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Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008
5:55 pm - What about bottle caps?


French philatélie, from phil- + Greek ateleia tax exemption, from atelēs free from tax, from a- + telos tax; perhaps akin to Greek tlēnai to bear; from the fact that a stamped letter frees the recipient from paying the mailing charges — more at tolerate
circa 1865

: the collection and study of postage and imprinted stamps : stamp collecting

— phil·a·tel·ic \ˌfi-lə-ˈte-lik\ adjective
— phil·a·tel·i·cal·ly \-li-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

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Sunday, January 20th, 2008
8:41 pm - We need some activity in here!

Pornocracy: A period from 904 to 963, in which the popes were influenced by their mistresses.

Read all about it!

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Sunday, January 6th, 2008
9:09 am - new word from the comics page

welkin: n. the sky; the vault of heaven; the upper air.

from O.E. wolcen, weolcen: cloud

Link to today's 9 Chickwood Lane (should remain active for a month or so).

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Wednesday, December 26th, 2007
12:44 am - scum

Scum is one of those fun self-antonyms (a la "cleave"): it means both "to remove the scum from" (as in the phrase "I scummed out the pool") and "to become covered with scum". (See also http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/scum.)

(Edit: found the above while looking up the etymology of scumbled, which is another good word, though presumably not obscure to painters.)

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Saturday, October 20th, 2007
11:20 am - A small offering.

Greetings, o ye wordhounds!

I come bearing my most beloved word in all English:

pulchritudinous (adj): Physically beautiful; comely.

I have a nasty habit of combining that one with a word I frequently see misused:

cornucopia (n): 1. Classical Mythology. a horn containing food, drink, etc., in endless supply, said to have been a horn of the goat Amalthaea.
2. a representation of this horn, used as a symbol of abundance.
3. an abundant, overflowing supply.
4. a horn-shaped or conical receptacle or ornament.
(That is to say, it means 'a lot of something', not 'a great variety of things'.)

resulting in my overuse of the phrase 'a veritable cornucopia of pulchritude' during particularly shmoopy moments.

Also, a question: Does anyone know the origin of the apparently Michigan-born phrase 'since who tied the cow'? That one's been bothering me for years.

current mood: amused

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Sunday, August 19th, 2007
9:42 pm

hexarchy - a group of six allied but independent states.

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Friday, June 22nd, 2007
9:16 am - Stertorous

ster·to·rous /ˈstɜrtərəs/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[stur-ter-uhs]adjective

1. characterized by stertor or heavy snoring.
2. breathing in this manner.

[Origin: 1795–1805; stertor + -ous]


ster·tor (stûr'tər)
n. A heavy snoring sound in respiration.

[New Latin, from Latin stertere, to snore.]



in a noisy and stertorous manner; "he was breathing stertorously"


current mood: geeky

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Wednesday, March 7th, 2007
10:49 am - ept

ept, adj. not inept

from the OED: 1967 New Yorker 11 Mar. 133/1 At the start of a season, the custom milliners are always full of ertia and eptitude - an attitude that I parage.

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Friday, February 16th, 2007
9:44 am - And when I haver,

Well I know I'm gonna be, I'm gonna be the man who's haverin' to you.

And I would walk five hundred miles...

The OED says that the verb 'haver' is chiefly Scottish and from some northern dialects, and means "To talk garrulously and foolishly; to talk nonsense."

A second meaning, apparently in "general English use", is "to hesitate, to be slow in deciding."

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Monday, January 22nd, 2007
12:51 am - persiflage

persiflage [pur-suh-flahzh, pair-]
1. light, bantering talk or writing.
2. a frivolous or flippant style of treating a subject.

Also, persifleur - one who engages in such.

The best part is that I just found this word used in a math forum.

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Wednesday, October 4th, 2006
12:49 pm - Words from Ulysses

Last night I started reading James Joyce's Ulysses. For the first eighteen pages, I kept a log of the words I didn't know the meanings of. Then I decided that this was taking too much time, so I stopped taking such notes. Anyway, here is a selection of words and their definitions, the latter usually based on those in the OED. They are in order of appearance in the book. (See also this page to see these words in context.)

untonsured: not having a shaven head

corpuscle: minute body, part of an organism

jejune: thin, meagre; unsatisfying to mind or sould

funk: state of panic

hyperborean: pertaining to the north of the earth, or (colloquially) of a country

breeks: sailor's wide trousers

bard: poet

lancet: surgical instrument with two edges and a point

oxy: looking like an ox

jalap: a purgative drug

mote: a twig

omphalos: centre of a place, area of activity

tripes: intestines, bowels

gaud: a piece of finery

phantasmal: having no material existence

hob: part of a fireplace

slaver: saliva

flagged: paved with slabs of marble or stone

prepuce: foreskin ("--The islanders, Mulligan said to Haines casually, speak frequently of the collector of prepuces.")

dug: udder

kine: cows

cuckquean: a female cuckold

stony: short for "stony broke", i.e., having no money

Agenbite of inwit: see here

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Wednesday, August 30th, 2006
2:17 am - Musical terms

Siciliana: a musical form often included as a movement within larger pieces of music starting in the Baroque period. It is in a slow 6/8 or 12/8 time with lilting rhythms making it somewhat resemble a slow jig, and is usually in a minor key.

Bolero: a 3/4 dance that originated in Spain in the late 18th century, a combination of the contradanza and the sevillana. It is danced by either a soloist or a couple. It is in a moderately slow tempo and is performed to music which is sung and accompanied by castanets and guitars with lyrics of five to seven syllables in each of four lines per verse. It is in triple time and usually has a triplet on the second beat of each bar.

Barcarolle: a folk song sung by Venetian gondoliers, or a piece of music composed in that style....A barcarolle is characterized by a rhythm reminiscent of the gondolier's stroke, almost invariably a moderate tempo 6/8 meter.

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Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006
6:38 am - fun with science

euhedral: adj. of or pertaining to a crystal with sharp, well-defined faces reflecting the internal symmetry of the atoms.

This is like stacking building blocks to make a cube instead of Voltron.

And, just in case you thought that only pedalians could be sesqui:
sesquioxide: n. a chemical containing three atoms of oxygen and two of the other constituent species. c.f. dioxide

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Thursday, July 13th, 2006
12:11 pm - raconteur

rac·on·teur n.
One who tells stories and anecdotes with skill and wit.

Usage: "Both [Oscar Wilde's] mother, Speranza, a passionate nationalist and poetess, and his father, William, a famous ear-and-eye physician, were known to be great raconteurs, and as a young boy Wilde himself learned a great deal about narrative style simply by listening to them tell stories."

From the Afterward by Jack Zipes to Complete Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde.

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Tuesday, July 11th, 2006
4:26 pm - Somewhy

It is fun to construct words such as the following. Most of them appear in the OED, and the descriptors in brackets are from what the OED says.

somewho (obsolete) - equivalent to 'someone' or 'somebody'.
somewhat - this is sometimes equivalent to 'something'. 1868 FREEMAN Norm. Conq. (1877) II. 88 He was also somewhat of a time-server.
somewhen (common in 19th century) - equivalent to 'sometime' or 'at sometime'.
somewhere - in use.
somewhy (rare) - equivalent to 'for some reason'.
somehow - in use.

anywho (not in OED) - equivalent to 'anyone'.
anywhat (obsolete) - equivalent to 'anything'.
anywhen (rare, but common in southern dialects) - equivalent to 'anytime' or 'at anytime'.
anywhere - in use.
anywhy (not in OED) - equivalent to 'for any reason'.
anyhow - in use.

Also, the OED lists the delightful 'somewhatly', which means 'somewhat' (obsolete and rare). c1425 St. Elizabeth of Spalbeck in Anglia VIII. 108 A whyte lynnen garnemente sumwhatly trailynge on {th}e erthe.

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Monday, May 22nd, 2006
5:54 pm - But no second word for synonym...

Ingeminate (in-jem'in-ate)- verb

To reiterate

Latin derivation (geminus - twin)

current mood: Exalted

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Wednesday, May 17th, 2006
4:53 am

terpsichorean (turp-si-kuh-REE-uhn, turp-si-KOR-ee-uhn, -KORE-) adjective

Of or relating to dancing.


A dancer.

[From Terpsichore, the Muse of dancing and choral song in Greek mythology.The word Terpsichore is the feminine form of terpsichoros (delighting inthe dance), a combination of Greek terpein (to delight) and khoros (dance),which is ultimately from Indo-European root gher- (to grasp or to enclose)that's also the source of chorus, carol, choir, garth, court, and garden.]

current mood: sleepy

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Sunday, May 14th, 2006
9:46 pm

titivate - to make smart or spruce. According to my dictionary, a combination of 'tidy' and '(ele)vate'

current mood: curious

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1:25 pm - Recap

I only learned just now that the verb 'recap' is a shortening of 'recapitulate'. It doesn't surprise me that it's short for something, but to me, 'recapitulate' should mean 'surrendering again'. Anyway.

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Tuesday, May 9th, 2006
7:43 pm - To my comrades within the granfalloon that is videlicit

I'm reading Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons by Kurt Vonnegut at the moment. In the preface, he defines these three words as follows:

"The title of this book is composed of three words from my novel Cat's Cradle. A wampeter is an object around which the lives of many otherwise unrelated people may revolve. The Holy Grail would be a case in point. Foma are harmless untruths, intended to comfort simple souls. An example: 'Prosperity is just around the corner.' A granfalloon is a proud and meaningless association of human beings."

I'd argue that "prosperity is just around the corner" isn't a particularly harmless thing to say, but the words are nevertheless fun.

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