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Tuesday Word: presbyopia

Presbyopia (prɛs-, prɛzbɪˈəʊpɪə) comes from the Greek presbus (old man or elder) and op (eye). It refers to the deterioration of the ability to focus on small objects viewed at short distances, such as print. It is associated with aging and likely caused by the progressive loss of elasticity of the eye's crystalline lens (or simply the lens), which refracts and focuses light on the retina. I discovered this term while doing a bit of research prior to purchasing my very first pair of reading glasses! As I am 28 and presbyopia usually sets in during middle and old age, I am feeling pretty elderly right now...but hey, I spend my weekend nights doing yarn crafts and feel like I could sleep for a week after attending social events, so it's about time my body caught up with my habits.

Monday word: risible

risible (rĭz′ə-bəl), adj.

1. having a tendency to laugh; disposed to laugh
2. arousing or provoking laughter; funny
3. associated with, relating to, or used in laughter (risible muscles, for example)

Etymology:  mid 1500s, Latin, from ridere, to laugh.

As far as I'm aware, the term "risible muscles" isn't a medical term for any particular muscle group; it's just an informal term for the muscles used in laughing.

Sunday Word: Burgoo

bur·goo [BUR-goo] or [bur-GOO]:
origin: [possibly 1700's, definitely after the Civil War] unknown entomology, much speculation & attributed to French chef Gustave Jaubert (1860) from Confederate army.

The ultimate in "mystery stew".

Half-way between a soup and a stew, originating with the military on some level, burgoo's distinctively hearty quality begins with a combination of meats; in the past the flavor was wild game such as venison, rabbit, and squirrel. Currently, it's flavor is more likely to be found in chicken and beef. Regardless of type, the meat is commonly smoked.

Vegetables also reflect the Southern style, with corn and ocra being a staple, along with more commonplace potatoes, mushrooms, etc.

It's still a commonplace pot luck dish (sometimes each person brings an ingredient); burgoo is often spicy as well, along with any other combination of herbs, but no two recipes are quite the same -- with chefs commonly guarding their secrets.

Still a Kentucky favorite and commonly enjoyed while watching the Kentucky Derby itself (congratulations to American Pharaoh this year) -- ever since 1932, when a colt named "Burgoo King" won the Derby and Preakness (2/3 of Thoroughbred racing's famous Triple Crown). It also happens to pair nicely with mint juleps, just don't forget the important side dish of corn bread!

Saturday Word: Kunlangeta

kun·lan·ge·ta [ko͞oˈlänˌɡlät]:
origin: [1976; recorded] Jane M. Murphy, Harvard University study; Yupik language of northwest Alaskan Inuit.

The Inuit/Eskimo word for "psychopath".

Explained as, “a person whose mind knows what to do but he does not do it.”

This person is also known as never improving, no matter how many times the elders talk to them -- irremediable, their motives remain selfish regardless of who or what is harmed.

It is also reputed therefore, that even in a famously peaceful society, but one even more reliant on one another for survival than our own, that when asked what is done with such an individual, the answer was, "Somebody would have pushed him off the ice when nobody else was looking.”

Problem solved.

Friday word: Apparatchik


Language of Origin:


About the Word:

Nowadays, apparatchik is generally used as a mild insult for a blindly devoted official, follower, or member of an organization, such as a corporation or political party.

For example, an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times described a London mayoral candidate as, "a lifelong left-wing activist, a local government apparatchik, a consummate manipulator of subcommittees and votes of confidence."

Originally the word referred specifically to a Communist official or agent. It comes from the Russian apparat meaning "party machine" – and for much of the 20th century specifically "the political machine of the Communist party" – + -chik, an agent suffix.

(source: Merriam-Webster, 10 favorite words from foreign languages)

Thursday word: subfusc

subfusc (sub-FUSK) - adj., dark, dusky; having subdued colors, dull and drab. n., dark clothing, esp. (Brit.) clothing acceptable, by regulation at certain universities, for an examination or official event.

By "certain universities" we mean specifically Oxford (Cambridge apparently didn't require subfusc?), and can be approximately described as Edwardian white-tie wear. There's also an alternate adjectival form, subfuscous, for being like the clothing. As far as the clothing is concerned, the word was originally humorous slang first recorded in the 1850s, the general adjective having been adopted into English around 1710 from Latin subfuscus, dusky, from sub- in a little-known sense of approximately + fuscus, dark.

Thick carpet, subfusc curtains with a pseudo-empire pattern, and gilt-legged chairs give the waiting room the atmosphere of a mausoleum.



Wednesday word: Holocene

Holocene: [hol-uh-seen]

In the geologic timescale, the Holocene is the epoch that began approximately 10,000-12,000 years ago following the previous epoch of the Pleistocene, and continues to this day.  Its beginning was marked by the melting of the most recent ice age along with the Neolithic Revolution, the rise of modern human settlement and agriculture. Epochs tend to span anywhere from a few million years to tens of millions of years, so the Holocene is an extremely young epoch.  An alternate name scientists are considering for this epoch is the Anthropocene, since in such a short time, humans have had such a drastic impact on Earth.  Also, in the distant future, the name "Holocene" will no longer be appropriate, if one takes into account the meaning of the word.  :-)

Etymology: 1895-1900  Greek, from the words holos  (whole or entire) and kainos (new). So the word essentially means "entirely recent." That won't work in a few million years, eh?

This is a cute, simplified kid's version of the geologic time scale, but it gets the point across!  ^_^   (This stuff is one of my favorite things in the world!!!!)

Monday word: sequela

sequela (sĭ-kwĕl′ə), noun

An abnormal condition or complication resulting from a disease, injury, or other trauma.

Often used in the plural, sequelae.

Chronic kidney disease can be a sequela of diabetes or high blood pressure.
Post-polio syndrome is sometimes called post-polio sequelae.
There is a theory that cases of encephalitis lethargica in the 1920s might have been sequelae of the 1918 influenza outbreak.

Etymology:  late 1700s, from Latin sequela, that which follows, consequence.
ron·go·ron·go [SHo͞oˈberē-nəs]:
origin: [1300's ?] from Rapa Nui language = "to recite, to declaim, to chant out.”

You may have thought the giant heads (moai) were the weirdest thing about Easter Island (Isla de Pascua), but there's more! The Rapa Nui natives appear to have had a language, now lost, and probably known by few when in use -- no one has been able to translate Rongorongo.

Baffling archeologists, it sprouted into existence despite a total lack of written languages in the area surrounding Easter Island. Exactly who or when Rongorongo was invented remains a mystery. A few glyphs remarkably resemble another incomprehensible and controversial language: Indus script of ancient India.

Part of the problem is that there are so few samples of the writing left today -- only about two dozen random (though beautiful) bits were ever recovered -- they are also irregularly shaped, weathered, and damaged. The other problem is that the natives used up their resources and were pushed into other cultures to survive, some of whom forbade them to use this language, likely due to it being interwoven with their (pagan) beliefs; a common form of ethnocide in history.

Other scholars propose that Rongorongo is "proto-writing", symbols that convey some type of data or lore, though not linguistic in content -- more akin to a totem pole than a book. Today, the majority of Easter Islanders write in Spanish using the Latin alphabet. Similar languages dubbed "ta'u" & "va‘eva‘e" are considered derivative, invented by elders for the purpose of exporting profitable decorative goods.

Rongorongo is written in a manner referred to as Reverse Boustrophedon. The word boustro·phe·don [baʊstrɵˈfiːdən ="ox turning"] refers to the ancient Greek's manner of writing a line from left to write, followed by a line written right to left (or backwards); repeat. In reverse boustrophedon, the writing is more like a mirror image, one line written normally, the second written like a reflection. In Rongorongo this creates a head to tail/tip effect as the language is primarily figures, plants, and animals.

image source

Friday word: Schadenfreude

Schadenfreude (n):

Language of origin: German

About the Word:

The German Schaden means "damage"; Freude means "joy"; the compound Schadenfreude means "enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others."

As the Schadenfreude song from Avenue Q puts it: "And when I see how sad you are / It sort of makes me... / Happy!"

(from Merriam-Webster's list "10 favorite words from foreign languages")

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