Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Word of the day: tupelo

The word of the day is tupelo:

  1. any of several trees of the genus Nyssa, having ovate leaves, clusters of minute flowers, and purple, berrylike fruit, especially N. aquatica, of swampy regions of the eastern, southern, and midwestern U.S.
black gum tree, 1730, apparently from Cree (Algonquian) ito opilwa "swamp tree."


"The neat, modest homes faced Crawfish Stew Street on one side and a canal on the other, leading to the bayou and extraordinary vistas of wide-winged water birds swooping gracefully from water to tupelo and cypress."

 - Arlie Russell Hochschild, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right

Monday, November 28, 2016

Word of the day: pirogue

The word of the day is pirogue:

  1. canoe made by hollowing out tree trunk.
  2. a native boat, especially an American dugout.

"Harold's father built fishing boats out of cypress, some flat-bottomed dugout pirogues traditional to Cajun culture.  He would bring logs to a nearby mill, saw them in his shop, and build them into boats, which he rented to fishermen."

 - Arlie Russell Hochschild, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Word of the day: prat

The word of the day is prat:

  1. the buttocks.


"The last phrase was turned in that special voice which people use for humorous self-parody, in the mistaken hope that it will make them sound less like a prat."

 - Terry Pratchett, Sourcery

Phrase of the day: bunch of fives

The phrase of the day is bunch of fives:

uk old-fashioned slang

If you give someone a bunch of fives, you hit them hard with your hand closed.


"Or a little car runs into the back of yours and you rush out to show a bunch of fives to the driver who, it becomes apparent as he goes on unfolding more body like some horrible conjuring trick, must have been sitting on the back seat."

 - Terry Pratchett, Sourcery

Word of the day: slipstream

The word of the day is slipstream:

  1. Aeronautics. the airstream pushed back by a revolving aircraft propeller. Compare backwash (def 2), wash (def 31).
  2. the airstream generating reduced air pressure and forward suction directly behind a rapidly moving vehicle.

"In fact Rincewind was already half a mile out over the dark sea, squatting on the carpet like an angry buddha, his mind a soup of rage, humiliation and fury, with a side order of outrage...

"He reached up and touched his hat for reassurance, even as it lost its last few sequins in the slipstream."

 - Terry Pratchett, Sourcery

Word of the day: caddisfly

The word of the day is caddisfly:

  1. any of numerous aquatic insects constituting the order Trichoptera, having two pairs of membranous, often hairy wings and superficially resembling moths.

Most caddisfly larvae live in cases they build out of sand, rock, twigs, leaf pieces, and any other kind of underwater debris. Some even generate their own cases out of silk. There is tremendous variation in case style and also in the way the larvae manage their cases: whether they replace it as they grow or renovate their old one, and whether they carry it around or fix it to an object.


"'Wizards always used to build a tower around themselves, like those...what do you call those things you find at the bottom of rivers?'
"'Unsuccessful gangsters.'
"'Caddis flies is what I meant,' said Rincewind."

 - Terry Pratchett, Sourcery

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Word of the day: crenelated

The word of the day is crenelated:

  1. furnished with crenelations, as a parapet or molding, in the manner of a battlement.
early 14c., from Fr. créneler, from crénelé (12c.); see crenel. Sometimes also crenellate; the double -l- seems to be from a presumed L. *crenella, dim. of crena.


"Rincewind was used to the dressy ways of wizards, but this one was really impressive, his robe so padded and crenellated and buttressed in fantastic folds and creases that it had probably been designed by an architect."

 - Terry Pratchett, Sourcery

Word of the day: geas

The word of the day is geas:

(in Irish folklore) an obligation or prohibition magically imposed on a person.


"'It's a sort of quest.'
"Nijel's eyes gleamed.
"'You mean a geas?'"

 - Terry Pratchett, Sourcery

Word of the day: wadi

The word of the day is wadi:

  1. the channel of a watercourse that is dry except during periods of rainfall.
  2. such a stream or watercourse itself.
  3. a valley.
"watercourse," 1839, from Arabic wadi "seasonal watercourse," prop. part. of wada "it flowed."


"As has already been indicated, the Luggage seldom shows any sign of emotion, or at least any emotion less extreme than blind rage and hatred, and therefore it is hard to gauge its feelings when it woke up, a few miles outside Al Khali, on its lid in a dried-up wadi with its legs in the air."

 - Terry Pratchett, Sourcery

Word of the day: gantry

The word of the day is gantry:

  1. a framework spanning a railroad track or tracks for displaying signals.
  2. any of various spanning frameworks, as a bridgelike portion of certain cranes.
  3. Rocketry. a frame consisting of scaffolds on various levels used to erect vertically launched rockets and spacecraft.
  4. a framelike stand for supporting a barrel or cask.
1574, originally, "four-footed stand for a barrel," probably from O.N.Fr. gantier, from O.Fr. chantier, from L. cantherius "rafter, frame," from Gk. kanthelios "pack ass," so called from the framework placed on its back, from kanthelion "rafter," of unknown origin.


"For example, the weird dream about a lead doughnut on a mile-high gantry, which in the right mind would have been the catalyst for the invention of repressed-gravitational electricity generation (a cheap and inexhaustible and totally non-polluting form of power which the world in question had been seeking for centuries, and for the lack of which it was plunged into a terrible and pointless war) was in fact had by a small and bewildered duck."

 - Terry Pratchett, Sourcery

Word of the day: rill

The word of the day is rill:
  1. a small rivulet or brook.
"small brook, rivulet," 1538, from Du. ril, Low Ger. rille "groove, furrow, running stream," probably from P.Gmc. *riðele (cf. O.E. rið, riþe "brook, stream," which survives only in obscure Eng. dialects), a diminutive form from PIE base *reie- "to run, flow" (see Rhine).


"My landscape gardeners incorporated all the essential features, I believe.  They spent simply ages getting the rills sufficiently sinuous."

 - Terry Pratchett, Sourcery

Word of the day: kedgeree

The word of the day is kedgeree:
  1. East Indian Cookery. a cooked dish consisting of rice, lentils, and spices.
  2. a cooked dish of rice, fish, hard-boiled eggs, butter, cream, and seasonings.

"Sheer pressure of thaumaturgical inflow was even affecting the food.  What was a forkful of kedgeree when you lifted it off the plate might well have turned into something else by the time it entered your mouth."

 - Terry Pratchett, Sourcery

Monday, November 21, 2016

Word of the day: bedder

The word of the day is bedder:
  1. bedmaker (def 1).

"One or two wizards, stately men who had hitherto done nothing more blameworthy than eat a live oyster, turned themselves invisible and chased the maids and bedders through the corridors."

 - Terry Pratchett, Sourcery

Word of the day: grapnel

The word of the day is grapnel:
  1. a device consisting essentially of one or more hooks or clamps, for grasping or holding something; grapple; grappling iron.
  2. a small anchor with three or more flukes, used for grappling or dragging or for anchoring a small boat, as a skiff.
1373, Anglo-Fr. dim. of O.Fr. grapil "hook," from grape "hook" (see grape).


"Further along the University wall there was a faint clink as a grapnel caught the spikes that lined its top."

 - Terry Pratchett, Sourcery

Friday, November 18, 2016

Word of the day: chaparral

The word of the day is chaparral:
  1. a dense growth of shrubs or small trees.
1850, Amer.Eng., from Sp. chaparro "evergreen oak," perhaps from Basque txapar.


"In a remote corner of Northern California, on a steep slope of knotty oaks, sulfur and steam rise in plumes from Wilbur Hot Springs...

"The view's nice; the chaparral smells great."

 - Rinku Patel, "Bugged", The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2016

Word of the day: hap

The word of the day is hap:
  1. one's luck or lot.
  2. an occurrence, happening, or accident.

c.1200, "chance, luck," from O.N. happ "chance, good luck," from P.Gmc. *khapan (source of O.E. gehæp "convenient, fit"). Meaning "good fortune" is from early 13c.


"Of course the moose did not choose his yes any more than Respighi chose his.  It is his hap to be born—to come out of the mama onto the Earth—his hap to be rejected by the mama novel a littler moose comes out, his hap to bear a staggering affirmation on his brow."

 - Amy Leach, "The Modern Moose", The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2016

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Word of the day: flak

The word of the day is flak:
  1. antiaircraft fire, especially as experienced by the crews of combat airplanes at which the fire is directed.
  2. criticism; hostile reaction; abuse
1938, from Ger. Flak, acronym for Fliegerabwehrkanone "airplane defense cannon." Sense of "anti-aircraft fire" is 1940; metaphoric sense of "criticism" is c.1963 in Amer.Eng.


"Hamburg knew the bombs were coming, and so the prisoners of war and forced laborers had just half a year to build the giant flak bunker."

 - Robert Kunzig, "The Will to Change", The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2016

Word of the day: cavalcade

The word of the day is cavalcade:
  1. a procession of persons riding on horses, in horsedrawn carriages, in cars, etc.
  2. any procession.
  3. any noteworthy series, as of events or activities.
1591, via M.Fr., from It. cavalcata, from cavalcare "to ride on horseback," from V.L. *caballicare, from L. caballus (see cavalier). Literally, "a procession on horseback," in 20c. -cade came to be regarded as a suffix and taken to form motorcade (1913), etc.


"At first I had wanted to say that it was hideous, sinister even, but the pit's engineered tiers, industrialized terra-cotta complexion, and crimson water have a hard-won refinement, like western art scenes of dusty cavalcades and buffalo runs."

 - Kea Krause, "What's Left Behind", The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2016

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Word of the day: oblate

The word of the day is oblate:

  1. a person offered to the service of and living in a monastery, but not under monastic vows or full monastic rule.
  2. a lay member of any of various Roman Catholic societies devoted to special religious work.
"person devoted to religious work," 1756, from M.L. oblatus, noun use of L. oblatus, variant pp. of L. offerre "to offer, to bring before" (latus "carried, borne" used as suppletive pp. of ferre "to bear"), from *tlatos, from PIE base *tel-, *tol- "to bear, carry" (see extol).

"My first night in the convent, I had a quick dinner of scrambled eggs and bagels with the nuns and oblates in the cafeteria."

 - Alexandra Kleeman, "The Bed-Rest Hoax", The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2016

Word of the day: benthos

The word of the day is benthos:
  1. the biogeographic region that includes the bottom of a lake, sea, or ocean, and the littoral and supralittoral zones of the shore.

"life forms of the deep ocean and sea floor," 1891, coined by Haeckel from Gk. benthos "depth of the sea," related to bathos "depth," bathys "deep." Adjective benthic is attested from 1902.


"Last June I talked to Dr. Paul Montagna, a marine ecologist at Texas A&M University who studies benthic organisms.  He had found significant declines in a range of species that live on the Gulf seafloor."

 - Antonia Juhasz, "Thirty Million Gallons Under the Sea", The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2016

Monday, November 14, 2016

Word of the day: distemper

The word of the day is distemper:

Veterinary Pathology.
  1. Also called canine distemper. an infectious disease chiefly of young dogs, caused by an unidentified virus and characterized by lethargy, fever, catarrh, photophobia, and vomiting.

"Steve and Poul talked about four channels of warm seawater at the base of Petermann Glacier that allowed more ice islands to calve, and the 68-mile-wide calving front of the Humboldt Glacier, where Jens and I, plus seven other hunters, had tried to go one spring but were stopped when the dogs fell ill with distemper and died."

 - Gretel Ehrlich, "Rotten Ice", The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2016

Friday, November 11, 2016

Word of the day: savasana

The word of the day is savasana:

Corpse Pose, also sometimes called Final Relaxation Pose (yoga)

Its Sanskrit name, “Savasana” (shah-VAHS-uh-nuh), comes from two words. The first is “Sava” (meaning “corpse”), and the second is “asana” (meaning “pose”).  (

"The anthropologists are studying two things: how the Texas sun turns a body into a rusted mummy feeding switchgrass, and how vultures scavenge those bodies.  To learn about the former, the donated cadavers are laid under metal mesh cages.  To understand the latter, they are left exposed, tagged wrists crossed, or open, as in savasana — the corpse pose."

 - Chelsea Biondolillo, "Back to the Land", The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2016