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A word doesn't have to be long to be obscure and interesting! This week we'll look at some short ones.

Ever been to a singles bar?

lek – an animals' "singles bar"; a place where animals gather to compete for mates (also: the gathering there; the competition there; and to lek: to so compete)
    Peacocks are among the few birds that of a kind of market in seduction techniques, called a "lek," after the Swedish word for play. Some grouse, several birds of paradise, and manakins, plus a number of antelope, deer, bats, fish, moths, butterflies and other insects also indulge in lekking. A lek is place where males gather in the breeding season, mark out little territories that are clustered together, and parade their wares for visiting females.
    – Matt Ridley, The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature

    Poorly-endowed peacock males form leks and together manage to win mates, despite their bigger competitors, through their collective displays.
    – Perry Marshall, Bryan Todd, Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords
 
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We talked about lek here and here.
 
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ort – a scrap or morsel of food left at a meal

What a great word! "Pardon me, but you have an ort stuck between your teeth."
    A flask of water and a plate of bread, hard and tinged with blue mold, stood in the shadows near Beardsley's head; orts and bits of gluey, half-chewed bread covered the floor nearby.
    – Diana Gabaldon, The Fiery Cross

    My high jinks with Mary Kathleen's remains were not crimes in and of themselves, since corpses have no more rights than do orts from last night's midnight snack.
    – Kurt Vonnegut, Jailbird
Edit: arnie, you're right. See here.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: wordcrafter,
 
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quote:
Originally posted by wordcrafter:
ort – a scrap or morsel of food left at a meal

A similar word is SLART (or SLARTS), meaning left overs or scraps. Ort is of Germanic roots, slarts is of unknown origin.
 
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Are we interested in typical crossword fillers such as "ern", the sea eagle of Europe and Greenland [also spelled 'erne',akin to Old High German arn eagle, Greek ornis bird]? I expect there are many puzzlers in this membership who may have had their fill of 3-letter birds and coins and Hebrew letters, though!
 
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quote:
My high jinx

Is that a direct quote? Surely that should be "high jinks"?


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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I'd have thought, with arnie, that jinx was a corruption of jinks. but apparently the original has the x, as does the Latin.
    etymology on-line: jinx 1911, Amer.Eng., from 17c. jyng "a charm, a spell," originally "wryneck," a bird used in witchcraft and divination, from L. iynx "wryneck," from Gk. iynx.
 
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quote:
apparently the original has the x, as does the Latin.
Kurt Vonnegut wrote in Latin? Confused

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=jinks&searchmode=none


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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pyx – the container in which the wafer of the Eucharist is kept
    Father Vaillant came back in his vestments, with his pyx and basin of holy water, and began sprinkling the bed and the watchers, repeating the antiphon, Asperges me, Domine, hyssopo, et mundabor.
    – Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop
Bonus word:
antiphon
– a verse or song to be chanted or sung in response
 
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Mayhaps, Vonnegut was mistaking jinx a singular noun with jinks a plural one. The former is what kids say to one another when the uetter the same word or phrase, usually punching each other on the arm. The latter is spirited frolic or play. Of course, V. may have known all this and still chose to write high jinx instead of what arnie expected.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Attention vocabulary builders: Here's a short word that I found today while reading about mines and minerals. You will probably never have a use for it. vug.
 
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It appears that high jinks, high jinx, jinks, and hijinks are all acceptable alternatives for spirited play. Personally I am only familiar with hijinks in that context. Jinx has always meant a kind of a curse to me, and jink has been a noun or a verb describing quick or evasive lateral movement/turns often used in aerial dogfighting.


Myth Jellies
Cerebroplegia--the cure is within our grasp
 
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erg – a unit of work or energy
[coined 1873 by the British Association for the Advancement of Science, from Gk. ergon "work". Related words are urge and orgy.]
"Orgy"??
    While straining in this way, focusing every erg of energy on his eyes, his bowels suddenly opened up ..."
    – Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (Oprah's Book Club)

    he lunged at Vastor, whirling, hands clasped together to deliver every erg of power at his command into one last thundering punch ...
    – Matthew Woodring Stover, Shatterpoint
 
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A reader points out that pyx has an additional meaning: "A chest in a mint in which specimen coins are placed to await assay".

Thank you, Sandra!
 
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Since yesterday’s word was related to “orgy … Consider the practical difficulties of maintaining a harem. Where do the ladies reside when not "on duty"?

oda –the dormitory of the sultan's seraglio
    It was a spacious chamber (Oda is
    The Turkish title) and ranged round the wall
    Were couches, toilets -- and much more than this
    I might describe, for I have seen it all
    But it suffices -- little was amiss;
    'Twas on the whole a nobly furnished hall.
    – Lord Byron, Don Juan, Canto VI
 
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quote:
Consider the practical difficulties of maintaining a harem. Where do the ladies reside when not "on duty"?

More worrying - what do you do with all those mothers-in-law ;-)


Richard English
 
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Oda, hence odalisque...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odalisque


RJA
 
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As an American, I've always been curious about the Englishman's habit of calling the seeds of certain (but not all?)fruits (veggies too?) pips. The only use I ever had for the word was a commonplace borrowed from the Brits by my family of origin, "he's a real pip, isn't he?" (meaning someone who was hearty and fun) and of course, "Cheerio, pip-pip,"

The dictionary informs me that the first use is a borrowing from the French pépin, meaning seed, whose English version coined in Middle Engish, pippin, is also the root of early 20th c. slang 'pipperoo', shortened to 'pip.'

Much to my surprise, neither use of pipis listed first or even second! I found a host of other meanings for this little bit of a word, including the markings on dice, the tough outer squares on pineapple flesh, and a bird disease!
 
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The Decemberists have a song called "Odalisque". http://www.seeklyrics.com/lyrics/The-Decemberists/Odalisque.html
 
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The Decemberists have a song called "Odalisque"

I heard a member of this band being interviewed on the radio, and they asked about a bunch of words in the band's lyrics. Odalisque was one; another person confused it with obelisk. I'll have to look into their music. The fellow seemed nice enough.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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nobBrit. informal: a person of wealth or high social position
    The judge, In Gilbert & Sullivan's Trial by Jury, explains how he how politics brought him to his judicial position:

    It was managed by a job (and a good job, too!)
    It was managed by a job (and a good job, too!)
    It is patent to the mob,
    That my being made a nob
    Was effected by a job (and a good job, too!)
 
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Interestingly though that usage is still current it's also used with what is almost an opposite meaning in most of the country. If I hear someone called "a bit of a nob" I don't take it to mean that he is upper class, I take it to mean that he's an idiot. It certainly wouldn't be complimentary.

Another use is in the card game cribbage where an extra point can be taken for turning up a jack (knave). This point is called "one for his nob" with "nob" here being a term for head, which is another reasonably common usage.

Nob (or more likely "knob") is also a slang term for penis.
 
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vig – [short for "vigorish"] 1. the interest paid to a loan shark 2. a charge taken by a bookie, on bets
    Indeed, America has a grand record of knocking over other nations. … The Europeans have been there, done that; they have lost their appetite … As for the Russians and Chinese, they lack charitable impulses. They liberate like the mob lends money; the vig sucks. But Americans are a generous if slightly naïve people, with a distinct messianic bent …
    – Brian Haig, Man in the Middle
 
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Nob (or more likely "knob") is also a slang term for penis.

I suspect the derogatory expression, "He's a bit of a nob" comes from this, rather than the "upper class" meaning of nob. My own understanding is that this was originally an abbreviation for "nobility".


Richard English
 
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