Monday, April 30, 2007

Things extra

I learned this word when I was younger because of my interest in things military. It stuck in my head and has remained ever since though I have little occasion to use it.


1. Apparel, outfit, equipment. Almost always in the pl., clothes, trappings, equipments. Milit. The equipments of a soldier other than arms and dress.

2. The process of accoutring or being accoutred.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Shades of meaning.

There have been a number of words so far that I have thought I knew, until I read the definition and discover that there are shades of meaning or more precise meanings of which I have been completely unaware. This is another.


1. a. Properly, an embrace or clasping about the neck; technical name of the salutation marking the bestowal of knighthood, applied at different times to an embrace, a kiss, and a slap on the shoulders with the flat blade of a sword.
[Not in COTGRAVE 1611 who has Accollade (Fr.) a colling, clipping, imbracing about the necke; Hence, the dubbing of a Knight, or the ceremony used therein.]

b. fig. A supreme honour; a mark of approval or admiration; a bestowal of praise, a plaudit; an acknowledgement of merit.

2. Music. A vertical line or brace, used to couple together two or more staves. (Sometimes confined to a straight thick line so used, as distinguished from a brace or double curve; but in mod.Fr. accollade = the brace or double curve , used not merely in music but in ordinary printing, algebra, classification, etc.)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

An interesting connection

I did not suspect the first couple meanings at all, and, having read them, would not have suspected that the word was related to "cloy".

accloy, v.

Obs. or arch.

The development of meaning is fully seen under CLOY.

1. To drive a nail into a horse's foot when shoeing; hence, to lame. lit. and fig.

2. To pierce, stab. rare.

3. To stop up an aperture as with a nail, peg, or other obstruction, to stop a passage. See CLOY. Hence,

4. To block, obstruct, clog, choke. lit. and fig.

5. To fill full. a. To fill to satiety. b. To overfill, overload, burden, oppress.

6. To overburden (the stomach); to nauseate.

7. To disgust, weary, become offensive to.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Are you so inclined?

Another nice little word, and another of those interesting instances where the root word is obsolete and the derivation is not.

acclive, a.

Obs. rare

Rising with a slope, sloping upward, steep; = ACCLIVOUS, ACCLIVITOUS.



The upward slope of a hill; an ascending slope.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Consequential reading

I've posted 5 excerpts from Ideas Have Consequences, which may seem like quite a few considering that the book is only 187 pages. But I have fully 20 other quotations that I have typed up to save for myself and future reference that I have not posted. Truly, a quotable book. It reminded me a great deal of reading Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton. Both are books from the first half of the 20th century, both were written by men arguing against the general trend of thought in their society, and in both cases I agreed with most, though not all, of what they had to say. Very useful and instructive books. Ideas Have Consequences is a short book, as I noted, I encourage everyone to read it. Even if you don't agree with his conclusions, you will think deeply about what you do believe and in a new way. And that's always a good thing, neh?

The unknowable

"For modern man there is no providence, because it would imply a wisdom superior to his and a relationship of means to ends which he cannot find out. Instead of feeling grateful that some things are past his discovering (how odd it sounded when Churchill, the last survivor of the old school, declared that the secret of atomic power had been 'mercifully withheld' from man), he is vexed and promises himself that one day the last arcanum will be forced to yield its secret."
~ p. 183
Ideas Have Consequences

Another cool word.

Quite a number of excellent words in the "acci-" section. I've had to skip several that were interesting simply in the interest of keeping things moving along at a respectable pace.



A feigned refusal of that which is earnestly desired.

Monday, April 23, 2007

How awesome is it?

About four kinds of awesome. The word and the definition are pretty simple, but check out the etymology. (I've replaced the Greek script that Blogger won't display asterisks for each character. Sorry to any Greek scholars that were interested.)


[a. OFr. accide, acide, ONormFr. accidie, acidie; ad. med.L. accīdia, corrupt. of late L. acēdia, a. Gr. ****** heedlessness, torpor (in Cicero, Att. xii. 45) n. of state f. * not + ***-** care, ***-**** I care, lit. non-caring-state. Acedia became a favourite ecclesiastical word, applied primarily to the mental prostration of recluses, induced by fasting, and other physical causes; afterwards the proper term for the 4th cardinal sin, sloth, sluggishness. (See Chaucer, Parson's Tale 603.) Its Greek origin being forgotten, the word was variously ‘derived’ from acidum sour (see Cæsarius quoted in Du Cange, and Roquefort ‘Acide: Ennui, tristesse, dégoût: d'acidum’); and from accidĕre to come upon one as an accident or access, whence the med.L. corruption, accidia, and OFr. and Eng. accide, accidie. The latter is Norman, the former Parisian; the later Eng. accentuation was accidie. With the restoration of Gr. learning, the L. became again acedia, whence a rare ACEDY in 17th c.]

Sloth, torpor.

Friday, April 20, 2007

"And now, on with the opera."

"Let joy be unconfined. Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons, and necking in the parlor."

Thank you, Groucho. A musical note for Friday. ("Note", hah!)



An ornament or ‘grace’ in Music, consisting of a small note (or two at a distance of not more than a minor third from each other) performed as quickly as possible before an essential note of a melody, the single small note (or first of the two) being a semitone below the essential note; a ‘crush-note.’

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Not posting late!

Huzzah. On time with a post for the first time in about a week. Another word for a specialized Catholic practice.


1. With reference to French examinations: = PROXIME ACCESSIT.

2. A secondary vote given in the election of a Pope: see quots.

Shared Belief

"The problem which disintegration places in the lap of practical men, those in charge of states, of institutions, of businesses, is how to persuade to communal activity people who no longer have the same ideas about the most fundamental things. In an age of shared belief, this problem did not exist, for there is a wide area of basic agreement, and dissent is viewed not as a claim to egoistic distinction but as a sort of excommunication."
~ p. 92
Ideas Have Consequences

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Verbing Weirds Language

I've noted this before on my other blog (thanks to Calvin and Hobbes for that title), that the transition of words from nouns to verbs is to be deplored. Sadly, fighting this trend is a losing battle. Here's an example of what I mean. The oldest quotation given for this word as a verb is as recent as 1962. The earliest instance given for the word as a noun is 1325.

access, v.

1. trans. a. To gain access to (data, etc., held in a computer or computer-based system, or the system itself).

b. gen.

2. = ACCESSION v. rare.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


An odd little word. Perhaps you can work it into your every-day conversation. A simple enough meaning.

accerse, v.

To summon.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Not a difficult word.

I marvel at how many people cannot distinguish between words that sound similar. I'm not talking about "there" v. "their". That is a little more understandable since the words, though with different meanings, have the same pronunciation. But rather words like "except" and

accept, v.

1. a. To take or receive (a thing offered) willingly, or with consenting mind; to receive (a thing or person) with favour or approval, e.g. to receive as a prospective husband. Also, to take or receive with patience or resignation, to tolerate.


I won't quote all the various shades of meaning that it has, that's sufficient unto my purpose.

Bonus quotation

I was reading the entry for "accent, n." and a quotation for the final part of the entry ("accent-shift") caught my eye. The quotation is "How dared he pick up her word ‘sleep’ and use it four times in as many lines, and each time in a different foot, as though juggling with the accent-shift were child's play?" And I immediately thought to myself that I recognised that line. Sure enough, the book and author were quite familiar to me. I have a copy of the book on my shelf. A large stack of nothing for those who know it as well. That's right, D. L. SAYERS Gaudy Night xviii. 382.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Fire it up!

First time I have missed a post by a significant margin. My apologies. Two words for Friday's post and with the four from Thursday should be sufficient to make amends, I would hope.

accend, v.

To kindle; to set light to, set on fire. lit. and fig.


And thus,

accendible, a.

Capable of being kindled, or set on fire.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Do we really need four words for this?

Really? And the last entry winds up with the word "english" used as a verb. Wild.

acaulescent, a.

Apparently stemless, having a very short stem, or having the stem concealed in the ground.


acauline, a.



acaulose, a.




acaulous, a.



¶Of the three preceding attempts to english Linnæus's acaulis, Jussieu's acaule, this is most in accordance with Eng. analogies.

Fact v. Truth

"One notes that in everyday speech the word 'fact' has taken the place of 'truth'; 'it is a fact' is now the formula for a categorical assertion. Where fact is made the criterion, knowledge has been rendered unattainable. And the public is being taught systematically to make this fatal confusion of factual particulars with wisdom. On the radio and in magazines and newspapers appear countless games and quizzes designed to test one's stock of facts. The acquisition of unrelated details becomes an end in itself and takes the place of the true ideal of education. So misleading is the program that one widely circulated column invites readers to test their 'horse sense' by answering the factual queries it propounds. The same attention to peripheral matter long ago invaded the schools, at the topmost levels, it must be confessed, where it made nonsense of literary study and almost ruined history. The supposition that facts will speak for themselves is of course another abdication of the intellect. Like impressionist artists, the objectivists prostrate themselves before exterior reality on the assumption that the organizing work of the mind is deceptive."
~ p. 58
Ideas Have Consequences

Stupid, stupid name.

Just finished reading Freakonomics, which is the dumbest name for a book possible while still retaining some connection to the material in the book. That aside, the book is not at all what I expected it to be. There really wasn't much to it in terms of hard data and there was lots of sensationalist journo-writing. "Your real estate agent is ripping you off! Teachers are big, fat cheaters! Abortion stops crime!" That kind of thing.

Really, the book would probably have been a popular, but ultimately unremarkable book about some basic, common-sense kinds of questions that people ought to ask themselves when going about their daily lives and an interesting demonstration of how some simple statistical/economic concepts and thinking will enable one to be a bit more savvy if it hadn't been for that chapter claiming that abortion fights crime. (Which is like that website I linked to many moons ago, and which now apparently tries to eat your computer, so I won't link to it again, that combines a series of odd-ball characteristics for two people and then adds "They fight crime!" Like "She was a teen-age vampire, social-work graduate student with a large overbite, poor fashion sense and small feet and he was ballet dancer with only one arm, color-blindness and a fear of chickens. They fight crime!")

And it turns out that their argument for the crime-fighting power of abortion has been vastly overstated. See Steve Sailer's website for more than you ever wanted to read on the topic. (Some of it is repeated in various sections, but each section has at least something the others don't.) My advice: wait until the book is available at your library and read it in an afternoon. Then you'll have gotten the interesting stuff about the sumo wresting match-fixing and won't have to keep a book that doesn't have much else worth reading in it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

You never know.

Who knew there was a companion word for "agnostic" that referred to objects?


Incomprehensibility:—a term of the Sceptic philosophers; the correlative of agnosticism, which is said of the mental faculty, while acatalepsy is the property of the unknowable object.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I hated this word.

When I was younger and came across this word in my reading, I could never decide how it ought to be pronounced. An irritating word.


1. A member of an academy, or society for promoting arts and sciences; first used of the members of the French Academies, and in England of the Royal Academy; now much more widely. It has taken the place of ACADEMIST.

2. A collegian; = ACADEMIC B2. rare.

A mixed bag.

I'm not convinced of everything asserted by Richard Weaver in Ideas Have Consequences, but it was still an exceptional book. Very thought provoking and full of useful ideas and insights, indeed. I'll excerpt a bit more from it, but you (yes, you too) really ought to read it for yourself. Some of it is a bit dated now, having been written nearly 60 years ago, but it has aged remarkably well and much of what he has to say about the perils of nuclear technology could easily be applied today to the work with genetics.

On the other hand, his sharp criticism of jazz seems to me misplaced. I wonder what he would think of Britney Spears, System of a Down, Rob Zombie, Jay-Z, Ludacris and Eminem since he was of the opinion that even Beethoven should have been censured for "the introduction of dynamism and of strains of individualism". In fact he posits a continuous decline in music from Bach to his current day. Strict stuff.

Perhaps more shocking (but also, I think, better supported) was his query of "Has the art of writing proved an unmixed blessing?" He goes on to answer this question in the negative and backs the position up, if not convincingly, then at least strongly enough to make one think that there is much in what he says.

In sum, a book well worth reading, and careful and thoughtful reading at that.

Monday, April 09, 2007

"And yet I am unmoved."

Great line from a great movie. I watched Pride and Prejudice this weekend with my wife. I really enjoy the story and it was nice to finally get a chance to see the BBC version. It was, originally, a miniseries and now is a five hour movie over two DVDs. We didn't watch it in a single sitting, but broke it up over two nights. (And had it further broken up by having to pause it fairly frequently to deal with one or both of our daughters who, though in bed, did sometimes need to be attended to.) I really do think that Mr Bennet gets all the really good lines despite being only a supporting character. People talk about this book as if it were merely chick-lit. It's not. If you haven't read it, do so. It's a nice story with marvelous characters and sparkling dialogue. And the movie versions aren't bad either.

A pleasant sounding word.

I'm not familiar with the tree, so I'm not sure if it is pleasant, but if it were as pleasant as it sounds, then it is pleasant indeed.


1. Bot. A genus of Leguminous shrubs or trees, of the Mimosa tribe, found in the warmer regions of the Old World; several species of which yield Gum Acacia or Gum Arabic, Catechu, and other products; they form in Australia thickets called scrubs.

2. pop. The North-American Locust-tree, called also False-Acacia (Robinia pseud-Acacia), with sweet-scented white flowers, grown as an ornamental tree in England.

3. Med. The inspissated juice of the unripe fruit of species of Acacia and Mimosa, used as a drug.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Why are some people smart?

In a less sweeping way, an interesting article discusses why Jews are so smart. I don't buy into evolutionary explanations, but the thinking is interesting. And, while I run less of a risk than Charles Murray does of falling afoul of Derbyshire's Law of Journalism (“ANYTHING WHATSOEVER said by a Gentile about Jews will be perceived as antisemitic by someone, somewhere.”), if my readership was large enough, I'm sure I'd get at least one angry comment. I particularly liked the last line of the article, though you should read the whole thing to get to it.

There's a right way and a wrong way.

An interesting instance of a real word losing its meaning and having an erroneous meaning attributed to it. Then, some time later, the correct meaning was uncovered again. Not a word that probably sees much use with either meaning, but an interesting case nonetheless.

abthain, abthane

[An Eng. or rather Lowland Sc. formation on med.L. abthania, for Gaelic Abdhaine, abbacy or abbotrick, abbatia, variously written in the charters Abthen, Abthein, Abbathain, Abbethayne. The meaning of Abthania being lost, it was supposed to be some ancient dignity, for the holder of which the imaginary title of Abthanus was invented by Fordun (Scotochron. IV. xxxix.), and explained by him from a false etymology as Father (abbas) or Superior of the Thanes. Thenceforward the imaginary Abthane flourished in Scottish History, till the recent explanation of the word by Dr. W. F. Skene in Historians of Scotland IV, Fordun II. 413.]

1. Erroneous use: a ‘Superior Thane.’

2. Correct use: an abbacy (of the early Scottish church).

¶If a representative of Gael. abdhaine, abthaine, med.L. abthania, is retained as a special term for ‘the territory of those churches called Monasteria, which were founded by the Columban clergy’ in ancient Celtic Scotland, the best form would be Abthany, as distinct from the equivocal Abthane and his supposed jurisdiction Abthanry or Abthanage.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

I have never seen this word.

The most recent quotation listed by the OED is from 1817. And a Google search turns up only instances of the Latin word and definitions and quotations. I can't find a recent original use. And yet, the word is not listed as obsolete, rare or archaic. Odd, neh? It's another word that ought to get more use.

absterge, v.

To wipe away; to wipe clean; to cleanse; also fig. to purge.


An interview with the editor of The Guardian by the editor of The Independent. I guess it isn't an April Fools prank, because it's dated April 2nd. But he sure doesn't pull any punches, I would have thought that only in an April Fools joke would someone up with such questions. A sample:

PM: Why? In The Guardian, you never stop banging on about fat cats. Do you think that your readers would be pleased to hear that you earned £520,000 last year? Are you worth it?

AR: That's for others to say.

PM: Wouldn't it be more Guardian-like, more socialist, to take a bit less and spread the pot around a bit? We have this quaint idea that you guys are into that "all men are equal" nonsense, but you're not really, are you? You seem a lot more "equal" than others on your paper.

AR: Er... [silence].

PM: Do you ever get awkward moments when your bonus gets published? Do you wince and think, "Oh dear, Polly Toynbee's not going to like this one."

AR: Er... [silence].

PM: Or is Polly raking in so much herself that she wouldn't mind?

AR: Er... [silence].

(Via The Corner.)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Not the meaning I would have guessed.

This word is too ridiculous-looking to pass up.

absquatulate, v.

[A factitious word, simulating a L. form (cf. abscond, gratulate) of American origin, and jocular use.]

To make off, decamp.

A note in passing.

This isn't a word post, per se, it's more of a bonus regarding something I noticed while reading. The OED has 25 words on "absorb" and it's variants and related words. That's all.

Talk about deception

Based on what little I know, I like Ricky Jay. I think he's been good in the movies in which I have seen him, the bit of magic I've seen him do has been impressive and generally my impression of him is good. Or perhaps, "was good" would be more accurate. I just finished his book Dice: Deception, Fate, and Rotten Luck and it wasn't good at all. It was too short and practically a children's book. Very little text, lots of pictures. Should have been in the juvenile section of the library. Unless you think pictures of decaying dice are pretty, leave it on the shelf and read something else if you're interested in the history of dice.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Can united people be defeated?

Answers await! Mark Goldblatt takes on "the people, united, can never be defeated" along with a little help from his bookie, Johnnie L.

Reading in 2007

Just a quick note, since I have been posting rather sporadically, that I am still well ahead of my reading pace from last year. March isn't quite over, so I'll guess I'm probably about 17 or 18 books ahead of my pace from this time last year. Consistency will be key to maintaining this lead. I averaged 20 books a month from May through September last year (with a high of 27 books in August). So far this year I'm only averaging 13 or so a month and the total has gotten smaller each month. Time to get cracking!

Edit: When I actually typed this up a week ago, it was more true than it is now. Except for that very last sentence.

Euphonious word for that which is not.

Today's word is a pleasant sounding word to describe its own opposite.


Something absonous or discordant in the use of language; solecism.

Which itself is from:

absonous, a.

lit. Out of tune, inharmonious; fig. incongruous, absurd, unreasonable. Const. to.

Monday, April 02, 2007

How much usage would it have taken?

To transform these from spurious words into real words, that is. After all, aren't many words coined in such a way? "Neologisms", I believe they are called.

absolent, absolete

erroneous forms due to a confusion between ABSOLUTE and OBSOLETE, which latter frequently appears as absolute even in good writers of 6-7, while absolute was similarly transformed into obsolute. The confusion was partly due to form, partly to sense 4 of ABSOLUTE, completed, finished; hence, by easy transition, done with.