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Monday word: cachexia

cachexia (kə-kĕk′sē-ə), noun

Reduction in strength and vitality (weight loss in someone not actively trying to lose weight, wasting of muscle, loss of appetite, etc.) due to a chronic disease.  Also known as 'wasting syndrome'.

According to Wikipedia, the formal definition is the loss of body mass that cannot be reversed nutritionally.

Etymology:  from Greek kakhexia, from kakos, bad  + hexis, condition

Friday word: Zeitgeist

(Apologies for being late and also for missing last Friday)

zeitgeist noun, often capitalized zeit·geist \ˈtsīt-ˌgīst, ˈzīt-\

: the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era


His songs perfectly captured the zeitgeist of 1960s America.

Did You Know?

Scholars have long maintained that each era has a unique spirit, a nature or climate that sets it apart from all other epochs. In German, such a spirit is known as "Zeitgeist," from the German words Zeit, meaning "time," and Geist, meaning "spirit" or "ghost." Some writers and artists assert that the true zeitgeist of an era cannot be known until it is over, and several have declared that only artists or philosophers can adequately explain it. We don’t know if that’s true, but we do know that "zeitgeist" has been a useful addition to the English language since at least 1835.


German, from Zeit + Geist spirit

First Known Use: 1835

Thursday word: afikomen

Sorry for missing last week's post, but I was so wrapped up in the last day of preparations for Passover that I completely forgot. So in honor of the holiday:

afikomen (ah-fee-KOH-muhn) - n., a piece broken off from a matzo during a Passover Seder and put aside to be eaten at the end of the meal.

This is then eaten as the desert, after which nothing more can be eaten that night -- though there's still two more glasses of wine to consume. Among Ashkenazi Jews (I can't speak for Sephardim here) there are two traditions: that the leader of the Seder hides it for the children to find, or that the children steal it from the leader -- either way, the leader "ransoms" the afikomen with a toy or other gift, as the service cannot continue without eating it. Then it's broken up for all eat a piece, after which the Seder goes on. The word entered English around 1890, though it's not used much except by Jews, from Yiddish afikoymen, from Hebrew aphīgōmān, from Greek epikṓmion, a revel (according to the Jerusalem Talmud) or dessert (according to the Babylonian Talmud).

This year our daughter was old enough to search for the afikomen, and ransomed it for a toy plane.


Monday word: swidden

swidden (swĭd′n), noun

An area cleared for cultivation by burning away the vegetation.

Technically, the same as slash-and-burn, a potentially devastating agricultural method, but the term "swidden agriculture" does not have the same negative associations.  Most discussions of swidden agriculture try to make distinctions between the levels of ecological impact caused by different slash-and-burn methods.
Also while querying for this post, I saw the term used for more than just the burning of an area for agriculture; it is also sometimes used more generally to refer to the clearing of an area, in relation to alternating periods of farming the land and letting it lie fallow.

Etymology:  1900s, northern English dialect swithen, to burn

Tuesday Word: Hymen

hy·men [ˈhaɪmɛn]:
origin: [1610] French (via medical Latin); syu-men= to sew or bind.

noun (hymenal, adjective)
1. Originally the Greek God of marriage (also Hymenaios or Hymenaeus), mentioned in many Shakespearian plays, and imbued with several origins.

In one: Hymen was a beautiful youth in love with a nobel woman whom he couldn't marry. Instead, he followed her everywhere out of devotion, going so far as to disguise himself as a woman during a "female only" ceremony.

When that group of women, including himself (in drag), and his crush, were kidnapped, Hymen eventually rallied the women to overpower their captors and return to Athens to gain freedom. Hymen struck a bargain to marry one of the captured women as a form of gratitude and thus won the hand of his beloved! Despite their different backgrounds that would've forever separated them otherwise, the marriage became one of famous happiness among citizens Thus, festivals in his honor and the association with marriage. It is said that by calling his name at a ceremony, one "invites" Hymen to attend, in order to secure a prosperous union.

the second definition has to do with female anatomyCollapse )

Hymen (left) and Cupid (right) with the flame of love.

Monday word: praedial

praedial (prē′dē-əl), adj.

1. Related to, containing, or posessing land; landed.
2. Attached to, bound to, or arising from the land.

Etymology:  1500s or earlier; from Latin praedium, farm, estate.

Praedial larceny is the theft of livestock or agricultural produce from a farm.  It can be a big issue in developing countries, where there is limited infrastructure and resources to combat it.

Poster from a campaign in Jamaica.

Friday word: Equivocate


A heated exchange during the Democratic debate

At the Democratic debate, in an energetic exchange on the minimum wage during which both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders raised their voices, Sanders wrapped up his argument by saying: “I think we need to be clear and not equivocate: $15 in all fifty states as soon as possible.” In the heat of the moment and in the context of heated rhetoric, his pronunciation of equivocate was slightly garbled.


The word​ comes from the Late Latin word ​'aequivocus​', which means "to call by the same name."

Equivocate means “to use unclear language especially to deceive or mislead someone.”

The word​ comes from the Late Latin word ​aequivocus​, which means "to call by the same name." It has been used as a verb in English since 1590, in the sense of "to use equivocal language especially with intent to deceive."

A few decades after this initial appearance the word took on an additional sense, presumably the one that was intended by Senator Sanders. There have been a few others senses of ​equivocate​, most of which are now quite obscure (such as when Randle Cotgrave used it in his 1611 French/English dictionary to mean "having the same sound as another word."

Interestingly enough, there appears to be a lost adjectival sense of the word, one which may predate its use as a verb.​ Equivocate​ may be found in Thomas Bilson’s 1585 work, ​The True Difference Betweene Christian Subiection and Unchristian Rebellion​, inhabiting this part of speech.

…your wise & worthy Bishops thought it safest to shroude their wicked resolution vnder the doubtfull & equiuocate sense of the word adoration.

(Source: http://www.merriam-webster.com/trend-watch/equivocate-2016-04-14


Thursday word: napiform

napiform (NAY-puh-fawrm) - adj., turnip-shaped, round at the top and tapering sharply below.

So the sort of turnip that has a root below the bulb, or at least hasn't had it cut off. This entry is brought to you by the Department of There Really Is A Word For That?. This is mostly used only by botanists, and not surprisingly was coined by them around 1841 from Latin roots nāpus, a type of turnip, from Greek nâpu, a type of field mustard (if you've ever eaten turnip greens, you'll know why this makes sense) + -form, shape of. Turnip is, incidentally, descended from the same Latin word, with turn- added on front because of the round shape as if turned on a lathe.

Without a beard, his face was surprisingly napiform.



Tuesday Word: Vug (or Vugh)

Vug [vuhg]:
origin: [1810] Cornish; vooga= cave.

noun (adjective, vuggy or vughy) I swear!

Shut up, pretend it's Tuesday.

No, that's not what the word means, but you could argue this entry fills the vug of Tuesday. A vug (also spelled vugh or vugg = blame miners from Cornwall) is a small to medium-sized hollow inside a rock, geode, cave, or vein -- usually lined with sparkly mineral crystals. Technically, it's a hole, but a very pretty one.

Do you know where your vug is...Collapse )

Monday word: lynchet

lynchet (ˈlɪntʃɪt), noun

A ridge formed on a plowed hillside.

Think of terraces on a hillside.  Plowing across a hillside eventually forms terraces, as disturbed soil slides downhill to create a slight ridge - a positive lynchet - on the downhill side of the plowed area (a negative lynchet is created on the uphill side of the plowed area).

Etymology:  diminutive form of Old English hlinc, ridge, rising ground.

Although traditionally associated with ancient fields in the British Isles, I learned the term from a book by Will Bonsall, who has created similar plowed terraces on his farm in Maine.

(from http://www.panoramio.com/photo/21437199)

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