Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “lexicon”

Word Nerds: Contronyms


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.”

Here’s a list to get a better idea:

bolt – to secure; to run away

cleave – separate, adhere

clip – fasten, detach

custom- usual, special

dust – add fine particles, remove fine particles

enjoin – prescribe, prohibit

fast – quick, unmoving

fix – restore, castrate

garnish – enhance (e.g., food), curtail (e.g., wages)

give out – produce, stop production

handicap – advantage, disadvantage

left – remaining, departed from

mean – average, excellent (e.g., “plays a mean game”)

out – visible (e.g., stars), invisible (e.g., lights)

put out – extinguish, generate (e.g., something putting out light)

quite – rather, completely

ravel – tangle, disentangle

sanction – approve, boycott

screen – show, hide

table – propose (in the United Kingdom), set aside (in the United States)

unbending – rigid, relaxing

weather – withstand, wear away

Talk about shades of ambiguity! Then again it keeps people on their toes to pay closer attention to the context to better understand the content.

Word Nerd: Kangaroo Words


Ah, words within words…

Kangaroo Word: A synonym within a word, like a little joey tucked away within the mama kangaroo.

alone=one

astound=stun

blossom =bloom

calumnies =lies

cavern=cave

contaminate=taint

dazzle=daze

enjoyment=joy

fabrication=fiction

honorable=noble

impair=mar

joviality =joy

lighted=lit

myself=me

nourished=nursed

observe=see

plagiarist=liar

quiescent =quiet

respite=rest

substandard=bad

A word within a word that reflects the host word—now that is a Word Nerd discovery of delight!

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 Nerd Confessions: February


Reader’s Digest is a fave to browse while in the numbing hold pattern of doctor office waiting or gym treadmill walking. I came across an article by Bill Bouldon, that cheered my lexiconal heart, one that involved new words that fit the times.

athlelargy: when the call of the recliner wins over the call of treadmill

blamestorming: the process of trying to pinpoint who is the reason for failure

cellfish: that person who make public their private phone conversations to all within listening range

destinesia: when you forget where you were going

ephinot: while it seemed like a bright idea it truly is not

fauxpology: the fake apology

illiteration: the mistaken knowledge of rhetorical devices

metox: taking a break from updating on social media

nonversation: meaningless chatter

pregret: knowing full well the course of action you are about to take is going to one of regret–but do so anyway

*sonergy: the energy that suddenly bursts from within upon seeing the sun after a period of gloomy weather

textpectation: the waiting for a text reply

*uberjoyed: getting a ride with a driver who gets you to your destination with expediency and courtesy

*my contribution

What new words can you think up that fill the bill for our changing times?

Word Nerd Confessions: September


I am smitten with a new-to-me word.

Let me first preface the unveiling of this word with a personal disclosure: if I were suddenly transformed into a flower it would be a sunflower. Their unique talent of keeping tuned in to the sun, turning their faces towards light, and following it throughout the day is something I understand.*

*sunflowers apparently follow the sun only when in the bud stage–once open they tend to face east, and this is attributed to protecting the seeds from the stronger rays of the south exposure (that is a smart flower!)

Here is a confession: I crave light. I revel in basking in sunlight. I have been accused of being a sun goddess (did not sound complimentary at the time), and I panic at the thought of being in a room without windows for a great length of time (my first year of teaching involved such a room). As long as I have daylight in some form I am content. Oh yay for my Happy Light.

I’m not keen on laying out in the sun for the sake of bronzing, yet I will do so, just to absorb the warmth, that therapeutic solar embrace. The tan is a by-product. I’m basically striving to store up remembrance of the sunlight for when winter hits my region. One student recently defined our winter as “except July and August”–slight exaggeration, but winters tend to be a solid six months around here.

Around October I wake up in darkness and finish the school day with the last rays setting. One teacher went to part-time because teaching in an interior room meant she never saw any light and it created havoc in her health. I have two windows in my present classroom and I am blessed and thankful.

Sunlight in winter. That’s a wonderful day. The snow can be up to the windows. The temperature can be dipping to stingy in warmth, yet if I can have the sun shine down and kiss my face before the cold requires covering, spring seems a reasonable distance I can bear.

So–

Apricity: the warmth of the sun in winter.

According to Merriam-Webster.com:

n. Apricity appears to have entered our language in 1623, when Henry Cockeram recorded (or possibly invented) it for his dictionary The English Dictionary; or, An Interpreter of Hard English Words. Despite the fact that it is a delightful word for a delightful thing it never quite caught on, and will not be found in any modern dictionary aside from the Oxford English Dictionary.

Another source defines it as:

the feeling of the sun on one’s skin in winter.”

Katie Williams,Tell the Machine Goodnight (2018)

And that is why this word from yesteryear needs a campaign to retrieve it out of the archaic word vaults and pin it up on the contemporary lines of expression.

Ah–Winter Sun

To feel the sun on my skin to offset the challenge of winter

Apricity: the bestowing of the sun’s restorative kisses, to bring warmth and sustenance to the gates of that bleak city called winter

An offering. A reprieve. A promise.

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