Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “definitions”

Why We Say: Learn by Heart to Lump It


An enlightening resource of why we say

Learn by heart: Think back–are there any poems that you had to learn in school, ones that you still remember and can recite? That, my friend, is an example of memorizing, which the Greeks considered learning by heart since they thought the heart, not the mind, was the seat of thought. Learn by mind, doesn’t quite have the same ring, does it? Maybe it’s because the heart is the seat of emotion and when we learn something with our heart, we feel it more.

Lick into shape: Summer is here, I’ve got some time off from work, so I’m going to take on the weeding and really lick the yard into shape. Getting something that is somewhat messy, into a more acceptable form is the usual connotation behind this expression. In actuality? It was once thought that bear cubs were born shapeless and in order to form them up into respectable bear, the mother had to literally lick them into shape. No–I am not going to apply that particular technique to beautifying my yard.

Lily-livered: To be called a coward is one thing, but to be called a lily-livered coward–oh, the shame. The Greeks, once again, possessed an interesting anatomically belief. They believed the liver, not the heart, held passion [see above about learn by heart], and the bile produced indicated a person’s disposition: dark bile indicated strong passion; light bile indicated weakness. However, white bile or lily colored bile meant the person had no courage at all. My question is: how did a person produce the bile? Maybe I don’t want to know. Actually, I don’t want to know at all.

Lock, stock, and barrel: When something is completed this expression is often shared, as in, “I packed up the camper for the trip–everything’s ready to go–lock, stock, and barrel. This expression goes back to the days when depending on a gun being ready to go, as in the three parts: the lock (firing mechanism), the main piece (stock), and barrel, had to pass a readiness check.

Lump it: “You can like it or lump it.” If you have participated in a quarrel, sibling quarrels are a good example, this expression might get tossed out. It refers to how faces are a bit misshapen after crying. If someone doesn’t get their way, they might have a good cry or pout, making their face look lumpy. Basically, accept the situation or get bent out of shape (which is probably another Why We Say investigative entry).

Which expressions are in your vernacular range?

Are they all too old-fashioned?

Is there an expression that you are ever so glad the puzzle of meaning has been revealed?

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 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 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: September


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September equals schoolish thoughts. Here are some words that get us on track for edumacating (which is found in the Urban Dictionary) our minds:

nisus (noun): an effort or striving toward a particular goal or attainment; impulse. “Receiving stellar marks is a worthy nisus,” noted the counselor upon hearing the student’s dream of attending Vassar.

intellection (noun): the action or process of understanding; the exercise of the intellect;  reasoning;a particular act of the intellect;a conception or idea as the result of such an act; notion; thought. The purpose of a sound education is to increase one’s intellection.

brio (noun):
vigor; vivacity. “One must continue with tenacity and brio,” the teacher encouraged her students already showing signs of Senioritis.

vinculum (noun):
a bond signifying union or unity; tie. After spending nearly twelve years together in school, the seniors form quite a vinculum by the time they graduate.

august (adj): inspiring reverence or admiration; of supreme dignity or grandeur; 
majestic. An august performance of academics is not usually expected of students in September.

athenaeum (noun):
an institution for the promotion of literary or scientific learning; a library or reading room. The teacher momentarily stymied her students when she announced, “We are going to check out your books in the athenaeum.”

solecism (noun): a nonstandard or ungrammatical usage, as unflammable and they was. solecism (noun):

diapason (noun):
a full, rich outpouring of melodious sound. The band teacher smiled in rapture at the unexpected diapason when the first piece was played by his fall students.

hypocorism (noun):
a pet name. Students referred to the principal, Mr. Alderson, as Sonny–never to his open acknowledgement, of course.

sequacious (adj):
following with smooth or logical regularity. The kindergarten teacher held her breath as she led her students down the hallway, hoping they would do so in a sequacious fashion and not fan out like distracted duckling like the last time.

excogitate (verb):
to think out; devise; invent.to study intently and carefully in order to grasp or comprehend fully. “One must practice excogitation to fully appreciate James Joyce, ” the English teacher encouraged her students. Silence was her reply.

sennight (noun): a week. The first seven days of school makes for a long sennight.

bezonian (noun):
an indigent rascal; scoundrel. Mr. Jameson felt a headache forming as he checked his roster of new students and noticed Bobby Mack’s name, who had earned a reputation as a bezonian among last year’s students.

lateritious (adj):
of the color of brick; brick-red. Loren always associated education with a lateritious feeling, perhaps due to all her schools being old-fashioned brick buildings.

mea culpa (noun): “my fault!” an acknowledgment of one’s responsibility for a fault or error. Julius Caesar as a student might have admitted “mea culpa!” as opposed to the modern counterpart of “my bad!”

omnifarious (adj):
of all forms, varieties, or kinds. As the students walked in through the front doors it became clear to the admin staff greeting them that they were in for quite a year as the omnifarious batch of teenagers sauntered on towards their classes. Strangely enough, the students were thinking the same of the staff.

manque‘(adj):
having failed, missed, or fallen short, especially because of circumstances or a defect of character; unsuccessful; unfulfilled or frustrated: The teachers gathered and conferred about the manque of several students not having produced a single completed homework assignment all semester.

contextomy (noun):
the practice of misquoting someone by shortening the quotation or by leaving out surrounding  words or  sentences  that  would  place  the  quotation in context. Winston Churchill’s famous WWII speech has fallen under contextomy as most people quote him as saying “Blood, sweat, and tears,” when he actual said “Blood, toil, tears, and sweat.”

univocal (noun):
having only one meaning; unambiguous. “Late is late,” the teacher reminded the student who traipsed in four minutes after the bell rang. “Late is univocal.”

hypnopedia (noun): sleep learning. Placing her French textbook under her pillow at night proved to be an ineffectual attempt at hypnopedia.

And there is your September batch of Word Nerds. True to course here is a short quiz.

  1. Sleep learning is associated with what word?
  2. Nefarious sounds quite a bit like which word?
  3. Sennight means?
  4. What word might a choir teacher appreciate?
  5. Why might having brio be considered a compliment?

Well, what did you learn today? BtW, if you scored at least 4/5 you may pull out your SSR book and read the last five minutes of class.

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…

Why We Say: D-zone


Continuing on with the exploration of everyday words and phrases that may baffle, irritate, or even amaze us, is a selection from the “D” chapter of Dictionary of Word Origins by Jordan Almond.

Dessert

We save the last course of a meal as “dessert” which comes from the French word desservir: to clear the table. The practice was to remove the table cloth to serve the last course. Today we remove the dinner plates to make room for that sweet end to a good meal.

Desserts spelled backward is stressed. Don’t stress out about eating desserts.

Dirt Cheap

No surprise here–dirt is cheap because it’s free. That is, unless you decide to have it delivered from one of the schmancy garden places.

Dog Days of Summer

Those really hot searing days that pop up during summer? The ones where being outside is misery? The Romans blamed those toasty times on the stars–Siriusly. That would be Sirius, the Dog Star. It was thought that Sirius got a bit hotter due to its rising with the sun. Those hot dog days were called cuniculares dies.

Double-Cross

I think of Jimmy Cagney when I hear “double-cross.” Actually I think of Bugs Bunny imitating Jimmy Cagney saying “you dirty double-crossing rat.” Then again. Monty Python gets it right as well:

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What’s it mean? In prize fighting, if a fighter intentionally lost a fight he “crosses up” both the spectators and those who bet on him. If he wins after the cross up he affects his manager and those who bet on him to lose. The two cross ups make for the “double cross.” Why Jimmy Cagney says it is a bit perplexing, although one could argue he is a bit of a fighter.

Down a Peg

The British Navy had a custom in which the ship’s colors were raised to recognize visiting dignitaries–the higher the colors, the greater the honor. Taking the colors down a peg indicated a decrease in honor.

Dressed to the Nines

Old English is responsible for this one. Someone who was “dressed to the eyne” was dressed “to the eyes” which is basically being dressed “up to the ears” something we just don’t say, even though logically we basically are.

Dressing Down

Having dressed up (to the ears) it makes sense that taking off clothes would be “dressing down.” Not so. A butcher preparing beef for market will slice the animal’s carcass. In the same manner, a person who receives a tongue lashing full of cutting remarks is getting a “dressing down.”

This…

Not this…

Dude

One of the most obsequious words going. This word stems from dudde, the Middle English word meaning “to dress.” Later down the road, an Easterner who went West in a fancy outfit discerned an attitude by the Westerners. Basically “dude” is a smash up of “dud” and “attitude.” Somehow that works for the Simpsons.

Tune in next month for more explanations, descriptions, and epiphanies.

Word Nerd Confessions: June


Still sweeping out the collection of words drifting about in the corners of my word collecting bag.

Speaking of bags:

1. musette: a small leather or canvas bag with a shoulder strap, used for carrying personal belongings, food, etc.

2. saggitate: shaped like an arrowhead

3. literam: letter for letter; literally

4. gerontocracy: a government in which old people rule (I’m not making this up!)

5.  dundrearies: long full sideburns or muttonchop whiskers

6. bedizen: to dress in a showy or tasteless manner.

7. suspiration: a long deep sigh (a favorite–note the italic–but how to use it in a sentence?)

8.  quodlibet: subtle or elaborate argument or point of debate, usually on a theological  or scholastic subject.

9. instauration: renewal; restoration; renovation

10. fenestrated: having windows (this is such a cool word–I get extra nerdy upon hearing “fensteration” or “fenestrated” in a sentence).

11.  epistemic: of or relating to knowledge or the conditions for acquiring it.

12. oblivescence: the process of forgetting (more and more my life is this word)

13. crump: to make a crunching sound, as in walking over snow, or as snow when trodden on (I fully intend on finding a way to apply “crump” in a story–it’s too amazing of a word to leave sitting on the bench waiting for wordplay).

14. fiddle-footed: restlessly wandering

15. objurgate: to reproach or denounce vehemently; upbraid harshly; berate sharply (sounds close to regurgitate–throwing up angry words?)

And that’s May’s edition of Word Nerd.

May no one objurgate upon your quest towards epistemic persistence as you crump along the path of knowledge which could render a suspiration of frustration (not to be confused with fenestration, although not finding an open window when needed can be frustrating) upon finding yourself stuck in a gerontocracy in which the leaders tend towards bedizen attire evidenced by their dundrearies. Ignore the proclivity towards quodlibets with these politicians and pack up your musette and go on a fiddle-foot tour of nature to achieve instauration from worldly concerns. Celebrate oblivescence of worldly matters. Celebrate the little joys such as the finding of  sagittate treasures upon nature’s path. The literatim of life does not have to be dreary–crump on to finding contentment!

Crump twice–Word Nerd points…

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