Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Today's Word: fatidic, fatidical

fatidic: prophetic or pertaining to a divination or prophecy. "Trelawney's fatidic trance was the basis for all of Lord Voldemort's actions." (also fatidical) You can also "verbify" this word — to fatidicate is to prophesy. Only time will tell whether FATidic will be a good title for the biography of Michael Moore or Rush Limbaugh.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Today's "Word": autopodophagy

Okay, so I made this one up. Autopodophagy ought to mean the eating of one's own foot. Metaphorically, it would refer to someone who is constantly putting his foot in his mouth. Michael Scott of The Office is a great example of a clueless autopodophage. The idea for this word came up after a conversation I had with a coworker. When discussing my preference for e-mail over instant messaging, phone calls, and (quite often) face-to-face conversation, I used as support the idea that "I am very familiar with the flavor of my foot." Then I started wondering what you would call a person who is always putting his foot in his mouth. My answer: autopodophage. Not to be confused with autopedophage, one who, like Zeus's father and grandfather, eats his own children. All right, I made that one up, too. But pedophagy (or paedophagy) is a real word that describes animals that survive by eating the eggs, larva, and/or young of other animals. (This perhaps describes veal-lovers?)

Thursday, October 18, 2007


  • four
  • eighteen characters
  • nineteen letters long
  • forty characters long (including spaces)
  • forty-six characters in length (not counting spaces)
  • nonhyphenated
  • mispelled
  • noun
  • word
  • sesquipedalian
  • This sentence is in the active voice.
  • This sentence is always true.
  • You have almost finished reading this sentence; now you have finished it.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Today's Words: pixilated/pixelated

pixilated/pixillated or pixelated/pixellated: There doesn't seem to be a consensus yet about whether to use one ell or two, but there are very different meanings to these two words. Pixellated refers to what happens when you zoom too far into a JPEG and start to see individual squares (pixels, but blown up). Pixellated letters lead to jaggies, those jagged curves (although anti-aliasing has largely smoothed the jaggies down). One the other hand, pixillated has been around longer. It comes from an irregular form of the word pixie and means "somewhat unbalanced mentally." I don't know about you, but I often feel pixillated after a long day of staring at a computer screen...

Thursday, September 20, 2007


[There used to be a photo here that i linked to at Language Log. I don't remember exactly what it was, and the link has apparently broken. I'm sure it was just hilarious, though. 4/13/06]

Monday, September 17, 2007

Today's Word: steatopygous

steatopygous (don't ask me how to pronounce it): having an embarassment of riches in the, ah, patootie. Having a lot of junk in the trunk. "In her steatopygous youth, Jennifer Lopez served drinks off her hind end."

Monday, September 10, 2007

Today's Word: nephelology

nephelology: The study of clouds. A nephelologist is one involved in the scientific study of clouds, or, alternatively, a day-dreamer — someone whose head is always in the clouds.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Word Game: The Incredible Shrinking (or Growing) Word

The idea behind this game is to start with a long word and eliminate one letter at a time. Every time you eliminate a letter, the remaining letters must spell another word. (Okay, so it's actually a bit easier to start with a one-letter word and build up to a larger word.) Here are two decent examples:
cremated   o
created   or
create   ora
crate   oral
rate   coral
ate   choral
at   chorale
a   chorales

What's the longest word you can come up with?

Today's Word: defenestrate

defenestrate: to throw someone or something out the window. Apparently, Prague has historically been a center for defenestration — of royalty, of dissidents, of religious leaders, and of unknowns. "Litter defenestration carries a heavy fine on California highways."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Today's Word: pedicular

pedicular: Lousy. A great insult to slip in when one is expecting the word particular. "I've dated a lot of women in my time, but this pedicular date is on in a million."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Today's Word: acerebral

acerebral: without a brain. A wonderful insult that I'm waiting to hear in a presidential debate — even more insulting than "hare-brained."

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Today's Word: palimpsest

palimpsest: writing material which is used multiple times after the original writings have been erased or painted over. Also something that shows extreme diversity in layers beneath the surface. "We slept in what had once been the gymnasium. . . . Dances would have been held there; the music lingered, a palimpsest of unheard sound, style upon style, an undercurrent of drums, a forlorn wail, garlands made of tissue-paper flowers, cardboard devils, a revolving ball of mirrors, powdering the dancers with a snow of light." — Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Today's Word: flapdoodle

flapdoodle: Complete and utter nonsense. A synonym of some other great words like poppycock, balderdash, and bullshit. Useful for descriptions of speeches by Tom Cruise.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Today's Word: sesquipedalian

sesquipedalian: of or referring to inordinately gargantuan vocabulary. Sesquipedalian means, literally, "a foot and a half long." It's normally used to refer them thar big words, although I see some room for its use in the pornography industry. "No matter how hard I try, I can get only about 20 pages into Moby-Dick before the sesquipedalian descriptions send me screaming for some Hemingway."

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Today's Word: abecedarian

abecedarian: a) arranged in alphabetical order; b) unsophisticated. (Only one of these two definitions may be applied to this blog.) "Joe's OCD was apparent after I pointed out that the last CD in his abecedarian collection was Frank Zappa, and not ZZ Top. The next day he came home with five copies of Afterburner."

Monday, August 6, 2007

Today's Word: mundungus

mundungus: Bad-smelling tobacco. Not derived from dung but from the Spanish mondongo — tripe. "Cigarette smoke is one thing, but the mundungus Percy stuffs in his pipe is the quintessence of malodor!" Proof positive that JK Rowling didn't name the Harry Potter characters randomly, although the total effect of "Mundungus Fletcher" is a bit odd. A fletcher, after all, is a maker of arrows. Some people in this anti-cigarette age may argue that "mundungus" is inherently redundant. After all, doesn't all tobacco smell bad? (Okay, at least after you light it...)

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Today's Word: mithridatize

mithridatize: To render oneself immune to poisons by accustoming one's body to small amounts of them and then gradually increasing the dosage. Could be used metaphorically to describe building up a tolerance to just about anything — from your wife's nagging to the constant hum of the starship Enterprise's engines.

Pliny the Elder tells us that King Mithridates VI of Pontus (along the Black Sea) didn't trust anyone. He eventually murdered his mother (matricide), his sons (filicide), and the sister he had married (sororicide and uxoricide), as well as killing his entire harem (outright homicide) to keep them from falling into enemy hands. He was worried that someone would try to poison him, so he came up with the idea of taking small daily doses of known poisons and then gradually increasing the dosage as his body grew tolerant of them.

Eventually, he got fed up with his son's (real or imagined) treachery and decided to kill himself. How did he try to do it? It wouldn't be a good story unless he tried to poison himself. By that time, he had developed a total immunity to any of the poisons he could find, so it didn't work! In the end, he had someone stab him to death.

A mithridate is the antidote to all poisons. Of course, Pliny the Elder somehow neglected to reveal the ingredients of the mithridate. Although Pliny's story is likely fictitious (or at least exaggerated), it's still an interesting tale.

The most famous case of mithridatization is perhaps that of the Dread Pirate Roberts (aka, Wesley) in The Princess Bride. He was able to defeat the Sicilian in a match of wits because he had mithridatized himself against the effects of iocaine powder.

[Edited for formatting and some embarrassing spelling errors, 11/20/09.]

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Often Confused: compose and comprise

I have often caught people trying to use comprise as a synonym for compose. The two words have different meanings. WRONG: A regular Happy Meal is comprised of a cheeseburger, small fries, a toy, and adult diabetes. I don't know why people do this; maybe they just think that "comprise" sounds more intelligent? To comprise means "to be made up of." The whole comprises the parts, not the other way around. An orchestra comprises one conductor, approximately 65 musicians, and some percussionists. The index comprised a full alphabetical reference until Doug tore out the Cs. Unlike compose, comprise never needs the helping verb to be. You can often substitue one verb for the other, but it isn't just a matter of switching out a single word; you have to switch a single, standalone verb and a phrasal verb: My list of enemies comprises wrongdoers, ne'er-do-wells, scallywags, and accordion players. My list of enemies is composed of wrongdoers, ne'er-do-wells, scallywags, and accordion players.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Today's word: illeism

illeism: Reference to oneself in the third person, usually to excess. Two famous illeists are Richard Nixon ("You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore!") and Bob Dole. Dole actually got some help during his presidential campaign to get him to lessen the number of illeisms. That didn't stop Norm MacDonald of Saturday Night Live, of course. After the election, Bob Dole came on SNL with a good attitude and a sense of humor: Norm MacDonald: Aw, come on now, Senator, it's a great impression. Listen to this: [speaking in his Bob Dole voice] "Come November 5th, a lot of people are going to be surprised by Bob Dole, because Bob Dole's gonna win this election!" Bob Dole: [shaking head] Doesn't sound a thing like me. First of all, I don't run around saying "Bob Dole does this" and "Bob Dole does that." That's not something Bob Dole does. It's not something Bob Dole has ever done, and it's not something Bob Dole will ever do! A more recent illeist is Dobby, the house elf. You can find a lot more examples at Wikipedia.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Today's Word: lucrepitous

lucrepitous: Money-hungry. "My lucrepitous brother-in-law checks his e-mail every day for word from the Nigerian government that his share of the oil profits are now available." It seems that the more I look into interesting sesquipedalia, the more vocabulary I find to describe a presidential campaign...

Monday, July 30, 2007

Today's Word: dactylogram

dactylogram: A fancy word for fingerprint. Using dactylogram is a quick way to avoid revealing the embarassing details of a night you'd rather forget. Q: Where did you go last night? A: Oh, just paying a visit to the constabulary to deliver a portrait and dactylogram.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Today's Word: logomachy

Logomachy: a war of words. Someone who fights with words instead of actions is a logomachist. "The logomachy of the presidential debate escalated to battery when Hilary Clinton, in a fit of Brandi Chastain-esque excitement, ripped off her shirt and began kicking Barack Obama's head like it was a cheap soccer ball." -machy (war) is a great root to make neologisms from. For example, the common cartoon cliche of two fencing swordfish could be referred to as ichthymachy. A more hifalutin' title for George Lucas's famous six-part sci-fi movie series would be Astromachy. Got any other interesting ones?