Discover more from Matt Rickard
Something different for today's blog post. I've written down interesting words that I have come across that I didn't know for a long time. But, I'll admit, if the purpose of writing them down was to learn them, I've failed.
It did not help turn the recondite – (of a subject or knowledge) little known; abstruse – into the quotidian – of or occurring every day; daily from the Latin, quot+dies ("how many days") (Thinking of renaming my "Don't Break the Chain").
I came across some words that were just objectively bad. For example, why should we use avuncular (having to do with one's uncle) when we can say "an uncle's"?. The version for aunts is materteral. Not to be confused with unctuous, of a person who is excessively or ingratiatingly flattering, or just oily. Although speaking about one's uncle, too much can be considered unctuous.
I did learn what it is to be a Svengali – a person who exercises a controlling or mesmeric influence on another, especially for a sinister purpose. A memory from my childhood finally made sense: there was a daytime horror/comedy sketch on Chicago public access television in the 90s called Svengoolie, hosted by a modern-day Svengali.
A few themes popped out. First, I must genuflect – bend the knee – to words having to do with the body. Not that I'll ever need to know how to do a pirouette – the classic ballerina move. Legerdemain, the French for sleight-of-hand. Adroit, the clever or skillful in using the hands or mind. Prostration – a fancy word for planking, but with some religiously submissive overtones.
Some other words to impress at a cocktail party or fill up an Apple Notes page never to be looked at again.
corybantic – wild; frenzied.
bonhomie – cheerful friendliness; geniality.
perfidy – deceitfulness; trustworthiness.
enthymeme – an argument in which one premise is not explicitly stated. One type is the truncated syllogism – "My uncle is a mortal because he is human," which misses the step "all humans are mortal".
apoplectic – overcome with anger; extremely indignant. Not to be confused with apoplexy, which is when someone becomes unconscious while having a stroke
nocebo – a detrimental effect on health produced by psychological or psychosomatic factors such as negative treatment expectations or prognosis. (see: observer-expectancy effect)
diglossia is a situation in which a single language community uses two dialects or languages (in fairly strict compartmentalization). For example, cultures sometimes have one language for conversation but consume literature or formal education in another, like Latin.
imprimatur – a person's acceptance or guarantee that something is of a good standard. Also, an official license by the Roman Catholic Church to print a specific religious book.
kismet – the Yiddish concept of fate.
querulous – complaining in a petulant or whining manner.
prolegomena – a critical or discursive introduction to a book. It's the pluralized Ancient Greek for "prologue," singular prolegomenon.