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Tuesday Word: clapperdudgeon

A clapperdudgeon, or clapper dudgeon, was a type of con artist common during the Elizabethan era. In order to appear as pitiful and deserving of alms as possible, one would give themselves sores by applying salt, various plants, etc. to their skin, dress in bloody rags and then beg for money. Well..that's one way to make a living!

Sunday Word: Hallelujah

hal·le·lu·jah [ˌhælɪˈluːjə]:
origin: (1525–35) Hebrew; הַלְּלוּיָהּ = “Hallel” + “Jah” or Praise Jehovah/God

“Hallel” means to praise, shine forth, or be worthy of commendation. “Jah” is a shortened form of “Jehovah“, transliterated from the Hebrew word יהוה or YHWH -- a word that is not actually meant to have a proper pronunciation nor is it a formal name. Hallelujah has also come to mean an expression of relief or joy in general; the equivalent to Homer Simpson's "Whoo-Hoo!"

You may hear people state that The King James version of the bible is a very literal and plainspoken one (purposely) in comparison to the former Hebrew. I realize that may seem strange given our current state of language, where even King James is seen as out-of-date and obfuscated. However, in order to fully understand the poetic depth, psychology, and delicious complexity human language can offer when reading/translating these ancient documents, please sample the nuances found within this singular word. This is exactly why theology is an important form of study and one that creates an extra layer of joy to an appreciator of language and words!

A Happy Easter or Springtime from me and Mr. Bean!

Saturday Word: Berkutchi

ber·kut·chi [ˈbərˈkütˈkī]:
origin: [1-2 BC] Eurasian steppes, Western Mongolia, Kazakhstan

You know what's even cooler than training a falcon to hunt? Training an eagle~! These eagles are raised by their handlers and considered members of the family, important partners that bring income that supports entire communities. Hunting is done from high on mountains and in wether as cold as -40C (-40F), while during summer the birds are pampered and encouraged to fatten up.

Genghis Khan possessed 1,000 hunting birds including Golden Eagles. Female eagles are preferred as they are bigger, stronger, and better hunters than males; they are kept for ten years, then freed to brood, and ensure there will be more eagles (although they often will pay visits to their former handlers after being freed).

Berkutchi (or Berkutchy) = Eagle Hunting, specifically a Golden Eagle.

a rare female Berkutchi, read more about her here

Friday word: Amaurosis fugax

A Greek medical term again this week ;)
Amaurosis fugax (from the Greek "amaurosis," meaning dark, and the Latin "fugax," meaning fleeting) refers to a transient loss of vision in one or both eyes. It is often caused by carotid artery disease and can be a sign of impending stroke. It can also be caused by many other factors, including spasm of the blood vessels; and sometimes, a definitive cause cannot be found.

Further info can be found here, if you've a subscription: or other websites :)

Thursday word: whelm

whelm (hwelm) - v., to cover over something (as with water, snow, dirt, etc.), engulf; to overcome utterly.

A once-common word that has largely survived only as part of overwhelm, which was originally meant to overcome by whelming, but was later reinterpreted as an intensified form of whelm -- thus the coinage underwhelm, to fail at overcoming. Indeed, sometimes whelm itself gets backformed from overwhelm as having a sense of not being whelmed -- not so much underwhelmed but completely meh. The original sense was simply to cover over, as in to whelm something by putting, e.g., an inverted bowl over it. The word itself seems to be a 13th century coinage created by blending whelve, to bend over, and helm, to cover (as in what a helmet does).

The seventh wave whelmed the dingy and capsized us a hundred yards from shore.



Shakespearean Imagination

God save you, neighbours!

It's Wednesday, which means another installment of Shakespearean Imagination!

In honor of that, I give you today’s word:

mountaineer : moun•tain•eer /ˌmountnˈi(ə)r/ (noun):

- a person who climbs mountains
- a person who lives in a mountainous region

Synonyms: mountain climber

First seen in Shakespeare's Cymbeline (written 1609- 1610). The full text of the play may be found here.

Tuesday Word: sockdolager

A sockdolager is a decisive blow, whether the punch to the face that knocks out the boxer or the statement that sends that person you got into a debate with over the Continental European shoe sizing system versus the Mondopoint system or whether sausage is best consumed in patty or link form, or whatever people are getting riled up about these days, running off with their (hopefully metaphorical?) tail between their legs. It can also be anything EXTREME -- very loud, heavy, difficult, long, etc. It's a very silly-sounding word that demands to be taken seriously!

Take its fortuitous role in American history. In the sense of a knock-out blow, sockdolager sort of turned out to be the sockdolager for Abraham Lincoln, whose assassin, John Wilkes Booth, used a line from Our American Cousin containing the adjectival form of sockdolager as a cue to enter Lincoln's theater box and shoot him.

"Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, you sockdologising old man-trap."

This line was apparently so hilarious that it generated enough laughter to cover and distract the audience from Booth's movements. Or maybe Booth figured he'd have to leave the play after he murdered Lincoln, so hey, why not at least hold off until they got to his favorite part? The world may never know.

Sockdolager comes from "sock" as in "hit" -- sock it to me! -- and...dolager? Well, that's another mystery.

Monday word: gamp

gamp (gămp), noun

An umbrella, especially a large one.

Etymology:  mid-1800s, named after Mrs. Sara Gamp, a character in Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens.  Mrs. Gamp always carried a large, faded umbrella.

This is chiefly a British colloquial term.  Does someone know if it's still in use in Britian today?
can·on [ˈkænən]:
origin: (13th Century) Greek; kanōn= rule", Latin; canonicus= one living under a rule

Dr. Who as personal jesus, stories falling outside the accepted episodic happenstance are to be properly labeled "alternate universe" or AU. "Headcanon" as concepts existing only in one's brain or desire. "Retcon" short for retroactive continuity to call back canon and reestablish it under a new telling or in light of new information.

"Canon" is a word you hear used a lot lately, though mostly in terms of comic books or television storylines, the original usage of the word is biblical however. So, the definition expands beyond the accepted or degreed works & laws considered sacred, or the individual clergyman belonging to a church, to be an established set of rules or principles in works and practices of all kinds (by which something is judged); a criterion; that which is considered authentic.

In addition, there is a form of music referred to as "canon", where two or more independent melodic lines (or "voices) are injected into a piece, overlapping, until they morph into one consistent sound - such as the thoroughly famous: Pachelbel Canon in D Major.

yew [ˈyü\]:
origin: (before 900) Welsh; ywen, Irish = stem or shaft

On Palm Sunday, this past Sunday and the Sunday before Easter, Christians honor the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a Donkey (the animal symbolizing peace, unlike the horse ridden into battle). The people are said to have laid down cloaks and branches of trees upon his path. As everyone in the world does not have access to palms or palm trees, several other substitutions are used: box, yew, willow, and olive.

I grew up with yew trees actually and never realized it until now, a community surrounded by trees with rigid green needles that never lost their color -- evergreens -- that grew little red berries that us young children would pretend to gobble (as parents had forbidden eating them as poisonous) or collect for decorative purposes in our little games and the established canon of our childhood rituals. Long ago, the wood of a yew tree, both strong and pliable, was seen ideal for making bows in archery too.

The fact that this year's Palm Sunday is followed immediately by a "blood moon" (or total lunar eclipse) feels especially auspicious, even if the appreciation is purely academic or scientific. Don't worry if you miss it, there are three more chances of seeing the moon turn red, or "a grouping of four" known throughout science and mathematics as the Greek-described tetrad; a bonus word for my tardiness!

Friday words: Photopsia and phosphenes

Medical terms again, this week and the next:


NL., fr. Gr. fw^s, fwto`s, light + 'o`psis sight.

An affection of the eye, in which the patient perceives luminous rays, flashes, coruscations, etc. See phosphene.

from Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)

These can be caused by eye diseases, or simply by pressure--the flashes one sees when one's eyes are closed, esp. if a little pressure is applied with the hands to the closed eyelids, are phosphenes.

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April 2014


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