High-Vocabulary Word of the Day

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Archive for July, 2010

Risible

Posted by kazvorpal on July 31, 2010


Risible

Laughable, ridiculous

This word once meant “capable of laughter”, like “Man is a risible animal”, but it’s meaning has transferred from active to passive, the same error as using “done” to mean “finished”.

Examples:

The reciprocal civility of authors is one of the most risible scenes in the farce of life.
Samuel Johnson, The Life of Browne (1756)

The adventure of the fulling-mills in Don Quixote, is extremely risible, so is the scene where Sancho, in a dark night, tumbling into a pit, and attaching himself to the side by hand and foot, hangs there in terrible dismay till the morning, when he discovers himself to be within a foot of the bottom.
— Lord Henry Home Kames, Elements of Criticism (1761)

Orwell’s attempt to connect the leader of the Petrograd Soviet to the stalwarts of “Dad’s Army” is nearly, but not quite, risible.
Christopher Hitchens, Why Orwell Matters (2002)

Etymology:

Risus is latin the past tense of ridere, to laugh, so this can be remembered as coming from the same word as “ridicule”, however different it now sounds.

Posted in humor, rhetoric | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Malamanteau

Posted by kazvorpal on July 29, 2010


Malamanteau

A neologism for a portmanteau created by incorrectly combining a malapropism with a neologism.

It is itself a portmanteau of “malapropism” and “portmanteau”

Examples:

Malamanteau is a cromulent word
Randall Munroe, (∞)

Etymology:

Mala is Greek for “bad”, manteau is French for “cloak” (same origin as the word mantle)

Posted in humor, poetry | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Logolepsy

Posted by kazvorpal on July 28, 2010


Logolepsy

n. A severe fascination or obsession with words

Pretty straighforward

Examples:

Thanks to the magic of teleconferencing, often the format for a given show is call-in, and the phones and airwaves crackle with logolepsy.
— Richard Lederer, A Man of My Words (2003)

A case of logolepsy is easily distinguished from the perfectly sane mood which demands and imperiosly seizes the pregnant sign, and makes it the exponent of a hidden power.
— Maurice Thompson, My winter garden: a nature-lover under southern skies (1900)

Etymology:

Logos is Greek for “word”, -lepsy is Greek, “to seize”


Posted in Grammar / Syntax, Knowledge | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Ablution

Posted by kazvorpal on July 26, 2010


Ablution

Cleansing with water, literally or metaphorically

This word was often used when the purification achieved had a religious backing, as in Islam and Christianity, but when Christian purification spread to the 19th century Victorian obsession with cleanliness, this word went with it.

Examples:

Bright star! would I were stedfast as thou art-
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure
ablution round earth’s human shores.
John Keats, Bright Star (1819)

If his ankles be weak, let them every morning be bathed, after the completion of his morning’s ablution, for five minutes each time, with bay salt and water…
— Pye Henry Chavasse, “Advice to a mother on the management of her children” (1868)

In the center of the court is a large fountain, and a small stream surrounds the piazzas, where the Moors perform the ceremony of ablution.
— John Pinkerton, Voyages and Travels (1814)

Etymology:

From the Latin Ab (off) and luere (wash), related to another less-used English word for washing, “lave

Posted in history, poetry | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Fillip

Posted by kazvorpal on July 23, 2010


Fillip

v. To flick one’s finger (or the act of doing so), by bracing it against and snapping it away from the thumb, often euphemism or simile for encouragement

This may be a dismissive gesture, be used to indicate a direction, or to discard probuscine effluvium

Examples:

If I do, fillip me with a three-man beetle.
— Falstaff, Henry IV part 2, by William Shakespeare (1599)

Eat, drink, and love; the rest’s not worth a fillip.
Lord Byron, Sardanapalus (1821)

Faithful horoscope-watching, practiced daily, provides just the sort of small but warm and infinitely reassuring fillip that gets matters off to a spirited start.
— Shana Alexander, “A delicious appeal to unreason” (2005)

Etymology: Appearing in the 15th century, it seems simply to remind one of the sound that the gesture would make

Posted in Knowledge, poetry | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Evanescent

Posted by kazvorpal on July 22, 2010


Evanescent

adj. Something that is disappearing, or that only happens for moments; ephemeral

Yes, it sounds like the name of that band…but many people don’t know what the actual word means.

Examples:

Human life, with all its unreal ills and transitory hopes, is as a dream, which departs before the dawn, leaving no trace of its evanescent lines.
Percy Shelley, Essay on Christianity (1859)

It was a dark world; it was full of preventable disorder, preventable diseases, and preventable pain of harshness and stupid unpremeditated cruelties; but yet, it may be even by virtue of the general darkness, there were moments of a rare and evanescent beauty that seems no longer possible in my experience.
H. G. Wells, In the Days of the Comet (1906)

He believed that it was for the man of letters to record these epiphanies with extreme care, seeing that they themselves are the most delicate and evanescent of moments.
James Joyce, Stephen Hero (1944)

Our knowledge of physics only takes us back so far. Before this instant of cosmic time, all the laws of physics or chemistry are as evanescent as rings of smoke.
Joseph Silk, The Infinite Cosmos (2006)

Etymology: Easier than it sounds: Latin, “ex” (out of) and vanescere, which also forms the word “vanish”

Posted in Knowledge, poetry | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Malversation

Posted by kazvorpal on July 21, 2010


Malversation

n. Corruption, as of a public official

Yes, we are aware that “corruption of a public official” may be redundant. See “criminal lawyer”.

Examples:

He charged him with several grievous acts of malversation in office, with abuses of a public trust of a great and heinous nature.
— Edmund Burke, speech “On the Nabob of Arcot’s debts.” (1785)

They protest against the malversation of the whole of the moneys raised by additional taxes as a Famine Insurance fund to other purposes.
— Rudyard Kipling, The Enlightenments of Agett, M. P.

Destitute of the lawful means of supporting his rank, his dignity presents a motive for malversation, and his power furnishes the means.
— Jeremy Bentham, The Rationale of Reward

The odium lies in the malversation of the real, the faking of the event and the malversation of the war.
— Jean Baudrillard, The Gulf War did not take place

Etymology: Mal is, of course, Latin for “bad” (think malicious), and versari is Latin for “to behave” (think “versatile”)

Posted in history, rhetoric | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Heliolatry

Posted by kazvorpal on July 16, 2010


Heliolatry

n. Worship of the sun, whether real or metaphorical

Sun-worship was ancient in Peru, but it was the Incas who made it the great state religion, and their heliolatry was organized for political ends.
— Rushton M. Dorman, “The Origin of Primitive Superstitions”

I remember hearing stories in college about Ibiza, where big-breasted women laid out naked practicing heliolatry on the beaches, and E pills were as abundant as hard candy in an old folks’ home.
— Chris Baker

I am certain that if our preparations for greeting the returning sun were seen by other people, either civilised or savage, we would be thought disciples of heliolatry.
— Frederick Albert Cook, Through the first Antarctic night

Etymology: Helios was the Greek god of the sun (Apollo the god of light, not the sun, although his worship became so popular that it eventually adopted many of the stories that originated with Helios, including that of the sun being a chariot he drove)

Posted in history, poetry | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Defenestrate

Posted by kazvorpal on July 15, 2010


Defenestrate

v. To throw out of a window, or by simile for throwing out, or a lack of windows

A term made famous by the Defenestrations of Prague, the start of a growing tradition of throwing bad politicians out of windows when ousting them from power.

Now, I don’t want to go on a rant here, but America’s foreign policy makes about as much sense as Beowulf having sex with Robert Fulton at the first Battle of Antietam. I mean, when a neo-conservative defenestrates, it’s like Raskolnikov filibuster deoxymonohydroxinate.
— Dennis Miller, our honorary solecistic sesquipedalian, on The Family Guy

Apple lost its opportunity to defenestrate Windows
Nick Farrell (2007)

All of this gets defenestrated (right out the window) if we find we cannot trust the Bible regular, day-to-day, earthly information.
Cliff Walker, March 31, 2008

Etymology: This is a back-construction from the word “fenestrated”, meaning “to have windows”, originating with the original, 17th century Defenestration of the Prague.

Posted in history | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Cromulent

Posted by kazvorpal on July 14, 2010


Cromulent

adj. Acceptable, or more than acceptable

Wednesday shall heretofore be our day for neologisms and other cromulent amusement…previously, this was done on the weekends

Edna Krabappel: “Embiggens”? I never heard that word before I came to Springfield.
Miss Hoover: I don’t know why. It’s a perfectly
cromulent word.
Lisa the Iconoclast

Don’t get flusterated. Everything I say is perfectly cromulent, and it might do you well to embiggen your vocabulary before you fling accretions my discretion.
— Qui the Promoter, Jade Empire

It’s a perfectly cromulent word
— Dan Conner

Etymology: Crom; Cimmerian solar deity, -ulent Latin (ulentus); “having the quality of”, writer David X. Cohen

Posted in humor | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Osculation

Posted by kazvorpal on July 13, 2010


Osculation

v. To kiss, or come into contact with something or someone in a way that could be referred to as kissing by simile

This may not be the most romantic way to say “kiss”, but it’s certainly among the most interesting

All animals copulate but only humans osculate. Parakeets rub beaks? Sure they do, but only little old ladies who murder schoolchildren with knitting needles to steal their lunch money so that they can buy fresh kidneys to feed overweight kitty cats would place bird billing in the realm of the true kiss.
Tom Robbins, Wild Ducks Flying Backward (2005)

He kissed the plump mellow yellow smellow melons of her rump, on each plump melonous hemisphere, in their mellow yellow furrow, with obscure prolonged provocative melonsmellonous osculation.
— James Joyce, Ulysses (1923)

According to a famous Yale professor
Osculation
is a sensation that is nice”
— Dean Martin, Tonda Wanda Hoy (1951)

Greetings, Gate. Let’s osculate.
— Daffy Duck, The Wise Quacking Duck (1943)

Etymology: From the Latin osculum, literally “little mouth”

Posted in humor, poetry | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Hypophora

Posted by kazvorpal on July 12, 2010


Hypophora

n. What is hypophora? It is the rhetorical technique of asking a  question, then immediately answering it.

This is not to be confused with a “rhetorical question”, which is asked for the sake of convincing the audience, but might not be answered at all. Note that, in fact, people mis-use “rhetorical question” to mean any time a did not need an answer, even when it was not for rhetorical purposes. “Ouch! Why did I do that?” is not a rhetorical question.

Aside from our clever demonstration of the word above, it’s difficult to find famous quotations actually including the word hypophora, but we found some examples of quotations demonstrating the technique:

ARTHUR: Well, I am king!
DENNIS: Oh king, eh, very nice. And how d’you get that, eh? By exploiting the workers!

What makes a king out of a slave? Courage!
What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage!
— Cowardly Lion, The Wizard of Oz, 1939

Is He the God of the Jews only?
Is He not also of the Gentiles?
Yes, of the Gentiles also

— Romans 3.29

Etymology: Hypo is Greek for “without”, phoros; Greek for “to bear or have”, related to anthypophora; to give an opposing argument, and immediately refute it

Posted in rhetoric | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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