Learn a New Word
Pearly; iridescent like mother-of-pearl.
The pearly inner surface of a mollusk shell is sometimes called nacre, a word that some etymologists believe derives from the Arabic for "small drum" - possibly a reference to the hollowed-out shell once it's vacated by its occupant.
"As soon as the two of them stepped out onto the veranda, Vanessa looked up the nacreous moon and sighed significantly, then ever-so-casually adjusted the strap of her gown."
Resembling a turnip in shape, form, or appearance.
Who knows? You just might need to use this word sometime. It's from Latin "napus," which is what the Romans called a "turnip."
"Well, sure, his head is a little napiform in this picture, but then, he was only a few hours old at the time."
Pertaining to one's birthday.
From the Latin natus, meaning "born," comes this linguistic relative of such words as innate and native.
"'Felicitous natalitious wishes to you!' -- try saying that three times fast!"
Swimming sea creatures.
Nineteenth-century naturalists divided the creatures of the sea into three rather poetic groupings. Nekton (from a Greek word meaning"to swim") referred to those who could swim against the current. Plankton (from the Greek for "to wander") designated those simply drifting about. The name benthos (which in Greek means "the bottom of the sea,") applies to the plants and animals that dwell in the depths.
"I just hope that any nekton Tori encounters out there will be friendly."
(Who's Tori? I wrote about her here.)
Total abstinence from intoxicating beverages.
This teetotaling term is from the Greek nephalios, which means "sober."
"One too many mornings-after spent ‘driving the big white porcelain bus,’ as Orville liked to put it, had finally convinced him that perhaps nephalism was preferable after all."
A vitamin, a deficiency of which causes the disease pellagra.
The name of this vitamin derives from a PR nightmare. Because niacin is derived from nicotine -- the same stuff in tobacco -- it was originally called nicotinic acid. In the 1930s, scientists discovered that nicotinic acid prevented pellagra, a disease that caused skin eruptions, gastric disturbances, nervous and mental dysfunction.
So American food companies began adding nictonic acid to their products, such as bread "enriched" with this vitamin. This prompted dire warnings from anti-tobacco groups, who insisted--erroneously, it turns out--that eating bread containing nicotinic acid would cause cigarette cravings.
The name proved so problematic that in 1942, nicotinic acid was finally rechristened niacin -- a combination of the first two letters of each word in its original name (nicotinic acid), plus a common chemical suffix, in.
"Well, dear, if only you'd eat enough wheat germ, brewer's yeast, and legumes, then you wouldn't need niacin-enriched bread in the first place."
To build a nest.
Nidify comes from the Latin word nidus, meaning "nest." It's a relative of the collective noun nide as in "a nide of pheasants," denoting a nest or brood of them. (The same Latin root that gave us nidify also hatched the fabulous French term for that car-rattling annoyance we call a pothole: In France, it's a nid-de-poule, or "chicken's nest.")
"Playing the field is all well and good, but more and more, I'm getting the urge to nidify."
Bewildered; at a loss.
Nonplussed is from Latin non plus, which means "not more, no further." In its most literal sense, to be nonplussed means to be in a state where no more can be said or done.
"Gingerly dipping one foot into steaming suds, there in the moonless dark, Vanessa discovered that among the revelers already in the hot tub was someone who looked astonishingly like her ex -- a discovery that left her nonplussed."
Depression due to a prolonged hospital stay.
The ancient Greek word "nosos" meant "disease" (hence English "nosophobia," which denotes the morbid fear thereof). The Greeks' word "nosos" led to their name for the place they tended their sick, "nosokomeion." This ancient word for "hospital" inspired the useful but little-used English noun "nosocomephrenia," as well as the English adjective "nosocomial," which means "pertaining to hospitals."
"In addition to all the other side effects, you can also expect to experience nosocomephrenia."
Pertaining to the day before yesterday.
This is an anglicized version of the Latin phrase nunc dies tertius est or "now it is the third day."
"Aw, come on Mom, those clothes are sooooooooooo nudiustertian!"
(NOO-guh-tor-ee, or NYOO-guh-tor-ee)
Worthless, trifling, of little or no importance.
This dismissive term is a descendant of Latin nugae, which means "jokes" or "trifles." (It's no relation, by the way, to nugget, which is thought to come from nug, an English dialectal term for "lump.")
"Alas, it appears that he regards her attentions as nugatory at best."
(c) 1999-2006 Martha Barnette
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