Tuesday, October 21, 2014

word of the day: taiga

The word of the day is taiga:

the coniferous evergreen forests of subarctic lands, covering vast areas of northern North America and Eurasia.
< Russian taĭgá (dictionary.com)
 
 
"You may come upon a question mark in the most intimate places - midsentence, for instance, and with others of its kind, ganging up on some innocent situation and interrogating it to death.  Sprinkling question marks so liberally within a sentence, with no capital letters to make you think you've left it, emphasizes or mimics the thought process where such a series is appropriate....
 
Is the taiga everything you were hoping for?  Is it pure? distant? sublime?  Are the musk oxen still in their winter coats?  Are they talking to themselves? to the BBC audiences? to us?"
 
 - Karen Elizabeth Gordon, The New Well-Tempered Sentence 

Monday, October 20, 2014

word of the day: espadrille

The word of the day is espadrille:


1. a flat shoe with a cloth upper, a rope sole, and sometimes lacing that ties around the ankle.
2. a casual shoe resembling this, often with a wedge heel instead of a flat sole. (dictionary.com)
"Question marks help speculations chime away in the reader's mind, echoing your own.
Why couldn't she breeze into a room and kick off her espadrilles like other girls?"
 - Karen Elizabeth Gordon, The New Well-Tempered Sentence 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

word of the day: marmoreal

The word of the day is marmoreal:
 
skin of marmoreal smoothness.
< Latin marmore (us) made of marble (dictionary.com)


"Indirect object:....
 
 She gave him the cold shoulder because they had a marmoreal love."

 - Karen Elizabeth Gordon, The Deluxe Transitive Vampire

Saturday, October 11, 2014

word of the day: vacuity

The word of the day is vacuity:

1. the state of being vacuous or without contents; vacancy; emptiness
2. absence of thought or intelligence; inanity; blankness
3. a time or state of dullness, lacking in mental or physical action or productivity
4. an empty space; void
5. absence or lack of something specified
6. something inane, senseless, or stupid
7. a vacuum (dictionary.com)


"Coordinate conjunctions join words, phrases, and clauses that are of equal importance or of the same grammatical structure within a sentence.  The most common coordinate conjunctions are and, but, for, or, neither, nor, and yet...

"Neither his existence nor his vacuity betrayed his true intent."

 - Karen Elizabeth Gordon, The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed

Friday, October 10, 2014

word of the day: demotic

The word of the day is demotic:

1. of or pertaining to the ordinary, everyday, current form of a language; vernacular:
a poet with a keen ear for demotic rhythms.
2. of or pertaining to the common people; popular.
3. of, pertaining to, or noting the simplified form of hieratic writing used in ancient Egypt between 700 b.c. and a.d. 500.

Greek dēmotikós popular, plebeian, equivalent to dēmót (ēs) a plebeian 


"Using a demotic word like boogie precludes formal adherence to rules, except for comically incongruous effect:

"There wasn't a single item in my close that I could don with impunity, nor was there a shoe in which it would be seemly to boogie...

"Demotically speaking, we take our liberties.  How often do you expect to hear 'Whom do you think you're kidding?'?  Here again, it's the first word in the sentence - isn't that enough to give it at least a quasi-subject status?  But whom is (or is not) being kidded, and is the object (however the wide of the mark) whom someone is rhetorically failing to fool.  Still, with all those boggled attempts, we begrudge the subject its total dominion over the nominative case.  And maybe if someone's being kidded, or not, he/she has in the process acquired immunity to the prescribed case - and can go on to the next challenge: Who(m) do you think you are, anyway?"

 - Karen Elizabeth Gordon, The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed

Thursday, October 09, 2014

word of the day: Procrustean

The word of the day is Procrustean:

in figurative sense, "violently making conformable to standard," from Procrustes, mythical robber of Attica who seized travelers, tied them to his bed, and either stretched their limbs or lopped of their legs to make them fit it. The name is Greek Prokroustes "one who stretches," from prokrouein "to beat out, stretch out" (dictionary.com)


"Unlike so many grammarians who have made their specialty abhorrent to us, words are more Protean than Procrustean.  Supple, flirtatious, acrobatic, they change form to play with one another in myriad combinations, manifold meanings...

"Procrustean grammatical etiquette admonishes us not to end sentences with prepositions.  Certain verbs, however, travel around with prepositions familiarly attached to them - cuddle up, finish off, shut up, shut off, chime in, make out, turn on, come to - and protect their familiars' right to be there.

"There wasn't a single item in my closet that I could don with impunity, nor was there a shoe fit to boogie in."

 - Karen Elizabeth Gordon, The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

word of the day: rattan

The word of the day is rattan:


1. Also called rattan palm. any of various climbing palms of the genus Calamus or allied genera.
2. the tough stems of such palms, used for wickerwork, canes, etc.
3. a stick or switch of this material. (dictionary.com)
 
 
"I did most of my reading as a child on my bed or on a rattan sofa in the sunroom of the house I grew up in.  Here's a strange thing: Whenever I read a book I love, I start to remember all the other books that have sent me into rapture, and I can remember where I was living and the couch I was sitting on when I read them."
 
 - Nora Ephron, I Feel Bad About My Neck