Browsing Month March, 2006

Everything’s Coming Down Roses

How’s this for a painting?? If you heard this week’s episode of “A Way with Words,” then you’ll recall our discussion of the word Heliogabaline, used by David Foster Wallace in his marvelous essay on English usage. It’s an allusion to the wild-and-crazy Roman emperor Heliogabalus, who supposedly invited a bunch of guests to dinner more…

Because You Never Know When You Might Need It

By the way, if you still haven’t found your way to Omniglot, here’s another reason to hurry on over: Where else are you going to learn how to say “My hovercraft is full of eels” in Polish, Romanian, Swedish, and a host of other languages?

A Cool Latin Palindrome

Nothing like a cool Latin palindrome to make your day, eh? I love this one about moths. It goes: in girum imus nocte et consumimur igni Which translates into the haunting English words: “We enter the circle at night and are consumed by fire.” And speaking of Latin, do check out our show this week. more…

In Search of A Word

I’ve been thinking about all the black-and-white things I’ve been posting here — this anserine bird, these scacchic pieces below, and of course, the impossibly cute Butterstick the panda. I’m musing about a good word for anything that’s similarly black-and-white. That’s why I was reminded of piebald. I’d like to propose the word melanoleucine. The more…

Do You Have Unmet Vocabulary Needs?

Some funny made-up words involving food in this recent Washington Post article. My favorites are culinary bling-bling, flexitarian (we do need a better word for “semi-vegetarian,” although I’m not sure I like this one), and outsaucing (“Use of canned, powdered or frozen sauces”). Also, from a publicist trying to explain why Heinz keeps coming out more…

Finally: Clothes for REAL women!

Or women like me, anyway. (Although I’d really like some big OED-on-CD-ROM hoop earrings to go along with this little get-up.)

Today’s Word: Piebald

Piebald (PYE-bahld) means “patched or spotted, particularly in black and white,” as on an animal. Piebald is from pie, an old word for magpie, the name of a bird with that kind of coloring. The bald in piebald alludes to white fur, hair, or feathers, on the head (as in a bald eagle). They’re also more…

Word for the Day: Scacchic

All kinds of scacchic thrills and chills here in San Diego right now, because the U.S. Chess Champion will be determined here this weekend. Oh, and scacchic? It means “of or pertaining to chess.” Pronounced “SKACK-ick,” it’s from the Italian word for “chess,” scacchi. May the player with the best scacchic skills win!

And Speaking of Speed Bumps

Just remembered another term for those teeth-rattling interruptions in the road: chatter bumps (not to be confused with goose bumps, of course). As Double-Tongued Word-Wrester points out, a chatter bump is a “small depression in a roadbed, usually occurring in series and creating a corrugated or rippled surface.” Also known as a washboard.

Today’s Word: Anserine

Speaking of geese, if you want to describe something “goose-like,” you can always call it anserine. It’s from Latin anser, meaning “goose,” and is pronounced either “ANN-suh-ryn,” or “ANN-suh-rinn” (as in “I just left a message on your answerin’ machine”). Incidentally, Dorland’s Medical Dictionary defines cutis anserina as “a transitory localized change in the skin more…