Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Words”

Bard Bits: Once Upon a Word


It’s been flung about how Shakespeare created around 1,700 words, some which we still use today, such as luggage, eyeball, and alligator. Unfortunately, many of the words used in Shakespeare’s time have changed meaning over time. And some of his words simply make no sense to our modern ears.

NO SENSE

auger-hole: tiny spot

bension: blessing

bodements: omens

bruited: reported

clept: called

coign: corner

corporal agent: muscle

foison: plenty

hilding: nasty beast or wretch

incarnadine: turn red

Jill: maid, drinking utensil

make boot: take advantage

SOME SENSE

all-thing: wholly

betimes: quickly

broad words: speaking freely

buzzard: worthless person

closet: room

father: old man

firstling: first

half a soul: halfwit

hart: male deer

in a few: briefly

moe: more

mortified: deadened

FAMILIAR ENOUGH

beholding: indebted

cloudy: sullen

complexion: disposition

coz: cousin

estate: social position; condition

free hearts: true feelings

groom: servant

hurlyburly: tumult

in a few: briefly

keep counsel: keep a secret

loose: let go

make to: approach

Word Nerd Confessions: June hi


This month we shall partake in enjoying learning about words that are about words or using words.

1. conlang: an artificially constructed language used by a group of speakers, as opposed to one that has naturally evolved–for example Klingon.

2. linguaphile: a language and word lover.

3. polysemy: a condition in which a single word, phrase, or concept has more than one meaning or connotation. For example, cleave means to separate and it can mean bring together. [semantics can be tricky on polysemic words]

4. sesquipededalian: given to long words.

5. epiphonema: a sentence that is an exclamation, a general or striking comment, or a succinct summary of what has previously been said.

6. contramine: a word that has opposite or nearly opposite meanings–let’s return to cleave, how it can mean “split” or “put together.”

7. breviloquent: speaking or expressed in a concise or terse style; brevity of speech.

8. quidnunc: a person who is eager to know the latest news and gossip; a gossip or busybody.

9. voluble: characterized by a ready and continuos flow of words.

10. lacuna: a gap or missing part, as in a manuscript, series, or logical argument.

Words about words. I love how sesquipededalian is the manifestation of its derivative. And what about quidnuc? Why doesn’t that one pop up more in more English village novels? I can’t help but be amused that breviloquent is not brief in formation. Definitely not a descriptive of Polonius. It’s also such a score to provide one exemplar twice, as in contramine and polysemy.

Which word is a standout for you?

Word Nerd: May


May’s batch is writerly in scope

Scrolling through my collection of gathered words I noticed several had a shared commonality with books, writing, or reading:

pseudepigraphy: attribution of authorship to a writer who did not write it; false inscription–usually refers to religious writings, as in biblical texts; however, fiction writers such as Nicholas Meyer who states he is the editor of memoirs of John Watson (who recounts cases of Sherlock Holmes).

fictioneer: a writer of fiction; a writer of mediocre fiction–does not sound like a compliment.

bibliophage: an avid reader–yup, although I just say I’m a Book Booster

donnish: bookish; pedantic–again, does not sound complimentary

wordie: someone enthusiastic about words–not to be confused with someone who is “wordy” (a talker of extreme verbosity)

sic: so; thus; as written–[sic] which usually means the writer is saying “that’s what they said; it’s not my mistake.

bromide: a trite saying or an aid to produce sleepiness–if a saying is boring enough I supposed someone would fall asleep

What words strike your fancy from this month’s list?

Word Nerd Confessions: February


Having just enjoyed a lovely Valentine’s Day weekend (actually it was a gotta-get-outta-the-snow escape) I am relaxed and ready with a new outlook that should see me through the rest of winter. Longer days and bluer skies make a difference in maintaining a cheerful outlook. 

As a celebrant of fresher weather ahead, I’ve pulled some words out of storage that produced a bit a happy when first discovered. 

1. kvell: to be extraordinarily pleased; especially to be bursting with pride, as over one’s family.

2. persiflage: light bantering talk or writing.

3. rax: to stretch oneself, as after napping [nite: it took four times for auto-check that “rax” is the word I actually wanted, not “fax” or even “dad”]

4. prevenance: special care in anticipating or catering to the needs and pleasures of others.

5. gallimaufry: a hodgepodge;  humble;confused medley.

6. snarf: to eat quickly and voraciously [I didn’t realize this is a legitimate word–it’s been a part of my lexicon ever so long].

7. deipnosophist: a person who is an adept conversationalist at a meal.

8. oneiric: of or relating to dreams.

9. trangam: an odd gadget; trinket.

10. flaneur: idler; dawdler; loafer [thus definition doesn’t describe the full concept–go here to discover what a flaneur is all about]. 

Word Nerd Confessions: January


Ah, January. Mixed feelings about this calendar month. While I embrace turning the corner into a new year with all that freshness and anticipation that goes with flipping to a new date, I do not embrace how January in our parts is the “definitely winter is here” month. For instance:

Overnight storm compilation. More to come *sigh*

A bit of the doldrums occur in January, what with the cold weather, shorter days, lack of landscape color, and growing stack of assignments to grade as the semester’s close approaches.

SO–

This month’s collection of words calls for amusing, or downright quirky lexicon.

1. pawky: cunning, sly

2. pettifog: to bicker or quibble over insignificant matters

3. jactation: boasting; bragging

4. fecund: creative intellectually

5. appellative: a descriptive name as Reepicheep the Valiant

6. orgulous: haughty; proud

7. remora: hindrance or obstacle

8. fulgrant: flashing like lightning

9. omphaloskepsis: contemplating one’s navel

10. daffing: merriment; playful behavior

Hmm, during the remainder of January I shall endeavor to be pawky in how to approach my doldrums in order to avoid fulgrant irritability that leads to pettifog since an abundance of snow is a remora to becoming fecund.Perhaps I shall become so stoic and earn an appellative name: Cricket the Winter Muse, then again that might entail jactation leading to an orgulous reputation. On the other hand excess winter could cause my resolve to slip into dithering and omphaloskepsis.

Word Nerd Confessions: December


‘Tis December and 2019 is rapidly diminishing. Time to air out the Word Bin and see what needs clearing out to make room for next year’s batch of dictionary delights.

1. nugacity: triviality; insignificance

2. librate: to remain poised or balanced

3. neoteric: new or recent

4. facetiae: witty or amusing remarks or writing

5. obscurantism: the opposition of the spread of knowledge

6. anthophobia: an unnatural fear of flowers

7. frisson: a sudden thrill of emotion

8. guddle: to catch a fish with one’s hands in a river or stream

9. bombinate: to make a humming or buzzing noise

10. perspicacity: a keenness of mental perception

11. alameda: a public walk shaded with trees

12. otiose: indolent; idle; being at ease

13. Delphic: obscure; ambiguous

14. nebulated: having distinct markings as in a bird or animal

15. orgulous: haughty or proud

Now that the Word Bin is a bit tidier I look forward to filling it full once again. Honestly, I’m not sure how some of these words snuck into the company of the others. Guddle? Librate? Frisson? Not sure when those will come up in conversation. Then one never knows. Excuse me while I go chase down these liberated diction.

Come back…I didn’t mean it…

Word Nerds: November


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November is Thanksgiving month. I do relish Thanksgiving: food, friends, family and no huge commercial hype. Thanksgiving involves a banquet of good times, good food, good company. In connection with bounty I offer a cornucopia of words this month, a hodgepodge to feast upon. Enjoy!

hyetal: relating to rainfall

pococurante: indifferent

forgetive: creative; inventive

paraph: the flourish after one’s signature

flubdub: pretentious; putting on airs

congeries: a collection of parts in one mass

vitiate: to impair the quality of something; spoil

causerie: an informal chat or talk

improbity: a lack of morals or honesty; perseverance

arctophile: a collector of Teddy bears.

Image result for a collection of teddy bears

squiz: to peer at quickly and closely.

anodyne: anything that relieves pain or distress

kyoodle: to bark or yelp noisily or foolishly; yap

embosk: to hide amongst greenery

exoteric: commonplace; suitable to be communicated to the general public

Isn’t that a succulent succotash of wordage? Got your appetizers, main course and dessert all in one place. What do you propose dining upon?

Suggested Menu

Appetizer: “squiz” as in glancing over the table for particular favorites

Salad or Soup Course: “exoteric” so as to appeal to even the bland dietary needs of Aunt Polly

Main Course: “congeries” because they are in season and are filling without creating havoc digestion wise leaving room for dessert

Dessert: “paraph” since they are individual and provide a unique aftertaste

After dinner the following can be available:

Anodynes due to the kyoodling of Aunt Polly’s poodles which always vitiate the meal; however, one can endeavor to pococurante the noisome nonsense and savor the causerie.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Word Nerd Confessions: October


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I might have mentioned it before that my heritage harkens back to the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Since that discovery I have grown more aware of all that is Scottish. This month I favor words that have Scottish roots. I might have to dedicate a post to famous Scots. I do enjoy listening to David Tennant and his broguish wit.

Who has the knack for Scottish wit and bravado? The Doctor, of course.

grumphie: a pig

hooly: gently

sennachie: a storyteller

blellum: an indiscreet talker

atweel: surely

shavie: a trick or a prank

I’ve come across other Scottish words in my readings of authors such as D.E. Stevenson and Allan MacKinnon that leave me puzzled to the point of setting my book down and searching out its meaning.

One of the words that stumped me was “ken.” Sentences like, “I ken your meaning,” really threw me. Context sleuthing pointed me towards understanding, but I finally looked it up and got this from dictionary. com:

verb (used with object),  kenned or kent, ken·ning.

Chiefly Scot.

  1. to know, have knowledge of or about, or be acquainted with (a person or thing).
  2. to understand or perceive (an idea or situation).

Scots Law. to acknowledge as heir; recognize by a judicial act.Archaic. to see; descry; recognize.

To “ken” something means to have a deeper understanding that just a mere acknowledgement. It’s one of those words that doesn’t translate well out of its cultural context–I ken that some words do better in their home language.

What Scottish words have you come across? Better yet, which of the above is one you are adopting? I’m leaning towards grumphie, as I do enjoy Guinea pigs. Then again, tossing out hooly at the right instance could be satisfying.

Why We Say: Oh, “G”


Why are jokes considered a “gag”?
The term is originally from the days (as is today) when actors would toss in an ad libbed line to throw another actor off his own lines. Often this change up in the script would stop the actor from talking as effectively as being gagged and silenced. Isn’t the hope there is a gag reel why we buy the DVD?

Why does someone “run the gamut” ?
“Gamma” is the last note on the Guido d’Arezzo music scale with “ut” representing the first note sung. If someone goes through the “gamut” they are basically going from one end to the other.

Image result for getting your goat expression
Don’t horse around with my goat…

What is meant by “getting someone’s goat”?
Apparently in the horse racing world a nervous horse in the gate can be calmed by the presence of a goat. Unscrupulous owners might try to turn the race towards their favor by taking their rival’s goat. That’s baaadd business.

How is “being on good footing” an indication of rank with someone?
During the reign of England’s King Henry VIII a person’s social standing could be measured by his shoe. Peasants typically wore small shoes, being insignificant on the grand scale of social importance. The closer to the king, the larger the shoe. Hmm, wasn’t Henry known to be of dubious sole and a heel?

Image result for shoes king henry VIII wore
If the shoe fits?

Why do we call idle chatter “gossip”?
In earlier times godparents were called “God-sibbs” with “sibb” meaning “related.” Godparents were usually selected among distant relatives who, it is said, when they met at gatherings, such as christenings, were known to exchange news and tidbits. These idle chatter became associated with God-sibbs and slipped into “gossip.”

How did “guy” come into use?
The British expression “guy” refers to someone who is not respected from the revolutionary Guy Fawkes, who lead the 1605 Gunpowder plot. In America, the term comes from the circus reference to the “guy wire” the main wire that holds up the tent which meant refer to who is in charge when one asks for the “main guy.” Today “guy” is more or less a general term for people.

Well, “G” that’s it for this month for another round of Why We Say based on findings from the Dictionary of Word Origins: A History of the Words, Expressions, and Cliches We Use by Jordan Almond.

Word Nerd Confessions: August


August—I barely got to know July. August is the wind down month of summer. July is mostly vacationing and relaxing and reading and visiting–lots of ongoing “ing” things in July.

August whispers “school” a little bit louder as each calendar day flips by. I like school, teaching, my students–I just like summer vacation to last a bit longer.

This month’s words represent an assortment of ideas related to the last month of summer.

ken: knowledge, understanding, or cognizance; mental perceptions (I have a ken that school is starting sooner than later at this point of summer).

tub-thump: to promote something or express opinions vociferously (There are those who tub-thump whether school should start in August or in September).

velitation: a minor dispute or contest (See above concerning school start times).

grok: to understand thoroughly and intuitively (This is from Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein–I grok that summer is special due to its ephemeral nature).

ferly: something unusual, strange, or causing wonder or terror (The August fair usually has a ferly–like those weird vegetables that show up in displays–you know, the zucchini that resembles Richard Nixon or the monstrously large rabbit in the 4H competition).

mump: to mumble; mutter (I’m trying not to mump about summer dissipating).

brontide: a rumbling noise heard occasionally in some parts of the world, probably caused by seismic activity (A brontide was reported last August on the 31 as families stampeded Walmart to purchase school supplies before started after Labor Day).

makebate: a person who causes contention or discord (Who wants to be the makebate who meets people in the store and says, “Only 9 days until our first staff meeting).

calescent: growing warm; increasing in heat (The first week of school usually produces calescent classrooms due to the school not bothering to install air conditioning because heat exhaustion helps retain information. At least that’s what the theory must have been when they built the school).

littoral: or or relating to the shore of a lake, sea, or ocean (This is not to be confused with “literally,” as in “I will literally be littoral, grabbing last minute beach time before school starts).

prima facie: plain or clear; self-evident; obvious (Yes, my denial of the inevitability of school starting soon smacks of prima facie realization).

ineluctable: incapable of being evaded; inescapable (The ineluctable red calender circles indicate the end of summer and the start of staff meetings).

fillip: anything that tends to rouse, excite, or revive; a stimulus (Labor Day weekend is definitely a fillip, in terms of celebrating one last weekend without grading essays).

rutilant: glowing or glittering with ruddy or golden light (those rutilant summer evenings after the last rays of the sun radiates through the trees–*sigh*).

totsiens: until we meet again; goodbye (See ya, summer–totsiens, for now).

And what summer-flavored word might have been your favorite? Pick two or three…

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