From the poems of Guy W. Carryl: lacerate, coping, pungent; epithet, bric-ΰ-brac, vulpine; dolce far niente, flippant, torpid; terrapin, expeditious, unction; Tartarean, phillippic; mordacious, pugnacious, rapacious; barrow; objet d'art, borough, shire
One Week of the Newspaper:
Time for More Time: vespertine; postprandial; matutinal; antejentacular; crepuscular; aurorean; nudiustertian; sennight
Words of Deception and Trickery: fourberie; chicane; chouse; obreptitious; tregetry, legerdemain
This week we'll enjoy the humorous poetry of Guy Wetmore Carryl, who wrote take-offs of famous fairy-tales and fables. Carryl is little-known, for he made the ultimate career mistake: he died young, in 1904, aged 31. His books are long out of print, and we will be taking our words from poems that are nowhere to be found on the web.
lacerate to irregularly tear or deeply cut flesh (also figurative, for mental pain)
coping the course of brick on top of a wall (usually sloping)
pungent sharply strong in smell or taste; also, of remarks: cutting and caustic
A farmer built
around his crop
A wall, and crowned his labors,
By placing glass upon the top
To lacerate his neighbors,
Provided they at any time
Should feel disposed the wall to climb.
He also drove some iron pegs
Securely in the coping,
One day a fox, on thieving bent,
A crafty and an old one,
Most shrewdly tracked the pungent scent
That eloquently told one
That grapes were ripe and grapes were good
And likewise in the neighborhood.
characterization, used to stand for the thing mentioned; e.g. Catherine the
Great (can be abusive)
bric-ΰ-brac miscellaneous objects of little value; typically ornamental
[From old Fr. phrase ΰ bric et ΰ brac at random, any old way.]
The fox replied,
with fine distain,
"Come country, don't be peevish."
(Now "country" is an epithet
One can't forgive, nor yet forget.)
The farmer rudely answered back
With compliments unvarnished,
And downward hurled the bric-ΰ-brac
With which the wall was garnished,
In view of which demeanor strange,
The fox retreated out of range.
Carryl tells the fable of the tortoise and
dolce far niente pleasant idleness [Ital: 'sweet doing nothing']
flippant not showing the proper seriousness or respect
torpid sluggish, in mind or in body [noun: torpor]
Once a turtle,
finding plenty / In seclusion to bewitch,
Lived a dolce far niente / Kind of life within a ditch;
One find day, as was his habit, / He was dozing in the sun,
When a young and flippant rabbit / Happened by the ditch to run:
This, of course, was banter merely, / But it stirred the torpid blood
Of the turtle, and severely / Forth he issued from the mud.
terrapin one of
certain small freshwater turtles
[Algonquin. The earlier form, torope, had by coincidence curious simlarity to torpor.]
expeditious quick and efficient
unction excessive, ingratiating compliments, a kind of "oiliness"
As we resume the tale of the exciting race, the hare speaks.
Quoth the turtle, "I refuse. / As for you, with all your talking, /
Sit on any lap you
choose. / I shall simply go on walking."
Now this sporting proposition / Was, upon its face, absurd;
Yet the hare, with expedition, / Took the tortoise at his word,
Ran until the final lap, / Then, supposing he'd outclassed him,
Laid him down and took a nap / And the patient turtle passed him!
Plodding on, he shortly made the / Line that marked the victor's goal;
Paused, and found he'd won, and laid the / Flattering unction to his soul.
infernal [from Tartarus, a section of Hades reserved for punishment of
phillippic a bitter, violent speech of denunciation
[from Demosthenes' speeches, in 351-341 B.C.E., against Philip II of Macedon]
How is a child affected by a brutally strict scholastic regimen? Today we learn of Jack's unhappy upbringing; tomorrow we'll see how he turned out.
On a highly barbarian, / Disciplinarian, Nearly Tartarean / Plan!
He taught him some
And the drastic, sarcastic, / Fantastic, scholastic / Philippics of "Junius," too.
Jack's tartarean upbringing made him intellectually
mordacious, pugnacious and rapacious. Good gracious!
mordacious biting; caustic; sarcastic; capable of wounding (also biting in the literal sense)
pugnacious combative; quick to argue or quarrel
rapacious aggressively greedy; grasping [Latin rapere to snatch]
barrow a cart
for carrying small loads; also, a mound over a burial site; also,
a pig castrated before sexual maturity [interesting combination here!]
objet d'art a small decorative or artistic piece; a curio
borough a town [as distinct from a city]
shire a district roughly equivalent to a county
O'er a small suburban borough / . .Once an eagle used to fly,
Making observations thorough / . .From his station in the sky,
at a church in / .This attractive little shire,
He beheld a smallish urchin / . .Shooting arrows at the spire;
In a spirit of derision, / ."Look alive!" the eagle said;
And, with infinite precision, / .Dropped a feather on his head.
Then the boy
And he sat him on
a barrow, / .And
he fashioned of this same
Eagle's feather such an arrow / .As was worthy of the name.
"Bird of freedom," quoth the urchin, / . .With an unrelenting frown,
"You shall decorate a perch in /. .The menagerie in town;
But of feathers quite a cluster / . .I shall first remove for Ma;
Thanks to you, she'll have a duster / . .For her precious objets d'art."
Interesting words need not be so obscure as
to be worthless. This week we demonstrate that by reading a single newspaper, you
can find an unusual and non-technical word daily.
I chose one of the few national papers in the
[OED notes only the literal use, meaning the economic principle that 'bad money drives out good'. When two currencies in use are perceived to have different likelihoods of becoming debased, people tend to hoard and keep the better, thus leaving only the worse currency in circulation. Named after Sir Thomas Gresham, who noted this in a 1558 letter to Queen Elizabeth.]
Theodore B. Olson, Wall Street Journal, Monday, Sept. 12, 2005
alluvial made of or relating to alluvium; that is, soil deposited by flowing water
solution exists that would assure the reliability of the levees, even in the alluvial
Pete Wilson, former
Since we've already used a form of this word as our word-a-day, I'll include another one, commenting on the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals, which target poverty, hunger and like problems:
are so inadequate, that one cannot know
if the desired trend of improvement
is actually occurring.
. serial guessing isn't helping poor people. If we set
quantitative goals, then we ought to be concerned enough to actually quantitate.
Wall Street Journal, Tuesday Sept. 13, 2005, quoting article in Oct. issue of PloS Medicine
quantitate to measure or estimate the quantity of
rentier a person living on income from property or investments
Amir Taheri, Guess Who's Coming to Dinar, Wall Street Journal, Wed. Sept. 14, 2005
Zukunftsangst fear of the future
Today's word does not yet appear in any dictionary I know of. But what a useful word!
Gabor Steingart, Wall Street Journal, Thursday Sept. 15, 2005
fractious 1. difficult to control 2. easily irritated; quarrelsome
arguably the most popular political figure in fractious
Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal, Friday Sept. 16, 2005
A quote illustrating the second sense:
... he enjoyed the
cosseting for approximately twenty-four hours and then became in
turn restive, restless, testy, irritable, cranky, fractious,
and extremely bad tempered.
Diana Gabaldon, Outlander
Bonus word: cosset to care for over-indulgently
[from a noun meaning "a lamb brought up by hand, as a pet"]
durable and long-lasting; also, permanent; everlasting
perdure to continue, endure; to persist; to last forever
the U.N. perdures
as it has for 60 years and through countless "reform" bids.
Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, Sat./Sun. Sept. 17-18, 2005
Our sweete lord God of hevene, that no man wole perisse [will perish], but wole that we comen alle to the knoweleche of hym, and to the blisful lif that is perdurable
Chaucer, Parson's Tale
anthropic of or
belonging to a human being; of a human sort
anthropic principle the principle that theories of the universe are constrained by the need to allow for man's existence in it as an observer
Today we cite a most interesting article.
said that the density [of matter] is what it is because if it were anything
else we wouldn't be here to even wonder about it. That line of thinking is called
the anthropic principle. But appealing to anthropic
reasoning amounts to a premature surrender.
scientists basically threw up
their hands and said "it is what it is," and missed the fact that the
magic density emerges from something more basic. [Says Dr. Livio,] "Anthropic
reasoning should not replace the search for fundamental explanations."
Sharon Begley, Are the universe's traits random or inevitable?, Wall Street Journal, Friday, Sept. 16, 2005
Time for More Time
Nocturnal is a
familiar word, meaning "pertaining to the night". But are there words
referring to other times of the day?
This week we'll look at time-words, including several of that sort. We are supplementing a previous theme of time words, called It's About Time, from October 2003.
vespertine of, related to or happening in the evening
[Vespertine flowers bloom in the evening.]
Chandler moved with the vespertine dress parade. For this evening
he was an exhibit as well as a gazer.
O. Henry, Lost on Dress Parade
Will you let me go upstairs and change into something a little more vespertine?
Stephen Fry, Revenge: A Novel
A reader notes "vespers," a Christian worship service that takes place during the late afternoon or evening.
postprandial after a meal; particularly after dinner
Sometimes much after, as in the following case.
Apology: Residents of a mountain village where an English
missionary was killed and eaten in 1867 will offer an apology to the man's
descendants. The only known white victim of islands once called the Cannibal
Isles, the Rev. Thomas Baker was killed because he rudely touched a chief's
head and was subsequently cooked. Chief Ratu Filimoni Wawabalavu had invited
Mr. Baker's descendants for the apology. It is still considered rude in Fiji to
touch another's head without permission.
New York Times, Oct. 15, 2003
If vespertine means pertaining to the
evening, what word means pertaining to the morning?
matutinal relating to the early morning, esp. the period just after waking
This [the lack of
heat] was to influence a number of Selina's habits, including nocturnal reading
and matutinal bathing. A morning bath in the arctic atmosphere of
an Illinois prairie farmhouse would not have been eccentric merely, but mad
Edna Ferber So Big
Yesterday we answered the question, "If
vespertine means pertaining to the evening, what word means pertaining
to the morning?" Today let's ask, "If postprandial means
'after dinner', what word means 'before breakfast'?
antejentacular before breakfast
This word is seriously obscure, not to say odd. It seems to be Jeremy Bentham's coinage, but I don't find it ever used in context (one does not count "look at this word" as a 'use in context'). Thus, even though OED lists the term, it is not used frequently enough to be considered an 'accepted word' by normal standards.
Our last visit was
to my old and valuable friend Jeremy Bentham.
We found him
by way of fitting himself for his labours, or, to use his own strangely
invented phraseology, taking his antejentacular and postprandial
The Gentleman's Magazine, January, 1841
You know instinctively that anyone who calls his morning walks something as pompous as "antejentacular circumgyrations" is likely to be pretty cut off from life.
David Boyle, The Sum of Our Discontent
crepuscular resembling or relating to twilight
And so the particles
altering so vividly the colors of the sunlight that passed by them, and by
staining the crepuscular sky with vermilions and passion fruits
and carmines and royal mauves, so they ensured more potently than any other
effect that Krakatoa would soon become the most famous volcano in world
Simon Winchester, Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883
If crepuscular refers to twilight,
what word refers to dawn?
to dawn, or resembling it in brilliant hue
This is a rarely-used word. I'll illusttrate it with a beautiful metaphoric usage.
... another Aurorean
kiss, just brushing the dew on her lips ...
George Merideth, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel
Nathaniel Ward liked to coin words. One page
of his 1647 work has five words which, according to OED, no one else used
before or since: nudiustertian, nugiperous, exadverse, mong (in his
sense) and drossock.
So his usage is the only source from which to find what those words mean. I disagree with OEDs definition for nudiustertian, which several word-lists copy. OED looks to the Latin root; I look to Wards use. Ill quote, and leave you to decide for yourself.
nudiustertian pertaining to the day before yesterday (OED)
nudiustertian the very latest, as fashion (Wordcrafter)
I heare a nugiperous Gentledame inquire what dresse the Queen is in this week: what the nudiustertian fashion of the Court is; I meane the very newest: with egge to be in it in all haste
sennight seven days
and nights (half a fortnight)
This word, once common, lost out to the briefer week.
One day he'll be
tired of [her] tantrums and a woman like Jane Seymour will seem like a pleasant
rest." I shook my head. "She'd bore him to tears in a sennight."
Philippa Gregory, The Other Boleyn Girl
This word, from from Webster's Unabridged, is not in OED.
The latest ad uses
some technical fourberie to create an image of the five-year old
Tiger [Woods] carrying his bag down the 18th hole of the Old Course as fans run
Chris Noon, Forbes, July 18, 2005
Today's word has an interesting variety of
chicane 1. chicanery 2. bridge (game): a holding of no trumps 3. motor traffic or racing: a sharp double bend [or other obstacle made to slow traffic?]
A war of chicane
is a war of artifice and bickering
, a warr where a fortnight's delay before
some awkward lines or fortress would run an enemy short of bread or cash, a war
where time would count more than action, a baffling war; a war ofd deadlocks, a
war where the enemy must face continualy an ebbing tide. This was not
Marlborough's kind of war.
Winston Churchill, Marlborough: His Life and Times (Book Two)
London's most hated trafficcalming scheme - a brutal chicane that has caused scores of collisions - is being redesigned. Motorists said it was so tight their cars collided with the kerbs, causing damage to tyres and wheels.
David Williams, Evening Standard, Aug. 23, 2002
Today, another word with divergent meanings.
1. a cheat; a swindler (verb: to dupe, cheat, trick or swindle)
2. to disturb or harry (cattle)
The first sense seems to come from Turkish chiaus, an official messenger. The story is that a Turkish chiaus, in
obreptitious making false statement to obtain something
In ecclesiastical law obreption is distinguished from subreption in that the former involves misstating facts, and the latter suppressing or failing to reveal facts. But the latter, like the familiar word surreptitious, has been generalized to cover both cases.
The feeling which
Burr's actions inspired, that he was obreptitious, was
overcome by the fascination of the man when one was under his personal
influence; yet the impression of indirectness and duplicity which he caused
made it possible for his enemies
to build up about his name a structure of
public suspicion, and even hatred
Albert J Beveridge, The Life of John Marshall
One of today's words is antique, the other
modern, but notice how similar they are in each of their meanings.
tregetry 1. juggling 2. deception; trickery
legerdemain 1. sleight of hand; jugglery; conjuring tricks 2. trickery, deception, hocus-pocus
Ther saugh I Colle
Upon a table of sicamour
Pleye an uncouthe thing to telle;
I saugh him carien a wind-melle [carry a windmill]
Under a walsh-note shale. [walnut shell]
Geoffrey Chaucer, The House of Fame