Entry By: CJ Cooney
Smash illiteracy! Email This Word To A Friend:
|a dictionary of words and phrases on the verge of extinction — updated daily — for the word obsessed!|
comity popinjay kebbuck fatidic philology perihelion Michaelmastide barratry laniary equiponderant borborygmus Hobson's choice zarzuela milquetoast insouciance Christophobic obiter dictum extreme unction prosaic thitherward ruck fulsome Zeitgeist avuncular filiopietistic amor vincit omnia tontine prig fardel sesquipedalian sobriquet
social harmony; comity of nations: recognition and respect between nations for each other's laws1904NostromoDon Jose Avellanos desired passionately for his country: peace, prosperity, and (as the end of the preface to 'Fifty Years of Misrule' has it) 'an honourable place in the comity of civilized nations.'1907The Port of Missing MenArmitage was not listening. Questions of international law and comity had no interest for him whatever.1917Why We are at WarWith a right comity of arrangement no nation need be shut away from free access to the open paths of the world's commerce.
a vain or self-important person given to blathering1958Once There Was A WarOr if you meet an ill-mannered, surly popinjay of a British officer, the British are expected to deny that he exists.1965Dune'This Imperial popinjay. Count Fenring, came as official observer…
a large ball of cheese1896Camps, Quarters, and Casual PlacesThen on the Sunday, when he was off duty, we used to take a walk out to the Torry Lighthouse, or down by the auld brig o' Balgownie, and then hame to an hour's read of the Bible afore I put down the kebbuck and the bannocks.1896Weir of Hermiston'Here! tak' it awa', and bring me a piece bread and kebbuck!' he had exclaimed, with an appalling explosion of his voice and rare gestures.
related to prophecy; like a prophecy or a prophet1958Doctor ZhivagoThat voice had been mine once, a fatidic voice.
Labels: Boris Pasternak
the study of literature and language; linguistics1838Rattlin the ReeferTo those curious in philology I convey the information, that in the word 'dinghy', the 'g' was pronounced hard.1851Rides on RailwaysTo philology even, the deadly science of dead languages, and the great business of public schools, he contrived to impart life by continually pointing out its bearing on the history of the races of mankind.1888On the Study of WordsIt would not be easy to bring together two scholars who have bestowed more thought and the results of more laborious study on the whole subject of phonetic spelling than Mr. Ellis and Dr. Murray have done, while yet at the last annual meeting of the Philological Society (May 20, 1881) these two distinguished scholars, with mutual respect undiminished, had no choice but to acknowledge that, while they were seeking the same objects, the means by which they sought to attain them were altogether different, and that, in the judgment of each, all which the other was doing in setting forward results equally dear to both was only tending to put hindrances in the way, and to make the attainment of those results remoter than ever.1990The Complete Stories, Volume One: The Up-to-Date Sorcerer...he, in common with many practical scientists, enjoyed a proper scorn for the rarefied niceties of classical philology…
a planet's orbital position at which point it is nearest to the sun1909Curiosities of the SkyThen the facts were made plain that comets are subject to the law of gravitation equally with the planets; that there are many which regularly return to the neighborhood of the sun (perihelion)… 1951The Sands of MarsHe finally gave up halfway through the book after coming across a page where the only sentence was 'Substituting for the value of perihelion distance from Equation 15.3, we obtain ...' All else was mathematics.1989London Fields...perihelion (when the earth is at its shortest distance from the sun)…
Michaelmas Day, 29 September, a feast day of Michael the Archangel and All Angels; the autumn season1847Wuthering HeightsSummer drew to an end, and early autumn: it was past Michaelmas, but the harvest was late that year, and a few of our fields were still uncleared.1879Jackanapes, Daddy Darwin's Dovecot and Other StoriesThe Grey Goose remembered it well, it was Michaelmastide, the Michaelmas before the Michaelmas before the Michaelmas—but ga, ga! What does the date matter? It was autumn, harvest-time, and everybody was so busy prophesying and praying about the crops, that the young couple wandered through the lanes, and got blackberries for Miss Jessamine's celebrated crab and blackberry jam, and made guys of themselves with bryony-wreaths, and not a soul troubled his head about them, except the children, and the Postman.1988The Confession of Brother HaluinShe's there at Hales, she paid her dues last Michaelmas.
repeated frivolous lawsuits; fraud or negligence by a ship's captain1881The Prince and the PauperBy advantage taken of one in fault, in dire peril, and at thy mercy, thou hast seized goods worth above thirteenpence ha'penny, paying but a trifle for the same; and this, in the eye of the law, is constructive barratry, misprision of treason, malfeasance in office, ad hominem expurgatis in statu quo—and the penalty is death by the halter, without ransom, commutation, or benefit of clergy.'1937Here's LuckCriminal assault with intent to murder, wilfully damaging property, false pretences, robbery, arson, barratry—anything. And then there's her brother. You're in a terrible fix.1967The Past Through TomorrowThere was still arson, and barratry, whatever that was, and rape. I decided I could avoid rape, but barratry I might manage, if I could find out what it meant.1992Steel BeachThe correspondent herself breezed into the office around sundown, just back from Whiz-bang...with a good story about bribery and barratry amongst our elected representatives…
having canine teeth for tearing1884Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern AustraliaThis species closely resembles Dasyurus ursinus, but differs in being one-third larger, and in having the canines, or laniaries, of proportionately larger size.
Labels: Thomas Mitchell
equal in weight1816Headlong Hall'Your theory,' said Mr Jenkison, 'forms an admirable counterpoise to your example. As far as I am attracted by the one, I am repelled by the other. Thus, the scales of my philosophical balance remain eternally equiponderant, and I see no reason to say of either of them, oichetai eis aidao.'1847The Natural History of WiltshireDame Julian Barnes, in her book of Hunting and Hawking, says that the hawk's bells must be in proportion to the hawk, and they are to be equiponderant, otherwise they will give the hawk an unequall ballast: and as to their sound they are to differ by a semitone, which will make them heard better than if they were unisons.
the rumbling of a gassy stomach1896Anomalies and Curiosities of MedicineThe tumor was soft and velvety to the touch, and could only partially be reduced. Borborygmus could be easily heard.1998White MagicStill I heard from his belly a dull borborygmus, like the work of miners underground, where the work of destruction continued.
a choice that appears to be made freely, but in reality is dictated by the fact that there is only one option1883An Unsocial SocialistIf it does not strike you in that light, you can get a factory and raw cotton for yourselves; you shall not use mine.' In other words, they might go to the devil and starve—Hobson's choice!—for all the other factories were owned by men who offered no better terms.1947Destination MoonBarnes shrugged. 'Hobson’s choice—it has to be Ward.' He named the chief electronics engineer of the project.2003The Belgian CurtainFeudalism...was a Hobson's choice and an explicit trade-off. Local lords defended their vassals against nomad intrusions in return for perpetual service bordering on slavery.
Spanish musical theatre; Spanish opera1883To the Gold Coast For GoldI sighed for the Iberian 'Zarzuela,' that most charming opera buffa which takes its name from a 'pleasaunce' in the Pardo Palace near Madrid.1896Dona PerfectaSuddenly he heard a gay voice humming the refrain of a song from a zarzuela. 1922The QuestDoña Violante used to sing songs from Spanish zarzuelas and from French operettas, which produced in Manuel a terrible sadness.
an extremely timid person; a habitually unassertive person1981LilithAt best he'd return to being that stagnant milquetoast.1996Gilt By AssociationI was tempted to tell her that Squire was a wuss, a Caspar Milquetoast.1999False Memory'Are you serious? That isn’t you, girlfriend. You’re no milquetoast.'
nonchalance; without due concern1937Death on the NileThere was now no insouciance, no malicious defiance, no dark flaming triumph.1959HawaiiHis men also found him fun to be with, for he posed as having the insouciance that all young men in uniform like to think they have, and his company was one of the best.1971The Day of the JackalIn a small office near the Porte des Lilas the insouciance did not penetrate.
fear of Christ; fear of things Christian; fear of Christian values2004National Review (29 November 2004)But the most important explanation for this frenzy of Christophobic bigotry, Bush hatred, and asininity is far more simple: bad analysis.
Labels: Jonah Goldberg
an offhand comment; a non-binding judgment1876DarwinianaThe writer presumes, moreover (but this is an obiter dictum), that the peculiarity originated long after flounders had fixed the habit of swimming on one side (and in this particular case it is rather difficult to see how the two may have gone on pari passu), and so he cuts away all obvious occasion for the alteration through the summation of slight variations in one direction, each bringing some advantage.1919The Burning SpearDon't take that down,' he added quickly, 'we are all subject to moments of weakness. It was just an 'obiter dictum'.'1965The SourceHe was about to offer an obiter dictum but apparently thought better of it…
the anointing of the sick, a Catholic sacrament1875A Foregone ConclusionSomebody administering the extreme unction to a victim of the Council of Ten?1880The Brothers Karamazov After taking the communion, the service of extreme unction followed.
dull; ordinary; pedestrian; everyday; to describe something as prose, in contrast to poetry1850David Copperfield 'Why, the plain state of the case, Mrs. Micawber,' said Traddles, mildly breaking the truth to her. 'I mean the real prosaic fact, you know -' | 'Just so,' said Mrs. Micawber, 'my dear Mr. Traddles, I wish to be as prosaic and literal as possible on a subject of so much importance.'1910The Rules of the Game The whole landscape became ghostly, full of depths and shadows, mysteries and allurements, heights and spaces unknown to the more prosaic day. 1918A Book of Remarkable Criminals Crime in the nineteenth century becomes more scientific in its methods and in its detection also. The revolver places a more hasty, less decorous weapon than the old-fashioned pistol in the hands of the determined burglar. The literature of crime, such as it is, becomes vulgar and prosaic.2003The Meaning of EverythingThe prosaic concerns of the people suggest the placid temper of the time.
that way; thither1596The Discovery of GuianaJohn Douglas searched those rivers, and found four goodly entrances, whereof the least was as big as the Thames at Woolwich, but in the bay thitherward it was shoal and but six foot water; so as we were now without hope of any ship or bark to pass over, and therefore resolved to go on with the boats, and the bottom of the galego, in which we thrust 60 men.1848The MabinogionAnd he came to a vast desert wood, and at the further end of the wood was a meadow, and on the other side of the meadow he saw a large castle. And thitherward Peredur bent his way, and he found the gate open, and he proceeded to the hall.1850The Scarlet LetterAnd now, surrounded, like the saint-like personages of olden times, with a radiant halo, that glorified him amid this gloomy night of sin—as if the departed Governor had left him an inheritance of his glory, or as if he had caught upon himself the distant shine of the celestial city, while looking thitherward to see the triumphant pilgrim pass within its gates—now, in short, good Father Wilson was moving homeward, aiding his footsteps with a lighted lantern!
a scrum; a body of people; a throng1901KimThe ruck of passengers, busy, with their babies and their bundles, had not noticed the affair.1936Keep the Aspidistra FlyingIt mightn't be a bad thing, if you could manage it, to feel yourself one of them, one of the ruck of men.1999MonsoonNone of their foes was able to lift his long musket in the close ruck of bodies…2003Blue HorizonHe could not see him in the ruck of fighting men…
cloying; excessive or insincere flattering speech intending to ingratiate the speaker; abundant1889Driven From HomeHis manner was exceedingly deferential, and he was praising England and everything English in a fulsome manner.1919Pioneers of the Old SouthwestJames Hunter, whose signature leads on all Regulation manifestoes just prior to the Battle of Alamance, was a sycophant of Husband, to whom he addressed fulsome letters; and in the real battle for democracy—the War of Independence—he was a Tory.2003TreasonPeriodically, congressional hearings would have to be convened to allow progressives to denounce Reagan's rhetoric more fulsomely.
the spirit of the times or of a generation; the thoughts, feelings or actions of a given period in time1972The Eiger SanctionThe young men, suffused with the Zeitgeist of Hitler's early days, made such melodramatic statements to the press as: 'We must have the Wall, or it must have us!'1987What Bleak Land (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Jan. 1987)People remain married to each other because they want to. But suppose this Zeitgeist should change?2002No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No JobsIt was about pushing the envelope in sponsorship deals, dreaming up new areas in which to 'extend' the brand, as well as perpetually probing the Zeitgeist to ensure that the 'essence' selected for one's brand would resonate karmically with its target market.2004Eastern Standard TribePeople all over the world who are really secret agents for some other time zone, some other way of looking at the world, some other zeitgeist.
related to an uncle; characteristic of an uncle, especially kindness and tolerance1858Atlantic Monthly (4 February 1858)Could from the dream of romance, from the fever of flushed adolescence, Look to escape and subside into peaceful avuncular functions. Nephews and nieces! alas, for as yet I have none! 1974JawsBrody decided to be low-keyed—avuncular and nonetheless annoyed, but low-keyed, so as not to upset Ellen.
excessive reverence towards tradition; overly conservative or traditional; excessive veneration of forbearers or ancestors1918The American Spirit in LiteratureWe must beware, of course, of what the late Charles Francis Adams once called the 'filiopietistic' fallacy. The 'American' qualities of our literature must be judged in connection with its conformity to universal standards of excellence.
Labels: Bliss Perry
amor vincit omnia
AW-mor win-kit OM-nee-aw
love conquers all; love conquers all things1400The Canterbury TalesOn which ther was first write a crowned 'A,' | And after, 'Amor vincit omnia.' | Another Nonne with hir hadde she, | That was hire Chapeleyne, and preestes thre.1911The Way of an EagleIt flashed upon her finally, as though a voice had spoken into her ear. The words were: Omnia Vincit Amor. And the ring in her hand was no longer the outward visible sign of her compact. It was a love-token, given to her by a man who had spoken no word of love.1930Four Faultless Felons It’s a pretty thing—sort of imitation fourteenth century, with Amor Vincit Omnia on it.
a financial agreement where a prize or amount of money is given to the last living party to the agreement1792The Rights of ManEvery person in England, male and female, pays on an average in taxes two pounds eight shillings and sixpence per annum from the day of his (or her) birth; and, if the expense of collection be added, he pays two pounds eleven shillings and sixpence; consequently, at the end of fifty years he has paid one hundred and twenty-eight pounds fifteen shillings; and at sixty one hundred and fifty-four pounds ten shillings. Converting, therefore, his (or her) individual tax in a tontine, the money he shall receive after fifty years is but little more than the legal interest of the net money he has paid; the rest is made up from those whose circumstances do not require them to draw such support, and the capital in both cases defrays the expenses of government. It is on this ground that I have extended the probable claims to one-third of the number of aged persons in the nation. Is it, then, better that the lives of one hundred and forty thousand aged persons be rendered comfortable, or that a million a year of public money be expended on any one individual, and him often of the most worthless or insignificant character? Let reason and justice, let honour and humanity, let even hypocrisy, sycophancy and Mr. Burke, let George, let Louis, Leopold, Frederic, Catherine, Cornwallis, or Tippoo Saib, answer the question.1889The Wrong BoxTonti is dead, and I never saw anyone who even pretended to regret him; and, as for the tontine system, a word will suffice for all the purposes of this unvarnished narrative.1986La TontinePEACOCK: We do everything that a doctor and a pharmacist can do for each other. We work in perfect harmony. And, to further our friendship, I am going to tell you about a little investment I have made. I've taken out a ten thousand pound Tontine on him. | FLEM: You? (puzzled) Why? | PEACOCK: (supercilously) You know what a Tontine is, of course? | FLEM: Certainly, a Tontine is—a Tontine is—(helplessly) What the devil is a Tontine? | PEACOCK: (smugly triumphant) It's a last man out club. The survivor gets all the money from all the policies.1995CetagandaGeneral Yenaro had the misfortune to be the last of five successive ghem-generals who lost the Barrayaran War, and thus the sole inheritor of a, as it were, tontine of blame.
an over conformist; smug or obnoxious adherence to standards of propriety1891The Picture of Dorian GrayAs for the lives of one's neighbours, if one wishes to be a prig or a Puritan, one can flaunt one's moral views about them, but they are not one's concern.1982Star Trek: The Wrath of KhanBONES: I only use it for medicinal purposes. I got aboard a ship that brings them in a case, every now and then, across the Neutral Zone. Now, don't be a prig...1992In the Realm of the Wolf'You don't change, do you? Still the same priggish, pompous priest.'
a burden; a bundle with something in it; something cumbersome1875Fated to Be FreeYour baby-days flowed in a much-troubled channel; | I see you as then in your impotent strife, | A tight little bundle of wailing and flannel, | Perplexed with that newly-found fardel call'd life.'1889Australia Twice TraversedTherefore, carrying a dozen of such eggs is no easy matter. I took upon myself the responsibility of bringing our prize safe into camp, and I accomplished the task by packing them in grass, tied up in a handkerchief, and slung round my neck; a fine fardel hanging on my chest, immediately under my chin.1921Four YearsI am very religious, and deprived by Huxley and Tyndall, whom I detested, of the simple-minded religion of my childhood, I had made a new religion, almost an infallible church, out of poetic tradition: a fardel of stories, and of personages, and of emotions, a bundle of images and of masks passed on from generation to generation by poets & painters with some help from philosophers and theologians.
the habit or propensity to use really big words1897The BeetlePeter is an excellent servant; but the fashion of his speech, even when conveying the most trivial information, is slightly sesquipedalian. He would have made a capital cabinet minister at question time—he wraps up the smallest petitions of meaning in the largest possible words.1906The Life of Sir Richard BurtonBurton, notes in hand, stood on the platform, facing the great audience, his brain heavy with arguments and bursting with sesquipedalian and sledge-hammer words to pulverize his exasperating opponent.
a nickname1906The Far Horizon'That is very taking and stylish; and it is just what I should like to have done with my Peachie.' This graceful sobriquet was generally understood to bear testimony to the excellence of Mrs. Porcher's complexion.1983KrullErgo spoke the words and for a change lived up to his sobriquet, the Magnificent.2000Shock'Milk of amnesia' was Carl's humorous sobriquet for the anesthetic agent propofol, which was dispensed as a white liquid, and the term never failed to tickle her funny bone.