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Sunday Word: Portentous

portentous [pawr-ten-tuh s]
1. Of the nature of or constituting a portent; foreboding
2. Full of unspecifiable significance; exciting wonder and awe
2. Done in a pompously or overly solemn manner so as to impress


The portentous tone is exacerbated by Will Epstein's soundscore: an assemblage of surf and ambient noise that could easily be sold as a sleep aid. (Brian Seibert, New York Times, Review: At Met Breuer, Dancers Try to Be Like Life, Too)

"Such a portentous and mysterious monster roused all my curiosity" (Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Naming him was a portentous proceeding and one not to be lightly gone about. (Joseph C Lincoln, The Depot Master)

MasterChef's use of deeply portentous music in the background only adds to this. (The Sun, 2014)


From the Latin word portentōsus, dating back to 1530–40. (Dictionary.com)

Wednesday Word: Stomata

Stomata - an opening, basically.

You may recall stomata from biology class. Plants have tiny, small openings or slits in the epidermis of their leaves and stems that allow the exchange of gases - it's how plants breathe. A stomata can also be a mouth or artificial opening. I recently came across the word again while taking a first aid course - that is, some people have a stomata installed for breathing. You can perform CPR on the stoma. Huh!


Tuesday word: Carnal

Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2013

Carnal (adjective)
car·nal [kahr-nl]

1. pertaining to or characterized by the flesh or the body, its passions and appetites; sensual: carnal pleasures.
2. not spiritual; merely human; temporal; worldly: a man of secular, rather carnal, leanings.

Related forms
car·nal·i·ty , car·nal·ness , car·nal·ism , noun
car·nal·ly , adverb
hy·per·car·nal , adjective
hy·per·car·nal·ly , adverb

Related Words for carnal
sensuous, wanton, lewd, earthly, animal, bodily, corporal, corporeal, fleshly, impure, lascivious, lecherous, libidinous, licentious, lustful, physical, prurient, salacious, temporal, voluptuous

See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
1. bodily, lustful, lecherous, lascivious, libidinous, concupiscent.

Synonym study
Carnal, sensual, fleshly, animal all refer to bodily rather than rational or spiritual aspects of humans. Carnal although it may refer to the body as opposed to the spirit, often refers to sexual needs or urges: carnal cravings, attractions, satisfactions. Sensual implies a suggestion of eroticism: sensual eyes; a sensual dance; it may also refer to experience of the senses: a sensual delight. Fleshly may refer to any physical need or appetite, sex as well as hunger and thirst: the fleshly sin of gluttony; fleshly yearnings. Animal refers to sexual appetites in a censorious way only; it may also describe pleasing or admirable physical characteristics or appearance: animal lust; to move with animal grace.
2. earthly, natural.

Origin: 1350–1400; Middle English < Latin carnalis, equivalent to carn- (stem of caro ) flesh + -alis -al

Word Origin and History for carnal
c.1400, "physical, human, mortal," from Old French carnal and directly from Medieval Latin carnalis "natural, of the same blood," from Latin carnis "of the flesh," genitive of caro "flesh, meat" (see carnage). Meaning "sensual" is from early 15c.; that of "worldly, sinful" is from mid-15c. Carnal knowledge is attested from early 15c. and was in legal use by 1680s.

And, boy, have I met a few of these...

Sermocination - An irritating rhetorical device where a speaker asks a question and then immediately answers it himself.

Variants are sermonicator (male) and sermocinatrix (female) for speakers.

Sunday Word: Meretricious

meretricious [mer-i-trish-uhs]
1. Apparently attractive but having no real value, superficially or garishly attractive. tawdry
2. Plausible but false or insincere; specious
3. (archaic) Relating to or characteristic of a prostitute


In many ways, it was a meretricious performance, but it was a gifted one in terms of verbal gymnastics.(the Hansard archive, quoted by Cambridge Dictionary</a>)

She was half-angry with him in the carriage, and said something about meretricious manners. (Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers

"Elementary," said he. "It is one of those instances where the reasoner can produce an effect which seems remarkable to his neighbour, because the latter has missed the one little point which is the basis of the deduction. The same may be said, my dear fellow, for the effect of some of these little sketches of yours, which is entirely meretricious, depending as it does upon your retaining in your own hands some factors in the problem which are never imparted to the reader. (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes )

He was a son of God – a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that – and he must be about His Father's business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty. So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end. (F Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby)


C17: from Latin merētrīcius, from merētrix prostitute, from merēre to earn money (Collins Dictionary)

Meretricious can be traced back to the Latin verb merēre, meaning "to earn, gain, or deserve." It shares this origin with a small group of other English words, including "merit," meritorious," and "emeritus." But, while these words can suggest some degree of honor or esteem, "meretricious" is used to suggest pretense, insincerity, and cheap or tawdry ornamentation. The Latin merēre is at the root of the Latin noun meretrix, meaning "prostitute," and its related adjective "meretricius" ("of or relating to a prostitute"). The Latin meretricius entered into English as "meretricious" in the 17th century. Shortly after being adopted, "meretricious" also began to be used to indicate things which are superficially attractive but which have little or no value or integrity. (Merriam-Webster)

Friday phrase: Sotto voce

sotto voce (soh-toh voh-chi), adv. or adj., in an undertone, in a low voice

When you say something sotto voce, you say it very quietly. If you're unsure of the lyrics, you can also sing a song sotto voce.

This handy Italian phrase can be used as an adverb: "'Don't look now, but there's an alpaca behind you,' she said sotto voce."

It's also fine to use it as an adjective: "I liked the sotto voce part of your karaoke performance best."

Sotto voce, literally "under the voice," comes from the Latin words subtus, "below," and vocem, "voice."

This is where I saw it, a couple days ago:

I wrote the column for Life letting readers know who I was. It appeared. At the time it seemed an unexceptional enough eight hundred words in the assigned genre, but there was, at the end of the second paragraph, a line so out of synch with the entire Life mode of self-presentation that it might as well have suggested abduction by space aliens:

"We are here on this island in the middle of the Pacific in lieu of filing for divorce."

A week later we happened to be in New York.

"Did you know she was writing it," many people asked John [the author's husband], sotto voce.

Did he know I was writing it?

He edited it.

He took Quintana [their daughter] to the Honolulu Zoo so I could rewrite it.

He drove me to the Western Union office in downtown Honolulu so I could file it.

(from Joan Didion's memoir, "The Year of Magical Thinking")

Other examples:

I did tell you, he says, sotto voce.
The Guardian Sep 15, 2018

At all hours, young men invite you sotto voce to a “coffee shop” à la Amsterdam.
The Guardian
Aug 30, 2018

Root, according to a witness, leaned toward friends and suggested sotto voce that they all cut away for cocktails.
The Devil in the White City

Cockburn produced a special edition of the Week devoted to the conference, reporting what was being said sotto voce by the delegates.
The Guardian Dec 3, 2017

(source: vocabulary.com)

Wednesday Word: Adz

Adz - an axe-like tool, for dressing timbers roughly, with a curved, chisel-like steel head that is mounted at a right angle to the handle.

Chances are you have see an adz but didn't realize it - it looks like the offspring of a hammer and an axe. It's a killer word to use in Scrabble when you can't make za!

Tuesday word: Animal

I completely forgot that today is Tuesday. Sorry!

Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018

Animal (noun, adjective)
an·i·mal [an-uh-muh?l]

1. any member of the kingdom Animalia, comprising multicellular organisms that have a well-defined shape and usually limited growth, can move voluntarily, actively acquire food and digest it internally, and have sensory and nervous systems that allow them to respond rapidly to stimuli: some classification schemes also include protozoa and certain other single-celled eukaryotes that have motility and animallike nutritional modes.
2. any such living thing other than a human being.
3. a mammal, as opposed to a fish, bird, etc.
4. the physical, sensual, or carnal nature of human beings; animality: the animal in every person.
5. an inhuman person; brutish or beastlike person: She married an animal.
6. thing: A perfect job? Is there any such animal?

Read more...Collapse )

Examples from the WebCollapse )
Niveous - Adjective meaning snowy or resembling snow.

Sunday Word: Slubberdegullion

slubberdegullion [wool-gath-er-ing]
1. (archaic) a slovenly or worthless person.


(This is a variant, but the whole passage is so fabulously insulting that I have to quote it. It’s also where I first heard the word years ago on this website....

The bun-sellers or cake-makers were in nothing inclinable to their request; but, which was worse, did injure them most outrageously, called them prattling gabblers, lickorous gluttons, freckled bittors, mangy rascals, shite-a-bed scoundrels, drunken roysters, sly knaves, drowsy loiterers, slapsauce fellows, slabberdegullion druggels, lubberly louts, cozening foxes, ruffian rogues, paltry customers, sycophant-varlets, drawlatch hoydens, flouting milksops, jeering companions, staring clowns, forlorn snakes, ninny lobcocks, scurvy sneaksbies, fondling fops, base loons, saucy coxcombs, idle lusks, scoffing braggarts, noddy meacocks, blockish grutnols, doddipol-joltheads, jobbernol goosecaps, foolish loggerheads, flutch calf-lollies, grouthead gnat-snappers, lob-dotterels, gaping changelings, codshead loobies, woodcock slangams, ninny-hammer flycatchers, noddypeak simpletons, turdy gut, shitten shepherds, and other suchlike defamatory epithets; saying further, that it was not for them to eat of these dainty cakes, but might very well content themselves with the coarse unranged bread, or to eat of the great brown household loaf. (Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel translated by Thomas Urquhart in 1653)


1610s, from slubber "to daub, smear; behave carelessly or negligently" (1520s), probably from Dutch or Low German (cf. slobber (v.)). Second element appears to be an attempt to imitate French; or perhaps it is French, related to Old French goalon "a sloven." Century Dictionary speculates the -de- means "insignificant" or else is from hobbledehoy. (Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper)

C17: from slubber (chiefly dialect variant of slobber) + invented ending (Collins Dictionary)


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