Yesterday's word was coined by science fiction writer Robert Heinlein.
Sometimes I wonder whether Heinlein kept lists of oddball words to deploy in his writings. This week we'll enjoy some of his words.
obstipate – to constipate severely
Heinlein has set the scene at a university party.
. . .I didn't recognize the screamer but did know the stuffed shirt he addressed: Professor Neil O'Heret Brain, head of the department of mathematics…. "Brainy" had spent his life in a search for The Truth – intending to place it under house arrest.
Which book is that from?
Hmmm, I've never heard of it in medicine. Yet, I have seen some overeducated, obstipated, pedantic ignoramuses in medicine.
some overeducated, obstipated, pedantic ignoramuses
Or is it ignorami?
I'm sure we've talked about this before, but ignoramus is a verb in Latin, 'we do not know', and, as such, it is already plural. Many, seeing the -us at the end and thinking it is a second declension masculine noun, try to replace that ending with -i for the nominative plural ending. The real breakdown into morphemes is ignora- (verbal root) + -mus (first person plural ending).
—Ceci n'est pas un seing.
Following yesterday's quote, Heinlein uses a technical term figuratively, to describe two 'combustible' characters brought together at the party.
hypergolic – igniting or exploding spontaneously (without external spark) when the components come into contact [said esp. of rocket fuel]
For those of you who have read Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land and maybe Starship Troopers , you'll find that Number of the Beast is certainly one of his lesser works. I've read quite a few, but this one is only readable as a guilty pleasure, and towards the ending it is downright awful.
Agreed, sean, although I'd say it hits the skids a good deal earlier.
But it's an easy source for words for me!
Heinlein defines today's word for us. From the same book:
. . .Zeb accepted a widget from my husband, placed it in front of me. It looked like jacks I used to play with as a little girl but not enough things sticking out – four instead of six. Three rested on the table, a tripod; the fourth stuck straight up.
. . .Zeb said, "This is a weapon, invented centuries ago. The points should be sharp … ." He flipped it, let it fall to the table. "No matter how it falls, one prong is vertical. Scatter them in front of cavalry; the horses go down – discouraging. They came into use again in Wars One and Two against anything with pneumatic tires – bicycles, motorcycles, lorries, and so forth. Big enough, they disable tanks and tracked vehicles. A small sort can be whittled from thorn bushes for guerrilla warfare – usually poisoned and quite nasty."
A current thread on our board is titled "Blue Blood". Today's word refers to blue blood of a different sort.
hemocyanin – a bluish, copper-containing protein with an oxygen-carrying function similar to that of hemoglobin
. . .I noticed the color of the blood with distaste. "Jake, what kind of creature has bluish green blood?"
. . ."I don't know."
. . .Sharpie came forward, squatted down, dabbed a finger in the blood, sniffed it. "Hemocyanin, I think," she said calmly. … "Alien. The largest terrestrial fauna with that method of oxygen transport is a lobster. But this thing is no lobster."
Oops! I neglected to mention that yesterday's quote came from The Number of the Beast. Today's is from Stranger in a Strange Land.
lettre de cachet – a warrant issued for the imprisonment of a person without trial, at the pleasure of the monarch
. . ."Doctor, I assure you that I know nothing of any such warrant."
. . ."Warrants, sir. He said, 'warrants for several arrests.' Though perhaps a better term would be 'lettres de cachet.'"
. . ."That's a serious imputation."
. . ."This is a serious matter."
heterodyne – to combine (radio waves) to produce a new frequency equal to the sum or difference of the two [Heinlein uses this figuratively]
atavism – the return of a trait or behavior after a period of absence; throwback [a previous word of the day, noted here]
– Podkayne of Mars
contretemps – an unforeseen event that disrupts the normal course of things
legerdemain – 1. sleight of hand 2. trickery, deception, hocus-pocus
– Podkayne of Mars