High-Vocabulary Word of the Day

Endeavoring to contribute to your perspicacious lexicon.

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Posts Tagged ‘words’

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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Sockdolager

Posted by kazvorpal on August 12, 2010


Sockdolager

A decisive blow or (by metaphor) remark, or something similarly powerful

Possibly a tent revival word, but reached popularity as a boxing term.

Examples:

Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, you sockdologising old man-trap
— Tom Taylor, Our American Cousin (the laugh line Boothe used as cover, to shoot Lincoln)

Every second or two there’d come a glare that lit up the white-caps for a half a mile around, and you’d see the islands, looking dusty through the rain, and the trees thrashing around in the wind; then comes a H-WHACK!-bum! bum! bumble-umble-um-bum=bum-bum-bum- and the thunder would go rumbling and grumbling away, and quit – and then RIP comes another flash and another sockdolager.
Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

That’s a sockdolager of a skill set, ain’t it? Back then, the buldge on everybody.
— Brian D’Amato, Courts of the Sun (2009)

Jim restrained himself.
“Look, carrot-face, get the murerk, else I’ll fetch you a sockdolager what’ll lay you out till Christmas,” he said.
— Phillip Pullman, The Shadow of the North (1986)

Etymology:

Invented in the 19th century, “sock”, as to hit, plus perhaps a variation on “doxology”, which of course is a Christian term for praising God.

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

Dolorous

Posted by kazvorpal on August 6, 2010


Dolorous

Deeply sorrowful, or causing great sadness

Dolor is its own legitimate word, for sadness or pain, even physical pain

Examples:

With fingers weary and worn,
With eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sat, in unwomanly rags,
Plying her needle and thread—
Stitch! stitch! stitch!
In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
And still with a voice of
dolorous pitch
Thomas Hood, Song of the Shirt

He is not violent, nor tormented by immeasurable and dolorous conceptions; his painting is healthy, exempt from morbid questionings and from painful complications; he paints incessantly, without turmoil of the brain and without passion during his whole life.
Hippolyte Taine, writing about Renaissance artist, Titian

From time to time Sancho gave forth profound sighs and dolorous groans; and on Don Quixote asking him the cause of is sore anguish, he answered that from the end of his backbone to the nape of his neck he was aching, so that it drove him out of his senses.
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote de la Mancha

Etymology:

Dolor is Latin for “pain, painful”

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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”


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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

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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”

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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”)

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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

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Epistolary

Posted by kazvorpal on October 13, 2009


Email_IconEpistolary

adj. Conducted or contained entirely in correspondence

The Screwtape Letters is C.S. Lewis’ most famous epistolary novel.

Today, our social life on Facebook may be centered around entirely epistolary friendships, fervently emailing people we’ve never actually met.

Etymology
Greek, epi: over or near, stol: send. People are more familiar with the noun “Epistle”.

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Hobbledehoy

Posted by kazvorpal on October 11, 2009


ron3Hobbledehoy

n. An awkward boy, especially adolescent.

The son stayed with the third Professor for one more year, and when he came home again and his father asked, “My dimwitted hobbledehoy, what have you learnt?”
Lemony Snicket, Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography

Nothing but infantilism — the erotic visions of a hobbledehoy behind the barn.
— Henry Seidel Canby, “Mr. O’Hara and the Vulgar School”, a Saturday Review of Appointment in Samarra

Etymology
This is a very iffy one, with completely conflicting origins documented here and there. “hob” is a word used elsewhere to refer to a clown or troublemaker, as in hobgoblin. de hey translates as “of the hedge”, used to mean “wild or feral”. These may comprise some of its 16th century roots.

Note
On weekends, we may include more controversial or amusing words than during the week, but they should still be potentially useful in controversial or amusing situations.

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Cosset

Posted by kazvorpal on October 8, 2009


Cucumber CossetingCosset

v. To coddle like a pet; to overly indulge; pamper

The things we call aristocracies and reigning houses are the last places to look for masterful men. They began strongly, but they have been too long in possession. They have been cosseted and comforted and the devil has gone out of their blood.
— John Buchan, The Path of the King (1921)

Etymology
From the same root as “kiss”, in Old English “Cossetung” meant “kissing”.

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Sesquipedalian

Posted by kazvorpal on October 6, 2009


booked-on-phonics

That's why I've cremated this new program called "Booked on Phonics". I'll teach you how to testiculate my way. To computate how it works, I will intersects with a perverted deviant by using one of my own penal implants.

Sesquipedalian

n. A person who uses long words, or a long word, itself.

usage
A pseudointellectual often tries to be sesquipedalian, but is not sufficiently pedantic to know how the words should actually be used. (As with the famous Damon Wayans sketch, at right)

etymology
Roman poet Horace coined the term while mocking words “a foot and a half long”; sesqui – “half again”, pedi – “foot”. The full phrase was actually sesquipedalia verba.

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Solecism

Posted by kazvorpal on October 4, 2009


Surely there is no fitter solecistic archetype than Huck Fin.

We said there warn't no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft.

Solecism (plural Solecisms)

n. A grammatical mistake or absurdity, or even simply a non-standard language usage.

  • We don’t need no education! (Pink Floyd’s infamous double-negative self-refutation.)
  • This is just between you and I. (Hypercorrection to avoid the common, nonstandard “you and me” form in the subject of sentences…in this case, “me” would have been correct, the standard pronoun for the object of a preposition.)
  • Surely there is no fitter solecistic archetype than Huck Finn. (While fitter is a valid construction, the grammatical norm in English is to say “more fitting” — an example of how valid language can still be a solecism.)

Etymology:
In ancient Greece, the colony of Soli in Sicily spoke a very corrupted version of Greek, and came to be seen as a model of silly language usage.

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

Autodidactic

Posted by kazvorpal on October 3, 2009


Leonardo da Vinci

We deliberated between da Vinci, Ben Franklin, and Samuel Clemens as the quintessential autodidact

Autodidact (plural: autodidacts)

n. A self-taught person; an automath.

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

Etymology

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

 
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