Tag Archives: vocabulary

A Little Vocabulary to Tide You Over

I am almost ready to offer cocktail thoughts again. So close.

In the meantime, I suggest you incorporate a few obscure (abstruse, recondite) words to your working vocabulary. Because learning is fun.

Benighted: in a state of pitiful or contemptible intellectual or moral ignorance, typically owing to a lack of opportunity.

Obstreperous: noisy; defiant; unruly.

Pillory: to attack or ridicule publicly.

Threnody: elegy; a song for the dead; a lament.

Perfidious: deceitful and untrustworthy. Stems from Latin roots meaning a “to ill effect faith,” or as I prefer to remember it through a tie to French, “loss of faith”.

Periphrastic: using a long phrase where a shorter one would do; indirect and circumlocutory.

And on a frequent theme of Words to Bumble…

Perspicacious: having a ready insight into and understanding of things; shrewd, keen. Or as I like to define it: Dumbledore, which apparently has something to do with bumblebees, bumbling, buzzing and droning about in Old Modern English. There are so many sorts of English, aren’t there? Old, Middle, Old Modern, etc. Very complicated.

Supercilious: behaving or looking as though one thinks one is superior to others. Or as I like to define it: Draco Malfoy, whose surname of course, means something along the lines of “bad faith” in French.

Dolorous: causing, marked by, or expressing misery or grief. In French translations of the Harry Potter series, doloris is the incantation for the cruciatus curse. Also, Dolores Umbridge (“umbrage” meaning darkness/shadow, hint, suspicion or a fit of pique over some fancied slight or insult).

Laconic: Terse. Or as I like to define it: Severus Snape.

Definitions are taken from the Merriam Webster app for Android, the Oxford American Dictionary dashboard widget for Mac, and general inspiration from the cosmos. References to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter characters may seem wholly fatuous, but could actually be good device for committing definitions to memory.



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Word of the Week: Gay (cheerful; exuberant; merry and social OR riant; yeasty; Anacreontic)—An Adventure in Synonyms

2nd-3rd century Roman bust of Anacreon, currently located at the Louvre

2nd-3rd century Roman bust of Anacreon, currently located at the Louvre

When school is out, people must be sure to keep up their vocabulary skills. Cerebral stagnation is simply not acceptable.

Tickle your mind space with this word of the week.

The usage of “gay” in terms of cheerful or exuberant or merry and social is largely out the window—which is why I have consulted my handy second edition copy of The Thinker’s Thesaurus by Peter E. Metzler for some advice.

Synonyms for…

gay (as in cheerful), adj.: riant
gay (as in exuberant) adj.: yeasty
gay (as in merry and social), adj.: Anacreontic

Which calls for some more investigation. The tome refers those interested in Anacreontic to the entry for convivial, with an example wherein the derivation of the term is explained:

The less-than-glorious origin of our national anthem was indeed a drinking song, “To Anacreon in Heaven,” the theme song of the Anacreontic Club of London. The melody, published in England around 1780, is attributed to [two] wealthy men who liked to celebrate music, food and drink. The club took its name from Anacreon, a sixth-century-B.C. Greek lyric poet who also celebrated, well, celebrating. (Mike Rudeen, “You Can Toss Batteries in Trash, but Shouldn’t,” Denver Rocky Mountain News, 3/1/2003.)

Personally, I am going to do my best to bring yeasty into the everyday vocabulary of merriment and joy.

Good luck to all.

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Word of the Week: Grinch, Grincher, Grincheux[se]

As you may know from my Year in Books, I enjoy keeping my foreign language skills honed by occasionally reading Harry Potter books in French.

What does this have to do with “The Word of the Week?”

Whilst making my way through Harry Potter et le prisonier d’Azkaban, I came across an adjective: “grincheux.”

That was a new one for me. I usually read about art in French, and while it is true that many artists are cranky, grumpy, grouchy, peevish, tetchy and petulant (among other similar synonyms), this is rarely referred to in a description of a work or object of art.

Of course, I immediately thought of Dr. Suess’s How Grinch  Stole Christmas! Based on the context of the sentence, “grinchy” seemed to make sense.

And so it did. The Grinch is grincheux. If he was a she, she would be grincheuse.

When one is the in act of grinchant (grinching, grincher = to grinch), they are making heard their discontent. It is a fairly familiar verb to use, apparently. Be warned. This verb usage is largely according to Dictionnaire Reverso; however, the verb does not appear in the Collins Robert French Unabridged Dictionary in my possession. Thus, it may not actually be a word. Who knows? Perhaps I should inquire at the official Académie.

The French are incredibly organized.

According to the Collins Robert:

Grincheux, -euse, adjective or noun
(adj) grumpiness; (n.) grumpy person, misery

According to Oxford American Dictionaries’ widget for Mac:

Grinch, noun, informal
A person who is mean-spirited and unfriendly.
Origin: mid-twentieth century: From the name of the title character from Dr. Suess’s book How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957).

Someone did not do their research, am I right?

In related French vocabulary news, “grigou” means “curmudgeon.”

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Charlie Sheen’s Wine of Choice

Assuming that Charlie Sheen would deign to drink something as low-key as red wine… I think I discovered the obvious front-runner: Gnarly Head.

As highlighted on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” segment on Winners vs. Losers, the volume of cocaine purportedly clogging Sheen’s airways has left him lost in the 1980s. This is evidenced by his usage of 80s slang (winner) such as “gnarly” and “bitchin’.”

“What do you mean there’s new slang? How did I not hear it?”

“You haven’t stopped talking for 25 years.”

And a parting shot of snark from favorite Seth Meyers…

“The biggest loser? Winning. Doesn’t seem to mean the same thing anymore.”

I now vow never again to ponder the dung heap that is Charlie Sheen’s life. My only excuse is that we had this bottle of wine at dinner last night and it was cosmic.

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Word of the Week: Medusoid

The word of the week is Medusoid.

As those of you who have been stung by a jellyfish in the Spanish boonies (oh, wait, is that just me?), yes, that is another word for jellyfish. One that better implies the evil lurking in the water if you ask me.

Why are we talking jellyfish?



I’ve been reliving my youth and watching old Jacques Cousteau specials (thank you Netflix) and while I have not yet reached an episode discussing jellyfish (it’s been more a blue ring octopus type situation thus far), I feel confident that the topic will soon appear in my queue.


It’s not my fault that none of the Oscar nominee movies are available. Curse you, Netflix. When is Social Network going to ship?!



A jellyfish, or resembling a jellyfish; n., adj.

The Thinkers Thesaurus, Peter E. Meltzer



Use it well.

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Word of the Week: Inexplicable

This week’s word is—clearly—”inexplicable.”

I often feel that things are inexplicable. The success of Twilight, for example; or the way my dog likes clementines; or the stupidity of the American public at large.

Not you. The people who don’t read this.



Unable to be explained or accounted for.
For some inexplicable reason her mind went completely blank.

Late Middle English: from French, or from Latin inexplicabilis “that cannot be unfolded”, from in– ‘not’ +

~Oxford American Dictionaries


P.S. I think my dog just chomped up and swallowed a tooth. That is also inexplicable.

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Word of the Week: Incongruous


Because it sounds mathy, sciencey and pretentious even though it just means “not in harmony or keeping with the surrounding or other aspects of something,” AKA just a way of being awkward. Like lots of figure skating costumes and dressing up to go out in extremely cold or wet weather.


Use it.

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