Here are ten little known, but most useful words. Enjoy!
Aren’t those Greek nudes embarrassing? What is the act of reducing sheen on marble as practiced by the prudish censors of fashion in classical antiquity?
What is a cup-shaped device for holding hot coffee?
What is a chained line of slaves, prisoners or animals?
What is word for the gaping mouth of the dead or of a Munchish screamer?
What adjective describes one who dwells in a place not his own?
How would you describe a person who has proved lacking and failed to achieve a role to which he or she aspires or is suited?
What is the art of efficient flight as practiced so memorably by James Bond?
What is the art of stating an unpleasant thing in an agreeable manner?
What is an argument formed by linked smaller arguments?
What is the opposite of a monopoly, where there is only one buyer and many sellers?
Answers and Explanations:
ganosis: derives from the Greek ganos: bright.
zarf: derived from an Arabic word meaning container.A zarf is usually made of metal.
coffle: derived from Arabic qafilah: caravan or traveling company. This word was first used in 1799 to refer to animals strung together and soon thereafter to slaves.
rictus: Here is an example from Sylvia Plath’s Crossing Water: “Under the eyes of the stars and the moon’s rictus/ He (sc. an insomniac) suffers his desert pillow.”
inquiline: This is especially good word to describe the guest who will not leave.
manqué (mon-KAY): derives from Latin adjective mancus: crippled.Following the French, the feminine form is manqué.Here is illustrative sentence from the OED: “As Leo’s self-esteem dwindled, Gertrude’s grew and grew, and she assumed the one role that her chronically manqué brother had brilliantly, if all too briefly, filled: that of art patron.” (Life of Picasso, J. Richardson) Manque is often placed after the noun: My brother, an actor manqué, is parading about in a dog costume for Purina Dog Chow. “Me and my monkey,” a phrase employed by the Beatles and other songwriters, is a play on this meaning, meaning “Me and my failed self.”
parkour (pahr-KOOR): derived from the French parcours: route. The Frenchman David Belle, the inventor of this word, defined parkour: “. . . getting over all the obstacles in you path as you would in an emergency.You want to move in such a way, with any movement, as to help you gain the most ground on someone or something, whether escaping from it or chasing toward it.”
charientism. From Greek charis: grace. Charientism “covers over” or “takes the sting out of” what has been said. Charientism is to be differentiated from asteism (from a Greek root meaing “town bred” and by extension “urbane”) the art of “genteel irony, polite and ingenious mockery” and from mycterism, a less subtle form of ridicule where the nose (G. mycter) is employed to express ill-concealed scorn but not as overt as sarcasm (literally, a tearing of the flesh).Sarcasm distains grace (charientism), urbanity (asterism) or any attempt at concealment (mycterism).
sorites (suh-REYE-teez): derived from the Greek soros: heap. Here is a simple sorites:All A is B.All B is C.All C is D. Add D is E.Therefore all A is E. But a sorites can be more curious:Premise 1: A million grains of sand is a heap of sand. Premise 2: A heap of sand minus one grain is still a heap of sand.Now repeat Premise 2 (each time starting with one less number of grains), until you arrive at paradoxical conclusion that a heap of sand may be composed of just one grain of sand.Or maybe not.
monopsony (mun-OP-shuh-nee): Monopsony can be particularly egregious if the government is the sole buyer for the goods of a large number of merchants.
Below are questions taken from Mr. Himwich’s vocabulary tests given to juniors over the past semester. See how you would fare.
What word has hypnos, eros, and machia for its roots and what does that word mean?
What is the pejorative etymology of nice?
What did psyche mean before it meant soul?
What is praeterition?
What is an apotropaic device used for?
Etymologically speaking, how long does something ephemeral last?
What is meretricious beauty?
What of the following does not derive from the same root as the others: moral, mores, moratorium, morale?
Which of the following is always pejorative in meaning: atheist, desultory, trenchant, amoral, invidious?
What is a speaker doing when he enters upon his peroration?
What part of what animal is referred to in the etymology of cynosure?
What is a Socratic apology?
What is the etymological meaning of the word person?
What are crepuscular creatures?
What figure of speech is “I am not unwell”?
What poet gave us the phrases objective correlative and dissociation of sensibility?
What is the defining quality of a carbuncular youth?
What does the italicized mean in the following quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby? “Someone with a positive manner, perhaps a detective, used the expression ‘madman’ as he bent over Wilson’s body that afternoon, and the adventitious authority of his voice set the key for the newspaper reports next day."
Distinguish in meaning sensuous and sensual?
What is wrong with the phrase unpredictable vicissitude?
hypnerotomachia: the struggle for love through dreaming. This is the title of one of the first books to be printed in the late 15th century.
nice derives from Latin nescire: not to know -- originally referred to someone naïve or ignorant.
psyche originally meant breath in ancient Greek.
praeterition or preterition is a rhetorical strategy by which the speaker pretends to omit saying what he does in fact say, e.g. “I will not tell you where I saw your daughter last night about 3:00 near the old, abandoned chocolate factory?”
An apotropaic device is used for warding off evil, especially the evil eye of envy.
Something ephemeral etymological lasts but a single day.
Meretricious beauty is tawdry, cheap, characteristic of a prostitute (Latin meretrix: prostitute).
Moratorum derives from Latin mora: delay; all the others derive from Latin mos: custom.
Invidious is the only one that is always pejorative.
Peroration is the conclusion of a speech.
Cynosure etymologically refers to a dog’s tail.
A Socratic apology is a vigorous defense.
Person derives from Latin persona: mask.
Crepuscular creatures become active at dusk.
A carbuncular youth has acne.
Adventitious means not belonging intrinsically, something out of keeping with a situation.
Sensuous means ‘appealing to the senses’: sensual ‘relating to gratification of the sexual appetite’.
Unpredictable vicissitude is repetitiously redundant.
Here are twenty challenging questions from the linguistic section of the final exam for my English 8 classes. How many can you answer correctly?
1. What word, literally meaning 18 inches long, identifies a person as one who enjoys using long words? 2. What phrase derived from the Odyssey means “caught between a rock and a hard place”? 3. What or who is an abecedarian? 4. What Latin phrase do we use to describe an argument that turns into a personal attack? 5. Punctuate Robert Frost’s line: The woods are lovely dark and deep. 6. What is ironic about the root meaning of utopia? 7. What is a split infinitive and why is it considered bad grammar? 8. What does the Greek word arête mean? 9. What part of a conditional sentence is the apodosis? 10. What is the meter of “How now, Brown cow.”? 11. What is the etymological meaning of ‘enthusiasm’? 12. Which of the following is not pejorative: auspicious, obsequious, prurient, misogynous? 13. For what is the abbreviation i.e. used? 14. What name for a letter in the Greek alphabet means a small amount? 15. Spell the noun that means that by which we tell right and wrong. 16. What Latin phrase is used in English to mean a close friend? 17. What is the difference in the Greek roots andr (android) and anthrop (anthropology), both of which mean man? 18. How are the 24 books of the Greek Odyssey individually named? 19. What academic fraternity uses Greek letters signifying “Philosophy the guide of life”? 20. What were Caesar’s last words?
1. sesquipedalian. (Latin: sesqui = one and half times; ped = foot – thus 18 inches) 2. between Scylla and Charybdis. (Odysseus had to decide which of these monsters to avoid.) 3. a beginner. (Literally, on who is just learning their ABCs.) 4. ad hominem argument: (Literally, an argument directed to the man rather than the issue at hand.) 5. “The woods are lovely, dark and deep.” (Frost himself did not put a comma after dark. Some editors thought they knew better.) 6. A utopia, a perfect place, etymologically means “not a place.” 7. “To boldly go” splits the infinitive ‘to go’ with adverb ‘boldly’. The reason split infinitives were originally considered bad grammar is that in Latin the infinitive (ire: to go) cannot be split (ire audacter: to go boldly). There is no other reason. 8. excellence. 9. The apodosis is the concluding part of a conditional sentence: If I were you, I wouldn’t do it. 10. Spondaic dimeter. (dimeter = two feet; spondaic: long, long) 11. god within (en = within; th = god as in theology; referring to Dionysus who was thought to be in the wine that was drunk during his religious rites.) 12. Only auspicious never carries a negative connotation. 13. For clarification or definition, not for an example ( e.g.) 14. iota. 15. conscience. 16. alter ego. 17. andr- refers to a man as opposed to a woman and anthrop refers generically to man. 18. By the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet. 19. Phi Beta Kappa. 20. kai su, teknon (Greek for “you too, child”), not the Shakespearean Latin revision et tu, Brute (you too, Brutus).
16-20: correct You know as much as an 8th grader. 10-15 correct: You know as much as the average college educated adult. 0-9 correct: You need to retake 8th grade.