High-Vocabulary Word of the Day

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Archive for January, 2013


Posted by kazvorpal on January 22, 2013

Gormless Charlie BrownGormless

Weak of mind or (occasionally) body, especially if one is gullible or clumsy


And then you look at me gormless, like the salmon’s raw when it was requested medium. And what did you say?
Gordon Ramsey, Hell’s Kitchen (2005)

Now, If I were you, which arguably I am, I would be asking myself in a gormless sort of voice, “Did that bridge really collapse or is my good friend Clarence just playing an hilarious jape?” The answer, monkey man, is that I don’t even know myself. One way to find out. Please, don’t get us killed.
— Clarence, Penumbra (the video game)

[After Angel stops Spike from biting Cordelia]
Spike: She’s evil, you gormless tit!
Cordelia: Excuse me? Who bit whom?
Angel: Did you call me a tit?
Cordelia: I thought he had a soul.
Spike: I thought she didn’t.
Cordelia: I do.
Spike: So do I.
Cordelia: Well, clearly mine’s better!
Angel, episode You’re Welcome


The word is actually “gaumless”, gaum meaning “attentiveness”. But the British tendency to add an R into their pronunciation (America can sound like Americer) has altered the spelling.


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Posted by kazvorpal on January 17, 2013

Shibboleth: Southerner vs YankeesShibboleth

A term, trait, belief, or action used to identify people belonging to the same group


The liberty of the citizen to do as he likes so long as he does not interfere with the liberty of others to do the same, which has been a shibboleth for some well known writers, is interfered with by school laws, by the Post Office, by every state or municipal institution which takes his money for purposes thought desirable, whether he likes it or not.
Oliver Wendel Holmes, Jr. Lochner v. New York

He boldly challenged the most cherished shibboleths of American political thought…a systematic critique of the very principle of American democracy.
— S. T. Joshi, Mencken’s America (2004)

During the war Gramsci drew these concerns together in a vitriolic attack on the favourite shibboleth of prewar anarchism and socialism: Esperanto.
Carl Levy, Libertarian Socialism: Politics in Black and Red (2012)

But maybe prayer is a road to rise,
A mountain path leading toward the skies
To assist the spirit who truly tries.
But it isn’t a shibboleth, creed, nor code,
It isn’t a pack-horse to carry your load,
It isn’t a wagon, it’s only a road.
And perhaps the reward of the spirit who tries
Is not the goal, but the exercise!
— Edmund Vance Cooke, Prayer, The Uncommon Commoner.


According to Judges 12 of the Old Testament, people called Ephraimites were unable to say “shibboleth” (a word meaning “flood”), pronouncing it “sibboleth”. This allows them to be identified and killed by enemy Gileadites:

And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites: and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go over; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay; 6 Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand.

Judges 12:4-6

Posted in Culture, Grammar / Syntax, history | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »


Posted by kazvorpal on January 10, 2013


Something that reduces pain or ailment, especially as an analogy


It excites in him the gratifying reflection that his country has been the first to prove to the world two truths, the most salutary to human society, that man can govern himself, and that religious freedom is the most effectual anodyne against religious dissension
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Jacob De La Motta (1820)

The heart asks pleasure first,
And then, excuse from pain;
And then, those little anodynes
That deaden suffering;
Emily Dickinson, Poems (1891)

Novels so often provide an anodyne and not an antidote, glide one into torpid slumbers instead of rousing one with a burning brand.
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (1929)


From the Greek anodynos, an = without, dyne = pain. May come from the same word as a root that means “to eat”. Like dining on your pain.

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Posted by kazvorpal on January 7, 2013

Hulk Hogan's minatory confrontation with Rocky Balboa


Daunting, or threatening


A traffic warden, a lady of a minatory aspect, stood by the car. She pointed to a notice on the wall. “Can’t you read?” she said.
William Golding, nobel lecture

In the recurring dream
   my mother stands
      in her bridal gown
under the burning lilac,
   with Bernard Shaw and Bertie
      Russell kissing her hands;
the house behind her is in ruins;
   she is wearing an owl's face
      and makes barking noises.
Her minatory finger points.

Stanley Kunitz, The Testing Tree

The Spanish action was Minatory. It was a matter for our discretion to determine whether it was also hostile.
Theodore Roosevelt, Letter to Munroe Smith


This word has the same origin as “menace”; the Latin word minari

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

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