Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “Word Nerds”

Word Nerd Confessions: September 2020


Traditionally the month of September signifies the end of summer vacation and the return to school. September 2020 is the year of trying to attempting to educate during a pandemic. This month’s list seems to reflect an opinion on that essential issue. It’s indeed peculiar how the words happened to line up in this theme.

barmecidal: giving only the illusion of plenty

operose: done with or involving much labor

elide: to suppress; omit; pass over

slubber: to perform hastily or carelessly

outre: passing the bounds of what is usual or considered proper; unconventional; bizarre

horripilation: a bristling of the hair on the skin from cold, fear; goose bumps

strepitous: boisterous; noisy

chutzpah: audacity; nerve

oppidan: urban

peripeteia: a sudden turn of events

mythomane: a person with a strong or irresistible propensity for fantasizing, lying, or exaggerating

fettle: state; condition

blench: to shrink; flinch

cacoethes: an irresistible urge; mania

moil: to work hard; drudge

muzz: to confuse (someone)

moue: a pouting grimace

fardel: a bundle; a burden

succedaneum: a substitute

lassitude: weariness of body or mind from strain, oppressive climate; lack of energy; listlessness

stonking: used to emphasize something remarkable, exciting, or very large (thanks to Fiction Fan’s Book Reviews inspiring use)

Word Nerd Confessions: Confused and Misused


Affect or effect? Is it all right or alright? Was it a blatant or flagrant mistake?

This month’s focus is from
100 Words Almost Everyone Confuses & Misuses (American Heritage Dictionary)

Using the right word correctly is part art and part science. Knowing the word’s definitions is a start.

Affect: transitive verb 1. simulate, as in “He affected a suave demeanor with his knowledge of lexicon usage.” 2. to show a liking for, as in “She affects huckleberry gelato.” 3. to tend by nature, as in “We read how the weather affects health.”4. to imitate or copy: “Spenser, in affecting the ancients, writ no language (Ben Jonson, Timber) 5.to have an influence on as in “The rain affects the tourist economy.” 6. to attack or infect, as in “Pollen can affect allergies in spring.”

Affect: noun 1. feeling or emotion, as in “The music was selected for its thrill of affect.”2. obsolete

Now that affect is squared away, let’s get effect squared away:

Effect: noun 1. a result, as in “Every negative comment has a lasting effect on the final vote.” 2. influence, as in “The child’s laughter had an immediate effect on the crowd.” 3. advantage, as in “The teacher used the rainbow as a positive effect of the rainstorm.” 4. a scientific law 5. a condition on full force, as in “The hands free cell phone policy goes into effect July 1.” 6. creating an impression, as in “The tall ceiling effects the sense of dimension.” 7. basic meaning, as in “He said he would never return, or words to that effect.”

Why are affect and effect confused and misused? For one, they sound the same and are nearly spelled the same. However, affect is a primarily a verb, while effect is primarily a noun (it can be used as a verb as in producing a result: “The change is primarily effected by the mixing of breeds.”

No wonder there is confusion. Try to remember if it is an action (affect/verb) or a noun (effect), as in “The abundant harvest affected the workers in a way of relieving them of worry for the upcoming winter, which created an lasting effect of peace and assurance.”

Affect/effect is a major contender for the confused and misused category. Here are a few other entries:

All right/Alright. All right is the correct and accepted spelling, at least formally. Some confusion may arise since words like, altogether and already are in use and accepted, which seems to clear the usage of alright—but it’s not correct. We don’t say “meese” for the plural of moose because we say geese for the plural of goose.

Blatant/Flagrant. These are not interchangeable. Blatant means noisy or fail to hide while flagrant focuses on the intended wrongdoing. While blatant is often used to mean “obvious,” this is not an accepted usage. The sentence, “Sam admitted to his blatant lie” should be changed to “Sam admitted to his flagrant lie” since flagrant refers to being offensive rather than it being unpleasantly loud. Although if Sam screamed his lie at the top of his lungs maybe it is a case for being a blatantly flagrant fib.

Capital is the official recognized city government.

Capitol is a building where the state legislature convenes.

Complement completes, as in “The added mushrooms complements the stew ingredients.”

Compliment is to praise, as in “The diner complimented the chef’s ability to create a sumptuous lamb stew by adding mushrooms.

A council is an assembly of people who deliberate, while counsel is advice. I imagine those involved in the council receive counsel regarding their decisions.

Fewer/less. Ah, the quick checkout dilemma. Fewer is used when counting things, as in “There were fewer than five pizza slices.” Less is used in reference to mass of measurable content, as in “There is less than a quart of ice cream left.” So when at the grocery store and you are looking to quickly checkout with your handful of items, select the line that has the sign stating, “15 items or fewer.”

PET PEEVE ALERT

A. Hopefully it won’t rain on Saturday’s picnic.”

B. “It’s hoped it won’t rain on Saturday’s picnic.”

Which is the correct sentence? If you chose B you would please the lexiconical folk. If you selected A, you are among the majority. While A is most frequently used, it is not considered acceptable by grammarians—not really clear on why, but as in the way of most of our language. Note:once it becomes widely used it becomes accepted, just look at how “their” is now embraced as a singular pronoun instead of a plural one. I had to finally let my teacher red ink dry on that one.

Inflammable/flammable both mean easily ignited. Nonflammable indicates not being able to catch on fire. Don’t let the “in” prefix fool you.

Irregardless—don’t go there. This is a blunder. It might be a blend of irrespective and regardless but it is nonstandard, so walk away. Stay with regardless.

UPDATE: Webster’s Dictionary has acquiesced and has recently added irregardless to the dictionary—I wonder if usage or peer pressure is the deciding factor.

Lay/Lie. Quick and easy: lay is a transitive verb and takes a direct object (noun) (think what was laid)—“He laid the letter (what) on the desk.”

Lies is an intransitive verb and does not take a direct object, as in “Auntie lies down after working in the garden.” There is no noun, direct object—lie is the stated verb of action. *Sigh* I’m still working on this one.

PET PEEVE ALERT

“I could literally scream until I am red in the face the way people pop literally into their sentences.“

Nope. Literally used as an intensive is incorrect since it means to be taken in truth. If I screamed until my face turned red I best be heading to the ER for a possible heart attack commencing, because that is a fairly intense reaction. I should be using virtually or figuratively instead. The next time you hear a sentence like, “I laughed so hard I literally thought my insides would burst” I suggest one of the above substitutes or maybe a dust pan.

And last of all is the old favorite: A principle is a statement or belief of truth and a principal is the leader of the school—think of him as your pal, who wants to impart truths while you are at school.

Hopefully this cleared up some of the confusion; irregardless if I muddled up the explanations, I literally tried so hard to make it clear that my brains nearly fried.

I wouldn’t lay, um, lie about my intended affect on your attaining greater knowledge.

[Ha—Wordpress has yet to perfect their auto correct].

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: 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: 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…

Word Nerd Confessions: July


Summer is its own special time, especially July. It’s solidly summer: weather is warmish but not too uncomfortable, events are happening–outdoor concerts, craft fairs, and the like, the lake is tolerable not freezing, school is distant past and not a threat on the horizon.

July requires its own set of vocabulary:

serotinal:pertaining to or occurring in late summer (must be related to serotonin–that feel good chemical in our brain).

phub: to ignore (a person or one’s surroundings) when in a social situation by busying oneself with a phone or other mobile device (I admit to phubbing when at the park or beach–tuning out people to cocoon in my little bubble of perceived solitude–is this a bad thing though?).

tzimmes: fuss; uproar; hullabaloo (when temps get too warm crankiness arrives and tzimmes is a fitting word).

ergophobia:an abnormal fear of work; an aversion to work (self explanatory).

benighted: intellectually or morally ignorant; unenlightened (unfortunately, there is evidence of this behavior when out and about during summer, especially seen at the beach–oh my–do my students who are life guards have interesting days).

paseo: slow, leisurely walk or stroll (summer evenings when the temp drops a tad and the sun has just disappeared on the horizon, a paseo along the boardwalk after dinner is a lovely way to start/end the evening).

craic: fun and entertainment, especially good conversation and company (often precededby the–English derived, as in “wisecrack”).

solitudinarian: a person who seeks solitude; recluse (me, that’s me–give me a hammock, a book, and a soft breeze and I’ll be a-phubbing for hours).

deracinate: to remove or destroy utterly; extirpate (related to above as in socializing?)

ariose: songlike (“The ariose breeze filtering through the stand of pines added an extra appreciation of the fine quality of this July day.”)

biophilia: a love of life and the living world; the affinity of human beings for other life form (but not when they are benighted or phubbing).

sabulous: sandy or gritty (beach wear side effect)

cynosure: something that strongly attracts attention by its brilliance, interest, etc. (blue lake, hot day)

pasquinade: a satire or lampoon, especially one posted in a public place (like Taming of the Shrew as a performance in the park–good times having Shakespeare as a summer performance).

joyance: joyous feeling; gladness (that overall summer mood)

hygge: adj.--cozy and comforting; noun–the feeling of cozy and comforting (some may associate this with winter, but being snug in a backyard hammock with a cool breeze playing about is indeed cozy and comforting).

petrichor: a distinctive scent produced by rainfall in dry earth (there is a word for that amazing smell right after the rain hits the hot sidewalk–word nerdiness points!)

Heiligenschein: the ring of light around the shadow cast by a person’s head, especially on a dewy sunlit lawn; halo (you know that photo, the one where you notice that strange glow around the person’s head -“whoa, I didn’t know you were an angel! Look at your halo!)

viator: wayfarer or traveler (got my bags packed and my ticket to go)

vade meecum: something a person carries about for frequent or regular use (a book, of course–summer is prime reading time).

So that’s a batch of summertime words. There are some fabulous ones that I’m determined to slip into casual conversation.

“I see you got your vade meecum ready.

“Wow! Smell that petrichor!”

“Yup, me and the hubs got our bags packed–we’re just a couple of viators ready to hit the road.”

“Nothing like a well-done pasquinade to get a person laughing.”

“These summer concerts have a certain cynosure about them, don’t they?”

What two words are you going to work into a conversation?

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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