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Monday word: assuage

assuage (ə-swāj′) verb
1. To make something less intense or painful.
2. To give relief; to satisfy.
3. To soothe, calm, or appease.

Etymology:  From Latin suavis, sweet or agreeable.  Same origin as suave.

Friday word: Vichyssoise

A v-word for your Friday ;)

vichyssoise, n. vi·chys·soise \ˌvi-shē-ˈswäz, ˌvē-\

: a soup typically made of pureed leeks or onions and potatoes, cream, and chicken stock and usually served cold


French, from feminine of vichyssois of Vichy, from Vichy, France

First Known Use: 1939

Thursday word: quomodocunquize

quomodocunquize (kwo-MOH-doh-KUN-kwaiz) - v., to make money by any means possible.

Could be by taking every odd job under the sun, hustling like mad, or using less licit means. Coined in 1652 by Thomas Urquhart from Latin quomodocunque, in whatever way, from quo modo, in what way? -- and never used again, at least going by OED citations, except in lists of obscure words and the occasional blog post using it to make a point. Thomas Urquhart's own use seems the best possible example, as he complained about:

... those quomodocunquizing clusterfists and rapacious varlets ...



Monday word: pikel

pikel /ˈpɪkl/ noun
A pitchfork or hay-fork.

Not a common word here in the states, as far as I'm aware.
It's a regional English word, originating in the early 1600s - anyone know if it's still in use regionally?

Listed in volume 4 of Joseph Wright's 1903 book
The English Dialect Dictionary: Being the Complete Vocabulary of All Dialect Words Still in Use, Or Known to Have Been in Use During the Last Two Hundred Years; Founded on the Publications of the English Dialect Society and on a Large Amount of Material Never Before Printed

which also lists the phrase "to rain pikels", meaning to rain heavily.
The phrase can also be found in this list of 32 Long-Forgotten Weather Words.

Friday word: Sleight


"Sleight of hand" is one tricky phrase. "Sleight" is often miswritten as "slight" and for good reason.

Not only does the expression convey an image of light, nimble fingers, which fits well with the smallness implied by "slight," but an alternate expression for the concept is "legerdemain," from the French léger de main," literally, "light of hand."

"Sleight" comes from a different source, a Middle English word meaning "cunning" or "trickery." It's a wily little word that lives up to its name.

Source: 12 Old Words That Survived by Getting Fossilized in Idioms, from Mental Floss

Thursday word: congeries

congeries (kon-JEER-eez, KON-juh-reez) - n., an aggregation or collection of items as a single mass.

Despite its appearance, this is a singular mass noun. It does have a plural, for talking about a group of groups, which is spelled identically. You may also see a false singular form, congery, but this is frowned upon. But singular verb -- and on this shelf here is a congeries of origami. Adopted in the 1610s from Latin congeriēs, heap/mass/pile, from congerere, to carry together (from con- + gerere, to bear/carry) + -iēs, a nominalizing suffix (which also appears in rabies and series).

"A congeries of bubbles floated through the air."



Monday word: picayune

picayune (pĭk′ə-yo͞on′)
1. Of little or small importance.
2. Petty; small-minded.
1. Something of little value; a trifle.
2. A half-real (an old Spanish coin).
3. Any U.S. coin of small value, such as a nickel.

Etymology:  French picaillon, small coin

The New Orleans Times-Picayune does not print picayune stories;
it received its name from the fact that its original price (in the mid-1800s) was one picayune.

And of course, there's the Bloom Picayune.

Thursday word: mumchance

mumchance (mum-chans) - adj., (arch.) silent, mute, not speaking.

Originally, a dice game played in silence, though exactly how the game was played was poorly recorded. Many dictionaries specifically trace it to one played by mummers, or masked Christmas revelers, whose name is cognate to mumble or to be mum -- the game had to be playable silently because of the noise of the revel. Others, however, trace it not to Middle English but Middle German (possibly transmitted via Middle Dutch) mummenschanze, masked serenade or a game played as part of same, with Old French roots momen, mask + chance, game of chance. Either way, in England especially, there's a connotation of being silent because of stupidity, which even stronger when the word is used as a noun.

The two children stood mumchance, waiting for the sermon's end and their candy reward.


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

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