"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Friday, 21 December 2012

Aga saga (and bodice rippers!!)

I have had for a while the Oxford Dictionary of new words - 'the intriguing srtories behind 2000 new words in the news'.  I have only  just got around to opening it and taking it seriously.  I've just finished the letter 'A' so you can expect a few 'A' words in the near future. My first is Aga saga.

An aga saga is a form of popular novel typically set in a semi-rural location and concerning the domestic and emotional lives of middle-class characters. In some contexts, Ága saga is now synonymous with a sanitized and prettified picture of rural life.

Joanna Trollope is said to be the author of some typical aga sagas.

Monday, 17 December 2012


   Are you a librocubicularist?

I discovered today that I am a librocubicularist.

Mind you, if a word begins with the magic letters 'libr' (from the Latin for book) there's a good chance I'm one.

A librocubicularist is simply 'one who reads in bed'.


 Now it just so happens I know someone who reads somewhere else (don't you, GB!).  But I don't think that has a name yet...

Thursday, 13 December 2012


Super-duper, also spelled super duper, super dooper or super-dooper means extremely good, powerful, large, etc.; ‘very super’; marvellous or colossal; a really awesome or amazing thing, often involving something or someone supernatural or exciting.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012



 This noun is an ecclesiastical one and refers to the box or vessel in which the reserved Eucharist or Host is kept.  It is also used for the small watch-shaped container used for carrying the Eucharist to the sick.

A pyx or pyx-chest is also a box or chest at a mint, in which specimen coins are deposited and reserved for trial by weight and assay.

 The Trial of the Pyx is the procedure in the United Kingdom for ensuring that newly minted coins conform to required standards. Trials have been held from the twelfth century to the present day, normally once per calendar year; the form of the ceremony has been essentially the same since 1282 AD. They are trials in the full judicial sense, presided over by a judge with an expert jury of assayers. The "Pyx" is the boxwood chest  in which coins are placed for presentation to the jury.  It can also be spelled pix.

Trials are now held at the Hall of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths; formerly, they took place at the Palace of Westminster. Given modern production methods, it is unlikely that coins would not conform, but this was a problem in the past.  It was tempting for the Master of the Mint to steal precious metals and turn out coins fractionally smaller or lighter than they should have been.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Wrack or Rack

Wrack and rack can have such similar meanings that it can be difficult to know which to use at times. 

To wrack is to destroy; to trash; to wreck.

To rack - to torture; to distress acutely; to torment; to strain in mental effort; to strain by physical force or violence; to strain beyond what is normal or usual.

Both wrack and rack can therefore mean to cause the ruin of something and whilst in some contexts the difference may be obvious in others it is so subtle that either may be used. 

The use of the spelling wrack rather than rack in sentences such as 'she was wracked by grief' or 'the country was wracked by civil war' is very common but is thought by many people (myself included) to be incorrect.  In other words, one is racked by grief or civil war.

As a noun, a wrack is a wrecked ship; a shipwreck; something destroyed or the remnant of something destroyed.

Wrack therefore means collapse or destruction and is the correct word to use in the phrase wrack and ruin.  The above is therefore a wrack going to wrack and ruin.

Wrack is also any of a number of coarse brown seaweeds of the genera Fucus, Ascophyllum, and Pelvetia.

A rack is also a tier (a series of rows placed one above another) and is specifically often used in the context of a tier of stereo or computer equipment.

  The rack was an instrument of torture in medieval times.

Sunday, 2 December 2012


Eftsoon, sadly, is a word no longer in use.  It should be.  I think it sounds wonderful;.  It means soon afterwards; or anew, repeatedly or once again.

Please can we have our word back??  If someone re-introduced it to the language I would use it eftsoon.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


One of the occasional readers of my Rambles blog has her own blog on which she describes herself in her header as a bacchante.

I had to look the word up.  It seems a bacchante is either
1.   (in Myth & Legend) a priestess or female votary of Bacchus or 
2. a drunken female reveller.

What a useful word.  The above is Alma-Tadema's idea of a Bacchante.  I can assure you they don't look like this in Liverpool on a Saturday night.

Friday, 9 November 2012


   Nerd (n)
[Pronopunced nurd]

The slang term 'nerd' means an intelligent but single-minded person, obsessed with a certain hobby or pursuit, e.g. a computer nerd. But the word that has been the bane of so many elementary schooler's existence was actually invented by their king: none other than Dr. Seuss himself! The word first appeared in print in Seuss's 1950 picture book, If I Ran the Zoo.

But Seuss's 'nerd' was a small animal from the land of Ka-Troo, not a pale kid with glasses taped together.

Thanks to thesaurus.com for the above and thefreedcitionary for the following:-

 Nerd next appears, with a gloss, in the February 10, 1957, issue of the Glasgow, Scotland, Sunday Mail in a regular column entitled "ABC for SQUARES": "Nerda square, any explanation needed?" Many of the terms defined in this "ABC" are unmistakable Americanisms, such as hep, ick, and jazzy, as is the gloss "square," the current meaning of nerd. The third appearance of nerd in print is back in the United States in 1970 in Current Slang: "Nurd [sic], someone with objectionable habits or traits.... An uninteresting person, a 'dud.'" Authorities disagree on whether the two nerdsDr. Seuss's small creature and the teenage slang term in the Glasgow Sunday Mailare the same word. Some experts claim there is no semantic connection and the identity of the words is fortuitous. Others maintain that Dr. Seuss is the true originator of nerd and that the word nerd ("comically unpleasant creature") was picked up by the five- and six-year-olds of 1950 and passed on to their older siblings, who by 1957, as teenagers, had restricted and specified the meaning to the most comically obnoxious creature of their own class, a "square."

Sunday, 21 October 2012


The custom of marrying outside a social class, community, clan, tribe or other social unit.
    The fusion of reproductive cells from distantly related or unrelated individuals; outbreeding; cross-pollination.

The opposite of exogamy is endogamy.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


In anatomy, heterochromia refers to a difference in coloration, usually of the iris but also of hair or skin. Heterochromia is a result of the relative excess or lack of melanin (a pigment). It may be inherited, or caused by genetic mosaicism, disease, or injury.

Photo source unknown

Heterochromia of the eye (heterochromia iridis or heterochromia iridum; the common wrong form "heterochromia iridium" is not correct Latin) is of two kinds. In complete heterochromia, one iris is a different color from the other. In partial heterochromia or sectoral heterochromia, part of one iris is a different color from its remainder.

Eye color, specifically the color of the irises, is determined primarily by the concentration and distribution of melanin. The affected eye may be hyperpigmented (hyperchromic) or hypopigmented (hypochromic).[5] In humans, usually, an excess of melanin indicates hyperplasia of the iris tissues, whereas a lack of melanin indicates hypoplasia.  (definition from Wikipedia)  

Monday, 1 October 2012


Propinquity is a noun meaning nearness in place or time or relationship; kinship; similarity in nature.  In social psychology, propinquity is one of the main factors leading to interpersonal attraction. It refers to the physical or psychological proximity between people. Propinquity can mean physical proximity, a kinship between people, or a similarity in nature between things ("like-attracts-like"). Two people living on the same floor of a building, for example, have a higher propinquity than those living on different floors, just as two people with similar political beliefs possess a higher propinquity than those whose beliefs strongly differ. 

So those who have a mutual interest in words and their meanings have a higher propinquity than exists between those who are interested and those who are not.


Monica recently bought a rucksack that was described on its wonderful label as 'indefectible'.  Hwne I saw that I assumed it was one of those made-up words that translators occasionally manage to create from a mangle of similar words. I was wrong.  It is a real word.

Indefectible adj. - Having the ability to resist decay or failure;  lasting;  having no flaw or defect;  perfect.

I just wish I were indefectible!

In a religious context the indefectibility of the Church is a gift from Christ to the Church by which she is preserved to the end of the age as the "institution of salvation".

Saturday, 29 September 2012


Poncif (plural poncifs) is a French word sometimes used in literary English.  It means stereotype, banality or derivative.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012


Noun: the gastrocnemius muscle in the back part of the leg that forms the greater part of the calf, responsible for the plantar flexion of the foot; the largest muscle in the calf of the leg, the action of which extends the foot, raises the heel, and assists in bending the knee.

"Her legs are telling that she's a dancer: gastrocnemiuses look strong, perfect shape of shank, back is not slouching." 

 Origin: First recorded 1670–80;  < Neo-Latin  < Greek gastroknēm ( ía ) calf of the leg + Latin -ius  noun suffix

Related forms  - gastrocnemial, gastrocnemian - adjectives

Since it's a Latuin suffix I would think the plural should really be gastrocnemii.  But then does one refer to hippopotamuses or hippopotami??

Sunday, 15 July 2012


I was reasonably sure I knew what enervate meant .  I thought it was a synonym for energise and meant give somnething energy.  Wrong!

To enervate is to cause something to weaken or to cause someone to feel drained of energy.  As an adjective, enervated means lacking in energy or vitality.

Synonyms for enervated include torpid, listless, lethargic and drained.

Saturday, 30 June 2012


    I came across a word that was new to me the other day - prevised. So I did what I usually do and looked it up.
To previse means to know in advance; foresee; notify in advance; or forewarn.
Prevised therefore means known in advance, imagined beforehnad, or forewarned.