Jun 3, 2009

wondrous words

Quiet here, but I've still been reading! All the new-to-me words this week come from Vet on the Wild Side.

Greasepaint- "What we needed were three good-natured circus elephants, brought up to the roar of the greasepaint, the shouting of clowns..."
Definition: theatrical makeup, from grease mixed with paint. This one doesn't seem quite right, but I couldn't find any other meaning of the word.

Caliph- "To make way for the mighty albino, lying like a dead caliph on his bier, two security guards with whistles and batons went ahead."
Definition: a successor of Muhammad, a leader of Islam

Inglenook- "The pair of tigers were magnificent animals, adolescents who still retained some cubbishness, and as friendly and stroke-happy as any inglenook moggy."
Definition: a corner beside the fireplace

Compos mentis- "By now Savari should have been up on his feet, groggy, but more or less compos mentis."
Definition: of a sound mind

Pantechnicon- "The pantechnicon's engine wouldn't fire, so we had to push-start the enormous vehicle."
Definition: large van used to move furniture

Plonk- "Perhaps the wine of the Plaza Mayor was colored chemical plonk."
Definition: cheap or inferior wine (slang)

Suzerainty- "By democratic standards the Cubans are not a free people, but they are free of grinding poverty... and of the diseases of poverty, and they're free of American suzerainty."
Definition: the power or domain of a suzerain, a feudal lord

Dauphin- "The arts of falconry and the love of the possession of those 'kingdom of the daylight's dauphins' courses in his blood."
Definition: formerly, the eldest son of the King of France

Shahin, Houbara- "... but what did they know about the shahin in practice, the ways of the houbara and gazelle, such subtle quarry?"
S: a swift Asiatic falcon
H: a large bird of the bustard family

Thermidor- "Several of us were looking forward to having a thermidor for Saturday dinner, but we had reckoned without Andrea."
Definition: a dish of cooked lobster meat mixed with cream

Boffin- "I'll get us an appointment to see a boffin!"
Definition: (archaic) a scientist or technician engaged in research

Priapic- "... the male madrill's startling colours, perfeclty normal in mature adults, did add a certain dramatic quality to these handsome animals' frequent priapic revels."
Definition: phallic

Trish asked me in the comments last week what my retention is like on the new vocab I find. Truthfully, half the time I forget them! I know I've come across caliph and suzerainty before, but the meaning escaped me so I looked them up again. Often I have to look up a word two or three times before it sticks well. For a while, several years back, I wrote out new words and their definitions by hand in a notebook; the physical act of writing them seemed to help me remember them better. Typing doesn't quite have the same sticking-factor, for me. (But it's faster! And easeir to search). To find more wondrous words, visit this meme's host at Bermudaonion's Weblog.


  1. It takes me a little while to learn new words too, so you're not alone. A few stick right away, though. Do you remember Inglenook wine? When I read the definition of inglenook, I wondered why they chose that as a brand name. Thanks for participating.

  2. I don't remember all of the words I look up either but I try to focus on remembering those who I might encounter again.

    Great words :)

  3. Oh, wow... I HAVE to remember "plonk" and find a way to use it in casual conversation!

  4. Bermudaonion- I never heard of Inglenook wine. (is it any good?)

    Ladybug- I'm always coming across words I know I've looked up before!

    Janet- Isn't it a great word?

  5. suzerainty?? :) Not even sure how to say that one! I find that writing words down helps me remember them more as well, but it usually takes me looking up the word a few times for it to stick. Then once I've learned the word, it seems I see it everywhere! Bituminous is one of those words, although I don't think it is one I would ever use!

  6. Trish- I'm not sure I can pronounce it, either. Luckily it never comes up in conversation.


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