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Thursday word: alectryomancy

alectryomancy (uh-LEK-tree-oh-man-see) - n., divination by means of a rooster.

The most common method being to scatter grains, for example on an alphabet, and seeing which ones the big guy picks up. But there are other ways of observing meaning in the stochasticity of cocks, including interpreting scratch-marks left on the ground or the innards of a sacrifice. Also spelled alectromancy and alectormancy. From Greek, from alektōr, rooster +‎ -manteia, divination -- and that first word is related to the name Alexander, both being derived from a root meaning to ward or drive off.

This painting by Konstantin Makovsky shows young women using alectryomancy to fortell marriage prospects:

Thanks, Wikipedia!



Monday word: deuterostome

deuterostome (do͞o′tə-rō-stōm′), noun

Any animal of the group Deuterostomia, in which the anus develops from the first opening in the embroyo and the mouth develops later.

Starfish and sea urchins are examples of detuerostomes.  As are humans, all mammals, and the creature depicted below (and described in this article).

Etymology:  Latin, deutero, second + stoma, mouth

Sunday Word: Numpty

nump·ty [ˈnʌmptɪ]:
origin: Scottish

numpty photo: NUMPTY NUMPTYNOW.jpg

Some say it's Scotland's favorite word, although I've had others assure me that their favorite word begins with an "f".

At any rate, numpty means stupid, but specifically the kind of idiocy that tries to do (or say) something and is not getting proper results; an aggravatingly ineffectual person. It can be used in a joshing manner or to show serious anger.

"No. That wisnae wit she meant, ya big numpty!"

There is a similar Yiddish term for this idea, a schlemiel.

Saturday Word: Antipode(s)

an·ti·pode [ˈæntɪpəʊd]:
origin: (1550) Greek; anti= opposite, reverse + pous= feet; having the feet opposite (in relation to one's self).

1. Referring to a spot on Earth and/or another location that is diametrically opposite it. Antipodes can also imply a place very far away.

2. Metaphorically referring to things that are opposite: My cousin the butcher is an antipode to my vegan best friend.

3. A term people in the northern hemisphere use to refer to the people of New Zealand & Australia combined (may also include North Africa).

Friday word: Chimera

Jan 27, 2017

Lookups of chimera spiked on January 27, 2017, with the news that scientists had successfully combined the DNA of two disparate species into one viable embryo. The resulting embryo, called a chimera, lived to four weeks and represents a huge step toward the goal of growing replacement human organs in the lab.


By the 16th century 'chimera' was used to refer to any imaginary monster made of incongruous parts.

The word chimera dates back to the 14th century, where it was used to refer to a fire-breathing she-monster from Greek mythology. Homer describes her in The Iliad as

... a thing of immortal make, not human, lion-fronted and snake behind, a goat in the middle, and snorting out the breath of the terrible flame of bright fire.
—translation from the Greek by Richmond Lattimore

She terrorized Lycia and was slain by the Greek hero Bellerophon and the Pegasus.

The fearsome creature lived on in people’s imaginations, and by the 16th century chimera was used to refer to any imaginary monster made of incongruous parts.

It seems an odd word for scientists to latch onto, but they did. In the early 20th century, botanists borrowed the word to refer to any plant that was made of two (or more) organisms from genetically distinct species, like grafted plants. Today’s scientific chimera refers to combining distinct genetic material in one organism, and is often used to refer to the insertion of human DNA into non-human cells or organisms (such as viruses).

Because chimera is borrowed into English from Greek, it retains a pronunciation that’s more in line with Greek conventions than English conventions: /kye-MIR-uh/. The Greek word that gave us chimera means “she-goat.”

(Source: Merriam-Webster Online, Trend Watch)

Thursday word: cheechako

cheechako (chee-CHAH-koh) - n., (Alaska and Yukon) a newcomer, tenderfoot, greenhorn.

One who still doesn't quite have the local terrain, weather, driving skills, et cet. down. This looks like a word derived from a First Nations language, and indeed it is, but not from that area -- it's Chinook Jargon, which developed as a trading pidgin in the lower Columbia River valley and spread throughout the Pacific Northwest. It died out shortly after WWII, but words from it are still in use throughout the area, especially British Columbia -- this one surviving only further up north. Like most pidgins, Chinook Jargon took vocabulary from several languages, but this one actually comes from Chinook itself, at least partly: from chee, new (from Lower Chinook čxi, new/right away) + chako, come, from Nootka (a Vancouver language) čokʷa·, come (imperative form). First recorded use as an English term is from 1897, apparently during the Yukon Gold Rush. For an example, Jack London:

The cold white silence of the Yukon Wilderness plays savage tricks on the minds of cheechako and sourdough alike.

(Bonus word: In Alaskayukon, a sourdough is a permanent resident -- one who's lived there all four seasons of the year.)


Monday word: sinter

sinter (sĭn′tər)

1. A chemical sediment or crust, such as silica deposited by a mineral spring.
2. A mass formed by sintering.

To form a coherent mass by heating without melting.

Selective Laser Sintering is a technique that uses a laser to sinter powdered material (nylon, alumide, steel, etc.).

I learned the word while at Chazen with friends:  the medium for a sculpture from Xu Bing was listed as "laser-sintered polyamide".
Here is an article on the impressive, much larger (and non-sintered) installation related to the small sculptures I saw.

Etymology:  German sinter, slag or dross.

Friday word: willowwacks

More w-words is always good, isn't it? ;))

willowwacks, n.

New England. a wooded, uninhabited area.


They couldn't believe anyone could just walk out of the willowwacks, Navy SEAL or not. Aaron Gwyn, Wynne's War, 2014

There aren't many airports in eastern Canada; you look at one like Upper Blackville, out there in the spruce-and-fir willowwacks, and wonder what it's doing there. The AOPA Pilot: Voice of General Aviation, Volume 37, 1994


Willowwacks is of uncertain origin.

(Source: dictionary.com Word of the Day, Jan. 12, 2017)

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).

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