Jul 1, 2009

wondrous words

New to me from Edward Abbey! These words are from my reading of Desert Solitaire:

Usufructary- "Within this vast perimeter... are the 33,000 acres of Arches National Monument of which I am now sole inhabitant, usufructary, observer and custodian."
Definition: one who holds the right to use or enjoy profits from something belonging to another, as long as it is not damaged or altered

Potable- "I dip my hands into the water and sample some. Pretty bad, neither potable nor palatable."
Definition: fit to drink

Pismire- "Neurotic little pismires."
Definition: an ant

Vinegaroon, Solpugid- "Watch out for rattlesnakes, coral snakes, whip snakes, vinegaroons, centipedes... kissing bugs, solpugids, tarantulas, horned toads, gila monsters, red ants, fire ants, jeruslaem crickets, chinch bugs and giant hairy desert scorpions before being seated."
V: the whip scorpion
S: a family of arachnids with large, powerful fangs and segmented abdomens

Tularemia- "...the flesh is probably infected with tularemia."
Definition: an infectious disease found in rodents, transferable to man

Mucilaginous- "He particularly enjoyed the mucilaginous green pods of the okra..."
Definition: moist and sticky

Spalled- "... slabs of sandstone shook free of their ancient fastenings, spalled from the cliffs and crashed with a sound like thunder into the heave and roar of the flood."
Definition: broken into chips or fragments

Syllogism- "To me death was little more than a fascinating abstraction, the conclusion to a syllogism or the denouement of a stage drama."
Definition: a form of deductive reasoning moving from the general to the specific

Basque- "Three of us, Roy, his Basque hired man Viviano Jacquez, and myself."
Definition: person from an area of the western Pyrenees in France and Spain

Strontium-"We think we have forgotten but we cannot forget- the knowledge is lodged like strontium in the marrow of our bones..."
Definition: soft, silvery metallic element used in making fireworks and signal flares

Chert- "... you may find chipping grounds scattered with hundreds of fragments of flint or chert where the Anasazi hunters worked their arrowpoints."
Definition: a hard, brittle sedimentary rock consisting of microcrystalline quartz

Pecuniary- "And whether good or bad in strictly pecuniary terms, industrial tourism exacts a spiritual price from those dependent upon it for their livelihood."
Definition: relating to money

Pellucid- "The desert storm is over and through the pure sweet pellucid air the cliff swallows and the nighthawks plunge and swerve..."
Definition: transparent or translucent, allowing light to pass through

Estivation- "This little animal lives through dry spells in a state of estivation under the dried-up sediment in the bottom of a hole."
Definition: an inactive state of dormancy through which some animals pass the heat of summer

Couloir- "The mountains are almost bare of snow except for patches within the couloirs on the northern slopes."
Definition: a deep mountainside gorge

Panegyric- "... he would write of the canyon as a whole in panegyric accent."
Definition: formal speech or writing that praises a person, or an event

Alluvium- "I find what looks like a deerpath leading up over an alluvium hill..."
Definition: sand, silt, clay, gravel, or other sediment deposited by flowing water

Sachem- "... we float on our backs in the still water, squat on the cool sand under the sheltering cottonwoods and smoke like sachems."
Definition: chief of a Native American tribe or confederation

Insouciant- "... back to the greater world of Glen Canyon and the steady, powerful, unhurried, insouciant Colorado."
Definition: carefree, unconcerned

Defenestration- "No man could have asked for a lovelier defenestration."
Definition: throwing something (particularly a person) out of a window

Febrile- "Deliberately I compose my mind, quiet the febrile buzzing of the cells and circuits..."
Definition: active and nervous, or feverish

Emunction- "... with their sanctified ritual for nasal emunction: only one nostril may be discharged at a time, etc."
Definition: removing an obstruction from a body passage

these words from The Journey Home:

Scoriation- "The bright enamel finish was scarred and scoriated, dulled by a film of dust."
Definition: a loosely cut groove or furrow characterized by the presence of material from what cut it

Camber- "The car clanked forward on an oblique axis, crabwise, humping up and down on the eccentric camber of the flat."
Definition: a slightly arched surface

Panicle- "The bear grass, with its showy panicle of flowers on a two- or three-foot stalk, is the most striking flower in the Glacier."
Definition: a loosely branched cluster of flowers

Ersatz- "And what a terrible price most of us have to pay for... the luxuriously packaged ersatz food in the supermarkets..."
Definition: an artificial imitation or substitute

I also came across azimuth again, which I remember finding in Quicksilver. I recognized it right away, glad that it stuck! It was used here thus: "When the lookout spots a fire, he aims this device at the center of the smoke... and obtains an azimuth reading from the fixed base of the fire finder."

Visit Bermudaonion's Weblog for more wondrous words.


bermudaonion said...

Wow, you've been doing some pretty heavy reading. I can't even begin to pronounce most of those words, let alone use them. I do battle pismires every spring, though. Thanks for participating!

gautami tripathy said...


I only know three words. Strontium is one of those. No surprise as I am a chemistry PG!

Wondrous Words Wednesday

Jeane said...

Bermudaonion- actually, it didn't feel like heavy reading. I was astonished when I went to look up the words and found how many I'd jotted down.

Gautami tripathy- I guessed it was some kind of metal or mineral when I came across it in the text, but really had no clue.

Janet said...

Yikes! And here I thought of Edward Abbey as a straightforward, un-flashy writer.