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Thursday word: rodomontade

Over on my journal, I've been running a theme week about braggadocio. This one's a repeat but too good to pass up:

rodomontade or rhodomontade (rod-uh-mon-TAYD, rod-uh-muhn-TAYD, roh-duh-muhn-TAYD) - n., vainglorious boasting, pretentious bluster. adj., pretentiously boastful. v., to boast, talk big.

When that other guy in your rap battle just doesn't live up to his self-hype. When you meet that all-talk bully. And other possible applications. Of the three parts of speech, the noun form is the most common. This is an eponym, created in Middle French after Rodomonte, the braggart king of Algiers in the Italian epic chivalric romances Orlando Innamorato (Orlando in Love) by Matteo Maria Boiardo and its sequel Orlando Furioso (Orlando Mad) by Ludovico Ariosto. (I especially commend Furioso to anyone who loves a good fun read -- there are several quite readable English translations.) First used in English in 1612, two decades after John Harrington's translation of the latter. As for an example:

For all of its jingoistic rodomontade, the government had no thought-out plan for the war and its aftermath.


Monday word: mesentery

mesentery  [mes´en-ter″e] noun

A fold of peritoneum (lining of the abdominal cavity) that attaches the intestines to the wall of the abdomen.

Etymology:  Latin mes, middle + enteron, gut or intestine.

People have long known about the mesentery's existence,
but it was just recently classified as an organ (i.e., self-contained and with a specific vital function).

Sunday Word: Grizzled

griz·zled [ˈɡrizəld]:
origin: (1350-1400) Middle English; Old French grisel or German gris= grey.

adjective [verb or noun, grizzle]

Adjective: Partly or streaked with gray; grayish; worn; experienced; old.

Verb: 1. to complain or whine, 2. A sneer, mocking grin or laugh.

Noun: a (gray or silver) wig.

Saturday Word: Brinded

brind·ed [ˈbrindəd]:
origin: (1623) Middle English; Old Norse brǫndóttr.

adjective [also, brindled]
Archaic; an animal that is beige, tan, grey or neutral in color with darker striations or markings on top -- such as a brown tabby cat.

"Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd." — Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Macbeth
"Glory be to God for dappled things / For skies of couple colour as a brinded cow — Gerard Manley Hopkins, Pied Beauty

other brinded animalsCollapse )

Friday word: Lucida

Lucida (n.), the brightest star in the constellation.

via the Latin adjective lucidus, meaning "shining"—from the Latin verb lucēre, meaning "to shine."

Thursday word: mizzen

mizzen or mizen (MIZ-uhn) - (nautical) n., on a three- or more masted ship, the third mast back from the bow; on a two-masted ship such as a ketch or schooner, the shorter mast; a fore-and-aft sail on a mizzenmast. adj., of, pertaining to, or located on the mizzenmast, esp. a sail, yard, boom, etc.

Just to be clear for two-masted ships: on a ketch or yawl, the shorter mast is aft, while on a schooner, the shorter is to the fore -- whichever one is shorter is the mizzen-mast, regardless of position. The word was first used in the early 15th century. Like most nautical jargon, the source is obscure -- about the only thing clear about it is that it ultimately comes from Latin medianus, of the middle, but by what route and how the meaning shifted to the rear mast is a mystery. Possible routes include one or more of Spanish mesana (meaning a sail set amidships), French misaine (foremast/mainmast), Catalan mitjana (middle), or Italian mezzana (middle). In short, this middle is all a muddle.

With a thundering crack, the mizzen-topsail tore and the shreds carried away by the gale.



Sunday Word: Geosmin

ge·os·min [ˈjēōsˈmin]:
origin: (20th century) Greek; γεω-= "earth" + ὀσμή= "smell".

noun [plural, geosmins]
A derivative of decahydronaphthalene (C₁₂H₂₂O), an organic compound, that creates the musty earth-like smell after rain or yard work - known as "petricor" (the scent before rain is "ozone").

Human noses, one of the least sensitive in the animal kingdom, are especially attuned to geosmin (we can detect 0.7 parts per billion), but Earth worms are attracted to it too. Camels may use it to sniff out an oasis in the desert. Insects use it to find plants for eating and reproduction cycles.

This compound also adds to the flavor of beets, potato skin, spinach, mushrooms, catfish, etc. which is why some do not like them (although I personally love those foods). You may also detect geosmin in mold, like rotten food such as a green potato chip or moldy roll, perhaps a cork that spoiled the wine, which may explain why some people are hyper-sensitive to geosmin scents/flavors and reject them.

You're not alone if you do -- fruit flies hate the smell as well!

French biochemists Berthelot & André, isolated "‘l’odeur propre de la terre’", Gerber & Lechevalier of America tracked down the main odour component to a single compound in 1965, which they called geosmin (geo = Earth, osme = odour). It has since been discovered in connection with at least 70,000 compounds. Geosmin is a main component of spores and Earth's way of recycling organic matter and is ancient, this has opened it up as a pathway to "travel through time" via analyzing the evolution of organic matter. One would be able to smell geosmin over 400 million years ago! In fact it existed billions of years ago, when there was only bacteria.

Clearly, geosmin is deeply connected to life on this planet!

We hope to continue to develop deeper understandings of this compound, not only to understand Earth's evolution better via microbiology, but in order to develop "green technology" such as bio-fuels that are more in harmony with the environment.

Friday word: Ell


Pronounced /ɛl/Help with pronunciation

Find a convenient male adult of roughly average size. Measure the distance from his shoulder to his wrist. You should find that it is about 22–23 inches (56–58 cm). That’s one of the oldest ways to define an ell, once the usual measure in large parts of Europe for textiles such as woollen cloth. It was considered to be roughly equal to six hand-breadths — a hand was 4 inches, a unit still used for measuring the heights of horses, which would make an ell about 24 inches.

Read further: in this article from World Wide Words: Investigating the English Language Across the Globe

Thursday word: liminal

liminal (LI-muh-nl or LAIM-uh-nl) - adj., of or pertaining to a threshold or boundary, esp. a sensory threshold; relating to or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition; of or relating to the beginning of a state or process.

For that sensory threshold, it's related to the psychological concept of liminality. This is not a common word outside of technical uses, especially compared to the form subliminal, being below the threshold of perception. It was coined in 1884 from Latin līmen, threshold. I poke at this one every so often to remind myself that it is not "limnal" but has three syllables.

Spaces like the threshold of a door are liminal, lying between defined areas without belonging to either of them.


Monday words: chott, endorheic

chott (shŏt), noun

A dry salt lake, usually in North Africa.
Also spelled 'shott'.  Etymology:  from Arabic šaṭṭ (شط), bank or coast.

endorheic (en-duh-ree-ik), adjective

Of or relating to interior drainage basins.

An endorheic basin is is a closed drainage basin that retains water and allows no outflow to other external bodies of water.
Water only leaves the basin through evaporation or seepage.

etymology:  Greek endon (within, interior) + rhein (to flow or drain)

Here's a view from space of Chott Melrhir in northern Algeria.  Chott Melrhir is an example of an endorheic basin.

Wikipedia lists examples of endorheic basins (including Devil's lake, which is about an hour from where I live).

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