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Tuesday Word: Enantiomer

en·an·ti·o·mer [ə-nan-tee-ə-mər]:
origin: [1660] Greek; enantíos= opposite + méros= part.

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Two-faced: duplicating each side of the same human face as one.

An optical isomer; two sets of atoms that are mirror images of one another, but do not overlap if placed on top of one another (common example: your right & left hand, identical but opposites, a.k.a. chirality).

Now, just because something looks alike,and is made up of the exact same substances, it does not mean they are alike; so, in a curiosity of chemistry (even of the universe itself), what is harmless in one arrangement can become deadly when simply flipped.

You know...like "evil" Star Trek?

The drug thalidomide is an example of a molecule possessing an enantiomer that went horribly wrong (due to that "flipped" nature), it was designed simply to help women struggling with morning sickness & sleep depravation, which it did effectively, yet it was also capable of causing an array of serious birth defects. Removing the harmful enantiomer that causes birth defects (while leaving the useful one that causes sleep intact) is ineffective, for the molecule may re-flip inside the body.

The thalidomide tragedy forced drug companies to reconsider enantiomers as separate molecules instead of different forms of the same drug. However, it's still effectively used to treat leprosy and cancer with the enforced use of birth control.

Monday words: myrmecochory, elaiosome

myrmecochory (ˌmɜːmɪkəʊˈkɔːrɪ), noun
Seed dispersal by ants.

Etymology:  Greek, myrmeco, ants + khoreo, spread, dispersal

elaiosome (ɪˈleɪəˌsəʊm), noun
An oil-rich fleshy structure attached to the seeds of some plants.

Etymology:  Greek, elaion, oil + soma, body

The oil-rich elaiosomes are attractive to ants, which then carry the seeds back to their colony.  Ant larvae eat the elaiosomes, and the undamaged seeds are discarded.

It's estimated that 5% of all flowering plant species use ants to help disperse seeds, including trillium, bloodroot, violet, bleeding heart, twinleaf, wild ginger, and lamium (dead nettle).  In North America, the method is used by many spring-flowering woodland wildflowers.  A patient person, situated next to the right plant (or with a cache of the right seeds), can watch the ants in action.

Friday word: Ikebana

ikebana, n. \ˌi-kā-ˈbä-nə, ˌi-ki-, ˌē-\

: the Japanese art of flower arranging that emphasizes form and balance


Japanese, from ikeru to keep alive, arrange + hana flower

Thursday word: herbaceous

herbaceous (hur-BEY-shuhs, ur-BEY-shuhs) - adj., of, relating to, or characteristic of an herb; not woody.

The most common usage being that last: herbaceous plants don't have woody stems (or to use technical jargon, no lignified tissues), and perennial herbs die completely off each winter to regrow from the root. Grasses and forbs are both herbaceous.

This week on my main journal I'm running a theme of words first used by 17th century writer Sir Thomas Browne, who wrote with a notably Latinate style -- and somewhat predictably, brought a lot of words from Latin into English, many of them commonly used today. And, yeah, this is one of them: adopted by Browne in 1640 from Latin herbāceus, grassy/like grass, from herba, grass/herbs.

We hacked our way though the brush until it thinned to an herbaceous undergrowth.



Tuesday Word: Stochastic

sto·chas·tic [stoʊˈkæstɪk]:
origin: [1660] Greek; stokhos= aim, stokhastikos= able to guess; conjecturing. [1917] German; stochastik= randomly determined.

adjective (adverb: stochastically)
1. A choice made using a random variable, such as a program selecting one comment as a winner from a selection of thousands.

2. Any situation involving chance; statistics.


A "stochastic process" refers to an evolving (or changing) statistic based on a random variable that also is randomly selected; therefore time becomes the key factor in this process and how the results alter over a period of time. Example: The stock market or gauging how best to manage long lines in order to serve customers.

Monday word: claque

claque (klăk), noun

1. A group hired to applaud at a performance.

2. A group of fawning admirers or sycophants.

Etymology:  mid-1800s, French claquer, to clap.

Wikipedia has an article on the original claquers (groups of professional applauders).

This is one of those words that, the longer I stare at it, the more mis-spelled it looks.

It's unrelated to 'clique' (a small exclusive group), although both originated from French verbs (cliquer, to clink or make noise).

Sunday Word: Elison

eli·sion [ih-lizh-uh]:
origin: [1500's] Latin; Latin elidere= a striking out.

Shakespearian poetry commonly uses elision for the sake of rhythm.

noun (verb: elide)
1. That which is not said, specifically a sound within a word (phonetic) that's removed or skimmed over - often indicated with an apostrophe - a habit common to casual and rapid speech:

• "Tatties o’wer the side!" (Scottish; Disaster has struck)
• C'thulhu (from Lovecraft fiction)
• The formal "Iced Cream" over time became "Ice Cream" due to the commonality of eliding it.
• "I didn' wanna give 'im no stuff." is the first time apostrophes were used to emphasize slang or an accent in print. *Stephen Crane, Maggie, a Girl of the Streets [1896]

2. Any form of omission or attempt to skim over something: "The cable movies were aired with elisions of sex scenes and cursing to make them appropriate for daytime television." Or as the tv show Seinfeld would say: Yada-Yada

Friday phrase: non compos mentis

non compos mentis, adj. \ˌnän-ˌkäm-pəs-ˈmen-təs, ˌnōn-\

: not of sound mind


Latin, literally, not having mastery of one's mind

First Known Use: 1607

Thursday word: obvolute

obvolute (OB-vuh-loot) - adj., rolled or turned in; (Botany) (of a leaf or petal) having an edge that overlaps one neighbor and another overlapped another.

The implication for that second meaning being that all the leaves or petals are doing that -- so like a cardboard box where each flap is on top of one neighbor and under the other. In botany, can especially refer to when there is only two leafs so overlapped. This is, obviously, something that happens more in a bud than a flower. Adopted around 1750 from Latin obvolūtus, past participle of obvolvere, to cover by wrapping up (as in a burrito? I have to wonder), from ob-, on/over/against + volvere, to turn/roll (yes, as in Volvo the car).

She overlapped the obvolute dominoes in an circle.



Tuesday Word: Apogee

a·po·gee [ˈapəjē]:
origin: [1500's] Greek; apo= "away from" + gáïos= "of the Earth" or "far away from Earth".

noun (adjective: apogeal, apogean, apogeic)
1. The zenith of an achievement; the apex after building up to a project or event. Antonym: perigee.

2. The farthest point in the orbit of an object (in the cosmos) in comparison to Earth, particularly the distance to the moon.

"Shag carpeting reached the apogee of its popularity in the 1970's, but is now considered outdated." - Merriam Webster

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