November 2006 Archives
Dirksenian Prose, rheum, sesquipedalian, diapason, grandiloquence, Chautauqua, rapscallionry, floriated
Egyptology: ankh (caduceus, sistrum), scarab, shabti, faience, natron (desiccate), Rosetta Stone, cartouche
More toponyms: canopic
(viscera), bialy, arras, doolally,
One Day; One Newspaper: mecca, iconic, nascent, nonagenarian (fκte), cognitive dissonance, kowtow, infographics
of the charms of the net is that you sometimes stumble across enjoyable items,
such as one I found while researching our previous word, balduchin.
"Before he died of a pulmonary embolism at 73, [Senator] Everett McKinley Dirksen had himself become a unique object of
rheum a watery discharge from the eyes or nose [among other meanings]
He had the rheumy eyes of a
bloodhound, the jowls of a St. Bernard and a baldachin of white
hair like that of an extraordinarily unkempt poodle. His face, reporters joked,
looked as if it had been slept in.
sesquipedalian 1. Given to the use of long words 2.
(of a word) long and ponderous; polysyllabic
[from Latin sesquipedalis a foot and a half long]
diapason an organ stop sounding a main register of flue pipes 2. a grand swelling burst of harmony
[Greek dia pason khordon through all notes]
[Everett McKinley Dirksen] was prophetically named for the
19th century orator Edward Everett and for William McKinley, who was elected
President the year that Ev [was] born. When he spoke, there issued forth a sesquipedalian
vocabulary, diapasonal sounds like a
on orator Edward Everett: In 1863
grandiloquence a lofty, extravagantly colorful, pompous, or bombastic style, especially in language
In 1917, he quit school, joined the Army and
shipped off to
A sample of Dirksen:
No, you can't eat freedom, or buy anything with it. You can't hock it downtown for the things you need. When a baby curls a chubby arm around your neck, you can't eat that feeling either, or buy anything with it. But what in this life means more to you than that feeling, or your freedom?
quote uses fustian ('inflated, pompous language', among other
meanings), a previous word-of the-day which comes from a place name (a
toponym). Today's first word is also a toponym.
Chautauqua an annual summer educational meeting providing public lectures, concerts, and dramas, usually in an outdoor setting.
[after such meetings originating in 1874 in
rapscallionry the quality of being a rapscallion a mischievous person; a rascal; a ne'er-do well
His performances had a consciously archaic quality about them. He satirized fustian while indulging in it. His senatorial solemnity was a species of burlesque. He belonged in a Chautauqua rather than a McLuhan age, although he became a master of television performing. His manner, leavened by an exquisite sense of self-parody, conjured up Americana, suggestions of snake-oil peddlers, backwoods Shakespeareans, the gentle rapscallionry of Penrod Schofield's or Pudd'nhead Wilson's world.
floriated decorated or adorned with floral ornaments
Here used metaphorically.
He was personally kind and shamelessly sentimental. Each year, in his most floriated prose, he beseeched the Senate to designate the marigold as the nation's official flower: "It is as sprightly as the daffodil, as delicate as the carnation, as aggressive as the petunia, as ubiquitous as the violet and as stately as the snapdragon."
Dirksen was not merely an orator; he was a leader of his party:
Among Senate Republicans, Dirksen exercised an unchallenged leadership that will probably be impossible for his successor to achieve. the position will inevitably count for less now that Dirksen is gone. The reason is not merely the scope of the job; it is the stature and the enormous range of the man who has vacated it. Dirksen's act would be impossible for anyone to follow. Who else, after all, could have won a Grammy and outsold Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan with a record on which he read the Declaration of Independence, backed by full orchestra and chorus?
recently viewed an exhibit of artifacts from ancient
ankh a figure resembling a cross, with a loop or ring forming a handle instead of the upper arm. used in ancient Egyptian art as a symbol of life.
gold caducei wands, hundreds
of Tjet ankhs resembling small standing angels, sistrum
rattles used in ancient
Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code
caduceus (pl. caducei) a herald's wand, often with serpents twined around it (used as a symbol of the medical profession)
sistrum an ancient percussion instrument (still used in
a large dung beetle, sacred in ancient
Scientists have observed homosexual behavior
in 1,500 animal species
most widespread among animals with a complex herd
as a kind of social glue
But researchers have no idea what the
advantage is, if any, of homosexual behavior among dragonflies, scarab
beetles, or, as observed at least once, two male octopuses of different
We're Deer. We're Queer. Get Used to It. Plenty Magazine,
shabti (or ushabti) a figurine placed in an
ancient Egyptian tomb to be a substitute for the deceased in any work he might
be called upon to do in the afterlife
At least one museum refers to its volunteers, in the Egyptian section, as its "shabtis".
an indispensable part of any Egyptian's
burial equipment, the "shabti"-figurine. Thousands of
these objects have been found in tombs
inscribed with a spell that
ordered them to take the owner's place should he be called for any hard labor
in the next world.
Hiroshi Obayashi, Death and Afterlife: Perspectives of World Religions
faience glazed ceramic ware
[a toponym: originally denoting pottery made at
My eye fell upon a handsome box with an
inlaid cover that bloomed with a garden made of ivory and faience
Anita Diamant, The Red Tent
Unlike the tin-glazed earthenware of the European Middle Ages and Renaissance, Egyptian faience is not clay but a ceramic consisting almost entirely of quartz .
Magazine Antiques, Sept. 1998
natron a mineral salt, consisting of hydrated sodium carbonate
[baking soda]; used to dessicate bodies for mummification
[another toponym: named for the wadi Natrun, where the salt was found]
The mummy makers would cover the body with natron
and then let it sit for almost two and a half months. Natron
absorbed all the water from the body. Plus, it even had a mild antiseptic in
it, which helped to kill any bacteria lurking on the corpse.
Joy Masoff, Oh, Yuck: The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty
Bonus word: desiccate to remove the moisture from
Rosetta Stone a key to some previously unattainable understanding
cartouche 1. a drawn frame around of an engraving, etc.; (esp. one in Egyptian hieroglyphics, inclosing royal or divine names or titles 2. a heavy paper cartridge case
A stone cartouche at the
entrance proclaims in Hebrew, "This is the gate of the Lords into which
the righteous shall enter."
The Jewish Week,
Rosetta Stone, bearing an inscription repeated in hieroglyphics and two
other in writings, was the key that enabled scholars to decipher hieroglyphics.
It is named for
There is only one cartouche
(five times repeated) on the Rosetta Stone, and this was
assumed to contain the name of Ptolemy, because it was certain from the Greek
text that the inscription concerned a Ptolemy.
of last week's "Egyptology" words (faience, natron, and Rosetta Stone) were toponyms: words derived
from place names. So were two of the words presented the previous week under
the "Dirksenian prose" theme (fustian; Chautauqua). So it seems appropriate to
follow with a theme of toponyms, even though we've done one recently
particularly since I've recently come across a few more toponyms to add to my
We'll start with one more toponym of Egyptology.
canopic relating to an ancient Egyptian jar, etc. used to hold the viscera of an embalmed body
The most splendid statue of the dog god was
found guarding the great chest which contained the kings viscera
in canopic urns.
viscera (plural noun; sing. viscus) the internal organs in the main cavities of the body, especially those in the abdomen
bialy a flat, round baked roll topped with onion flakes (somewhat
like a bagel but, unlike the bagel, it is not boiled before baking)
She'd laid on some fresh bialys
from Columbia Bagels and some Krispy Kreme donuts for my return.
Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
arras a tapestry wall hanging
[after the French town of Arras, where tapestries were made]
You may recall from Hamlet, that Polonius hides behind an arras, to eavesdrop ("Behind the arras I'll convey myself, / To hear the process ), and that Hamlet stabs him there. As Queen Gertrude relates (Act 4, Scene 1):
Mad as the sea and wind,
in his lawless
Behind the arras hearing something stir,
Whips out his rapier, cries, 'A rat, a rat!'
And, in this brainish apprehension, kills
The unseen good old man.
[Indian army slang doolally tap: from Deolali, a town near
Let me assure Miss Tsien that our Secretary
of State is in no way crackers, dotty or doolally, as the
British would say.
New York Times,
Lawrence Mortimer said, 'As you can tell, my mother went doolally years ago. Me and my wife tried to get her certified in 1999, but her doctor said collecting books wasn't a reason for having her put away.' 'Indeed not', said Mr Carlton-Hayes, 'or I should have been confined to a padded cell many years ago.'
Sue Townsend, Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction
to meaning: Usages show a mild madness, not necessarily temporary and not
enough to call for confinement. Hence I disagree with OED's "[of] an
unbalanced state of mind", and Compact OED's "temporarily
As to etymology: Some say Deolali was the site of a sanitarium; some say it was where British soldiers waited, pending transport home after their tour of duty, and were driven mad by heat, idleness and boredom. The tap may be from previous importation of tap as an English term meaning malarial fever (Pers. tap fever, heat), or directly from Urdu tap fever; ultimately it traces to Skr. tapa heat; pain; torment.
word is not in any on-line dictionary I've found, but it's quite common in the
press. I have provided the definition below.
Democrats are making their comeback on K
Street, the metonymic home of
[Senator] Ken Conrad's Web site proclaims [he] "has been a leading voice for fiscal responsibility" in
Wall Street Journal,
parsimonious excessively sparing or frugal
metonymy substituting one word or phrase for another with which it is closely associated, as Washington for the United States government
Beltway (typically in the phrase inside the Beltway) the political establishment of
The sum total of all of these trends has
been to produce a crucial gap between the political machinery inside the
Beltway and the American public.
Heres a familiar word, but you probably did not know it came from a place-name.
limousine a large luxurious car; esp. one with separate compartments for driver and for passengers
Limousine meant originally a
heavy shepherd's cloak from the
Bill Bryson, Made In
[Note: Wikipedia has a different explanation: "The limousine car is named after the region because the inhabitants wore a hood with a profile perceived to be similar to that of the car."]
One Day; One Newspaper
in your day-to-day life you happen across an interesting word. It's the easiest
way to learn a new word. But how often does this happen?
"Not often," you might think, and so I'd thought before I started doing words-a-day. But nowadays, as I go about my everyday reading, I am much more apt to notice words that might be interesting candidates for words-a-day. Some are fairly obscure and unfamiliar terms that you'd not want to use in conversation (they might not be understood), but most are words you may know but don't use in conversationally. They are not just curiosities; they would useful additions to your everyday speech.
My point is that far more such words than you might suppose are available to you in your daily reading. To illustrate this, our new theme presents words that were found in a single newspaper last Monday, ready for the reader to seize.
mecca a place which attracts many people of a particular group or with a particular interest
[from the city of
The leaders of the [
Even with its Caspian oil riches,
Wall Street Journal,
iconic of an icon; that is, of a pictorial representation
The iconic design of the Journal will remain steadfast, from the prominent "What's News" column on page one to our stipple dot drawings to the return of the "Pepper and Salt" cartoon to the daily editorial pages.
We saw the word stipple (dotted) here.
words today from opposite ends of the age spectrum.
nascent just coming into existence and beginning to develop
[from Latin nasci to be born; akin to English genus and genesis]
Comedy Central will air a political parody show produced by [a] start-up wireless carrier , marking the first time that a U.S. TV network will broadcast a show originally produced for cell phones. [This] raises to a new level the nascent business of developing TV shows for cell phones, demonstrating that it has potential to become a breeding ground for TV content.
nonagenarian a person between 90 and 99 years old (also adj.)
[Latin nonaginta ninety]
The Spanish government recently feted nonagenarian foreign veterans who volunteered to fight against Franco in the Civil War [1936-1939].
fκte noun: a celebration or festival; verb: to honor or entertain lavishly
cognitive dissonance the mental discomfort of simultaneously
holding incompatible attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, etc.
It is fascinating how the mind will struggle to alleviate the tension. Here's an illustrative extract from the article that gave me this term. (You can find the full article reprinted here.)
In the aftermath of a severe earthquake,
people who lived in a region that had felt the shock but were spared death and
destruction began circulating rumors that other terrible disasters were about
to befall them -- a cyclone, a flood, another earthquake or "unforeseeable
calamities." Why would rumors arise that provoked rather than allayed
anxiety, especially among people who hadn't suffered any immediate loss? And
why were the rumors so widely accepted?
When feelings and facts are in opposition, people will find -- or invent -- a way to reconcile them. The people who had narrowly escaped the earthquake were scared, but their fear seemed largely unjustified. The rumors provided people with information that fit how they already felt, reducing what [the researcher] called their "cognitive dissonance."
kowtow to be excessively subservient towards someone
The Senators have enormous power to punish Exxon if it doesn't kowtow to them. we've seen what happens to other companies that dare to resist Congressional intimidation.
infographics visual representations of information, data or
knowledge. These graphics are used anywhere where information needs to be
explained quickly or simply, such as in signs, maps, journalism, technical
writing, and education
[definition from wikipedia; not defined in the usual dictionaries]
[In the newspaper,] a new style of infograpics and data visualization will deliver more information in less time.