The word bank is beginning to burst forth once again with the many marvelous lexiconical delights gathered. Time to set a few free to frolic unfettered and perhaps adopted by word discerners, like you.
yakka: work, especially hard work. Teaching these days is yakka, yakka, yakka.
gnomon: the raised part of a sundial that casts the shadow. It’s nice knowing about the gnomon.
ataraxia: a state of freedom from emotional disturbance and anxiety; tranquility. The last couple of years of covid controversy leads to the need of some ataraxia.
whigmaleerie: a whimsical or fanciful ornament or contrivance; gimmick. Is a whirligig kin to a whigmaleerie?
skookum: large; powerful; impressive. A snookumcould be a skookum.
tchotchke: an inexpensive souvenir, trinket. Perhaps a whigmaleerie can be a tchotchke.
wintle: to tumble over; capsize. I would appreciate an Austen heroine to wintle in an appropriate moment.
mussitation: silent movement of the lips in simulation of the movements made in audible speech. It’s more than just talking to one’s self.
armscye: the armhole opening in a garment through which the hand, and then the arm, passes, and to which a sleeve may be attached. So that’s what’s it’s called.
zugzwang: in chess, a situation in which a player is limited to moves that cost pieces or have a damaging positional effect. Does checkers possess such a term?
Definitely an eclectic assortment that deserve finding their way into your personal dictionary. Which words will you wangle into your next conversation?
The “B” section is booming with cliché phrases. All these are from Christine Ammer’s Have a Nice Day–No Problem: A Dictionary of Clichés.
Backseat driver: unwanted advice. In the 1920’s, those who could afford to do so, engaged a chauffer to drive them. The chauffer sat up front and the passenger or employer sat in the back and gave their driver instructions. Today the term applies to someone giving what they perceive as helpful advice, usually to the chagrin to the person doing the task. Other applicable phrases are Armchair General and Monday-Morning Quarterback.
Back to square one: back to the beginning Though it sounds like a math problem, thoughts on this one are related to games where the start is a square, as in hopscotch or in a number of board games. Putting in hard work only to start over is frustrating and this term goes with back to the drawing board when the blueprints don’t pan out.
Back to the salt mines: returning to work At one point in history, Russian prisoners during communist times were sent to work in the Siberian salt mines. While coming off of break can be tough, it probably is easier going that chipping away at rocks.
(The) ball is in your court: take your turn A current expression from sports, which is attributed in the mid 20th century which is said when one person is a)being polite b)pushing the other person to take their turn c)a strategy to get the other person to reveal their intentions through action or words.
Bald face or barefaced liar/lie: an obvious, if not bold untruth. Bare could be brazen, but it is likely is related to “beardless” which connects to only the young (not old enough to grow a beard yet) could so unashamedly tell such outrageous lies.
(To) bark up the wrong tree: waste time or effort going in the wrong direction Once when hunting racoons with dogs was prevalent, sometimes dogs, so pleased with themselves, would bound up to a tree so sure they had caught the varmint, would bark to their owners their success. Raccoons, being the clever creatures that they are often led the dogs astray by jumping to another tree or applying some other witty escape strategy. For those out there thinking they have solved the problem through what seems to be a long and productive chase, they might find themselves baying at empty branches and must go back to square one.
(To have) bats in one’s belfry: deemed slightly crazy Bats in flight fly in a more irregular than regular pattern. At one time people watching bat flight thought the irregular flight reflected how bats thought–erratically. Since then it has been proven bats have a sophisticated flying system that employs sonar which keeps them from bumping into obstacles. While belfrys are not much in current use, one might be considered batty if their thoughts or speaking seems random, which might at first seem like an insult, yet it’s actually a compliment since bats are considered sophisticated creatures.
(To) beard the lion: to take a risk If you haven’t heard this term recently, that makes two of us. Considered cliché for over a century, this phrase has Biblical roots coming from when David related how by grabbing a lion by its beard he slew him. Facing danger and vanquishing it is one thing, grabbing lions is quite another. Granted, David showed his bravery. Look how this lion’s beard–that’s up close and personal.
Beat (scare) the living daylights out of: to punish or scare someone tremendously A 19th century American colloquialism for a person’s internal organs was “daylights.” To punish or scare someone so severely that there innards would fall out is indeed severe.
Bed or roses: an implied place of comfort Metaphorically, lying in a bed of roses sounds pleasant, being surrounded by the fragrant petals. However, there are thorns to consider. And a literal bed of roses demands constant care, so this phrase implies the opposite, as in the situation is not comfortable.
This exchange is usually related to someone feeling a bit ill, and someone noticing it. Why “under the weather” not “in the weather” or even “weathering through it?” The idea goes back to the situation of when a new recruit on a ship gets seasick. Hanging out and over the rail can involve facing the wind, so it makes sense to get out of the wind by crouching under the bulwarks or getting under the weather. Perhaps the next time you’re feeling queasy consider ducking down and nodding your head “yes.”
Up to Scratch
Who would have thought meeting someone’s expectations would have developed from not throwing a punch too soon. In older prize fighting days a line was marked on the ground and the fighters met there. However, if either one stepped over the line they would be disqualified since they were expected to meet up to the scratch.
Up to Snuff
Speaking of being up to scratch, there is also being up to snuff–no fighting involved. This saying stems from how the sense of smell is one of our most sensitive senses. Think about when you have a cold, the sense of smell is dampened. Therefore, if someone is feeling well then it means they can sniff well or is that they are up to snuffing.
They say upper society is the upper crust. Crust of what? Bread. At that time in history the best part of the bread was the crust, so those of the upper class could afford the best, especially bread. And if the best of the bread is the top part of the bread then the upper class, the top of society is the upper crust.
I was quite chuffed, having received quite a positive response from my Kangaroo Words post.
And there it was—another strange lexiconical usage of a word. You see “chuffed” (British slang) can mean one is pleased or displeased. It becomes its own antonym. These words are known as “contronyms.”
Some say (including the hubs) “nerd” is derogatory. I’m of the opinion a nerd is less of an insult and more of an endearment, or at least an acknowledgement of pursuing a passion with zeal, that others might not embrace. For instance, the movie The Nutty Professor, had the singular inventor trying to prove his “flubber” invention. Deemed eccentric, the professor for all his nerdy qualities became a hero. All those computer geniuses (now CEOs and billionaires) were no doubt shuffled into the nerd nomenclature in their tinkering phase. I see “nerd” as an alternate spelling of “clever,” besides the assonance of “Word Nerd” is cool sounding.
Onward to this month’s batch of words—although if you want to jump in with your thoughts about nerds, I am much interested.
1. bight: a bend in the river or the shore of the sea.
2. limb: to portray with words; describe.
3. comity: mutual courtesy; civility
4. sobriquet: nickname
5. epizeuxis: a literary or rhetorical device that appeals to or invokes the reader’s or listener’s emotions through the repetition of words in quick succession. An example:
6. inanition: lack of vigor, lethargy
7. juberous: uncertain; undecided;dubious
8. aroint: begone as in “Aroint thy, scalawag!”
9. legerity: physical or mental quickness; agility
10. doddle: something easily done. Fixing the flat tire wasn’t a problem at all—it was a doddle.
11. blatherskite: someone given to empty talk.
12. spang: directly; exactly
13. butyraceous: containing or resembling butter.
14. cachinnate: to laugh loudly or immoderately.
15. illation: an inference; a conclusion
16. totis viribus: with all one’s might
17. ambivert: a person between an extrovert and an introvert*
18. caduceus: dropping off early as in The leaves were noticed to have a caduceus departure this autumn.
19. mardy: grumpy, sulky
20. clement: mild in disposition; compassionate
*this word, ambivert, solves the puzzle of designation. A few within my circle have often contemplated how to most accurately describe our situation of being known as social, even boisterous, yet reluctant at joining large gatherings. Suggestions have included “high-functioning introvert” or “gregarious hermit.” The classification of “ambivert” seems acceptable, although the desire to write with either my left of right hand suddenly becomes immediate.
What words leapt out at you as keepers this month?
May I get personal? An ambivert perhaps you are? (Yoda syntax is less intrusive)