Every year at about this time, the Scripps Spelling Bee presents oddball or obscure words we'd otherwise never see. Here are some from the Bee recently completed. Today's word is the one that stumped the youngest of the semi-finalists, who is only 9 years old.
fodient – adj.: (of animals) digging or burrowing
[Latin fodere to dig]
– Roger Lovegrove, Silent Fields: The long decline of a nation's wildlife (2008)
This diminutive burrowing armadillo is indeed one of the marvels of the class of Mammals. Such are its fodient powers, says Mr. White, "that a man has scarcely time to dismount from his horse before the creature has buried itself to the depth of its own body."
– Nature, July 7, 1881
One of yesterday's "burrowing" quotes described a mole.
I digress to present two interesting antique names for this creature, each very aptly noting its burrowing nature. At their starts, one name was akin to wander, and meant "turning"; the other was akin to mold, for "earth, dirt". Each had the ending warpe, meaning "to toss or throw" (akin to our warp). Thus the names for this critter literally meant "turn-tosser" or "earth-tosser".
wandewoerpe – Old English for "mole" (later shortened to wante or want)
mouldwarp – a mole
Each has many variant spellings.
– Eng. statute (1566), An Acte for p'servacon of Grayne
Moles – 'waunts' or 'mouldiwarps' to use two of their old vernacular names – have undoubtedly been a pest since Man first cleared the forest.
– Roger Lovegrove, same cite as yesterday
tourelle – a turret
– Elizabeth Gaskell, Curious, if True (short story)
I tend to avoid presenting food-words, because the sample quotes for them are rarely useful. For example, "He ate a meal of ________," tells you nothing about the food in question. The blank could just as easily read "roast beef" or "whitefish" or "termites". But in this case I can offer you a quote that gives you a concrete image of our particular food, tagliatelle.
tagliatelle – pasta in narrow ribbons [from Italian tagliare to cut]
[Does tagliatelle differ from fettuccine, whose name comes from fettucia ribbon?]
– Marian Keyes, Last Chance Saloon
guayabera – a light open-necked men's shirt, of Cuba and Mexico: usually with large pockets and pleats down the front, and worn outside the pants
The style is familiar, even if the name is not. Politicians can use this shirt to "connect" with Cubans:
– Boston Globe, Jan. 28, 2008
Our colleagues in the Philippines might claim precedent with the barong...