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Word of the Week..6?

November 1, 2009 Leave a comment

gamin, \ˈga-mən\= urchin

They’ve been having a 50% off all Barnes and Nobles Essential Library books for the last few weeks, and out of curiosity I picked The Secret Adversary, by Agatha Christie.  Anyway, so “gamin” came from that book.  Here’s the sentence.

There was a certain gamin element in the girl, at all events she invariably got on well with small boys.

It’s a really good book actually, though the plot is pretty thin.  Somehow, I’d never read anything by Agatha Christie before, which is strange since I do like mystery.  But, here’s the weirdest thing: according to Wikipedia, Agatha Christie is the single most popular author of all time.  I was flabbergasted when I read that.  At 4 billion volumes sold, she’s topped Shakespeare.  Her works only trail the Bible in sales.  Is there some conspiracy to hide this news from…well, everyone?  I mean, I don’t think I’ve heard Agatha’s Christie’s name mentioned once in my 17 years of schooling and I’m pretty sure I haven’t heard it mentioned, period, in the last few years.  But, here she is quietly selling 125k books a day for the past 80 years.  Is there some secret contingent of Borneans who worship a Malayian translation of The Secret Adversary?

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Word of the Week (5)

October 23, 2009 1 comment

Provender, \ˈprä-vən-dər\=food

Well, it doesn’t exactly mean food.  It means something more like “feed” or “food for animals” apparently, but food works well enough.  I got it from the King James Version of Genesis 42:27.  It’s right before Joseph’s brothers discover that they still have the money they thought they’d used to buy the food to survive the famine. 

And as one of them opened his sack to give his ass provender in the inn, he espied his money; for, behold, it was in his sack’s mouth.

If I weren’t an adult, and if this wasn’t a family friendly blog…well, jokes.

Categories: Word of the Week

Word of the Week (4)

October 16, 2009 Leave a comment

palter, \ˈpȯl-tər\= equivocate

I got this from the Robert Fitzgerald translation of the Aeneid.  Dido is upbraiding Aeneas for planning to sail for Italy.  She says:

Liar and cheat! Some rough Caucasian cliff

Begot you on a flint.  Hyracian tigresses                   

Tendered their teats to you.  Why should I palter?

I’m always excited to find words like this: tighter synonyms for already slightly elevated English words.  If you’re the kind of person who says “equivocate”, you won’t sound like too much of a joker saying “palter”.

Categories: Word of the Week

Word of the Week (3)

October 10, 2009 Leave a comment

Peripatetic (\ˌper-ə-pə-ˈte-tik\)-  Itinerant; traveling

I also got this from Manchester’s The Glory and the Dream (I’m 98% through, yey!).  The sentence  “the peripatetic Nixon was busy” or some such thing (it’s an audiobook, so I can’t just look it up).

Categories: Word of the Week

Word of the Week

Pith, \ˈpith\- core

So I’m reading the Iliad, in a bid to conquer all the great epic poems, and I came across this purely awesome word.  It comes in book 3 when Hector’s taunting Paris for being a coward.  He says, “They thought you the bravest champion we could field, and just because of the handsome luster on your limbs, but you have no pith, no fighting strength inside you”.  Ouch, harsh.

Categories: Word of the Week

Word of the Week

September 25, 2009 2 comments

I hope this will be a regular friday feature (an open thread kind of thing).  I was looking over GRE material and I was surprised at how many words I knew (i.e, I could recognize and define them), but didn’t know (they weren’t a part of my working vocab).  So I figured I’d try to be more attentive when I come across cool words and I’d post them here.  Here’s this week’s.

Mountebank, \ˈmaun-ti-ˌbaŋk\- Charlatan, pretender. 

I came across this in Manchester’s The Glory and the Dream (which,  by the way, I highly recommend).  The sentence was something like “the American people hadn’t yet realized [Joe McCarthy] was a mountebank”.  Incidentally, am I part of the first generation of Republicans that feels absolutely no need to defend any part of McCarthy?  The Buckleyites stuck with him pretty ostentatiously through the 50’s and, while the Cold War was going on, I got the sense that most Republicans weren’t comfortable totally disowning such a virulent anti-communist (my Republican American History teacher painted a pretty rosy picture of him).  But, I’m with the Democrat Manchester:  Joe McCarthy, what a mountebank.