Lexicon Big Year: July 25

Words

July 25: Ipsedixitism. Huh, what you saying? Well, this, according to Steven, is how you describe someone “who appeals to an idea he thinks is obvious and needs no further explanation.” This can be a tactic to avoid drawing attention to any real criticism of the idea. A word two-hundred-plus years old, let’s acknowledge ipsedixitism.

Jogging this morning, for who knows what reason, a word sprang to mind. I muttered, “persispacious,” “persospicious,” maybe “perococial,” a word having something to do with luck and foresight. It took another twenty minutes on the road for the right word to slip into my addled brain. The word is perspicacious, and it means “having a ready insight into and understanding of things” or “of acute mental vision or discernment.” So not only could I not pronounce it, I had no idea what perspicacious means.

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

Lexicon Big Year: July 12

Unusual words

July 12: “A custom or notion that has been shown to be unreasonable but nonetheless persists,” Steven Poole tells us, “is a mumpsimus,” and doesn’t it sound mellifluous? Apparently it arose in the 1600s and died out as an active word sometime through the 2000s. If I could resurrect it, I’d slap mumpsimus onto all those circulating Covid-19 conspiracy ideas, and all those dingbat “climate change doesn’t exist because …” tropes.

My word of the day is mizzle, something I stumbled across, yet again, in a podcast. I’d never heard of it but the dictionaries do include it. The verb (I’m not sure a noun is allowed) mizzle means ” to rain in very fine drops.” One dictionary seemed to derive that meaning from a German word, but when I heard it, the speaker said it means halfway between mist and drizzle.

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

Lexicon Big Year: June 26

Words

June 26: Poole’s word for the day is a bewitching one: haecceity (apparently pronounced as “hike-evity), which had usage long ago as “the property of being a unique and individual thing” or this-ness. Matters are confusing. Haeccity isn’t the same as essence or quiddity, but is more specific, and Poole puts it thus: “How do you describe the dogness of your dog, or the rockness of that rock?”

Someone read to me the word sunder, which means “split apart.” Most often we see it as sundered. Uranium atoms fission in a reactor. Should they sunder?

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

Lexicon Big Year: June 16

Words

June 16: Steven Poole’s forgotten/rare word for today is quop. Who can resist saying quop? First seen in a 1382 bible, used by James Joyce in “Ulysses,” it means “to wriggle, throb, or pulsate.” Poole: “An invaluable word to know at Scrabble.” Quop, quop, quop.

My word? Sounding almost the same, quip is seen in books but never, in my experience, spoken. It means “a witty remark” or, as a verb, to make such a witty remark. Quip, quip, quip.

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

Lexicon Big Year: June 7

Words

June 7: Poole’s weird-sounding, weird-of-meaning word for today is accismus, from four hundred or more years ago. Accismus means “pretending to refuse something you actually really want.” I guess it’s what we label as “reverse psychology.” My mother always assumed that if you turned down something at her table, it was a statement of accismus. Ever since I read Poole’s beguiling essay on the word, I’ve been wondering if some of my life is accismus trying to reach out, for I seem to be edging towards a new orientation to important things. If only all words encouraged fresh reflection…

And my word? An exceedingly commonplace one but one that still leaps into my head unbidden every day: apocalyptic. The dictionary seems to say “describing or prophesying the complete destruction of the world” or “momentous or catastrophic.” We all use it differently. I know folks who claim to employ it literally; that’s a conversation that never goes far with me. Coronavirus lockdown encourages apocalyptic reflections, however shallow, and of course I’m prone to Extinction Rebellion anxiety of the apocalyptic (and in my view, accurate) flavor. Is it overused? Do I overuse it? Yes on both counts, but I bet I continue to think apocalyptic images daily nonetheless.

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

Lexicon Big Year: June 1

Words

June 1: Steven Poole has excelled with his words over the past week or so, delighting me with gems like cognosible, hippotherapy, and smellfeast. But I’m especially taken by today’s word, alazony, which means the “inability to recognize irony when they see it.” Alazony is one of Poole’s more modern rare words and it sounds great, doesn’t it? Let’s hope no-one ever casts the aspersion of alazony upon me.

Garry Disher, that renowned Australian author, donated a wondrous word to me: floordrobe. It means the pile of clothes on your bedroom floor in place of actual furniture. I won’t name those I know who once built substantive floordrobes.

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

Lexicon Big Year: May 22

Words

May 22: Not easy to pronounce, Steven Poole’s rare word for today, but I love it: deipnosophist. According to him, it’s a very ancient Greek word that still finds a place in dictionaries, and it means “someone learned in the mysteries of the kitchen.” But it’s more than that. If you’re a deipnosophist, you’re a whiz-bang chef but also a “philosopher-eater,” someone who shines intellectually over a dinner party table. Dinner parties quickly bore me and I can cook but barely, but hey, I can dream of one day morphing into a deipnosophist.

What word has struck me over the last week or so? It’s distancing, that is, the verb distance and its associated noun. Until recently, we would “travel a long distance” but the verb, as in “I distance myself from him,” was rarely used. Now “social distancing” and “social distance” are lockdown commonplaces.

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

Lexicon Big Year: May 14

Words

May 14: Poole surfs back to the 1600s and 1700s for a logodaedalus, someone who is “a cunning wordsmith.” Oh, here in Australia, that’s a term we’d assign to the crossword maestro David Astle. I love logodaedalus but I’ll surely never use the word.

I read in an Australian Financial Review article by Christopher Joye about his “clients that are prepared to bet against hysteria and exploit the ineluctable regression to the mean in financial spreads.Ineluctable? I’d heard the word but what exactly does it mean? Well, it seems the dictionary definition is “unable to be resisted or avoided; inescapable.” Is ineluctable better than “inescapable”? I think that when it is employed (and it shouldn’t be used every day), yes, ineluctable is a brilliant choice.

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

Lexicon Big Year: May 6

Words

May 6: this is a old lost word that Steven Poole considers we should resurrect after the terrible, farcical Global Financial Crisis. Instead of loading this industry with respect and deploying the term “financial trader,” Poole believes we should reach back to the term “stockjobber,” which has the meaning, Poole explains, given by Dr Johnson: “A low wretch who gets money by buying and selling shares in the funds.” I know plenty of financial traders. A few of them I’d be happy to describe as stockjobbers.

I came across “petrichor” in a crossword. Petrichor means “a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather.” What a wonderful, subtle word. And how intriguing does petrichor sound when rolled around your mouth?

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

Lexicon Big Year: Apr 30

Words

Apr 30: Steven Poole doesn’t dive back hundreds of years to come up with “edgelord,” a word apparently in popular use only since 2015. I’ve never come across it, but it means a person who “posts on internet forums and social media with the express intent of being as ‘edgy’ as possible, expressing the most nihilistic or outrageous opinions he can think of.” Me, I can only dream of growing up to become an edgelord.

In Rebecca Giggs’ wonderful “Fathoms,” I came across: “It took thirty-six hours to butcher a whale — a mephitic, spattering task.” Mephitic? I guessed a meaning of devilish, but the dictionary is more matter of fact: “foul-smelling, noxious (especially of a gas or vapour).” What a delicious word!

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