Words from our board: digital shoplifting; captcha (bot); whomperjawed; heiligenschein (glory); POSSLQ, hypergamy; swive; godemiche, olisbos
Spanish Land-word Loanwords: bolson (bivouac); sierra; llano; paramo (puna); cuesta; arroyo (hogback); cay
Words from Spanish: camarilla; salver (morocco); vaquero, buckaroo; duende; vamoose; sympatico; quinella, perfecta, trifecta
F-word thoughts: flibbertigibbet; foofaraw (mano-a-mano); fustilugs (scullion, rampallian); farrago; furbelow; flocculent; flubdub, flapdoodle
This week we'll look back at a few of the
interesting words that have been presented or used on our discussion board over
the last few years. Those of you who haven't seen our board are encouraged to
take a look and participate.
digital shoplifting in a store, using a cameraphone to copy selected pages (e.g., a recipe) from a book or magazine
bookstores are set to launch a national campaign to stop so-called "digital
. It is the kind of thing that most Japanese young
women wouldn't think twice about doing. They might spot a new hairstyle or a
new dress in a glossy fashion magazine and they want to know what their friends
think - so they take a quick snap with their mobile phone camera and send
everybody a picture.
Quentin Sommerville, BBC, June 30, 2003
We've all seen images like these. What do you call them?
captcha a computer-generated test to distinguish human users from automated programs ("bots')
[Acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart]
A captcha is typically used to allow humans to use a program but to prevent automated "spamming" of it. The notion is that the human can pass the test but the bot cannot.
have been solved with more than 90% accuracy by scientists specializing in
computer vision research
But several Internet companies say their captchas
appeared to be highly effective at thwarting spammers. "Researchers are
really good, and the attackers really are not," says Mr. Jeske of Google.
David Kesmodel, Wall Street Journal, May 31, 2006
bot a software program that imitates the behavior of a human
whomperjawed askew; not fitting
properly; also flabbergasted
We illustrate each sense, and direct you to the further discussion on our board.
I couldn't feature
a boardinghouse more filthy
until I smelled its downstreet competitor. The
structure's whomperjawed front door was screened, but flies
buzzed in and out of the building's unchinked log walls. A toothless, fat man
rocking on the stoop had no use for soap or the spittoon beside him. He smiled
Suzann Ledbetter, A Lady Never Trifles with Thieves
Suddenly, you find yourself whomperjawed, outraged, stupefied with disbelief.
Molly Ivins, Who Let the Dogs In? Incredible Political Animals I Have Known
heiligenschein [German for "holy light] a white halo of diffuse brightness surrounding the
shadow of an object, often a person's head
glory colored diffraction rings around the point opposite the sun (anti-solar point); i.e. where the shadow of the observer's head is
Heiligenschien, which is just now coming into English (23,000 google hits), does not yet appear in any major english dictionary, not even in OED. Despite that, we noted that it appeared late in the Scripps spelling bee last month, and tripped up one of the favored contestants. One wonders what criteria the bee uses to select words not yet in the regular dictionaries.
Two words from the same thread on our board:
POSSLQ or Posslq Person of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters
[a census designation; pronounced PAH-sull-kew]
hypergamy the tendency for women to marry "up"
that I wouldn't do,
If you would be my Posslq,
You'd live for me and I for you
If you would be my Posslq.
We'd live forever, you and me,
In blessed posslq-ity!
Thus does son preference among elites lead to hypergamy, the custom by which women marry men of higher status.
Sarah Hrdy, Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species
swive a synonym for
the f-word. The latter first appears around 1500, and 'swive' (related to
'swivel') is the term previously used. The verb to quim may refer only
to the female's role in the activity.
Here you'll find our 2-page discussion of each of these terms. There honestly is a good deal of discussion amid the giggling.
God give you both
one shame's death to dien!
He swived thee; I saw it with mine eyen.
I have thries [thrice] in this shorte night
Swived the miller's daughter bolt-upright,
Chaucer, Canturbury Tales, Reeve's and Merchant's Tales
This week's theme gives me a chance to introduce words unlikely to appear in one of our more typical weekly themes. Swive was one such. Here are two more, extremely obscure, to close this week.
godemiche a dildo
olisbos a dildo [from Greek 'to slip, glide']
I quietly refrain from sample quotations.
Spanish has given us several words to name
features of our landscape. We start with one rooted in a lovely metaphor.
bolson a flat arid valley surrounded by mountains (can drain into a shallow central lake)
[Spanish bolsa, 'purse, pouch'; ultimately traces back to Greek 'wineskin']
The army had made
its bivouac at a bolson fed by seeping springs and
bordered by green marsh grass
Stephen Harrigan, The Gates of the Alamo
extending from southern Oregon to western Texas, the [Southern Arizona] Basin and Range is an immense region of north-south-trending, faulted mountains separated by wide, dry bolsons (basins of interior drainage).
Randall J. Schaetzl, Sharon Anderson, Soils: Genesis and Geomorphology
bivouac a temporary camp without tents or cover (verb: to stay in such a camp)
Here is another Spanish-loanward rooted in a
sierra a range of mountains having an irregular or jagged profile
[From from Spanish for 'saw'. The Latin root also gives us 'serrated'.]
Mountains along the California/Nevada border are often called the
The next town they
entered was two days deeper into the sierras. They never
knew what it was called. A collection of mud huts pitched on the naked plateau.
Cormac Mccarthy, Blood
llano an open grassy plain, treeless or nearly so
John H. Elliott, Empires of the Atlantic World:
paramo a high,
bleak plateau or district, with stunted trees, and cold, damp atmosphere, as in
At its altitudinal extreme, cloud forest may be stunted, becoming a bizarre elfin forest of short, gnarled trees. Higher still on some mountains is treeless paramo, an alpine shrubland, or puna, an alpine grassland. John Kricher, A Neotropical Companion
puna 1. a high bleak plateau in the Peruvian Andes 2. difficulty of breathing due to thin atmosphere; mountain sickness
Arid, cold, and in
general, covered by short coarse grass, the puna has,
nevertheless, long supported an Native American population. The icy wind
sweeping the mineral-rich plateaus is also called puna.
cuesta a ridge
with a gentle slope on one side and a cliff on the other; a gentle upward slope
ending in a steep drop
[Spanish, from Latin costa, side]
the land surface
is underlaid by strata that have been slghtly warped into the form of a stack
of nested saucers. Erosion has exposed the edges of the saucers to form "cuestas,"
and it is in those exposures that fossils can be collected.
Arthur N. Strahler, Science and Earth History: The Evolution/Creation Controversy
arroyo a deep and usually dry gully cut by an intermittent stream
down into wooded watersheds, arroyos that carry the snowmelt down
to the big river. Only a trickle now.
Summer Wood, Arroyo: A Novel
hogback a long steep hill or mountain ridge
If you have $20 million to spend, today's
post will give you a shopping tip.
cay a small, low island of coral or sand
[Sp. cayo shoal, rock, barrier-reef]
Key (as in the
A private island
can be what one real estate specialist calls "the ultimate trophy"
Big price gaps do exist between areas that have been frequented by the wealthy
for decades and those that have not.
there are emerging areas like the cay-dotted
Last week we looked at words from Spanish
describing land-formations. Here are some more-general words English has
acquired form Spanish.
camarilla a body of secret intriguers
[Spanish, literally, 'small room']
Although many dictionaries define the term as a body of scheming advisors, it is not limited to 'advisors' (see second quotation).
Finally, in order
to ensure the stability of his regime and of the presidential succession, by
Paul K. Eiss, Journal of Social History, Summer, 2003
The shift of power from parliament to the army and the court camarilla was completed in Yugoslavia, whose parliament functioned either as a mere talking shop or not at all.
Bosnian Institute News,
Today's word traces back to Latin salvus
safe; salvare make safe (as in 'salvage').
A king's food was pre-tasted to assure it was 'safe' not poisoned and thus 'saving' the king. After this testing (pregustation) the food was presented to the king on a special, identifying tray. In Spanish the pre-tasting, and the tray itself, were named salva from the Latin. When the word passed into English (perhaps through French), an -er ending was attached, akin to platter.
salver a tray, usually silver, for formal serving of food or drink
Nat, Tommy, and
Demi left the room, and speedily returned with a little red morocco
box set forth in state on Mrs. Jo's best silver salver.
Louisa May Alcott, Little Men
It's fitting that Venus Williams keeps winning the gilded, silver salver that has been awarded to the ladies' singles champ at
morocco fine flexible leather made (originally in
vaquero a cowboy;
a cattle-driver [esp. used in
buckaroo a cowboy; a cattle-driver [an Anglicized version of vaquero, from
The second quote uses buckaroo as a verb, a usage I have not found in the dictionaries.
the range in Spanish Mexico. They called themselves vaqueros,
or cowherders, from vaca, the Spanish word for cow.
Russell Freedman, In the Days of the Vaqueros:
He left home at age 15 to buckaroo for a number of large open range outfits in
obituary for Wayne Hage, Eldrige (Iowa) North Scott Press, June 14, 2006
Now hold on, partner. I'm not the young buckaroo that I once was, but I have been on MySpace.
Motley Fool, May 26, 2006
The dictionaries define today's word as
"inspiration, magic, fire" (OED) or as "power to attract by
personal magnetism and charm" (AHD; MW). I believe these definitions are
too broad (the latter would apply to Bill Clinton). Rather, the term is for a performer.
duende a performer's fiery intensity that sweeps away the audience
[think of a powerful flamenco dancer] [Sp. dialect, from Sp. for 'ghost; goblin]
His own dancing
was polished but lacking in what Spaniards call duende the
demoniacal intensity which sweeps audiences off their feet.
Daily Telegraph, Mar. 31, 1970 (credit OED)
It was genuine flamenco too, none of your tourists' stuff. But there was no duende. The majority of our group were far too caught up in their own class, culture and language to appreciate the efforts of a couple of stamping gypsies, and we just sat there like a row of gargoyles. Most of us didn't even clap.
Jeremy Clarke, The Spectator, June 10, 2000
to depart suddenly and hurriedly
[from Spanish vamos let's go]
Henry walks around
to the side of the car and opens the door. "Clare, let's vamoose.
This is pointless."
Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler's Wife
congenial 2. of like mind or temperament; compatible
[Spanish simpαtico or Italian simpatico]
Note that this word can describe either a person, or a relationship between people. The latter sense implies, I would think, a close mental harmony; see last two quotes.
Ferri called Hecht, "smart and simpatico," but
also said the damage he has done to
He liked being put to work, feeling useful, and my grandmother liked to use him. They were a simpatico team. Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones: A Novel
It was like an ultimate simpatico, being two people at once: not telepathy, but mutual awareness. Frank Herbert, Dune
quinella a bet
where the bettor must name the top two finishers
perfecta a bet where the bettor must name the top two finishers, in order (also called exacta)
trifecta a bet where the bettor must name the top three finishers, in order
[Am. Spanish quiniela. Spanish, a 'perfect' or 'exact' quinella.]
Trifecta is much more interesting when used figuratively, as in our example quote. It was claimed that a candidate will do well by adopting the issue-positions of the winner of a recent election.
But all that
election really proved is that a GOP [representative] could keep a seat in a
60% Republican district so long as he outspent an opponent who committted [a]
final-week gaffe. Replicate that trifecta around the country
and Republicans wouldn't need to campaign.
Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2006
This week's theme is not what you might have
thought from the title!
So many f-words are funny just to hear. You can laugh at the sound of filibuster, and fi-fi-fo-fum, and the cartoon name Elmer Fudd. And many f-words have a 'light' meaning. You can be a frivolous fool or a fuddy-duddy. You can be a figdety fuss-budget or, quite the converse, a fickle flighty fanciful floozy. You can fiddle around, fribble away your time or fritter away your money on frippery. You can flim-flam and finagle.
This week we'll take a lingering look at light, laughing f-words.
flibbertigibbet a frivolous and restless person, silly and flighty, scatterbrained or constantly talking
How do you solve a
problem like Maria?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find the word that means Maria?
Many a thing you know you'd like to tell her.
Many a thing she ought to understand.
But how do you make her stay and listen to all you say?
How do you keep a wave upon the sand?
How do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?
The Sound of Music
Shakespeare used the word differently, to mean a demon (King Lear: "This is the foul fiend Flibbertigibbet"), but that usage remains distinctly secondary.
foofaraw frills and flashy finery. also, to-do over a trifle; a fuss
she did feel
somewhat out of place amongst the other women who'd decked themselves out in
vivid color and foofaraw. Even Shelly, who usually dressed
strictly for comfort, had squeezed herself into satin and sequins like she was
a prom queen.
Rachel Gibson, True Confessions
turned down the offer to become dean of the
Garrison Keillor, Homegrown Democrat: A Few Plain Thoughts From the Heart of America
[Discussing URLs] They're long, they're confusing, they're messy, and they're almost impossible to type correctly the first time. Not to worry, though. I've gone mano-a-mano with this URL foofaraw, and I've come up with a plan that's designed to ..."
Paul McFedries, Complete Idiot's Guide to Creating a Web Page & Blog
Bonus word (from our
mano-a-mano (noun, adj., adv.) face to face confrontation; direct competition
[Spanish "hand to hand"]
dialect) a gross, fat, unwieldy person, esp. a woman
What a wonderful sound! This is not a well-known word, to say the least, but that makes it particularly valuable for use as an insult: your victim will never know he/she's been dissed. In fact, the word is almost never seen in print. Shakespeare coined an interesting variant, though.
a vast virago, or
an ugly tit, a slug, a fat fustilugs, a trusse, a long
lean rawbone, a skeleton
John Keats, letter to George Keats, Sept. 1819
Away, you scullion! you rampallian; you fustilarian! I'll tickle your catastrophe.
II Henry IV, Act II scene 1
As long as we're on antique insults:
scullion a household servant of the lowest rank; hence, a person of the lowest order
rampallian a ruffian, villain, scoundrel
confused mixture, a hodgepodge [but see below]
[Latin farrago mix of grains for animal feed, from far grain]
Pyles calls his
[Webster's] Dissertations on the English Language "a fascinating farrago
of the soundest linguistic common sense and the most egregious poppycock."
Bill Bryson, The Mother Tongue
Our genome is a veritable farrago of non-functional DNA, including many inactive `pseudogenes' that were functional in our ancestors.
Jerry A. Coyne, in Intelligent Thought (John Brockman, ed.), as quoted in newspaper
Yes, but there's another sense. It's not in any dictionary, but Quinion notes "that people
are sometimes using farrago to mean a lot of noise and argument about
nothing very much." OED has in its files, says Quinion, "an example
from as long ago as 1989."
Well, we take it back to a 1957 Ogden Nash poem. Nash introduces the subject by quoting a news account: "A new prawn has been dredged up near
Hadst thou in
Yankee seas appeared,
Account executives would have cheered
Yea, shouldst thou hit our markets now,
Soon, prawn, wouldst thou be named and how!
I see the bright ideas drawn:
Prawno, Prawnex, and Vitaprawn;
And, should upper-bracket dreamers wake,
Squab o'Neptune, and Plankton Steak.
Small wonder thou headest for Santiago,
Where gourmets ignore such frantic farrago;
That's exactly where I myself would have went if I'd
Been mysterious, succulent, unidentified.
furbelow 1. a ruffle or flounce on a garment 2. usually plural: a piece of showy ornamentation
Well, I don't know
that fifty is much for a dress, with all the furbelows and
notions you have to have to finish it off these days.
Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
after the Reformation, Protestant churches were stripped of furbelows, pared down to Calvinist purity.
Carol Strickland, The Annotated Arch: A Crash Course in the History Of Architecture
like tufts of wool
We give literal and figurative example-quotes. The noun form is floccule, a word upon which you can exercise your punning creativity.
yourself gliding down through the flocculent clouds into a blue
ocean full of your fondest memories of childhood.
Erica Jong, Fear of Flying
MacDonald's 'noble, if somewhat flocculent eloquence' must be replaced by greater precision.
Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life (interior quote is from Churchill)
We deal with two forms of nonsense today.
flubdub pretentious nonsese; bunkum; bombast
flapdoodle foolish talk; nonsense
I had summoned all
my resources to phrase this flubdub eloquently and correctly
Henry Miller, Quiet Days in Clichy
any splotching of colors and any flubdub in written composition can pass as creative self-expression.
Boyd H. Bode, Progressive Education at the Crossroads
Barbaro's injury has inspired more drivel and flapdoodle than any single event since the calamitous and great fall of Humpty Dumpty from his seat atop the wall.
Fort Worth Star Telegram, June 2, 2006