Words: Feb 3 to Feb 5

Words heavy, words playful.

Feb 3: Poole’s word is ylem, a word that’s been around quite a while in various incarnations but was resurrected seventy years ago by George Gamow and Hans Bethe, two of my heroes, to denote “the first stuff that existed … the primordial matter at the creation of the universe.” Whow! By contrast, my word is trite. Wispy means, well, wispy, as in a “wispy mustache.” Love it.

Feb 4: Poole’s cacotechny has been around for more than two centuries as a “hurtful invention.” Well, we haven’t had any “noxious innovations,” have we? Me, I’d like to cast opprobrium (“harsh criticism or censure”) onto anyone who has brought a cacotechny into existence.

Feb 5: Some nuance from Poole. A pejorist isn’t “an out-and-out doom-monger” but one who “believes that the world is being made worse through concentrated human effort.” Poole mentions global warming, as he should. So my word, chosen by this pejorist, is accretion, a technical term for gradual buildup, such as in the CO2 ppm in the atmosphere.

Source: A Word for Every Day of the Year by Steven Poole.

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