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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.
    My musing was interrupted by a male voice in a high scream. "You overeducated, obstipated, pedantic ignoramus! Your mathematical intuition froze solid the day you matriculated!"
    . . .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.
 
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Which book is that from?
 
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Hmmm, I've never heard of it in medicine. Yet, I have seen some overeducated, obstipated, pedantic ignoramuses in medicine. Wink
 
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some overeducated, obstipated, pedantic ignoramuses

Or is it ignorami? Wink
 
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ignoramuses

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.
 
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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]
    Fights were no novelty at [her] parties. Her food and liquor were lavish, the music always live; her guests were never dull – I had been surprised at the presence of N.O. Brain. Now I felt that I understood it: a planned hypergolic mixture.
Heinlein scatters interesting words throughout his books, but unusual ones, and especially thoroughly oddball ones, tend to cluster in the early pages. (For example, in the first seven pages of The Number of the Beast you'll find both 'obstipated' and 'hypergolic' – along with 'cantilevering', 'amphigory', 'genetohematologist', 'hyperbole', and 'pheromone' – and the heroine comments, "Gosh, what big words you know, Mister," and "I like your hair-splitting games with words.") To me this evidences that Heinlein made a conscious effort to incorporate curiosities of vocabulary.
 
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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.
 
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Agreed, sean, although I'd say it hits the skids a good deal earlier.

But it's an easy source for words for me!
 
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Heinlein defines today's word for us. From the same book:
    "Show her the caltrop, Zeb."
    . . .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."

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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
    As my [sword-]point entered, Jake's saber cut the side of the neck almost to decapitation. Our target collapsed, bleeding at three wounds.
    . . .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."
 
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quote:
"Hemocyanin, I think," she said calmly. … "Alien. The largest terrestrial fauna with that method of oxygen transport is a lobster."
Oh yeah? Isn't an octopus larger than a lobster? Wink (And I wonder about a giant squid.)

A little research reveals that there's also hemerythrin and hemovanadin.
 
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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
    . . ."… you heard him say that there was another [officer] like him at large – with, so he says, warrants."
    . . ."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."

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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]
    We already have triplets. … Appalling sounds come from one end of each – in which they heterodyne each other – and even more appalling conditions prevail at the other end. … Mother's state can only be described as atavistically maternal. Her professional journals pile up unread, she has that soft Madonna look in her eyes …
    Podkayne of Mars
 
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contretemps – an unforeseen event that disrupts the normal course of things
legerdemain1. sleight of hand 2. trickery, deception, hocus-pocus
    At first I thought that my brother Clark had managed [this] malevolant legerdemain. But I soon perceived that it was ipossible for him to be in fact guilty. … This incredible contretemps, this idiot's dream of interlocking mishaps, is as much to his disadvantage as it is to mine.
    Podkayne of Mars
 
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