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In the Chicago Tribune today they published 10 obscure words. I know that you've heard about many of them, but I thought I'd post one each day. Here is the introduction and the first word:

The crazy winter weather has inspired wider use of some little-known words, such as bombogenesis (meteorologists' slang for a type of rapidly intensifying storm) and williwaw (a windstorm caused when cold air rushes down a mountain to the sea). Here's more about obscure language that we hope you'll be goshbustified (very pleased) to learn:

1 A dozenalist is a person who advocates for society to adopt a base-12 counting system rather than the current base-10 system. According to the argument, dozenal math would be easier because 12 can be divided by 2, 3, 4 and 6 while 10 is divisible only by 2 and 5. And besides, some aspects of our daily lives are already dozenal — our clocks, for example.
 
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2 This one isn't in many dictionaries yet, but an afterism is a clever retort that you come up with too late. The French refer to it as "staircase wit" (l'esprit de l'escalier), a quip that comes to you after your conversation is over, when you're on the stairs leaving. Another English-language term is "escalator wit."
 
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Of course, there is the retort that you think is wildly humorous and inciteful but which your opponent doesn't get, which would make you a half-wit.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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"staircase wit" (l'esprit de l'escalier)

And. the Germans just calqued it, too: Treppenwitz.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Originally posted by zmježd:

Treppenwitz.
Oh. I thought that was a battleship.
 
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quote:Originally posted by zmježd: Treppenwitz. Oh. I thought that was a battleship.

Or German plastic containers.


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Nollidj is power.
 
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I forgot about Treppenwitz!

3 The brougham was a horse-drawn carriage — and early automobile model, for that matter — with an enclosed passenger compartment but an open-aired driver's seat. The phaeton, named after the out-of-control chariot driven by the wayward son of the Greek sun god, was a carriage or auto with or without a cloth canopy and not to be confused with the cabriolet or the drophead coupe, two names for the convertible.
 
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Here is an odd story about the Amish and the intrusion of government regulations. While I'm interested in the subject, what caught my attention was something I'd never heard of before -- a "mud sale". Does anyone know the proper definition of the term?


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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Because they're held in muddy fields in Lancaster County, apparently. Amish Mud Sales


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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This one we've definitely talked about before because it's one of Shu's favorite words:

4 You may have wondered what you call that grooved place between your nose and upper lip. Well, it's your philtrum. Adolf Hitler had a philtrum mustache, also known as a toothbrush mustache.
 
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5 The universal language Volapuk was anything but obscure in the late 1800s. It was invented by a Roman Catholic German priest who said he was told by God to create a language that was easy to master to bring people together. It was referenced in the Chicago Tribune dozens of times in that period, especially the 1890s, though word of its demise followed closely thereafter. A 1910 story used the term to mean any universal language.
 
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6 Sfumato is a painting technique in which one tone blends into another, without sharp outlines. Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" is an example. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, sfumato comes from the Italian sfumare, meaning "to tone down" or "to evaporate like smoke."
 
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Sfumato

The result of Kalleh's husband's venture into horticulture.


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Nollidj is power.
 
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7 A quincunx is the arrangement of five things in which four of them form a square and the fifth is in the center. The number five on throwing dice is expressed as a quincunx. Something that is in such a configuration is called quincuncial.
 
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8 If your uncle spent a good deal of time in the bridewell, he was likely the black sheep of the family. This generic term for jail comes from a mid-16th-century prison near St. Bride church in London. The city of Chicago called its house of corrections the bridewell for more than a century, beginning as early as the 1850s.
 
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9 When a leader assigns incompetent underlings to a minor task to get them out of the way, the leader has stellenbosched them. The word comes from the Second Boer War, when the British sent unproven officers to the South African town of Stellenbosch to mind the horses and handle other chores away from the front lines. (The verb stellenbosch is a toponym, a word derived from a place name.)
 
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Originally posted by Kalleh:
6 Sfumato is a painting technique in which one tone blends into another, without sharp outlines. Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" is an example. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, sfumato comes from the Italian sfumare, meaning "to tone down" or "to evaporate like smoke."


fumare is "to smoke" and s- is a negative prefix.
 
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I did know that fumare was to smoke. What is the relationship to this meaning?
 
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Septemplicate was not one in this list of obscure words, but it was Tsuwm's WWFTD site today, and I am loving it. I can't wait to tell my assistant to please septemplicate the agendas for the meeting! Big Grin
 
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Originally posted by Kalleh:
And besides, some aspects of our daily lives are already dozenal — our clocks, for example.

Not to mention our eggs.
 
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Originally posted by Proofreader:
Here is an odd story about the Amish and the intrusion of government regulations.

I know this wasn't the main point of your post, Proof, but I found the article news aggravating. Bad enough the arm of the law should intrude into a homely, community art form passed down to generations. But copyrighting a breakthrough in art design? Had Picasso & Braque copyrighted cubism, we might have seen little from Klee, Dali, & Cezanne.
 
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Originally posted by Kalleh:
6 Sfumato is a painting technique in which one tone blends into another, without sharp outlines. Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" is an example. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, sfumato comes from the Italian sfumare, meaning "to tone down" or "to evaporate like smoke."

Thank goodness DaVinci didn't copyright it.
 
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Had Picasso & Braque copyrighted cubism, we might have seen little from Klee, Dali, & Cezanne.
Good point! The evolution and decline of impressionism, for example, brought so many miniscule changes, but amazing pieces of art. That would not have happened had there been copyrighting.
 
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I'm at the moment attempting to copyright canvas and easels.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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I'm attempting to patent air.
 
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Originally posted by Geoff:
I'm attempting to patent air.


You might be able to sneak that one past - patent a "breathable gas" and specify the gasses that are present in air in the correct ratios. I wonder if anyone has ever actually tried it... hmmm.... food for thought.
 
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You might be able to sneak that one past - patent a "breathable gas" and specify the gasses that are present in air in the correct ratios. I wonder if anyone has ever actually tried it... hmmm.... food for thought.

Stupider things have made it past.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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Stupid?

Imagine if you owned the patent on "air". anyone breathing would have to pay you royalties.
 
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Stupid?

In the sense that the idiots at the patent office allow passage. I doubt that anyone would pay for use of something like air and that a court would find them liable.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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Quite right. There is apparently a US patent on the combover. That's stupid in that the patent office allowed it and also that the late Frank J. Smith thought it was worth patenting in the first place; how did he ever expect to collect?


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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That probably joins the list of things people do to see if they can get away with it, like registering your cat to vote.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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Ever heard these used?

•“Adam and Eve on a raft and wreck ‘em”: two scrambled eggs on toast
•“Burn one, take it through the garden, and pin a rose on it”: hamburger with lettuce, tomato, and onion
•“Burn the British and draw one in the dark”: English muffin, toasted, with black coffee
•“Adam’s ale, hold the hail”: water, no ice
•“Give it shoes”: an order to go
•“Honeymoon salad”: “lettuce alone”
•“Life preservers”: doughnuts
•“Noah’s boy on bread”: ham sandwich
•“Put out the lights and cry”: liver and onions
•“Zeppelins in a fog”: sausages and mashed potatoes


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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Colorful stuff, Proofreader. I believe this stuff is called "Diner Lingo" - dating back to the 1920s - and I looked it up after reading your delightful posting. Thanks.


"The smell of the dust they kicked up was rich and satisfying" - Grahame
 
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I thought this thread would be a likely candidate for this. Scott has a number of videos on various strange but interesting subjects.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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I hadn't read all of these when Proof first posted them. Just the first one, which I'd heard before. But now I've read them and I thought “Honeymoon salad” for “lettuce alone” was kind of clever. And next time you eat a ham sandwich, think of “Noah’s boy on bread”.
 
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I may be wrong, but I seem to remember them used in the old TV series, "Alice," when Flo barked orders to Mel. Flo, as we all know in the USA, has retired from waitressing and is now selling insurance. With a name like "Flo," I'm surprised she's not selling tampons.
 
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I'm surprised she's not selling tampons.

Or working for Roto-Rooter.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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I'm surprised she's not selling tampons.

Or working for Roto-Rooter.
In case of stuck tampons?
 
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