLISON Dict. Med. Sci. (ed. 6) 785/1 Vernix caseosa. 1882 W. T. LUSK Sci. & Art of Midwifery iii. 75 In the fifth month the surface of the fetal body is covered by the vernix caseosa, a whitish substance composed of..surface epithelium, down, and the products of the sebacious glands. 1956 Nature 18 Feb. 330/1 The specimens [of amniotic fluid] were centrifuged and the vernix and supernatant fluid removed. 1978 Jrnl. R. Soc. Med. LXXI. 212 Copious vernix caseosa is often present. 1980 Brit. Med. Jrnl. 25 Oct. 1138/1 With difficulty but determination she gave birth to an enormous child coated in so much vernix that it seemed to wear a cream cheese pack.

What's neat about this is trying to envision the exact texture of a material that is consistently referred to as cheese-like; I particularly like the phrase "cream cheese pack" in the usage example above. The word is straight from the medieval Latin for varnish.

And finally, and perhaps most perverse:


Fine soft hair or down, or a surface resembling this; spec. that covering the human foetus.
1677 Phil. Trans. XII. 904 The lanugo seen upon a Peach, Quince, or the like. 1766 Misc. Ess. in Ann. Reg. 192/1 A Monchinel-apple falling into the sea and lying in the water will contract a lanugo of salt-petre. 1871 DARWIN Desc. Man I. i. 25 lanugo, with which the human foetus during the sixth month is thickly covered. 1876 DUHRING Dis. Skin 33 Very fine, soft hair, called lanugo, found upon the face, trunk, and other regions.
attrib. and Comb. 1891 W. A. JAMIESON Dis. Skin i. (ed. 3) 4 The small lanugo hairs seem as if dependents of the sebaceous glands. 1897 Allbutt's Syst. Med. III. 686 A tuft of delicate lanugo-like hairs.

It's interesting that the etymology of lanugo stems from "lana," the Latin word for wool and from which must derive the word lanolin. (Lanolin merges Lana-wool with olin, stemming from oleum, the Latin for oil and from whence comes oleo, and oleaginous)

So there we are. Three good reasons why giving birth is kind of disgusting, yet provides us with three very nifty words.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Word(s) of the Day

So I came in second in the Spelling Bee seasonal championship last Monday. This was typical but I was pissed, though I was also trying hard not to be pissed. Firstly, even if I hadn't gotten the one word wrong that I shouldn't have gotten wrong (as opposed to the words I got wrong that were entirely reasonable to get wrong) I likely would still not have won. Secondly, half my annoyance was at the fact that the prizes I received were fairly useless. I hate being an ingrate, but it seems like a natural condition. My wife always commented on it, how hard I found it to be simply gracious.

Anyhow, as prizes I got a six-month or year membership to the Brooklyn Museum, something of almost nil value to me since I can get in free anyway. I also received two free tickets to the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a musical I've wanted to see. Except I had already gotten free tickets from the previous bee and I haven't used them yet as I can't find anyone to go with, don't want to go with a stranger (and I don't have even casual acquaintances who want to go) and I'm not so mercenary as to bother auctioning them off on Craigslist. I also got a pair of earmuff/headphones, but I have never owned a portable music player in my life nor often felt the need to. Finally, I received a gift certificate to a bakery that is reputed to bake some pretty fine cupcakes. I hope to make use of that, at the least. I don't mean to sound bitter; it's simply that there seems to be something deeply buried in me that greatly resents the imperfect gift.

But that is all by the by. The word I misspelles that I should have gotten correctly was:


A dish consisting of rolled pieces of veal and ham cooked with herbs. Also in Comb., as saltimbocca (alla) Romana.

1937 M. MORPHY Good Food from Italy 89 (heading) Veal and Ham à la Romana [Saltimbocca alla Romana]. 1959 Good Food Guide 224 Escalope Cordon Bleu, ‘rather like a Roman Saltimbocca only deep fried in batter’. 1960 Harper's Bazaar Oct. 154/2 Saltimbocca combines paper-thin slices of veal with prosciutto and a sage leaf. 1969 G. GREENE Travels with my Aunt I. xiii. 126 He put a lot of saltimbocca Romana into his mouth. 1977 C. MCCULLOUGH Thorn Birds xvii. 447 I'll have pâté, some scampi and a huge plate of saltimbocca. 1978 Chicago June 237/1 [There are] half a dozen veal dishes (Saltimbocca alla Romana{em}with prosciutto, butter, herbs, and marsala{em}is a specialty), [etc.].

I knew that the crux was one c or two; and I was leaning towards two. But my natural inclination is for one (is it Italian or Spanish in which the word for mouth is "boca"?). But the official pronunciation of the word is with a short o, as in bocce, (to me, as in Vacca, that seems to invite two cees, but someone in the crowd yelled out that it should be a long o, as in boat. That made me reconsider, incorrectly of course.

But I was pleased with some other words I had to spell. I forget the challenging ones that I ad to guess at, but one of the fun ones was

A word I can't find in the dictionary but means, of course, spider-eating; phagous or phagy being my favorite Greek root. The word makes me laugh not because of it's meaning but because whenever phagous is used as a suffix I am reminded of Snuffleupagus from Sesame Street. As if he had siblings with even odder names. And then the word is easy to spell.

And that was that, below are some words I will not bother at the moment to define or discuss but which tweak my consciousness occasionally:



Tuesday, November 14, 2006

And in high school news...

Didn't I just write that my high school has been haunting me lately? well, an old classmate just reconnected with me via, the first time that service has proved useful to me.

I wonder what's next.

Word(s) of the day...

Or, Things I learned at last night's spelling bee.

I misspelled this word:

Also celio-.
The operation of cutting into the abdominal cavity; laparotomy.
1881 Trans. Obstet. Soc. Lond. XXII. 128 If a new word was needed to supersede ‘gastrotomy’ perhaps ‘cliotomy’ would do. 1908 Practitioner Oct. 608 Anterior and posterior vaginal coeliotomy. 1954 BACON & TRIMPI in K. C. Jonas Babcock's Princ. & Pract. Surg. xliv. 1423 Celiotomy.In the doubtful or confusing case, exploratory laparotomy is advantageous.

That's from the OED. The reason I got it wrong is that coeli- is not an acceptable American spelling, like foetus, and I guessed the British spelling. But th word is easy otherwise as I remember from high school biology that whether or not an organism has an enclosed body cavity with differentiated cells on the inside and on the outside is an easy marker of complexity. Animals which almost have body cavities or whose cells are not quite specialized are described as having pseudoceloms (although I suspect the plural would be pseudocoela.)

Oddly, while celiotomy is the accepted American spelling as I stated above, I did find this word in Webster's:


So the "oe" has not altogether been replaced.

A word I got right last night:

1. An aromatic gum resin, yielded by trees of the genus Boswellia, used for burning as incense; olibanum; occas. the smoke from the same.
a1387 Sinon. Barthol. (Anecd. Oxon.) 42 Thus album, i. olibanum, franke ensens. c1450 Cov. Myst. (Shaks. Soc.) 8 Kynges iij With gold, myrre, and ffrankynsens. ?c1475 Sqr. lowe Degre 849 Cloves that be swete smellyng, Frankensence, and olibanum. 1552 LATIMER Serm. Gosp. vi. 188 Franckumsence to signify his priesthoode. 1645 FULLER Good Th. in Bad T. (1841) 50 He..sent Leonidas a present of five hundred talents' weight of frankincense. 1718 PRIOR Pleasure 904 Curling frankincense ascends to Baal. 1834 LYTTON Pompeii IV. iii, Odour of myrrh and frankincense.

That's an easy one to spell. It's etymology is literally incense of the Franks (or French.) That won me the game which made my competitor pissed; she had to spell:

[f. L. flammifer bearing flame (f. flamm-a FLAME + -fer bearing) + -OUS.]
Bearing or producing flame.

I probably would ave gotten that right since the -iferous ending is usually pretty easy to spot and I think I got it wrong once, spelling it with only one m, I would have guessed two last night.

More words soon, I promise.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Another sign that God is unfair...

Ed Bradley beats Andy Rooney to the grave!

There's probably some good jokes in here for next week's trivia team name, although the ones that pop to mind like "Ed Bradley now covering the afterlife" or "Ed Bradley scores exclusive interview with God" maybe come too close to my Cory Lidle Joke "Cory Lidle traded to the Angels."

I remember helping Ed Bradley when he shopped at Kate's Paperie from time to time, usually on a Sunday morning after he'd popped into Dean & Deluca. Seemed like a nice guy.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Two or three things

I'm happy today that the democrats were successful enough yesterday that they matched or surpassed pre-election predictions.

If we were playing trivia today (instead of hosting) my suggested teamname would be:

K Fed is K F****ed

I like how it looks on the page, tautological and also insensible. And it sounds good too!

And finally, I'm wearing my underwear backwards today. I don't know how this happens. If not wearing underwear is "going commando" then wearing underwear backwards should be something else, but I can't think of the right term.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

I like trucks

Especially ones with neat names, like the Vactor 2100.

But I think the painter would be proud of the one below.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Them's good eatin'

From the Science and Space section of

Discovery prepped for December launch

Whe I first scanned the page I read the headline as:

Discovery peppered for December lunch

It's much more fun that way...and appetizing.

In the news...

Once in awhile a group of headlines simply appeals to me. Not for their humor, but for the way the various stories combine to present a remarkable view of society, a cross-section of stupidity, malice, venality and all the things that make humanity interesting. It's kind of like the Sesame Street song, "These Are the People in Your Neighborhood" but with a focus on criminality, not public service.

PHOTO: Police Seek Brooklyn Bank Robber
Trial Starts for LI Teen Charged in Sword Attack
Remains Search Rally Planned at Ground Zero
Con Ed: Power Outage Reported in Richmond Hill
Police Shoot Man in Tremont Section of Bronx
LIRR Starting Platform Gap Work at Woodside
Motorcyclist Dies Following Southern State Crash
John Kerry Apologizes for Iraq Comments
Children Named in White Plains Music Lawsuit
Third Man Surrenders in Shooting of LI Driver
VIDEO: Bob Barker to Retire From "Price is Right"
NYC to Hire More Experts in 9/11 Remains Search
Plane Mishaps Probed at Newark Airport
Joey Buttafuoco's Jail Sentence Postponed
NJ Senate Candidates Chime in on Kerry Comments


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Word(s) of the day

Or, new words I discovered at last night's spelling bee:

[f. DIRIGIBLE a.: see -ILITY.]
The quality of being dirigible; controllability.
1875 Q. Rev. CXXXIX. 137 One most important use of dirigibility would be in facilitating the descent, and in avoiding the many dangers to which the aeronaut, in his present helpless position, is so often exposed. 1902 Westm. Gaz. 25 Mar. 9/2 Proving the dirigibility of the aerostat. 1903 Ibid. 16 Nov. 7/3 Wireless dirigibility experiments. 1908 B'ham Inst. Mag. Jan. 254 The problem of..perfect dirigibility of dynamic flying machines.

What's especially pleasurable about that word is the presence of so many "i"s (it was given to another contestant, unfortunately, so it was not mine to spell.) Also that I had always presumed dirigble meant something like "inflated" although this kind of makes more sense. But we finally have an alternative to words like blimpiness. Time to celebrate.

[ad. L. enclitic-us, a. Gr. -, f. on + to lean.]
A. adj. That ‘leans its accent on the preceding word’ (Liddell and Scott): in Greek grammar the distinctive epithet of those words which have no accent, and which (when phonetic laws permit) cause a secondary accent to be laid on the last syllable of the word which they follow. Hence applied to the analogous Latin particles -que, -ve, -ne, etc., and in mod. use (with extension of sense) to those unemphatic words in other langs. that are treated in pronunciation as if forming part of the preceding word.

1656 BLOUNT Glossogr., Enclitick, that inclines or gives back. 1750 HARRIS Hermes I. v. (1786) 85 note, The Diversity between the Contradistinctive Pronouns, and the Enclitic, is not unknown even to the English Tongue. 1855 BROWNING Grammarian's Funeral, Gave us the doctrine of the enclitic De. 1867 RAWLINSON Anc. Mon. IV. iv. 227 The pronouns had in certain cases an enclitic form.

I did get to spell this word, and I got it wrong. The first "i" is long, like "eye," so I dickered a bit with myself and spelled it enclytic, which is perfectly reasonable, just wrong. This is also a word I expect I will never ever use.

(lgjumns) [f. L. legmin-, legmen + -OUS.]
1. Of or pertaining to pulse; of the nature of pulse.
1656 in BLOUNT Glossogr. 1767 A. YOUNG Farmer's Lett. to People 45 Raising leguminous crops like field pease. 1827 H. STEUART Planter's G. (1828) 498 This practice will by no means preclude the cultivation of leguminous crops. 1898 Allbutt's Syst. Med. V. 591 Meat, leguminous vegetables and bread contain the same alkali.
2. Bot. Of or pertaining to the family Leguminosæ, which includes peas, beans, and other plants which bear legumes or pods.
1677 GREW Anat. Plants IV. III. v. (1682) 187 The Cod of the Garden Bean (and so of the rest of the Leguminous kind) opens on one side. 1785 MARTYN Rousseau's Bot. iii. (1794) 39 The greater part of the leguminous or pulse tribe. 1807 J. E. SMITH Phys. Bot. 446 Linnæus..asserts..that ‘among all the leguminous or papilionaceous tribe there is no deleterious plant to be found’. 1830 LINDLEY Nat. Syst. Bot. 88 Myrospermum, a spurious Leguminous genus. 1854 HOOKER Himal. Jrnls. I. ii. 50 A most elegant leguminous tree. 1890 A. R. WALLACE Darwinism 24 Climbing leguminous plants escape both floods and cattle.
b. Resembling what pertains to a leguminous plant.
1688 R. HOLME Armoury II. 97/1 The top [of Goats Rue] is branched, upon each stands many leguminous, or pulse~like flowers. 1725 BRADLEY Fam. Dict. s.v. Sainfoin, They are leguminous Flowers, White and sometimes Red. 1830 LINDLEY Nat. Syst. Bot. 87 Another and a more invariable character [of the Pea tribe] is to have a leguminous fruit.

I love the brevity and obcurity of that definition, mainly because it's use of the word pulse in a manner most of us today are entirely unfamiliar with:

Pronunciation: 'p&ls
Etymology: Middle English puls, probably from Anglo-French puuiz gruel, from Latin pult-, puls, probably from Greek poltos: the edible seeds of various crops (as peas, beans, or lentils) of the legume family; also : a plant yielding pulse

It's interesting to note that Pulse, to beat, and Pulse, beans share a similar etymology. I suppose beating or pulverizing beans was common enough to lend the term to the actual plant.

But back to leguminous, not only is it a word that means bean-like, but it reminds me of the words luminous and bituminous, thus it sounds like you're descriping some kind of glowing, exalted, bean.

And now for a word I didn't hear at the spelling bee but just like to carry in my back pocket:


(dræmb) [ad. L. dthyrambus, a. Gr. (origin unknown). In F. dithyrambe. Also used in the Latin form.]
Gr. Antiq. A Greek choric hymn, originally in honour of Dionysus or Bacchus, vehement and wild in character; a Bacchanalian song.
1603 HOLLAND Plutarch's Mor. 1358 According as Aeschylus saith: The Dithyrambe with clamours dissonant Sorts well with Bacchus. 1847 GROTE Greece II. xxix. IV. 118 The primitive Dithyrambus was a round choric dance and song in honour of Dionysus. 1873 SYMONDS Grk. Poets v. 118 The Dithyramb never lost the tempestuous and enthusiastic character of Bacchic revelry.
b. transf. A metrical composition having characteristics similar to this.
1656 S. HOLLAND Zara III. iii. 153 The Musick having charmed their sences with a Celestiall Dithyramb [pr. Dyrathamb]. [1727-51 CHAMBERS Cycl. s.v., Some..modern writers, have composed Latin pieces of all kinds of verse indifferently..without any order, or distribution into strophes, and call them dithyrambi.] 1859 A. A. BONAR in Spurgeon Treas. Dav. Ps. vii. heading, Ewald suggests, that it [Shiggaion] might be rendered ‘a confused ode’, a Dithyramb. 1860 ADLER Fauriel's Prov. Poetry i. 8 Martial dithyrambs, full of ardor and highmindedness.
c. A speech or writing in vehement or inflated style.
1863 GEO. ELIOT Romola xxxix, What dithyrambs he went into about eating and drinking. 1863 Sat. Rev. 153 M. Victor Hugo, in Les Misérables, has poured forth a rhapsody, or dithyramb, or whatever, under a classical name, expresses exaggerated and inflated nonsense. 1877 MORLEY Crit. Misc. Ser. II. 4 Mr. Carlyle..has reproduced in stirring and resplendent dithyrambs the fire and passion..of the French Revolution.

And frankly, the c. definition brings me back to a word I promised to deliver last week and which means almost the same thing as above:


Brit. /blvet/, U.S. /bloviet/ [Prob. < BLOW v.1 + -viate (in e.g. DEVIATE v., ABBREVIATE v., etc.); cf. -ATE3.]
intr. To talk at length, esp. using inflated or empty rhetoric; to speechify or ‘sound off’.
1845 Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) 14 Oct. 3/1 Peter P. Low, Esq., will with open throat..bloviate about the farmers being taxed upon the full value of their farms, while bankers are released from taxation. 1887 Amer. Missionary Sept. 258 And this is the New South over which Grady bloviated so pathetically? 1923 N.Y. Times 23 Aug. 14/4 We all like to bloviate against ‘corporations’, and there is no tenderness in New Jersey for the Public Service Railway Company. 1957 Amer. Hist. Rev. 62 1014 Occasionally a candidate makes some great pronouncement or drastic shift of position in such an oration, but more often he merely talks, or, as Harding put it, ‘bloviates’, being concerned more with the political effect of his remarks than with their meaning. 2002 Mother Jones May-June 82/2 Chávez seems enamored of the sound of his own voice, and he has an unpopular habit of taking over Venezuela's TV and radio stations to bloviate about his reforms.

So there we have it. Note that thanks are due to a dear friend who has loaned me a password and ID for an online OED. Therefore many of the links above will not work unless you have your own subscription. And the pronunciation key doesn't cut and paste. But those are minor quibbles.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Word(s) of the Day Addendum

I just discovered the word Suctorial

Pronunciation: "s&k-'tor-E-&l
Function: adjective
Etymology: New Latin suctorius, from Latin sugere
: adapted for sucking; especially : serving to draw up fluid or to adhere by suction

I can see how this could turn into a great bit of rude slang, as in:

"Yo, that chick is mad suctorial!"

Word(s) of the day

I have been thinking of starting a series of posts on words that inhabit the depths of my mind, that occasionally bubble up and float on it's surface for awhile before sinking again into the murk of memory. Many of these words I find sweet and flavorful and I like to roll them around in my mouth, toss them off my tongue, and squeeze them into conversation. My urge to write posts on the subject is hindered by my lack of access to the OED (the first time I have not had access since 2002), but I will make do as best I can. Often words do not come to me by themselves but in alliterative or etymological groupings and so to start off I offer you a trio (let it not raise your expectations too high for future posts.)

Main Entry: scrof·u·lous Pronunciation: -l&s
Function: adjective
1 : of, relating to, or affected with scrofula
2 a : having a diseased run-down appearance b : morally contaminated

(Scrofula, by the way, is a "tuberculous infection of the skin of the neck, most often caused by mycobacteria (including Mycobacteriumtuberculosis) Mycobacterium scrofulaceum or Mycobacterium avium." Symptoms include "painless swelling of cervical (neck) lymph nodes, "(ulceration is rare today,) "lymph nodes may be enlarged elsewhere, fevers, chills, sweats, and weight loss can occur in 20% of individuals.")

Pronunciation: 'ska-br&s also 'skA-Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin scabr-, scaber rough, scurfy; akin to Latin scabere to scratch -- more at SCAB1 : DIFFICULT, KNOTTY
2 : rough to the touch: as a : having small raised dots, scales, or points b : covered with raised, roughened, or unwholesome patches
3 : dealing with suggestive, indecent, or scandalous themes : SALACIOUS; also : SQUALID

And finally,

Main Entry: scurf
Pronunciation: 'sk&rf
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English, of Scandinavian origin; akin to Icelandic skurfa scurf; akin to Old High German scorf scurf, Old English sceorfan to scarify
1 : thin dry scales detached from the epidermis especially in an abnormal skin condition; specifically : DANDRUFF
2 a : something like flakes or scales adhering to a surface b : the foul remains of something adherent
3 a : a scaly deposit or covering on some plant parts; also : a localized or general darkening and roughening of a plant surface usually more pronounced than russeting b : a plant disease characterized by scurf
- scurfy /'sk&r-fE/ adjective

So you see how my mind runs. I like these words not only for the somewhat gross mental pictures they invite but also for the moral taint attached to them. Such poisonous tincture falls perfectly in line with pre-modern equations of illness and sin and points to issues discussed at length in Sontag's Illness as Metaphor and elsewhere. They become grouped together in my mind because they have similar meanings and similar sounds and I marvel at how frequently that coincidence occurs in English. In these cases particularly, the s, c, r, b and f sounds seem particularly suited to the meanings.

So if, in the future, you feel inclined to describe some dastardly fellow with bad skin who peddles porn, the words above should come in quite handy.

Note that in lieu of the OED I will be making greatest use of Merriam-Webster, to whom all the links above will lead you. Despite the annoying pop-up ads I like Merriam's inclusion of etymologies.

My next post, unless I become preoccupied by other words, will be a dilation on Bloviate and like terms.