Thursday, January 24, 2013

word of the day: spheroplast

The word of the day is spheroplast:

Biol. a bacterium or plant cell bound by its plasma membrane, the cell wall being deficient or lacking and the whole having a spherical form. (OED)

"In the first study aimed at identifying the in vivo substrates of GroEL, E. coli cells were lysed on ice in the presence of EDTA (to prevent ATP-dependent release of substrate) and GroEL-bound substrates were immunoprecipitated, isolated on 2D gels and identified by mass spectrometry.  The results of that work were challenged, however, on the grounds that substrate binding may have occurred not in vivo, but during cell lysis.  This uncertainty was circumvented in a subsequent study by isolating substrate-containing GroEL-GroES complexes from E. coli spheroplasts expressing C-terminally His6-tagged GroES using immobilized metal-affinity chromatography."

 - Ariel Azia, Ron Unger, and Amnon Horovitz, "What distinguishes GroEL substrates from other Escherichia coli proteins?", FEBS Journal 279:543 (2012)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

word of the day: protomer

The word of the day is protomer:

Etymology:  < prot- (in protein n.) + -o- connective + -mer comb. form2.
Each of the protein subunits of which an oligomeric protein is built up. (OED)

"To our knowledge, the protomer of ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase from Rhodospirirum rubrum (55 kDa) is probably the largest molecule for which GroEL-mediated folding shows strict GroES dependence, an indication of folding in the cis-cavity."

 - Chisa Sakikawa, Hideki Taguchi, Yoshishide Makino, and Masasuke Yoshida, "On the maximum size of proteins to stay and fold in the cavity of GroEL underneath GroES", The Journal of Biological Chemistry 274:21251 (1999)

...And we can't just say "monomer" because then someone might think that the monomer had a physiological function?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

word of the day: septation

The word of the day is septation:

Etymology:  < septum n. + -ation suffix.
Division by a septum or septa. (OED)

which leads us to septum:

Etymology:  < Latin sēptum, sæptum, < sēpīre, sæpīre to enclose, < sēpēs, sæpēs hedge.
  A partition; a dividing wall, membrane, layer, etc.; a dissepiment.
a. gen.
b. Anat. e.g. the partition between the nostrils ( septum nasi), the membrane separating the ventricles of the heart ( septum cordis). septum lucidum or pellucidum , a thin double layer of tissue forming a partition between the two lateral ventricles of the brain.
c. Bot. e.g. the division-wall of a cell, a partition in a compound ovary or spore.)
d. Geol.
e. Zool. e.g. one of the radiated plates of the cell of corals, one of the partitions of a chambered shell.
f. Electronics. A metal plate placed transversely across a waveguide and attached to the walls by conducting joints. (OED)

"Co-chaperones have been observed as necessary because overexpression of dnaK gene alone is toxic for the cell, leading to growth inhibition and abnormal septation."

 - Mónica Martínez-Alonso, Elena García-Fruitós, Neus Ferrer-Miralles, Ursula Rinas, and Antonio Villaverde, "Side effects of chaperone gene co-expression in recombinant protein production", Microbial Cell Factories 9:64 (2010)

Monday, January 21, 2013

word of the day: chuffed

The word of the day is chuffed:

Etymology:  compare chuff adj.1, chuff adj.2
slang (orig. Mil.). 
a. Pleased, satisfied. 
b. Displeased, disgruntled. (OED).

"Mary, Julie and Gerald are all gone, but I feel somehow called,' she wrote, 'as humble messenger from Mary, to salute you.  She would have been so chuffed!"

 - Nancy Gordon, as quoted by Daniel Mendelsohn, "The American boy: a famous author, a young reader, and a life-changing correspondence", 7 January 2013 The New Yorker

This appears to be another one of those words, like "sanction" or "cleave", that is its own adjective.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

word of the day: importune

The word of the day is importune:

Etymology:  < French importune-r (1512 in Godefroy Compl.) = Italian importunāre (Florio), Spanish importunar (Percivall), medieval Latin importūnārī , -āre , < importūnus : see importune adj. 
1. trans. To burden; to be troublesome or wearisome to; to trouble, worry, pester, annoy. 
2. To press, urge, impel. Also absol. Obs. 
3. To solicit pressingly and persistently; to ply or beset with requests or petitions. 
4. To ask for (a thing) urgently and persistently; to crave or beg for.
5.a. intr. To make urgent solicitation; to be importunate. 
b. To solicit for purposes of prostitution.
6. To import, portend. (A Spenserian misuse.

"I studied hard and absorbed my grammars and didn't confide any of this to Mary Renault.  She had brought me to the Greeks, and had shown me what I was, and it was somehow shaming to let on that I was having a hard time finding anyone like the characters in her novels.  Somewhere in the 'The Persian Boy', when the young Bagoas is being schooled at Susa in the arts of the courtesan, the kindly master who is preparing him for service to the King reminds of a crucial rule of life at court: 'Never be importunate, never, never.'  I was no longer sixteen, and I was determined never to importune her."

 - Daniel Mendelsohn, "The American boy: a famous author, a young reader, and a life-changing correspondence", 7 January 2013 The New Yorker

Saturday, January 19, 2013

word of the day: marmoreal

The word of the day is marmoreal:

Etymology:  < classical Latin marmoreus (see marmoreous adj.) + -al suffix1.
1. Resembling marble or a marble statue; cold (also smooth, white, etc.) like marble.2. Made or composed of marble. Obs. (OED)

"To me, Andrew and Ralph were figures in a vast allegorical conflict.  Under the white banner of Andrew there was Renault, and true love, and the ancient Greeks, with their lofty rhetoric and marmoreal beauty; under the black banner of Ralph there was Playgirl, and sex, and thoughts about naked men - the messy and confusing present."

 - Daniel Mendelsohn, "The American boy: a famous author, a young reader, and a life-changing correspondence", 7 January 2013 The New Yorker

Friday, January 18, 2013

word of the day: buckram

The word of the day is buckram:

Etymology:  Found in most of the European languages between 12th and 15th cents...
1. A kind of fine linen or cotton fabric. Obs. 
2.a. A kind of coarse linen or cloth stiffened with gum or paste. men in buckram: sometimes proverbially for non-existent persons, in allusion to Falstaff's ‘four rogues in buckram’ (quot. 1598).
b. A lawyer's bag; = buckram-bag n. at Compounds 2. Obs. 
3. fig. Stiffness; a stiff and starched manner; that which gives a man a stiff exterior. 
4.a. Of buckram, like buckram. 
b. fig. Stiff, ‘starched’, ‘stuck up’; that has a false appearance of strength. (OED)

"I remember the day that this teacher handed me the jacketless hardback of 'The Charioteer', with its dark-gray buckram boards."

 - Daniel Mendelsohn, "The American boy: a famous author, a young reader, and a life-changing correspondence", 7 January 2013 The New Yorker

Thursday, January 17, 2013

phrase of the day: coals to Newcastle

The phrase of the day is coals to Newcastle:

To do something pointless and superfluous. (

"Patrick O'Brian, the author of 'Master and Commander', was an admirer; he dedicated the fourth Aubrey-Maturin book to her, with an inscription 'An owl to Athens' - the ancient Greek version of 'coals to Newcastle'."

 - Daniel Mendelsohn, "The American boy: a famous author, a young reader, and a life-changing correspondence", 7 January 2013 The New Yorker

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

word of the day: donnybrook

The word of the day is donnybrook:

Etymology:  < the name of Donnybrook, a suburb of Dublin, Ireland, once famous for its annual fair. 
A scene of uproar and disorder; a riotous or uproarious meeting; a heated argument. (OED)

"This may be the marquee bowl game, with the undefeated Texas State College of the Pacific Homicidal Maniacs setting their sites on the No. 1-ranked Tallahassee University Khmer Rouge.  These two college programs consistently rise to the top of every major statistical category, including early-onset Alzheimer's, so expect a real donnybrook."

 - Jay Martel, "Your guide to the top bowl games", 7 January 2013 The New Yorker

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

word of the day: roundelay

The word of the day is roundelay:

Etymology:  < Middle French rondelet roundlet n., with remodelling of the ending (through folk-etymological association) after lay n.4 or virelay n. Compare earlier roundel n. II., roundlet n.
Now somewhat arch. Freq. in pastoral poetry, or with pastoral associations.
1.a. A short simple song with a refrain. 
b. The competitive singing of such songs. Obs. rare.
2. A bird's song. 
3.a. A round dance. Cf. roundel n. 12. 
b. = fairy ring n. Obs. rare. 
4. A piece of music based on or accompanying such a song or dance. Also fig.5. fig. (orig. U.S.). A repetitive and apparently pointless cycle of events; a farce. (OED)

"Despite the bubbly erotic wit of Ernst Lubutisch's comedy 'Ninotchka' (playing at Film Forum through Jan. 3), the movie's political satire is chillingly serious.  Greta Garbo stars as Nina Ivanovna Yakushova, a stone-faced Soviet agent who arrives in Paris to sell jewelry confiscated from an exiled Russian noblewoman, Grand Duchess Swana (Ina Claire).  There, she allows herself to be seduced by Count Leon d'Algout (Melvyn Douglas), a debonair French idler, who happens to be Swana's lover.  The romantic roundelay, linking fine emotions with fine lingerie, is shadowed by the brutality of Soviet tyranny."

 - Richard Brody, "Red all over", 7 January 2013 The New Yorker

Monday, January 14, 2013

word of the day: expiate

The word of the day is expiate:

Etymology:  < Latin expiāt- participial stem of expiāre to make satisfaction, < ex- (see ex- prefix1) + piāre to seek to appease (by sacrifice), < pius devout. 
1. trans. To avert (evil) by religious ceremonies; to avert the evil portended by (a prodigy or prophecy). Obs. exc. Hist. 
2. To cleanse, purify (a person, a city) from guilt or pollution by religious ceremonies. Occas. Const. of. Obs. 
3. To do away or extinguish the guilt of (one's sin); to offer or serve as a propitiation for. †to expiate oneself (rare): to do penance.
4. To pay the penalty of.
5. To make amends or reparation for. 
6. intr. To make expiation for. Obs. 
7. To extinguish (a person's rage) by suffering it to the full; to end (one's sorrows, a suffering life) by death. Obs.  (OED)

"The sets, by Jasmine Catudal, rich in gold and red, offer all kinds of spaces in which singers and dancers can move about: stage, auditorium, trap room, prompter's box, catwalks.  When, at the beginning of Act III, the action goes backstage, with the Met's own back wall towering in the distance, it's as if Lepage were expiating for the colossal clautsrophobia of his 'Ring'."

 - Alex Ross, "Retaking the stage: 'The Tempest' and 'Un Ballo in Maschera', at the Met", 3 December 2012 The New Yorker

Sunday, January 13, 2013

word of the day: fugacious

The word of the day is fugacious:

Etymology:  < Latin fugāci-, fugax ( < fugĕre to flee) + -ous suffix.
1. Apt to flee away or flit.
a. Of immaterial things: Tending to disappear, of short duration; evanescent, fleeting, transient, fugitive. 
b. Of persons: †Ready to run away. Also humorously (of persons), fleeing; (of things) slippery. rare. 
c. Of a material substance: Volatile. 
2. Bot. and Zool. Falling or fading early; soon cast off. (OED) 
"The oxygen fugacity of the deepest rock samples from Earth’s mantle is found to be more oxidized than previously thought, with the result that carbon in the asthenospheric mantle will be hosted as graphite or diamond but will be oxidized to produce carbonate melt through the reduction of Fe3+ in silicate minerals during upwelling."
 - Vincenzo Stagno et al., "The oxidation state of the mantle and the extraction of carbon from Earth's interior", Nature 493:84 (3 January 2013), doi:10.1038/nature11679

Saturday, January 12, 2013

word of the day: ascites

The word of the day is ascites:

Etymology:  Latin, < Greek ἀσκίτης (sc. ὕδρωψ dropsy), < ἀσκός bag.
A collection of serous fluid in the peritoneal cavity; dropsy of the abdomen. (OED)

"This antibody is an IgG2a isotype from mouse ascites fluid."


Friday, January 11, 2013

word of the day: gouache

The word of the day is gouache:

Etymology:  French, < Italian guazzo.
A method of painting with opaque colours ground in water, and mixed with gum and honey so as to form a sort of paste. Also, a painting executed in this way, and the pigment itself. (OED)
"Tamimi writes poetry, in Arabic, and paints.  There is a haunting gouache on his living-room wall - lines of script painted over with bright-yellow flowers and green leaves.  The poem, he told me, is 'about the things you're supposed to remember and the things you have to forget'; the flower are 'the way I felt after it was written'."

Thursday, January 10, 2013

word of the day: bogie

The word of the day is bogie:

Etymology:  A northern dialect word, which has recently been generally diffused in connection with railways as applied to the plate-layer's bogie, but especially in sense 2. Of unknown etymology: notwithstanding absurd stories in the newspapers (invented ad rem ), it has (as the sense might show) nothing to do with bogy n.1, which is not a northern word. 
1. north. dial. A low strong truck upon four small wheels, also called trolly, hurly, etc. ‘A kind of cart with low wheels and long shafts, used by masons to remove large stones’ (Peacock Lonsdale Gloss.); ‘a rude contrivance for moving heavy articles, consisting of a simple plank on low wheels’ ( Lanc. Gloss.). esp. in Newcastle, A strong low truck (about 1 ft. high) on 4 small wheels, used, since c1817, for transporting a single cask or hogshead from the quay to the town; also a flat board with 4 very small wheels on which lads career down steep banks or roads, as in the Canadian sport of tobogganing. Hence, in general use, the low truck used by platelayers on a railway.
2. A low truck or frame running on two or more pairs of wheels and supporting the fore-part of a locomotive engine or the ends of a long railway-carriage, to which it is attached by a central pivot, on which it swivels freely in passing curves; a revolving under-carriage. (OED)

"In those years, we always travelled to the farm in the south by overnight train.  Arriving at the Lahore station by night, in two or three straggling cars, among hissing gas lanterns on venders' carts and the shouts of red-coated porters greasing their way through the crowd with suitcases stacked on their heads, we were bustled into a cream-and-green railway bogie, onto a train that seemed always to begin clanking and rolling just as we boarded, onto the Tezgam, the Khyber Mail, the Karachi Express, so that bedrolls and hampers of food and bottles and leaking thermoses, cases of tinkling silverware and rattling dishes, enormous leather-strapped suitcases would be thrust up into the moving vestibule, and Ghulam Rasool, my father's portly valet, galloping alongside the surging locomotive, would make a last desperate lunge, both feet seemingly in the air and his torso blown sideways in the slipstream, and be triumphantly hauled in by numerous hands."

 - Daniyal Mueenuddin, "Sameer and the samosas: a son, an inheritance, and a battle of wills", 3 December 2012 The New Yorker

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

word of the day: janky

The word of the day is janky:

Etymology:  Origin unknown.
U.S. slang (chiefly in African-American usage).
Of poor quality, bad; untrustworthy, suspicious. (OED)

"Eventually, he moved to Los Angeles, and in 2007, through an agency, got a job working for Nicolas Cage and his family as a private chef. While with the Cages, he began to assemble the pieces to build Wolvesmouth: the table, the chairs, china, glasses, and flatware. “I didn’t want to do it janky,” he told me."

 - Dana Goodyear, "Toques from underground: The rise of the secret supper club", 3 December 2012 The New Yorker

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

microwave popcorn fail

A recipe for microwave popcorn, from The Food Matters Cookbook, also by Mark Bittman:


"Real hot popcorn is one of nature's ultimate convenience foods.  I can't say this strongly enough: There's no reason to use microwavable packages, no matter how "natural" they claim to be.  Any popcorn can be microwaved, as you'll see below.

Toss the popcorn with extra ingredients while it's still warm and the seasonings will stick pretty well, even without adding any more fat.

Microwave Popcorn (Makes 2 to 4 servings).  In a small glass container, or a brown paper lunch bag, combing 1/4 cup popping corn with 1/4 teaspoon salt and fold the top of the bag over a couple of times.  Microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes, until there are 4 or 5 seconds between pops.  Open the bag or container carefully, because steam will have built up.  Toss with your seasonings and a drizzle of butter or olive oil or serve as is.

A Dozen Ways to Spike Your Popcorn

Toss any of these with just-cooked popcorn, alone or in combination.  Since some are more potent than others, start with a light sprinkle and taste as you go.

Chopped fresh herbs
Black pepper
Chili powder
Curry powder, or garam or chaat masala
Old Bay seasoning
Five-spice powder
Toasted sesame seeds
Cayenne or red chile flakes
Grated Parmesan cheese
Brown sugar
Finely ground nuts or shredded, unsweetened coconut
Chopped dried fruit"
So I tried the paper bag version just now and made a horrible burnt mess.  Perhaps the paper bag wasn't big enough?  Will try with a container next time.

Does anyone have any experience with homemade microwave popcorn?

word of the day: caesura

The word of the day is caesura:

Etymology:  < Latin cæsūra ‘cutting, metrical pause’, < cæs- participial stem of cædĕre to cut. The earlier form was immediately < French césure. (Some writers appear to have erroneously associated it with cease.) 
1.a. In Greek and Latin prosody: the division of a metrical foot between two words, especially in certain recognized places near the middle of the line.
b. Used for the lengthening of the last syllable of a word by arsis which sometimes occurs in the cæsura.
2. In English prosody: a pause or breathing-place about the middle of a metrical line, generally indicated by a pause in the sense. 
3. transf.a. A formal break or stop. 
b. A break, interruption, interval. (OED)

"The director suggested that he not move around too much, or at all, contending that theatre is ultimately not spectacle but sound.  With a cynical chuckle, Malkovich would invoke Faulkner's line about man's 'puny, inexhaustible voice still talking'.  Pinter's plots are rife with exhausted intervals, of course, and onstage, Sands parses the varieties: a beat is a breath, a pause is a moment of consideration, and a silence - he lets the caesura linger - is an absence so emphatic that it becomes a presence."

 - Tad Friend, "Skyping John Malkovich", 3 December 2012 The New Yorker

Monday, January 07, 2013

word of the day: mensch

The word of the day is mensch:

Etymology:  < Yiddish mensh < Middle High German mensch , mensche person (see mannish n.).

 In Jewish usage: a person of integrity or rectitude; a person who is morally just, honest, or honourable. (OED)

"Mixing readings with recollections of Pinter's pugnacious judgments, he argues that the playwright, while justly celebrated for his merciless dialogue and eerily aloof characters, was underappreciated as a poet and a mensch."

 - Tad Friend, "Skyping John Malkovich", 3 December 2012 The New Yorker

Sunday, January 06, 2013

word of the day: vulpine

The word of the day is vulpine:

Etymology:  < Latin vulpīn-us, < vulpēs fox
1. Characteristic of a fox; similar to that of a fox.
2.a. Resembling a fox; spec. in vulpine opossum or phalanger .
b. fig. Cunning, sly.3. Consisting of foxes.  
 4. Of or pertaining to a fox or foxes. (OED)

"Thanksgiving was still two weeks away when the Republican Party, to its evident shock, found itself stuffed, trussed, roasted, and ready to be served with all the trimmings. This was not the menu that the Party’s nominees, donors, and operatives had looked forward to. It was emphatically not the feast they had been primed to expect by their vulpine cheerleaders in the island universe of the illiberal media."

 - Hendrik Hertzberg, "Mandate with Destiny", 3 December 2012 The New Yorker

No, I still don't know what he means.