Tag Archives: word tasting notes

exply

If you imply something, it’s implicit. If you comply with something, you’re complicit. So why don’t we say you exply something if you make it explicit? I hereby decide and declare that henceforth it shall be so. You can now say “Don’t make me guess what you mean! Just exply it!” Of course, then we’re on our way to saying replies are replicit, which I’m also fine with. And don’t say we already have explain and explicate. Look, implicate isn’t the same as imply and replicate isn’t the same as reply. And complain, complicate, and comply are three different things. Continue reading

betwixt

Betwixt the dawning and the day it came
Upon me like a spell,
While tolled a distant bell,
A wondrous vision but without a name
In pomp of shining mist and shadowed flame,
Exceeding terrible;
Before me seemed to open awful Space,
And sheeted tower and spire
With forms of shrouded ’tire
Arose and beckoned with unearthly grace,
I felt a Presence though I saw no face
But the dark rolling fire.

So begins “The Beatific Vision” by Frederick William Orde Ward. Had I presented but the first line, you would have known already ’twas poesy. First line? First word, in sooth! Just as there are words that let you know you’re reading a news article (temblor, pontiff), there are words that declare poetry. Poetry! And tho this bit of rime lay ’twixt the pages of an ancient tome (well, 1927) that declared on its cover no more than “The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse” (the most mystical thing about which being how I come to have it – I think I know, but in recollection I feel a Presence but see no face), had I met it on a glowing screen I would still have known. Continue reading

flitters, flitterjigs

My friend Stan Carey has been so good as to send me a copy of Slanguage: A Dictionary of Irish Slang, by Bernard Share. Naturally, I want to share some of its bounty with you. This evening I flipped it open and found a winner right away – in fact, two winners for the price of one.

The headword is flitters. It means ‘fragments, pieces, tatters’. And it sounds like it should, doesn’t it? Continue reading

galangal, galingale

How do you say galangal?

Why?

I say it with the stress on the first syllable. But that’s because I first saw it written as galingale. If you know nightingale and perhaps farthingale, the stress seems pretty obvious.

But why would anyone spell it galingale? Continue reading

kukumakranka

This word looks like an elephant – or maybe several large birds – tumbling down a flight of stairs. It has no fewer than four k’s and five syllables. It is, as the currently popular term puts it, really extra. Oh, and if you want even more, it can also be spelled koekemakranka.

Or you can call it by its Linnaean name, gethyllis.

Such a pair, gethyllis and kukumakranka. Like some sweet little kid and a rowdy noisy bird from an animated feature. Whatever this thing is should be partly demure and partly dominating.

Which, in fact, it is. Continue reading

seiche

Have you ever been at a party where there’s someone on one side of the room holding forth volubly and vapidly, and the crowd around them gradually rarefies while it gets more and more crowded on the other side of the room? You’ve just seen an important fact in fluid dynamics. Continue reading

bine

These are the bines that twine:

There is bine, a woody vine that binds, and by binding gains its name, mutatis mutandis.

There is bearbine, two kinds of convolvulus, winding woody spirals with white trumpets, and also the Polygonum convolvulus, a black buckwheat weed which you may have eaten.

There is berbine, vervain, verbena, name mutated; holy herb and devil’s bane, tears of Isis, Hera’s tears, herbal tea of iron-herb, altar flower for Jupiter.

There is bulbine, which Pliny named, but no one knows what it is. Continue reading