December 2004 Archives
High-powered Positives: refulgent; gracile (gracillent; hominid); munificent; foudroyant; puissant; lissom; coruscating
Jane Austen, revisited: sportive; nuncheon; dissentient; valetudinarian; behindhand; missish; postilion
Lesser-Known Counterparts of Familiar Words: inhume; numerate (innumerate); ubiety, nullibiety (ubication, nullibicity); trepid (timorous); underwhelm; antapology; estivate;
Wintry words: hibernal; boreal (ceviche); algid (marmoreal, marmorean); frore; rime, rimy
Recently, while admiring a postcard of a glowing Hawaiian
sunset, I realized how few words we have to describe such a thing. We have
"gorgeous" of course, but what of less familiar terms? As I search
for words to present to you, so many that I find are negatives: insulting adjectives,
cutting nouns and the like. Why is this? Do strong negative feelings
stimulating linguistic creativity? Are those who compile word-collections, from
which I draw, themselves drawn to the negative?
I do not know but let us begin to redress the imbalance, with positive adjectives: not just quiet ones such as 'peaceful', but ones of emotive force. I shall not be deterred by those authors who have used these adjectives in negative ways!
refulgent shining radiantly; brilliant; resplendent
Stepping off of an
escalator recently, I found myself in a refulgent summer
garden--snapdragons, carnations, dahlias, daffodils and enough varieties of
roses to furnish a sizable senior prom. It's a lovely
touch, especially for a supermarket. Then again, this is not your conventional
Bryan Miller, A Suburban Revolution? The New York Observer, March 22, 2004
She stalked past him into the room, dressed in a bright print with matching shoes, the ensemble capped by a bright green turban, as effervescent as the colors she wore beneath. David watched drowsily. "You are fairly glowing. What is
Richard Paul Evans, The Letter
gracile [gracillent] gracefully slender.
[You will often find gracile used in biology, to distinguish species. For example, amoung the hominids (the "human" family, including modern humans, after the evolutionary split between humans and apes) some were gracile, and others were robust.]
Today's quotes are enjoyable enough to justify their length.
Anne was out
in the water swimming now. She lifted her head high for an instant, with the gracile motion a seal has, and smiled, then
curled over forward in a clean surface dive.
Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men
Sooty Albatrosses do most of their courtship aloft, during beautifully synchronized flights. They are gracile and exquisitely elegant birds; even among albatrosses, superb forms of life. Albatross courtship is almost certainly the most intricate courtship of any nonhuman being. The reason is that there's a lot at stake. The pair-bond and relationship must last years. The commitment implied is immense. ... So albatross courtship is highly complex. The mutual wooing may last months or years.
Carl Safina, Eye of the Albatross
Rebecca loved to give Irene tips. "Irene? You fail to see the connection between the candy bar you're eating right now and the five pounds you gain every week."
Irene needed to lose practically much as Rebecca or Carleen weighed, both of them being gracile
and streamlined, built for speed and efficiency and admiring looks from
strangers. Their curves were in all the right places and no matter what they
ate, they stayed that way. It was sickening, just sickening.
Linda Bruckheimer, The Southern Belles of
hominid modern man, or any other member (now extinct) of the biological family hominidae. Hominids descend from the last common ancestor of man and modern apes.
munificent very liberal in giving or bestowing; very generous; lavish.
Sir Arthur Conan
Doyle, The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb, in The Adventures of
" 'I say a night's work, but an hour's would be nearer the mark. I simply want your opinion about a hydraulic stamping machine which has got out of gear. If you show us what is wrong we shall soon set it right ourselves. What do you think of such a commission as that?'
[Holmes:] " 'The work appears to be light and the munificent.'
" 'Precisely so. We shall want you to come to-night by the last train.'
Federal investment in research and development grew steadily until the late 1960s, turned flat for a decade, then burgeoned in the 1980s to levels higher in constant dollars than the munificent post-war heights.
Daniel J. Kevles, Science in transition ... - funding science research in the 21st century, USA Today (Magazine), Sept, 1998
He gave a great symphony conductor a munificent yearly income, for no work at all, on the sole condition that he never conduct an orchestra again.
Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead
dazzling or stunning effect
(that is, like my spouse when dressed for a night on the town - Wordcrafter)
[from the French for "to strike by lightning". In medicine, foudroyant means "occurring suddenly and severely".]
Adroitly tying a
myriad of ends together, Nancy Farmer presents her readers with a conclusion
that can only be described as foudroyant
dazzling in its unexpectedness and dazzling in its imagery.
Joyce Armstrong Carroll, The Unicorns of Composition
powerful; strong; mighty. (noun: 'puissance')
Most often used in the sense of military or similar power. ("I cried in a loud Voice, Long live the most puissant Emperor of Lilliput!" Swift, Gulliver's Travels) But our examples show other usages.
11,] I could hear rising up from the towers and spires of Oxford a peal of mournful
bells and throughout the gentle autumnal countryside of England bells tolled,
some from churches which contain the tombs of those valiant crusaders of
centuries before with their hands reaching across their marbled armour towards their puissant swords.
Richard Mullen, United In Grief:
She held him with a puissant stare that made him increasingly uncomfortable.
Sandra Brown, Where There's Smoke
There is something frank and joyous and young in the open face of the country. You feel in the atmosphere the same tonic, puissant quality that is in the tilth, the same strength and resoluteness. Willa Cather, O Pioneers!
And a humorous example:
Thanks to the wisdom of the pundits,
one can know the outcome of the 1996 presidential election 10 months early.
Here at Punditry Central, the task is to examine the predictions, polling and
pandering of the nation's most prescient and puissant pundits.
And the winner of the 1996 presidential election will be nobody. ... Careful
analysis shows, first, that Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, the Republican
front-stumbler, cannot possibly win. The reason is
that Dole is too busy serving as a word (usually a verb or adjective) to
Bruce Chapman, Insight on the News, Feb. 5, 1996
limber; supple; easily bent; able to move with ease
Some wonderful images use this word.
No one barred the way
to a lady as splendid and bejewelled as she was, and
she found her way to the very heart of the King's harem. Women as lissom as waving grass and as fair as stocks
of wheat decorated every chair and cushion.
Geraldine McCaughrean, Rosamund Fowler, 1001 Arabian Nights (Oxford Edition), The Tale of the Anklet
It was a narrow, twisting path, winding down over a hill straight through Mr. Bell's woods, where the light came down sifted through so many emerald screens that it was as flawless as the heard of a diamond. It was fringed in all its length with slim young birches, white-stemmed and lissom boughed; ... and always there was a delightful spiciness in the air.
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
Then they got married. She was a lovely little rat, and sweetly captivating: slender, lissom, brown-eyed, dimpled, complexioned like a peach-blossom, frisky, frolicsome, graceful--just a picture, she was, just a poem.
Mark Twain, Autobiography of Eve
Today's word is quite often used improperly, so I'll
demonstrate with multiple quotations, starting with the correct usage.
coruscating 1. giving off bright beams or flashes of light; 2. exhibiting brilliant, sparkling technique or style
The concept is in the Latin root "to twinkle, flash, sparkle". Coruscating can have that meaning literally (1st quote), or figuratively for dazzling visual displays (2nd) or artistic or intellectual performances (3rd and 4th).
A fuse lighter
burns in his left hand, coruscating like a Fourth of July
Edward Abbey, Douglas Brinkley, The Monkey Wrench Gang
[of General Miles:] Tall and dignified in his coruscating uniform, he dominated the Senate Committee on Military Affairs hearings on the army bill.
Edmund Morris, Theodore Rex
The esteemed ensemble gave a coruscating concert at the Kennedy Center on Monday evening ... The Philadelphia Orchestra, Washington Post, Nov 30, 2004
After the Leisure Class appeared in 1899, Veblen had a reputation ... [The Theory of Business Enterprise] came out in 1904. Factual or not, it was even more coruscating and still more curious than his first. For the point of view that it advocated seemed to fly in the face of common sense itself.
Robert L. Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times and Ideas Of The Great Economic Thinkers
Those who misuse coruscating perhaps think it combines "corrosive" and "rusting". It is often misused to mean "corrosive" or "scathing". It is also is often misspelled with a double-r.
He has attempted
to realign Aboriginal policy ... on to issues such as substance abuse, the loss
of family structures and the coruscating effect of generations of
Editorial: Aboriginal leaders break new ground, The Australian, Dec. 3, 2004
I ask him [Harry Woolf, Lord Chief Justice] about the law and order measures outlined in Blair's party conference speech (zero tolerance of yob culture, £100 fixed penalty fines for drunken louts), and he is corruscating. "When legislation is not fully considered, it normally has very adverse consequences."
Mary Riddell, New Statesman, Oct 16, 2000
Tomorrow, the David Hume Institute, a Scottish free-market thinktank, launches a corruscating report on wind power ... John Vidal, The Guardian, April 21, 2004
Beneath the soft Whitehall language, his [Lord Butler's] report contains some of the most coruscating criticism imaginable of political leadership.
John Kampfner, Blair is weighed in the balance, New Statesman, July 19, 2004
In summary, I'll quote a letter-writer who responded to the last item, correcting the error.
John Kampfner ("Blair is weighed in the balance", 19
July) refers to "coruscating criticisms" in the
Bill Edmead, New Statesman, August 2, 2004
Jane Austen, revisited
A couple of months ago, when we enjoyed words from Jane
Austen's Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility, we
promised to revisit with two more Austen themes in the near future. This week
we'll enjoy a second sampling of Ms. Austen.
sportive playful; frolicsome
(archaic: amorous or wanton); also, relating to or interested in sports
Georgiana had the
highest opinion in the world of
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, ch 61 [comma after 'sportive' is in the original]
... our hero is a painter in oils, who is obsessed with real-life murders of the past, and that he is blessed with a sportive young mistress and cursed with a bossy, gynaecological surgeon of a wife.
Theater review by Charles Spencer, The Telegraph, Nov. 20, 2004
drink or snack taken between meals, esp. in the afternoon
[Wouldn't this word be useful, at least as useful as brunch? But it has fallen by the wayside.]
London this morning at eight o'clock, and the only ten minutes I have spent out
of my chaise since that time procured me a nuncheon
Sense and Sensibility, ch. 44
dissenting, especially the majority's view (noun: a dissenter).
(also: refusing to attend services of the Church of England).
A synonym is recusant. Question: is there any difference between dissentient and dissident?
Now, upon his
father's marriage, it was very generally proposed, as a most proper attention,
that the visit should take place. There was not a dissentient
voice on the subject, either when Mrs. Perry drank tea with Mrs. and Miss
Bates, or when Mrs. and Miss Bates returned the visit.
Emma ch. II
Andy Robinson believed in [Henry] Paul's abilities, as his predecessor, Sir Clive Woodward, manifestly did not. There were dissentient voices. Two commentators who had played the game at the highest level ... thought that Paul was not the man for
Alan Watkins (apparently speaking of rugby football), The Independent, Nov. 30, 2004
sickly or weak person, esp. one constantly and morbidly concerned with
[Curiously, the word's root seems to mean precisely the opposite: valere to be strong or well]
The evil of the
actual disparity in their ages (and Mr. Woodhouse had not married early) was
much increased by his constitution and habits; for having been a valetudinarian
all his life, without activity of mind or body, he was a much older man in ways
than in years; and though everywhere beloved for the friendliness of his heart
and his amiable temper, his talents could not have recommended him at any time.
Emma, ch. 1
He [Charles Congreve] ... now lives in
Samuel Johnson, quoted in James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson
we wooed peace as a valetudinarian woos health, by brooding over it till we became really became ill.
Jill Paton Walsh and Dorothy L. Sayers, A Presumption of Death: A New Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane Mystery
the story opens at an auction in a derelict opera house in
Anthony Quinn, The Independent, Dec. 10, 2004, panning the movie The Phantom of the Opera
behindhand 1. late; behind schedule; particularly, in arrears on a
debt. 2. backward, in respect to what is seasonable or
note: in other words, out of style). 3. being in an
Among the dictionaries I find only MW Collegiate having the last definition; The Economist provides a recent illustration, noted below. Ms. Austen seems to use the word in a sense slightly different from #2 above, to mean "not up on the latest news."
"I know how
highly you think of Jane Fairfax," said Emma. "Yes," he replied,
"any body may know how highly I think of her." "And yet,"
said Emma -- she hurried on--"And yet, perhaps, you may hardly be aware
yourself how highly it is. The extent of your admiration may take you by surprize some day or other." Mr. Knightley
was hard at work upon the lower buttons of his thick leather gaiters, and
either the exertion of getting them together, or some other cause, brought the colour into his face, as he answered, "Oh! are you there?--But you are miserably behindhand.
Mr. Cole gave me a hint of it six weeks ago."
Emma, vol. II ch. XV
Comparisons with neighbouring
A rare word: you'll often find it in Patrick O'Brian's nautical
novels, but most other modern usage is in what appear to be historical romance
novels. But isn't it a useful word deserving wider use as in our third
missish like a miss; prim; affected; sentimental
should not like to have the name of a take-it-and-drop it, shilly-shallying, missish 'son of a bitch' at the Navy
Board," he said with a smile.
Patrick O'Brian, Post Captain
"But, Lizzy, you look as if you did not enjoy it. You are not going to be missish, I hope, and pretend to be affronted at an idle report. For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?"
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, ch. 57
I have a hobby. I make soap. I cant think of a more appropriate hobby for a vegetarian who sometimes reels at the smell of cooking meat than one which, as Step One, lists, "Render suet into tallow." This is a missish way of saying, "Boil a big vat of beef fat on your stove for so long that your home reeks like a turn of the century British tannery and the stench of it has even the dog retching and the neighbors, who live three kilometers away and raise hogs, sniffing the air and wondering if someone has been burning garbage in the woods again."
Rebecca Winke, Slow Travel, March, 2004
postilion one who, in lieu of a coachman, guides a coach by riding the leading nearside horse of a team or pair
"He meant I
believe," replied Jane, "to go to Epsom, the place where they last
changed horses, see the postilion and try if
anything could be made out from them. His principal object must be to discover
the number of the hackney coach which took them from Clapham."
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, ch. 47
[Note: some editions have a comma after 'meant'; some don't.]
Lesser-Known Counterparts of Familiar Words
A few days ago we looked at the word behindhand, a
rarely-used known counterpart of beforehand. This week
well look at other lesser-known counterparts of common words. In doing
so we continue a theme we discussed in * under another title.
inhume to bury [a person] in a grave or tomb
[The -hum- portion means 'earth'. So too, a 'human' is a creature who, though having the same shape and appetites as a god, is 'of the earth'. Compare Hebrew: adam = man; adamah = earth.
As our quotes show, inhume, like its counterpart exhume, can be used either literally or figuratively.
assistant managing editor Craig Neff has found himself inhumed
beneath a wall of papers, surveys actually, 305 in all ...
Bill Colson, How the magazine researched its piece on the top 50 college sports schools, Sports Illustrated, April, 1997
The dead (7,000) outnumber the cadets (4,000) at West Point [US Military Academy]. Some of the inhumed died in war, others in peace , one on the launching pad. But just as all lie under West Point, in the end their loyalties lie with
Bill Kauffman, The West Point Story, American Enterprise, July, 1999 (ellipses omitted)
While self-fictionalization brings about the Oedipal transgression that requires the boy be resurrected as the adult storyteller, it compels him to inhume a secret, inchoate identity, the name of who he would have been had the story not been written.
Robert Ziegler, Studies in Short Fiction, Winter, 1994
Today's adjectives are counterparts of literate and
numerate (adj.) able to think and express oneself effectively in quantitative terms (verb: to count; enumerate).
innumerate antonym of numerate
(noun forms: numeracy; innumeracy)
want to get into a row over Prince Charles, but what business wants is
youngsters who are literate, numerate and motivated to get
BBC News, Nov. 19, 2004, quoting spokesman for The Confederation of British Industry, re debate sparked by Prince's comments about the schools
The term numerate seems to be much more common in Britspeak than in USspeak. At the
moment, Google-News has 12 current cites from the Commonwealth (ten of them
Ubiquitous being everywhere at the same time; omnipresent is a fairly common word. The noun form is ubiquity, 'being everywhere', but what are the obvious counterparts?
the state of being in a particulary place? ubiety; ubication (rare)
the state of being nowhere at all? nullibiety, nullibicity (very rare)
the state of being in two or more place? (so rare that I can't find any such word)
Personal website of Viktor Yushchenko, reformist candidate for President of
Something of the genius that was
Erik Baard, Cities Die. Should
Here lies Piron, a complete nullibiety,
Not even a Fellow of a Learned Society.
Alexis Piron (1689-1773), "My Epitaph"
I'd assume the adjective forms are ubietous,
nullibietous, etc. But I've not yet found
Off subject: hunting for quotes unearthed this fine example of inpenetrable gobbledygook an article abstract:
"Two arguments have recently been advanced that Maxwell-Boltzmann particles are indistinguishable just like BoseEinstein and FermiDirac particles. Bringing modal metaphysics to bear on these arguments shows that ontological indistinguishability for classical (MB) particles does not follow. The first argument, resting on symmetry in the occupation representation for all three cases, fails since peculiar correlations exist in the quantum (BE and FD) context as harbingers of ontic indistinguishability, while the indistinguishability of classical particles remains purely epistemic. The second argument, deriving from the classical limits of quantum statistical partition functions, embodies a conceptual confusion. After clarifying the doctrine of haecceitism, a third argument is considered that attempts to deflate metaphysical concerns altogether by showing that the phase-space and distribution-space representations of MB-statistics have contrary haecceitistic import. Careful analysis shows this argument to fail as well, leaving de re modality unproblematically grounding particle identity in the classical context while genuine puzzlement about the underlying ontology remains for quantum statistics."
What is the counterpart of intrepid (resolutely
fearless, with fortitude and endurance in the face of danger)?
trepid timid; timorous
(timorous full of apprehensiveness; timid)
My personal sense is that there are subtle distinctions. Trepid bespeaks anxiety, while timorous is more extreme: fear. [They are from Latin roots meaning 'anxiety' and 'fear' respectively.] Also, these two words refer mostly to actions that reveal fear or anxiety ('a timorous gesture'), while timid refers more to a person's state of being shy or fearful. But I freely admit that the dictionaries and usage often do not make these distinctions.
For all the company's acknowledged
technology competence, Sony has a history of timid, almost trepid
marketing. Mark Ferelli, Sony Comes Out From
Under Cover, Computer Technology Review, June, 2001
"What's so funny?" Kim giggled, a slight, trepid sound seeking inclusion into whatever it was her mother found so amusing. Joy Fielding, The First Time
The woman's voice was trepid, as if she wasn't sure. Joy Fielding, See Jane Run
... couring [cowering], timorous
beastie Robert Burns, To a Mouse
The women were seasick too. Each time the Grβce ΰ Dieu wallowed and slid over a wave, Lady Scope clutched her companion and whispered wildly, "Blessed Jesus, save us, we shall all be drowned!" Lady Scrope was Lord de la Pole's sister, but she was a timorous little wisp of a woman, quite unlike her brother.
Anya Seton, Katherine
underwhelm to fail to excite, stimulate, or impress: (adj. underwhelming)
first-ever game of cricket, 16-year-old
Richard Dymond, Bradenton (FL) Herald, Nov. 27, 2004
There are no underwhelming crab apple trees. The simple fact of the matter is that any crab apple in bloom is a beautiful thing, usually breathtakingly so.
Craig Summers Black, Better Homes & Gardens, April, 2002
Today's word, a very rare counterpart of 'apology',
requires a bit of care.
antapology a reply to an apology
Erin McKean (OED Senior Editor) says, "This word deserves a wider use, to describe responses to apologies such as 'Well, you should be sorry!'"
McKean misunderstands. 'Apology" once had a very different meaning: until the 1700s its primary sense, still occasionally used, was 'a defense, justification'. I can only two uses of 'antapology', apart from wordlists, and each is old (1693 and 1710) and clearly refers to a reply to the old sort of 'apology', not to the modern sort. The 1693 cite is in the titles of a series of writings arguing with each other.
An Apology for Writing
against Socinians (William Sherlock, Dean of
of the melancholy stander-by in answer to the dean of
. A defence of the Dean of St. Paul's Apology for writing against the Socinians in answer to the antapologist (William Sherlock, 1694)
So an antapology would be a replay arguing against a defense or justification. It has nothing to do with the example McKean gives. Nonetheless her usage would be highly useful, and is highly commended.
Todays word is the counterpart of hibernate. Its
usage is almost always in the literal, zoological sense, but the extended sense
is far more interesting and useful.
estivate (or aestivate) to pass the summer in a torpid state; also, to spend the summer, as at a special place
So as the people
we knew back east die, or are institutionalized, or take themselves off to
Wallace Stegner, The Spectator Bird
Ms. Emshwiller teaches creative writing at
Back-jacket blurb for Leaping Man Hill by Carol Emshwiller
On December 21 just as winter was icumen
in -- we ended our last theme with the counterpart of the word 'hiberate''. What better time to start a theme of
hibernal characteristic of or relating to winter
What looked like
snow on the
Edmund Morris (Pulitzer-winning biographer), Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan
boreal of the
north; of or like the north wind
[Boreas, god of the North Wind in Greek mythology]
In order for any Sibelius performance to reach a level of excellence, it
must display equal measures of boreal iciness and dreamy northern
vistas. It helps, I suppose, that the music here, is played by a Finnish
conductor and an Icelandic orchestra. The cold is probably in their bones.
John Puccio, reviewing a sound recording in Sensible Sound, August, 2001
Walrus hunters, it turns out, treasure the half-digested oysters in the beast's stomach, which are a traditional delicacy -- a sort of boreal ceviche.
Paul Rauber, On top of the world - trip to Baffin Island in Canada's far north, cover story, Sierra, March 1, 1998
ceviche a Peruvian dish of raw fish marinated in lemon juice with onions, chilis and seasonings, served especially as an appetizer
chilly [much of its usage is metaphoric]
It may be that this pertains not so much to the environmentbeing cold as to a person's feeling of cold. Thus, the noun forms are both medical terms:
algidity chilliness; coldness; esp. coldness and collapse
algor a sensation of coldness; the shivering fit in fever
impressions merged as he scrubbed hoarfrost from a tiny slat of glass. Out
there were nicks of distant light from the algid countryside,
scraps of stiff paper twitching on railroad markers, pinioned there by the wind.
Thomas H. Taylor, Behind Hitler's Lines
[Alexander Graham Bell and Gardiner Hubbard, his patron and future father-in-law:]
The incident would set the tone for the often wary Hubbard-Bell relationship, which would be severely tested over the years. The Hubbard women, caught between the impulsive
Robert M. Poole, Explorers House: National Geographic and the World It Made
"No question about her being decent. Perhaps it's not because of her virtue ... Maybe she's cold by nature. Cold as ice, feels no desire. There are women like that, beautiful statues, who do not know what desire is. Icebergs. There is no virtue in their chastity, nothing but frigidity. Cold as an iceberg, you can be sure of that. Marmoreal, algid, glacial."
Jorge Amado, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands
marmoreal, marmorean of or suggesting of marble
(The term can emphasize smoothness, whiteness, hardness or coldness.)
extremely cold; frosty.
This is the winter
of the world;--and here
We die, even as the winds of Autumn fade,
Expiring in the frore and foggy air.
Behold! Spring comes, though we must pass, who made
The promise of its birth,--even as a shade
Shelley, The Revolt of Islam
rime [adj: rimy] a coating of ice (or a like coating of something else: "a rime of fat globules in our mouths and stomachs" -- James Fallows)
Places in the
trail where trecherous icefalls always develop over a
few cold months were instead nice stairways of footprints in the snow. The
summit was a white wonderland of rime-choked trees and incredible
Ed Parsons, Conway (NH) Daily Sun, Dec. 17, 2004
Before long, well be into the short winter days, a lukewarm sun brushing indifferently across the sky. Muddy, rime-covered cars, pale-faced children, the sweaty, fetid air of the supermarket check-outs, sore throats. But thats how it is: who promised that life was going to be easy?
Ilkka Malmberg, What Does