High-Vocabulary Word of the Day

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Posts Tagged ‘words of the day’

Oleaginous

Posted by kazvorpal on January 13, 2011


Mad Man Mooney, used car salesman, oleaginous in spirit and person

Oleaginous

Oily in nature, either literally, or as an obsequious or manipulative personality

Example:

This is English at its very best. Easing is not one of the great events of life; it does not call for Beethoven; it is not an idea to get drunk on, to wallow in, to engage in multiple oleaginous syllabification until it becomes a pompous ass of a word like “facilitate.”
— Russel Baker, So This is Depravity (1981)

On the wooden desk above this coop sits a grinning young butcher, showing off the flesh and organs of recently chopped-up chicken, still oleaginous with a coating of dark blood.
— Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger (2008)

Disraeli once described the manner of Bishop Wilberforce as “unctuous, oleaginous, saponaceous.” And the good prelate was ever afterward known as Soapy Sam. For every man there is something in the vocabulary that would stick to him like a second skin. His enemies have only to find it.
— Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary (1906)

Etymology:

Olea ultimately comes from the same Latin word as both “olive” and “oil”.

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Nabob

Posted by kazvorpal on January 13, 2011


Nabob

Wealthy, powerful or influential individual, usually of exaggerated self-importance

Examples:

In the United States today, we have more than our share of nattering nabobs of negativism. They have formed their own 4-H club — the hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.
— William Safire, written for a Spiro Agnew speech (1970)

We must kill them. We must incinerate them. Pig after pig. Cow after cow. Village after village. Army after army. And they call me an assassin. What do you call it when the assassins accuse the assassin? They lie. They lie, and we have to be merciful, for those who lie. Those nabobs. I hate them. I do hate them.
— Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, Apocalypse Now (1979)

How can republican institutions, free schools, free churches, free social intercourse exist in a mingled community of nabobs and serfs; of the owners of twenty thousand acre manors with lordly palaces, and the occupants of narrow huts inhabited by “low white trash?”
— Rep. Thaddeus Stevens, to a meeting of the Pennsylvania delegation in Congress (1865)

Etymology:

  • Used in India and Pakistan, originally for governors imposed by the Mongol empire, this is related to the Arabic honorific, na’ib

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Cynosure

Posted by kazvorpal on January 11, 2011


Cynosure

Something bright that attracts the eyes, (therefore) something that serves as a beacon, guide

Examples:

Yes, we have throned Him in our minds and hearts — the cynosure of our wandering thoughts — the monarch of our warmest affections, hopes, desires.
— Richard Fuller, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)

The age demanded a hero, Lawrence qualified, and the 20th century then got what it deserved: a loner, an ascetic, a man who might have been happier as a medieval monk than as the public cynosure he became
— Paul Gray, in The Hero Our Century Deserved, about T.E. Lawrence (1989)

Meadows trim, with daisies pied,
Shallow brooks, and rivers wide;
Towers and balements it sees
Bosomed high in tufted trees,
Where perhaps some beauty lies,
The cynosure of neighboring eyes.
— John Milton, L’Allegro (1631)

Etymology:

  • Greek: Cyno means “dog”, oura is “tail”. referring to the tail of the Little Dipper, which contains Polaris, the star used to navigate in the northern hemisphere

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Aphorism

Posted by kazvorpal on January 10, 2011


Aphorism

A defining observation of the truth, always short

Examples:

The great writers of aphorisms read as if they had all known each other very well.
— Elias Canetti, The Human Province (1942–1972)

Santayana’s aphorism must be reversed: too often it is those who can remember the past who are condemned to repeat it.
— Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr, The Bitter Heritage: Vietnam and American Democracy

The poem and the aphorism are Nietzsche’s two most vivid means of expression but they have a determinate relation to philosophy.
— Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and philosophy (1962)

Etymology:

  • Aphorismus, Latin for “to define”

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Nefandous

Posted by kazvorpal on January 7, 2011


Chthulu, on the Nefandous Southpark

Nefandous

Unspeakable.

A most severe pejorative

Examples:

Then the earth
In birth nefandous Coeus life produced
And Iapetus and Typhoeus dire
And that bad brotherhood which joined in league
To abolish heaven
— Dante Alighieri, Inferno (1308)

Only the bricks of the chimney, the stones of the cellar, some mineral and metallic litter here and there, and the rim of that nefandous well.
— H.P. Lovecraft, The Colour out of Space (1927)

No Topsman to your Tarpeia! This thing, Mister Abby, is nefand.
—  James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939)

Etymology:

  • In Latin, ne = not, fandus = to speak

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Brobdingnagian

Posted by kazvorpal on January 5, 2011


 

 

We couldn’t find a pic from the Jack Black movie that didn’t involve Lilliputians

Brobdingnagian

Truly colossal, enormous beyond normal bounds.

Wednesday is the day we try to pick a fun word. Thank Jonathan Swift for this one, via Gulliver’s Travels. It’s the opposite of Lilliputian.

Examples:

Sheldon:       This isn’t a desk, this is a Brobdingnagian monstrosity!
Kuthrapali: Is that an American idiom for “Giant, big-assed desk?”
Sheldon:      It’s actually British.
— Big Bang Theory, Brobdingnagian Monstrosity (2010)

I want you to understand something, Luthor. Although my distaste for you as a human being is Brobdingnagian, what I’m about to do isn’t personal.
— Question, Question Authority, The Justice League (2006)

We have the first rule of thumb: what has never been known to occur probably can’t. Then an application: Brobdingnagian and Lilliputian people have never been known to occur, so they can’t.
— Dennis Des Chene, Physiologia, Natural Philosophy in Late Aristotelian and Cartesian Thought (1996)

He has the wit to insist on his tininess. He makes the most of his inches by clothing himself in a Brobdingnagian dress-coat, a Brobdingnagian waistcoat, a Brobdingnagian shirt front, Brobdingnagian trousers, and Brobdingnagian boots.
— James Douglas, Adventures in London (1909)

Etymology:

  • Brobdingnag is the (fictional) nation of gigantic people that Gulliver visits in Jonathan Swift’s book, Gulliver’s Travels.

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

Hortatory

Posted by kazvorpal on January 4, 2011


Barry Goldwater, delivering a hortatory speech

Barry Goldwater, delivering a hortatory speech

Hortatory

adj. Giving exhortation or advice; encouraging; exhortatory; inciting; as, a hortatory speech.

Companion to the word “minatory”, which means to threaten instead of simply urging

Examples:

Considering the avowed purpose of his work, which is rather hortatory than historical, we are fortunate indeed to be given so much first-hand information by this embittered preacher.
— Nowell Myres, in Roman Britain and the English Settlements (1937) p. 329

The hortatory narrative was a peculiar species of literature which was frequently cultivated during our period. Stories of a purely fictitious character were composed which the author no doubt intended to be regarded as founded on fact, though at the same time the object in view was not so much to impart historical information, as to use these stories as a vehicle for conveying oral and religious lessons and exhortations.
— Emil Schürer, A History of the Jewish People in the time of Jesus Christ

As I begin this hortatory address to you, ye men of Greece, I pray God that I may know what I ought to say to you, and that you, shaking off your habitual love of disputing, and being delivered from the error of your fathers, may now choose what is profitable
— Justin Martyr, Justin’s Hortatory Address to the Greeks

Etymology:
15th century, neoclassical Latin, Hortati means “to exhort”, an intensified version of Horiri, “to urge”. Same origin as “exhortation”.

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Penury

Posted by kazvorpal on January 3, 2011


Penury

Being very poor; poverty.

Often hyperbolic or poetic in use

Examples:

The weariest and most loathed worldly life
That age, ache, penury, and imprisonment
Can lay on nature is a paradise
To what we fear of death.
— William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, Act III, sc. i

It is beyond belief that we know so little about how people get rich or poor, about how it is they come to dwell in comfort and health or die in penury and disease.
— Benoît Mandelbrot, The (Mis)Behavior of Markets (2004)

That sovereign of insufferables, Oscar Wilde has ensued with his opulence of twaddle and his penury of sense. He has mounted his hind legs and blown crass vapidities through the bowel of his neck, to the capital edification of circumjacent fools and foolesses, fooling with their foolers. He has tossed off the top of his head and uttered himself in copious overflows of ghastly bosh. The ineffable dunce has nothing to say and says it—says it with a liberal embellishment of bad delivery, embroidering it with reasonless vulgarities of attitude, gesture and attire.
— Ambrose Bierce, Wasp, 1882

The price of contributing to the greatest literature the world has ever seen is often struggle and penury: art is still too often its own reward. It is salutary sometimes to think of the early deaths of Keats, Shelley, Byron, Chatterton, Dylan Thomas, of the Grub Street struggles of Dr. Johnson, the despair of Gissing and Francis Thompson.
— Anthony Burgess, English Literature: A Survey for Students (1958)

I wanted to see if the sky would fall: you see writers are routinely schooled by their peers that maximal copyright is the only thing that stands between us and penury
— Cory Doctorow, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Etymology:

Penuria is Latin for “want or need”. Same origin as “paena”, “barely or almost”, like “paena insula”, “almost an island”…now peninsula.

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Autodidact

Posted by kazvorpal on January 1, 2011


Leonardo da Vinci

Having taught himself more about the sciences than any teacher of his age already knew, Leonardo Da Vinci is a quintessential autodidacts.

Autodidact (plural: autodidacts)

n. A self-taught person; an automath.

We’re back! The High Vocabulary Word of the Day is starting a new year with 365 words, including a reformatting of some old ones.

Examples:

When it came to formal classes, I was a slacker. But I’ve always been a diligent autodidact and can teach myself virtually any subject — if I have a serious interest in it.
— Dean Koontz, “Q&A” column, Dean Koontz: The Official Website (16 June 2006)

He was the perfect autodidact. He wanted to know it all.
— Gore Vidal, “Edmund Wilson: This Critic and This Gin and These Shoes“, The New York Review of Books (1980-09-25)

I’ve also incorporated into my autodidacticism a distrust of schools as inefficient, repressive institutions. It’s part of my new “damn the man” persona!
— T. Rex, Dinosaur Comics

Public-library intellectuals, magpies of knowledge, like most autodidacts we were incapable of evaluating our sources.
— Edmund White, “My Women,” ‘The New Yorker‘ (2005-06-06)

Etymology

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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 »

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)

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Antidisestablishmentarianism

Posted by kazvorpal on October 24, 2009


Metric PopeAntidisestablishmentarianism

n. A political philosophy opposed to the separation of a religious group (“church”) and a government (“state”), esp. the belief held by those in 19th century England opposed to separating the Anglican church from the civil government.

A quick search produces no noteworthy quotations making use of this word for its actual function. Indeed, it’s not the word of the day because it could possibly be useful to you, but because it’s so commonly utilized by sesquipedalian-wannabes who haven’t the slightest idea what it means.

I’ll be back before you can say ‘Antidisestablishmentarianism‘.
Edmund Blackadder III

Extraordinary. There’s no other word for it. Antidisestablishmentarianism extraordinary, that is.
— Murphy, Rayman 3

I think we all know why. Anti-taco legislation! Disestablishmentarianism!
Turkatron, Aqua Teen Hunger Force

Etymology Pretty simple, really… Establishment, plus “dis” to end that establishment, plus “anti” to oppose ending it, and with -arianism to refer to it as a cohesive movement.

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