Monday, December 24, 2012

El Niño de Navidad

Meaning: the Christmas child, (or, if you're feeling literal, the little boy of The birth) a shortened version of which - El Niño - is the nickname for a warm current off Peru which begins around Christmas time. This has given its name in turn to the larger, related climate pattern of El Niño/La Niña.

Usefulness: 1 (Could be used in all sorts of overblown metaphors about the arrival of Christmas and / or the Christ child, or as a slightly-more-interesting-than-usual way to start a conversation about the weather.)

Logofascination: 2 (Mainly in terms of the linguistic history - the Latin nativitas became Navidad, was shipped around the world to Peru, adopted to describe some weather, shortened, and then hijacked by scientists. If you keep following the trail you get to Japanese, via the El Niño "Modoki".)

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Meaning: forerunner or precursor; or introductory treatise or book; or symptoms characteristic of the onset of a disease.

Usefulness: 1 (I think this should be adopted as the name for the commercial preparation for Christmas, the secular equivalent to Advent. "Thank goodness the prodrome is nearly over; after two months of relentless tinsel-covered mercantilism, I'm not sure I'll have any festive cheer remaining for the feast itself.")

Logofascination: 1 (Another running word, part of the dromos family mentioned previously in hippodramatic and dromomania.)


Meaning: long-haired

Usefulness: 2 (The best use I've come up with so far is as an impressive sounding New Year's resolution: "I'm thinking of being more/less acrocomic in 2013.")

Logofascination: 1 (From Greek meaning hair on the crown or tip, which allows the OED to sneak a goat reference into the etymology:  "in Hellenistic Greek also having hair at the tip, like a goat's chin". Acro- applies to extremities - heights, tips, beginnings - and thus turns up in acronym, acropolis and acrostic.)

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Meaning: afterwit; the things you think of while wandering down the stairs to the taxi, as in l'esprit d'escalier.

Usefulness: 1 (Particularly if one is experiencing the unique pain of having met a long-admired artist - say, hypothetically, a musician - and having been struck dumb, only to think of all the witty and charming things one could have said after the fact. It's odd, but there is some comfort in thinking "Well, I know the word for that.")

Logofascination: 1 (Tintiddle was invented by Gelett Burgess, a chap who wasn't beholden to all this Latin and Greek nonsense, but made words up out of thin air and cigarette smoke. Not appearing in the OED, but redeemed by mentions at the Inky Fool and Sentence first. If you can cope with your average 1920's levels of sexism and/or misogyny, I recommend reading his dictionary, or at the least, examining its illustrations.)

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Meaning: divination by fig leaf, or the right kind of sycamore. You can write options on a number of leaves, throw them to the wind and see which ones you find; or write something on a leaf and see how long it takes to dry (longer is good, so don't use this one if you're in a hurry); or make the leaves into tea and then interpret them as per your regular tea-leaf.

Usefulness: 2 (may depend on your proximity to fig trees, or need for a rhyme for sycophancy)

Logofascination: 1 (The syco- is from the Greek for fig, and is also in sycamore, as the Biblical sycamore was a fig tree. It looked a bit like a mulberry tree, so this fig-mulberry - sykon and moron in Greek - in turn gave its name to trees that looked a bit like it; its American cousin, a type of plane tree, and the European sycamore, which is actually a maple and not related at all. The fig-mulberry's species name is ficus sycomorus, or the figgy fig-mulberryish tree.  Syco- also turns up in sycophant, for slightly rude reasons explained over at etymonline.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Meaning: It's a Rabelaisian invention, which Frame says is literally "to pass through a narrow passage such as that of a cornet". Thanks to its context (see below) Cotgrave defines it as "to plod or dunce upon, to beat the brains about" - trying to force information into one's brain faster than it is able to go.

Usefulness: 1 (I can always do with more words for cramming, and this has the added benefit of sounding quite rude.)

Logofascination: 1 (Rabelais was quite the logodaedalist, but in French, obviously, so it's always nice to find one of his originals. Sir Thomas adapted it from incornifistibuler to incornifistibulating, but otherwise left it alone. I also find it interesting as it indicates that Rabelais and Sir Thomas sometimes formed words on similar principles - stringing together as many Greek or Latin elements as are required to achieve the desired effect.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Meaning: lily of the valley. Dr Johnson's effort: "a flower".

Usefulness: 3 (They don't like heat much, so I haven't seen many of them down under. Would be a good name for a fairy, and could be useful if you were writing Romantic or Marian poetry.)

Logofascination: 1 (It's just such a beautiful word: liriconfancy. The OED suggests that its a corruption of the Latin lilium convallium.)


Meaning: etymologically, it's from Greek meaning "tending to work out", but in its original context, Sir Thomas was probably extending a rhetorical term - exergasia - which involves repeating the same idea in different ways.

Usefulness: 1 (If you go with the etymological meaning - the only one provided by the OED - it can be applied to gyms and their frequenters, as suggested in The Horologicon, or used of formulae or budgets: "I never worry too much about my finances, they're basically exergastic." The rhetorical sense is also useful: "Great speech boss; most exergastic.")

Logofascination: 1 (Under exergasia, the OED has a quote suggesting it is imagery from 'polishers of marble', and several definitions over at LEME mention polishing or trimming; repeated images in a speech seem to be likened to a worker in marble, patiently bringing out the patterns within.)

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Meaning: a long or tedious sermon; also a piece of doggerel, a rhyme. 

Usefulness: 1 (I was asked for a word to describe the "You wouldn't steal a car..." blurb at the beginning of most videos these days; while nominy captures the moralising tediousness, it lacks the compulsory element. Can obviously be used in a number of contexts: "Not another nominy, George: we've heard enough today.")

Logofascination: 1 (Possibly from in nomine patris... at the beginning of sermons; that's probably about all that was retained of sermons delivered in a drone or muttered in a monotone.)


Meaning:  sinuous, twisty, winding or craggy, rugged, coarse, rough, uneven. Whoever wrote the wiktionary definition decided to save time, and make it a (slightly poetic) list of synonyms as well as a definition. To be fair, the OED has "Winding, sinuous, involved; roundabout, circuitous; spiral" or "rugged, craggy". Apparently conjunctions are not necessary when it comes to this word.

Usefulness: 1 ("Your anfractuous arguments do not deceive me, good sir!" "My GPS'* route may be anfractuous, but you can't deny it is scenic.")

Logofascination: 1 (Various sources suggest that, etymologically, it is a cousin to the rather lovely frangible.)

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Meaning: Skill, craft or cunning with words.

Usefulness: 1 (Particularly with regards to Sir Thomas; will come in handy next time I update the About... page.)

Logofascination: 1 (The OED's first citation is from 1611, and it appears that it was coined to describe Thomas Coryate. It's formed from logo- - words, obviously - and Daedalus, father of Icarus and builder of the Labyrinth.)

Friday, December 14, 2012


Meaning: divination by pig entrail.

Usefulness: 2 (May depend on your interest in nose-to-tail eating. I've eaten some pig innards, deep fried - it seems I missed a chance to find a sign from the gods. Could also be used of pork belly, I suppose.)

Logofascination: 1 (This word is not even in wiktionary, but it is used - with variant spelling - by Rabelais, Sir Thomas and Frame. The etymology was hard to trace - it's from a Greek word for pig, or possibly hog, but most of our pig-words are old English, with a bit of Latin, so the Greek influence is minimal. )

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Meaning: going out of bounds; originally applied to bodies of water overflowing their banks or exceeding their boundaries. Also used to mean going to excess.

Usefulness: 1 (It's a fancy word for playing hooky: "Sorry I'm late; had some urgent debording to attend to.")

Logofascination: 2 (Related to border, unsurprisingly.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Meaning: the small pot used by apothecaries in times past to hold ointments and so forth. Extended to mean hard or difficult words such as those used by apothecaries, and, Grose tells us, people who are "as superficial in their learning as they are pedantic in their language."

Usefulness: 1 (While doing my best to avoid superficiality, this blog is proudly dedicated to gallipots, gallipotions and everything gallipotionesque.)

Logofascination: 1 (A cousin to ink-horn terms, of which this blog is even more fond - still being coined today, as evidenced over at LTA. Many 'new' words today are lazy portmanteaus, and ugly ones at that.)

Monday, December 10, 2012


Meaning: inserting a word into the middle of another word (e.g. abso-bloody-lutely, a-bloody-mazing). Wikipedia also discusses its technical application to classical languages and phrases.

Usefulness: 1 (Apparently this is an Australian tendency - I had trouble thinking of an example that didn't involve swearing, but am relieved to have a name for it.)

Logofascination: 1 (Besides being a handy Scrabble word, the source is fascinating. Tmesis turns up in the text of an unpublished epigram of Sir Thomas' - see below - discovered thanks to a terribly interesting and useful MetaFilter thread.* It's quite reassuring to discover that I'm not the only one so logofascinated.)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Sir Thomas on the BBC

I'm at a music festival this weekend, so for various technical reasons* there will be no posts this weekend.

I will point out that Sir Thomas got a mention on BBC Radio 4 this week, thanks to The Horologicon being book of the week - quomodocunquize and a quote from Sir Thomas' own works turned up in Wednesday's episode, complete with accent by Hugh Dennis.  Exergastic**, another of Sir Thomas' inventions got a mention in yesterday's, and the passage in which we find hirquitalliency may well turn up in the finale - the rather long first sentence is quoted in the evening hours of the book.

*my not being organised enough to have written any in advance.
**Coming Soon to this blog. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Meaning: divination by ashes.

Usefulness: 2 (I'm a little surprised no-one has yet used it regarding the Ashes, but I'd like to see it used on CSI or a show of that ilk*, while examining a fire or a cigarette butt: "Well," he drawled, removing his sunglasses, "it's clearly time for some... tephromancy." Cue dramatic music.)

Logofascination: 2 (Tephra is Greek for ash, and is the technical word for everything produced by a volcanic eruption.)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Meaning: obedient, compliant, obsequious. 

Usefulness: 1 (It's a word that seems to lend itself to insult: I can imagine calling someone morigerous in a hissed aside, with utmost insouciance, or while yelling and banging on the table. Morigerating and morigerousness - both in the OED - are lovely to say, but seem to come out with a snarl.)

Logofascination: 1 (Morigerate, the verb form, has a citation from 1623 and then one from 1936. How does a 17th century term amuse itself for 314 years? Etymologically, loosely related to morals.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Meaning: a Scottish verb meaning to conform, or to be in harmony with; both meanings are extended from its original sense of squaring, as in numbers.

Usefulness: 1 ("Emoticons are not for me; I shall not quader to their laziness." "Of course, hipsters quader as much as the rest of us, but to rather different rules. Boundaries of a negative space - trenchant non-conformism;  or a positive space - a codified sub-culture; are still boundaries.")

Logofascination: 1 (It originates from quadrate, a fancy Latin way of saying square, although the qu- in square is also from the Latin quad-, four, the base of all these words. And, it turns out, cadre, which is what quader started to sound like after I'd said it to myself a few too many times.  I also quite like the fact that squares were associated with conforming in Scotland in the 16th and 17th century, and in the US in the 1940's.)

Monday, December 3, 2012


Meaning: in cricket, a hundred runs; also known as a century. The OED has this as definition 5a.(colloq*), but wiktionary recognises that cricket is its own special linguistic category, and describes this sense as 7. (cricket). May or may not have been borrowed from darts, where a ton means a hundred points.

Usefulness: 2 (its usefulness is variable - for example, Australia did not get to use it today**. Can be extended figuratively to a hundred of anything, such as blog posts: "This post brings up the ton for Six Degrees of Sir Thomas.")

Logofascination: 1 (Words often reveal our assumptions or biases; I have a metrical bias*** - since a tonne is 1000kg, I wondered how a ton could be 100 of anything. All the senses of ton - weight, lots of anything, a hundred of anything - are originally from the word we now know as tun, a very old word for a very large cask. The cricket term is possibly a specialised application of the sense 'lots of anything'.)

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Meaning: rising and setting with the sun - when applied to stars, those that rise just before or set just after the sun, since if they rise or set at exactly the same time you wouldn't be able to see the star.

Usefulness: 1 (Stars move through this cycle, which has allowed people to do various clever and useful things by tracking them.)

Logofascination: 2 (Heliacal means relating to the sun, and as etymonline points out, a heliacal year can also be a canicular year, thanks to our friend Sirius, the dog star.)


Meaning: adorned with a liripipe, which is a graduate's hood; extended from the name of the tail of a hood or cloak. Used figuratively to mean a rote part (as one might cram learn things for an exam), and / or a foolish person.

Usefulness: 1 (Could be used of resumes -  "His CV is liripipionated with every certificate course in the area" - people who talk about their school/study/college/degree all the time - "Her conversation is liripipionated with that year at Yale" - graduations - "The hum of the recently liripipionated filled the auditorium" - or as a general insult - "You liripipionated fool, what you have done?")

Logofascination: 1 (Liripipe sounds great, has the even better sounding liripoop as an alternative, and an etymology so unknown that the OED calls some speculations a "ludicrous guess".)

Friday, November 30, 2012


Meaning: etymologically, writing on the back. Cotgrave defines it as:
Papers written upon on both sides.
Usefulness: 1 (This may be my most useful word yet, since it's a fancy name for double-sided printing. I'm thinking of standing by the copier, waiting for someone to ask for help: "Ah, having trouble with the opisthograph function?"*  Can be used to make you sound green - "We've based our sustainability policy on increased use of the opisthograph" - or extended figuratively to irony, sarcasm or double entendre: "I suspect you are indulging in opisthography.")

Logofascination: 1 (While Cotgrave mentions papers, the OED talks of tablets, papyrus and scrolls; I picture an ancient scribe scratching reminders to himself on the back of his work.)

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Meaning: nail-biter, or, if you're feeling etymologically technical, nail-eater.

Usefulness: 2 (I might use this in interviews, when they ask about my weaknesses: "In times of stress I become an onychophagist.")

Logofascination: 2 (Onycho- is from the Greek for nail, as in finger- or toe-nail)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Meaning: Besides the literal meaning, it is used to mark or describe an awkward pause in a conversation, generally because one of the participants has said something particularly foolish or embarrassing. For example: "I made a joke about eating frogs, but it turned out she was French, so, tumbleweeds..."  Also heard/seen as tumbleweed (singular), or tumbleweed moment.

Usefulness: 1 (Even if people haven't heard this before, they will generally grasp what you mean - it's a clear visual image.)

Logofascination: 1 (The logofascination lies in this sense of the word evolving before our eyes; I first saw it on the internet several years ago, but the Virtual Linguist hadn't heard of it in May 2011. Although it's been a visual symbol for some time - see video below - it has flowered into a symbolic term and conversational marker in the last ten years* or so. One never knows with words, but I suspect this symbolism will last, as the visual symbol has.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Meaning: of frogs and toads.

Usefulness: 1 (depends on culture and context: if you're English, and therefore statutorily obliged to insult the French at least once a week, it would be quite handy. If you're not, its usefulness may depend on your proximity to lakes, swamps or French restaurants.)

Logofascination: 2

Monday, November 26, 2012


Meaning: mutual sorrow, shared mourning. 

Usefulness: 1 (Can be used seriously: "the nation's collugency at this sad time..." or not: "The outer suburbs of Melbourne were cast into collugency at Collingwood's elimination from the finals.")

Logofascination: 1 (I am reasonably sure that Sir Thomas invented this one, albeit by Anglicising the Latin collugere.)

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Meaning: gold out of dung.

Usefulness: 2 (Admittedly, limited to this blog. I've never said it aloud, and I'm not entirely sure how I would pronounce it. Update: was used to describe the emergence of an apartment from renovations, and I realised it could also be used for financial instruments in which dodgy debt is bundled up to appear attractive. If I work out time-travel, I'll go back about ten years and set up the Ekskybalauron investment firm.)

Logofascination:  2 (Sir Thomas adapted it from the Greek - the work is more commonly referred to as The Jewel, from the beginning of its extremely long subtitle. For more on the topic of gold and dung, and a helpful dissection of the etymology, see here.)

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Meaning: the forward slash, or /.

Usefulness: 1 (Mainly to intimidate others with your vocabulary. I am saddened that it isn't used more when people give the long form of web addresses. "H. T. T. P. Colon. Virgule. Virgule. W" etc. Would also be a better name for slash fiction - virgule fiction sounds slightly classier, while remaining suggestive.)

Logofascination: 1 (It was once used the way we use the comma, and in Latin it was called the 'little twig', or virgula. The Latin form came into English first, but was mostly replaced when the current form came in via French.)

Fingers of God

Meaning: rays of sunlight breaking through cloud; for photos and various other names, see wikipedia on crepuscular rays.

Usefulness: 1 (you may never get to say it aloud, but from now on, you will see this effect and think of the fingers of God.)

Logofascination: 3 (I am thinking of starting a petition to call them the theodactyls, or theodactylous, along the lines of rhododactylous.)

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Meaning: what it says on the tin - divination by axe.  Various methods are suggested: swinging the axe into something and interpreting the quivering that results; heating an axe-head and interpreting the colours; and the method mentioned in G&P, heating an axe-head with a stone of some sort on top and interpreting the motion of the stone.

Usefulness: 3 (It's rather difficult to think of a figurative use for this. There are extended uses - Rabelais himself has one, quoted below - but they all require having or being around an axe.)

Logofascination: 3 (I wonder who on earth came up with this method, and why they used a perfectly good axe-head for it. Why not heat up random stones and observe them?)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Meaning: happening at sunset; an astronomical term referring to stars which rise at sunset.

Usefulness: 1 (Mainly in poetic senses, although it could also be used to describe one's martini, depending on how early or late sunset is.)

Logofascination: 1 (Besides my being mildly infatuated with star-words at the moment, it's worth pointing out that the slightly odd-looking spelling is due to its etymological parentage. It's not from chronos, as in time, but from acro- and nycti-, or night-rising. Its opposite - rising at dawn - is cosmical.)


Meaning: an old theological term - things which are to be believed, articles of faith. Latin plural of credendum.

Usefulness: 1 ("I'm afraid supply-side is credenda in these parts.")

Logofascination: 2 (from the same root - credo - as creed, credential, credence and credenza. The credenza and the credence tables in churches allegedly derive their names from the side table where dishes were tasted for poisons and so forth, before being served to royalty et al, in order to give their food credence. It's in the OED, which is the only reason I'm re-telling such a fantastic story.)

Monday, November 19, 2012


Meaning: Arrogance, presumption, excessive pride.

Usefulness: 1 (A word that can be disguised with tone: "Very impressive, sir: I've seldom seen surquedry so splendidly displayed.")

Logofascination: 1 (An old word, come to us via Old French from the Latin supercogitare, or over-think, as in think too much of oneself - overweening is the same concept via Old English. Overweening surquedry is therefore a satisfyingly tautological phrase. Surquedry has the rather lovely adjectival forms surquidant and surquidous.)

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Meaning: I try not to borrow OED definitions too much, but sometimes they're too poetic to resist:
To become ‘sleepy,’ as an over-ripe pear, a special form of decay to which fleshy fruits are subject.
Some fruit - medlars, for example - are inedible until this process has completed.

Usefulness: 2 ("Despite reaching nominal adulthood at 18 or 21, most of us require several years of bletting before we reach full maturity. In some cases, decades.")

Logofascination: 2 (I always wonder who was the first to try that over-ripe fruit. The definitions and etymologies suggest that the French blet / blette / blettir which John Lindley referred to meant sleepy, but from what I can see it actually means over-ripe, or perhaps, originally, bruised.)


Meaning: to pass through, to spread through, or to pervade. Also has a technical sense in the dairy industry, meaning a watery by-product which contains lactose, water, vitamins and minerals; i.e. some of the things that permeate milk. There have been several scare-campaigns in Australia about the use of this product to even out fat or sugar levels in milk.

Semantically impossible.
Usefulness: 5 (Only for the second meaning, and my apologies in advance for the rant you're about to be subjected to. My language snark levels are actually decreasing with age and education, but blatant contradictions of meaning frustrate me no end, particularly when inflicted by not-very-good coffee chains far too early on a Saturday morning. Given the definition above, how can anything be free of permeates, except possibly the physicists' hypothetical ideal vacuum? Even used in its technical dairy sense, milk permeate comes from milk, and everything in it is in milk - hence the name permeate - so saying that various milks are permeate free is ridiculous. If it actually is permeate free, it's not milk, whatever milk is - and if you'd like more discussion on that, I recommend the Gruen Transfer milk episode. /rant)

Logofascination: 1 (I am interested in how long permeate has had this meaning in the dairy industry, and whether I'm right in thinking it's linked to the geological use of permeate, but am yet to find an answer.)

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Meaning: one who knows the heart. Thomas Blount pointed out that this is "an attribute peculiar to God alone", however we might wish it otherwise.

Usefulness: 2

Logofascination: 1 (Another of my irrational attachments.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Meaning: divination by incense smoke.

Usefulness: 3 (It has some rather useful cousins, though: libaniferous - yielding incense, and libanophorous or libanotophorous - producing incense. Come Christmas, I'll be mentioning the libanotophorous Magi every chance I get.)

Logofascination: 1 (Libano is from the Greek for incense, and I think frankincense specifically, but can't quite confirm.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Meaning: Sir Thomas kindly provides definition and etymology in the Lexicidion at the end of Trissotetras:
that which is to be resolved and explicated, declared, and made manifest; from enodo, enodare, to unknit, or cut away the knot. 
Usefulness: 1 ("What is my first enodandum for the day, Alex?" In the quote below, Sir Thomas pluralises it as enodanda but then adds the English as well: enodandas.)

Logofascination: 1 (While this is not yet in the dictionary, enode - to loose or untie; enodous - free from knots; and enodable - capable of being freed from knots; are all in the OED, and should be used more often.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Meaning: fast writing - includes, but is not limited to, shorthand.

Usefulness: 1 ("The good doctor's tachygraphy is, unfortunately, undecipherable.")

Logofascination: 1 (Stenography is narrow writing; this would be crucial if you were trying to save paper.  Stenography can also be fast, but if I'm reading my dictionaries correctly, tachygraphy was applied to cursive, since it's faster than non-cursive - it's possible this only applies in paleography, the study of ancient writing.)

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Meaning: to do more than required, to go beyond; originally a Catholic term referring to someone performing good works / penance / prayers to earn merit for another (e.g. a deceased relative).

Usefulness: 1 (Sarcastically: "Well, no need to fear supererogation in this office." To confuse waiters: "Your supererogation has not gone unnoticed.")

Logofascination: 2

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Meaning: the urge to wander as a psychological condition; used figuratively to describe wanderlust. 

Usefulness: 2 (I prefer fernweh, which captures both the wandering spirit and the sharp pangs one experiences back home, without the suggestion of psychosis)

Logofascination: 1 (Thanks to dromos being Greek for course or running, it is part of a spectacularly diverse etymological family which includes the dromedary, palindrome, syndrome and hippodrome.)

Friday, November 9, 2012


Meaning: My favourite thing, but if you'd like a longer definition, the online Oxford says:
an open-air game played on a large grass field with ball, bats, and two wickets, between teams of eleven players, the object of the game being to score more runs than the opposition
Usefulness: 1 (if you talk about it as much as I do. I'm rather impressed I've done 77 posts without mentioning it here.)

Logofascination: 2 (etymology unknown, and about as many theories as people to ask: the Inky Fool talks about a possible connection to stool-ball, wiktionary features someone else's theory about Dutch origins, and there's a bunch more theories over at wikipedia.)

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Meaning: fortune-telling by the breast-bone, or 'markings or bumps on the chest or breast bone'.

Usefulness: 3 (One could use it as Rabelais does, to remark on the size of someone's stomach, or to describe some of the measurements they do in gyms and doctor's rooms and things; they are supposed to be predictors of the future, one way or the other.)

Logofascination: 3

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Meaning: as a noun, this means a place to swim (generally a pool of some kind, although not always) and as an adjective it applies to things of, or relating to, swimming.

Usefulness: 1 ("Out the back we have our humble natatory." "Urquhart Bluff Beach* seems natatory, but has some dangerous rips." And then there's all the things it could have been applied to during the Olympics: "A dearth of medals natatory has disappointed the nation.")

Urquhart Bluff Beach: not natatory.
Logofascination: 1

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Meaning: the dramatic arts associated with a circus; the drama of a circus.

Usefulness: 1 (This word suggests hysteria and bathos and a grand fuss. Asking someone to stop all the hippodramatics, or describing an event as terribly hippodramatic, is self-explanatory.)

Logofascination: 2 (Despite the hippo-, this doesn't seem to have arisen from a horse link - it's possibly from association or confusion with hippodromesHippodramas exist, but are apparently dramas featuring horses.)

Monday, November 5, 2012


Meaning: Originally meaning a band or strip of cloth, the meaning evolved through tatters to ribbons, on into strips of paper used to add notes or hold a seal, and then out into a multitude of figurative uses - record companies, tags on clothing, stereotypes, and even categories on blogs.

Usefulness: 2 (I've just added a labels gadget to this blog, that's how useful they are)

Logofascination: 3 (It's a word so old its etymology is murky; tag has a similar evolution - from something hanging off clothes into a way of finding things in an electronic medium.)

Friday, November 2, 2012


Meaning: Cotgrave:  
a slovenlie fellow, one that usually weares his hose ungartered, and shooes untyed; also, the name of a famous foole belonging to King Francis the first; and thence, any fop, cokes, ridiculous ninniehammer, or laughing-stocke.
Triboulet was indeed a fool to Francis I, not to mention Louis XII. As well as this derogatory French term, he was apparently an inspiration for Rigoletto .

Usefulness: 1 (of myself, mainly, although technically I think that would make me a triboulette)

Logofascination: 2 (I admit to cheating here, and picking up a French word rarely used in English - wiktionary lists it, but not the OED.)

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Meaning: much as I'd like it to mean spinning around until you fall over (which is what Rabelais appears to suggest), serious divination by this method apparently involves walking around a circle of letters... until you fall over. Or, more boringly, spinning a coin until it falls over. Cotgrave hedges his bets with 'divination by circles', which could apply to any number of things.

Usefulness: 1 (Could be applied to games of spin-the-bottle, but I'm going to talk to our safety person about how we can implement this at work; it'd be much more fun that tossing a coin. )

Logofascination: 3 (the concept is interesting, the word less so, and you're probably still digesting all that cheesecake from yesterday.)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Meaning: I'm sure we all know what it means, but if you want a titbit to start with, placenta originally meant cheesecake. No, really: placenta is from the Latin and Greek for 'flat cake', and Wikipedia mentions Cato's recipe for placenta, a cheesecake made for religious purposes.  I'm considering abandoning Artotyrism for a religion where cheesecake is central.

Usefulness: 2 (Cheesecake is often useful, and home-made baked cheesecake is always useful.)

Logofascination: 1 (Logofascination is expressed in many ways, including: the etymology of placenta; discovering that the word cheesecake has been around for 570-odd years; exploring the history of cheesecake all the way back to the Greeks; learning that there's a cheese called quark which allows you to have quark desserts such as quarkstrudel; and, finally, that the term beefcake originated from the slang use of cheesecake, somewhere in the 1940s or 50s: hoorah for the female gaze!)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Meaning: the OED defines it as "that makes money in any possible way", and points out that it is an expansion of quōmodocumque, Latin for 'in whatever way'. It is italicised in Ekskybalauron, so Sir Thomas - or his typesetter - may have thought of this as a Latin word.

Usefulness: 1 (I'm sure you can manage your own examples for this one.)

Logofascination: 1 (Quomodocunquizing made it into Mark Forsyth's The Horologicon*a book so logofascinating that it may induce fainting if taken in too large a dose.)

Monday, October 29, 2012


Meaning: An old French word, Cotgrave defines it as:
A true, just, and precise interpretation, or translation of every single word.
Usefulness: 2 (It must be pointed out that 'a true, just and precise interpretation' and a 'translation of every single word' are rarely the same, as you'd know if you'd spent any time over at God Didn't Say That.)

Logofascination: 1 (Calepinus was a lexicographer, and his name lived on for several centuries in various words. A calepin was a dictionary and then a notebook in both English and French, after his Latin dictionary. As discussed further below, "Calepinus recensui" was apparently used as a sign-off by copyists.)

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Meaning: Cotgrave says it's "a circular motion; going round, wheeling about"; the OED "Going round, circumambulation"; Frame, more figuratively, glosses it as "beating around the bush".

Usefulness: 1 (Perhaps best used circumbilivaginationally: "Circumbilivagination and obfuscation are discouraged, in the interests of plain speaking.")

Logofascination: 1 (This is a Rabelaisian coinage and rather unusually, Sir Thomas only uses it where Rabelais used it; perhaps he did not find it as fascinating as I do.)


Meaning: to move to an earlier time; the opposite of postpone.

Usefulness: 1 ("Happy hour has been preponed to 4pm." "My meeting was preponed, so I'll be home early." "We need to prepone our next dinner - I have so much to tell you!")

Logofascination: 2 (Technically, we can also compone, depone, dispone, impone, interpone, oppone, propone and suppone; the pone is from the Latine ponere, meaning to put or to place.  Apparently the stem for this was confused with the stem for pose, so we generally compose, depose, dispose, impose, interpose, oppose, propose and suppose instead.)

Friday, October 26, 2012


Meaning: a racist epithet, this one word simultaneously insults Jews, Muslims and anyone who changed their faith - Cotgrave tells us that marrane (the French word Sir Thomas is translating) means:
A Renegado, or Apostata; a peruerted, or circumcised Christian; a Christian turned Turke, or Jew; also, a conuerted, or baptized Moore, Turke, or Iew; one that turnes Christian for feare rather then of deuotion; also, a Iewish, cruell, hard-hearted, or hollow-hearted fellow.
It's interesting that Cotgrave uses it of converts either way (to or from Christianity) as the OED and other sources only seem to have the sense of a convert to Christianity for reasons of fear or practicality. Cotgrave notes the element of fear in the conversion, but does not seem to see the contradiction inherent in the end of his definition.

Usefulness: 5 (Can't say I thought I'd ever feature a word this useless, but I don't think hiding from what makes us uncomfortable in a text is helpful.)

Logofascination: 2 (Sir Thomas has taken the French version, marrane, of what was originally a Spanish word, marrano, and re-Spanished it as maranisado; in fact he takes an entire phrase of which only one word is in Spanish in Rabelais and replaces it with Spanish.)

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Meaning: divination by cheese. That's right: Divination. By. Cheese. It involved interpreting the patterns made in cheese as it coagulated, or writing in it before it set and observing the outcomes. I know how I will be making all my life decisions from now on.

Usefulness: 2 (if nothing else, it's a good conversation starter: "Did you know that people used to read their fortunes in cheese?")

Logofascination: 1 (Tyro- is from the Greek for cheese. It's only in a few other words, but they're interesting: for example, the Artotyrites used to celebrate the Eucharist with bread and cheese, and tyremesis is the technical name for that distinctive curd-like vomiting that babies tend to.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Meaning: a dune which elongates parallel to the prevailing wind; from the Arabic sayf, meaning sword.

Usefulness: 2 (depending on geography, although I suppose it could be re-adopted as a simile: "Like the seif, her tendencies follow the strongest influence.")

Logofascination: 2 (It's a beautiful word, possibly due to some mysterious Arabian-nights style glamour; a simple entry to ease back into it after all that nebrundiation.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Meaning: From the best known passage of Sir Thomas' own writing, and possibly his most popular word, I don't think anyone knows exactly what hirquitalliency means. The OED itself avoids giving a definition - it is sometimes misquoted as defining it as 'having or acquiring a strong voice', but the 'strong voice' reference is in the etymology. The careful homework over at Laudator Temporis Acti brings us closer to the meaning of this word: I suggest you go and read that and then come back (don't look at the archives: you can read those later).

Done? Right. The hirqui- is obviously a reference to goats, and we've seen what their reputation is like. I think Corbett's 'delighted shouts' is close to the meaning, bearing in mind the context.  My personal theory is that Sir Thomas is playing on the difference between the sense and the impression of the word, as he does the contrast between the geometric imagery of sundials and the 'cobweb slenderness of his Cyllenian vestments', between discussions of purity and digressions into the rules of grammar.  The Latin twirls and fancies of the language suggest the delicate cobwebbery and obfuscation of the romance, but the loud, lusty, Rabelaisian reality is present in the meaning and allusions - the heroine's cries may well be goat-like, but they are also pleased. 

Even if I am wrong, I think anyone using it to mean merely 'strong voiced' should think carefully about the reference to goats and the original - and so far only - citation for this word.

Usefulness: 1

Logofascination: 1 (this should probably be labelled 1A, or 1 Prime: I think this is the word that started my fascination with Sir Thomas and all his works, and although it's not currently my favourite - I'm terribly fickle - it is the reason I've discovered all of the others.)

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Meaning: Cotgrave says that in French it is "a tumbling, a turning, or tossing upside down", and the OED adds a sense to these in English: "to drive back in disorder."

Usefulness: 1 (it has any number of meanings, although Sir Thomas, as we shall see, mainly associated it with the feat of the loose-coat skirmish.)

Logofascination: 2 (Rabelais used a similar word once, but not in the contexts in which Sir Thomas uses it; Sir Thomas seems to have picked up a slang usage - in France, perhaps, or from Cotgrave - and added it to his list of of synonyms.)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The feat of the loose-coat skirmish

Meaning: One of the things I like about this one is that it's reasonably obvious.

Usefulness: 2 (could be handy for when people are stuck for words: "It turns out that all along they were, well..." "Performing the feat of the loose-coat skirmish?" "Yes. Yes, that's it.")

Logofascination: 2 (I think this might be one of Sir Thomas' phrases - I can't find any citations for it outside G&P, and Rabelais had chosette, a much less interesting euphemism.)

Friday, October 19, 2012


Meaning: Cotgrave tells us:
To grow hairie about the privities; also, to be as lascivious, or smell as ranke, as a goat; also, to be bookish, or, to read much in old bookes.

Usefulness: 1 (Too. many. jokes.)

Logofascination: 1 (And I'm not just being childish*. This French word apparently still means bookish, with an emphasis on old books, and may retain lascivious as a second sense. Here's my best theory; please bear in mind that I am now venturing into French etymology based almost entirely on wiktionary.** While the French have livre for book, they also borrowed from the Dutch to come up with bouquin, little book or old book, depending on whether you are feeling diminutive or pejorative. Meanwhile, bouc, meaning male goat, became the pejorative bouquin, old goat, and, voila, bouquiner means bookish or buckish, as you please.)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fredin fredaliatory

Meaning: 'Fredin fredaliatory' is a Rabelaisian coinage*; the French is fretin-fretailler, and Williams suggests that
Rabelais’s vb (Cotgrave: to lecher) apparently combines fredaine (prank; faire de fredaines: to sow wild oats) with frétiller (to wriggle). 
Usefulness: 2 (it's fun to say; if you use it to curse, people will be aware that you're swearing, but not exactly sure what you're saying. )

Logofascination: 2 (It's a tough gig, being the post after two consecutive 0-degree words)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Meaning: Williams suggests that this means 'phallic jousting', hypothesising that the billi element is related to billy-goats (notoriously lustful), and the bod a shortened bourd, which has two meanings: jesting or banter, or playful jousting.* As an Urquhartian original, meaning and etymology is speculative; you could make up your own.

Usefulness: 1 (metaphorically - think of all those situations where guys are attempting to out-bloke each other. "If you two are done with the billibodring, can we get the meat off the barbecue?" "The meeting was pointless; the suits spent the entire time billibodring." "Dinner was awful, but the guys were billibodring about their cellars, so we had some incredible wine.")

Logofascination: 1

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Meaning: One of Sir Thomas' coinages, it's clear from the context that it indicates sexual activity of some kind. Gordon Williams suggests 'energetic pricking'; and helpfully goes on to speculate on etymology:
Neb may return us to the bird’s bill, but Dict. Of the Older Scottish Tongue notes it as ‘the tip of one of the protruding parts of a person’s body’. Rund = to make a grinding noise.
Usefulness: 2 (Since it's a blank slate, we can practise our word-building: one's life may be nebrundiationless, denebrundiated, anebrundiated, omninebrundiated, mononebrundiated, binebrundiated... and so on.) 

Logofascination: 1 (If Williams is correct, Sir Thomas is sneaking Scottish dialect in here; again, though, in the mouth of an outsider in the text, Herr Trippa.* There's a thesis of some sort in there, I'm sure: "Scots Dialect and Sir Thomas Urquhart's Conception of Otherness in Rabelais.")

Monday, October 15, 2012


Meaning: buzzing

Usefulness: 1 (handy at work, even if you're not a beekeeper.  "That presentation was particularly bombinating, George." "Will this bombinating never end?" "I'm off sick - there is a terrible bombination in my ear.")

Logofascination: 1 (it probably shares a Latin root with bomb, and in its OED entry Rabelais gets the citation; it's in a Latin phrase in G&P and so the French text is cited rather than Sir Thomas' English one.)


Meaning: to do with balm or reminiscent of balm or pleasantly scented or pleasant and warm (only used of evenings, for some reason) or a little crazy and / or excited - yes, barmy.

Usefulness: 1 (especially if you are lucky enough to have jasmine in your back yard, and can, on days as lovely as the one we had in Melbourne today, use balmy in several senses)

Logofascination: 1 (balmy and barmy are seperate words, but they have become in-laws thanks to the vagaries of English etymology - barmy is related to barm, an obscure term to do with yeast and the head on a beer, but it seems to have been conflated with a sense of balm which meant idiotic - to do with mildness, perhaps? While the ODO defines a balmy evening as a warm and pleasant one, the OED does not yet have any citations for balmy meaning warm. Pleasant or delicious - how is an evening delicious, exactly? - but not warm.)

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Meaning: writing one letter or word when you should write two - leter instead of letter, or The, when you meant The The

Usefulness: 1 (Who knew typos were so specific? Here's to the next level of pedantry.)

Logofascination: 1 (hapolography has nothing to do with mishaps, as I wrongly thought. Haplo means single or simple, whereas in mishap the hap means good luck, fortune, chance, - and, yes, eventually happy - and it's the mis- that indicates that things have gone awry. In case you were wondering, when you write two letters or words instead of one, it's dittographythe the rather than the.)

Friday, October 12, 2012


Meaning: beardless

Usefulness: 2 ( Could be used as faint praise; "You look particularly imberb today" would be interpreted almost entirely on tone.)

Logofascination: 1 (this is a French word which is listed in Cotgrave, but neither Rabelais nor Urquhart use it. The OED has a citation for imberbic from 1623, but imberb doesn't get one until Aldous Huxley in 1923, for which see below. Where did it go for 300 years?)

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Meaning: divination by mirror; there is the 'mirror, mirror' technique used in Snow White, and Pausanius gives an account of another, at a temple near Patras:
The sick person let down a mirror, suspended by a thread till its base touched the surface of the water, having first prayed to the goddess and offered incense. Then looking in the mirror, he saw the presage of death or recovery, according as the face appeared fresh and healthy, or of a ghastly aspect. 
Usefulness: 1 (can be used in allusions to Snow White; similarly to metopomancy; or extended figuratively: "Her decisions are made by catoptromancy; she sees her own reflection in everything." "If we only survey our own staff, we run the risk of catoptromancy.")

Logofascination: 2 (that's opt - as in optical, optician etc - in the middle)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Meaning: in French, this now means backfire, but Cotgrave helpfully gives us the original definition:
Gunshot of farting; also, a horses kicking, winsing, or yerking out behind, accompanied, for the most part, with farting.
Usefulness: 1 (while not as obscure as barytonize, you now have a mildly confusing term for 'gunshot of farting'.)

Logofascination: 1 (No, really - fart is quite interesting, linguistically, as discussed here and in ensuing links, or here at the OUP blog, or you could have a look at a few words it has snuck into over here.)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Meaning: a book-burier - usually used metaphorically of someone who hides books or locks them away.

Usefulness: 2 (A name for someone who is obsessed with keeping their books immaculate.  If you spend time in rare book rooms and the like, you could use it of certain librarians. Carefully, if you'd like to continue spending time in rare books rooms.)

Logofascination: 1 (see that -taph on the end? That's the same taph that's in epitaph and cenotaph; making those connections is enormously satisfying. Well, for me.)

Monday, October 8, 2012


Meaning: a Scottish dialect word for the throat, more specifically the windpipe or larynx.

Usefulness: 3 (Perhaps if someone asks you to do a bad Scottish accent, or if, like me, you need a reason to mention that one of the last speakers of a Cromarty dialect has died recently.)

Logofascination: 3 (possibly not that fascinating, but it is used twice in an English translation of a French work. And it's quite old.)

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Meaning: Cotgrave tells us this means "wagging or shrugging".

Usefulness: 2 (technically, we should speak of Gallic jectigation rather than the Gallic shrug; shrugging is English, whereas jectigation came to us via French.)

Logofascination: 2 (Etymologically, it's related to pretty much anything that has ject in it, and a number of other words besides.  Although he didn't invent it, Sir Thomas has the first two citations for this in the OED.)

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Meaning: tending to be intoxicated, drunk

Usefulness: 1 (an appropriate word for a Saturday: "The city was full of temulentious footy fans." "Friday was temulentious, so Saturday was rather slow.")

Logofascination: 1 (temulent is the base, and also gives us temulence, temulency, temulentive, etc.)

Friday, October 5, 2012


Meaning: it's a meteor shower which occurs in January, and is named after an obsolete constellation (do constellations get severance pay?), Quadrans Muralis. The Quadrantids now live in the Boötes constellation, but have kept their original name. Boötids certainly doesn't have the same ring to it.

Usefulness: 3 (you wouldn't get to say it much; useful if around astronomers, in need of a particularly difficult trivia question, or looking for a name for an alien species in your latest SF work)

Logofascination: 1 (it just sounds lovely)

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Meaning: Divination by things in the air - generally clouds, but could also be birds, wind, and I guess aeroplanes, nowadays.

Usefulness: 1 (in a town like Melbourne, meteorology is glorified aeromancy. Could also be applied to watching vapour trails in London or any lazy afternoon outdoors: "I'm just off to the park for some aeromancy.")

Logofascination: 3

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Meaning: workhouses, although I like to think that Sir Thomas uses it more as we would 'factory'; it's related to the Latin for a house for slaves or other workers on an estate (ergastula).

Usefulness: 1 (This is what I'm calling my office from now on, and I quite like my job. Also handy to refer to those vast soul-destroying office 'parks')

Logofascination: 1 (all 0 degree words get 1; here Sir Thomas has Anglicised a Latin term - ergastulary, rather than the ergastulum/a/i. This word is referred to so little that it's not even in the OED, something I will be suggesting they rectify.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Flay the fox

Meaning: Cotgrave gives us a definition and the only etymological speculation I can find online:
"Escorcher le regnard.  To spue, cast, vomit; (especially upon excessive drinking;) either because in spuing one makes a noyse like a Fox that barkes; or (as in Escorcher) because the flaying of so unsavorie a beast will make any man spue." (Current French would be écorcher le renard.)
Usefulness: 3 (depending on your lifestyle. It should be noted that flay the fox sounds suspicious even if you don't know its meaning, so the French version could be useful if you need to describe a particularly good or bad weekend in front of the boss.)

Logofascination: 2 (mainly because it's slightly mysterious slang; I'm not quite sure what it is about old terms for bodily functions, but they're popular.  Jonathon Green has written an almost poetic list of synonyms for vomit, and points out that Australians have originated or are the main users of 38% of these terms. Having recently translated the lyrics of Land Down Under for some Americans, I can't comment.)

Monday, October 1, 2012


Meaning: people or animals in a painting who are not the subject of the painting, sometimes used as accessories to provide scale or setting.  Apparently in the nineteenth century there were books of them which you could "cut and paste" into your paintings of windswept-moor-with-tumbled-columns.

Usefulness: 1 (Besides being fun to say if you appropriately accent age, staffage provides an arty way to refer to stock photos, and of course the chance to sound impressive in art galleries, ironically or otherwise. It is also quite useful figuratively, particularly with its coincidental resemblance to staff: "In this meeting you only need attend to Mme Smith; the rest are merely staffage." "This pub is packed: shall we go somewhere with less staffage?" "The sheep are, of course, staffage - the real money is in the uranium deposits.")

Logofascination: 1 (It's a pseudo-French art word we stole from the Germans; a manufactured technical word which, etymologically, is probably just 'stuff'.)

Sunday, September 30, 2012


Meaning: a gun; more detail here, if you're into that kind of thing.

Usefulness: 3

Logofascination: 2 (it's a perversion of donderbus, Dutch for thunder-gun, and the OED backs up Looper in suggesting that blunder comes into the name by way of "some allusion to its blind or random firing". A defining feature: "capable of doing execution within a limited range without exact aim." It's always nice when a scriptwriter has done their research.)

Saturday, September 29, 2012


Meaning: relating to chironomy, which is the art or science of what to do with your hands; John Bulwer also applied it to the Art of Manual Rhetoricke, which we much more boringly call sign language.

Usefulness: 1 (Can be applied to all those people who are happy to tell you what to do with your hands while presenting or, Google suggests, kissing. Also conductors - though it seems to have some kind of technical application to choirs - and Italians, which is how Rabelais uses it. Is a stereotype any more true because it is 400 years old?)

Logofascination: 2 (ah, humanity: concerns of chironomy bind actors, presenters, politicians, rhetoricians and, apparently, lovers, across time, space and YouTube.)

Friday, September 28, 2012


Meaning: information, pieces of information

Usefulness: 2 (it's not very exciting, but we keep using it, so it must be useful.)

Logofascination: 1 (because, and only and wholly and solely because, Sir Thomas has the first citation for this word in the OED. He used it in 1645, forty-six years - yes, forty-six - before the next citation*. See graph below for evidence of how ahead of the curve Sir Thomas was on this one.  Some guy is cited under datum from 1630, in a text called Most Easie Way Finding Sunnes Amplitude, which is clearly an early example of spam.)

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Meaning: divination by looking at the face, particularly the lines and wrinkles on the forehead.

Usefulness: 1 ("My morning metopomancy grows grimmer by the day." "It doesn't take metopomancy to reveal that you're worried about something, my dear, particularly with those eyebrows.")

Logofascination: 1 (Rabelais, Urquhart, Cotgrave and Mrs Byrne have all used it; if that's not enough word cred for you, I don't know what is)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Meaning: charitable; related to charity, alms or alms-giving

Usefulness: 2 ('eleemosynary works' could be listed as an impressive hobby, or it could be used to obscure political arguments - see below.)

Logofascination: 1 (it's the double e, I think)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Meaning: snowy. Bonus synonym: niveous.

Usefulness: 3 (basically a straight synonym for snowy, with extra science points; could be handy in Scrabble)

Logofascination: 2 (possibly because I've never seen snow)

Monday, September 24, 2012


Meaning: Listening, hearkening; in particular, listening to someone's insides with a stethoscope.

Usefulness: 2 (An impressive way to describe listening to music, podcasts, gossip, or other things generally not considered Productive: "What have you been doing all afternoon?" "I did quite a bit of auscultation, actually."  n.b. may not be successful if used around doctors or nurses.)

Logofascination: 2

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Meaning: the process by which snow becomes a glacier; firn is old snow. It's from a German word meaning 'of last year', which has the rare honour of being described as a 'useful word' by the Online Etymology Dictionary.

Usefulness: 1 (Used symbolically - unless you happen to live on a mountain top - this is a ridiculously useful word for all those things you haven't done for far too long. "The only way to overcome the firnification of my ironing basket was to throw it out."  "The firnification of the editor's slush pile was complete: later generations would be able to chart publishing trends by measuring the layers of boy wizard, vampire and erotic fiction.")

Logofascination: 1 (there is something about words for very specific things, and f-words - fuliginous is quite popular, for some reason)

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Meaning: a book of everything! Used by the Romans to refer to books of the law, this word's Greek origins mean all-receiving (an inn-keeper was a pandocheus). It was apparently the title of a few works of 'universal knowledge', or as we might call them, encyclopedias.

Usefulness: 1 ("I refer you to the great pandect, Wikipedia..." "My satchel is weighed down by the latest tax pandects." "The company OHS pandect has been revised as a direct result of your behaviour at last week's dinner.")

Logofascination: 1 (Romans and Greeks and, yes, Sir Thomas)

Friday, September 21, 2012


Meaning: having crennelles (embrasures* - the notches in a castle's battlement); stretched poetically to describe anything notched, or even vaguely jagged (e.g. mountains, skylines). Only very slightly different to crenulated, a botanical term meaning notched or scalloped (i.e. the same thing, but of plants rather than castles).

Usefulness: 2 (depending on how often you visit castles, or require overly poetic terms for such things: "As you can see, the graph of last quarter's returns is unfortunately crenellated.")

Logofascination: 1 (possibly influenced by an overly romantic view of castle life)

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Meaning: divination by interpreting or joining together dots and lines; either on the ground (possibly after throwing handfuls of dirt in the air) or on paper. That's right, Mr Squiggle and the eponymous Miss Jane were actually geomancers - they must have edited out the bit concluding each episode where they predicted the future.

Usefulness: 1 (can be applied to handwriting, art, a dirty bathroom etc.)

Logofascination: 2

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Meaning: a pun, wordplay based on words that sound alike

Usefulness: 2 (it'd be more useful if I could think of a pun)

Logofascination: 1 (it's from an old Greek term, and there is something that appeals in the idea that puns are part of the human condition)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Meaning: that which cannot be mitigated, softened, lessened or extenuated.

Usefulness: 2 (It is slightly difficult to enunciate, but if you pull it off much gravitas is achieved: "Such behaviour is immitigable! The chocolate biscuits are sacrosanct, and we must not simply turn a blind eye." I suggest emphatic gestures to accompany the high dudgeon.)

Logofascination: 2

Monday, September 17, 2012


Meaning: Urquhart's English name for pimpompet, which Cotgrave helpfully defines as "A kind of Game wherein three hit each other on the bumme with one of their feet." Later definitions call it an 'antick dance' rather than a game.

Usefulness: 2 (An incredibly apt metaphor for some meetings, although rather specific as to number. It lost points for sounding like a swearword, but could be useful as a swearword instead.)

Logofascination: 1 (a lovely example of how Sir Thomas worked: combining units - bum + dock (rump) + dousse (beat, strike) - to match the (non)sense and rhythm of the original.)


Meaning: a little bundle; in literary terms an instalment or a section of a greater work. Probably best known as a description of the hand-made booklets of poems left by Emily Dickinson.

Usefulness: 1 ("Of course, my email is but a fascicle." "She's really dropped her fascicle on this one.")

Logofascination: 2

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Meaning: fruit of the Cucurbitaceae family; they have a hard rind and lots of seeds in one space - includes melons, cucumbers, gourds, pumpkins.

Usefulness: 3 (foodie hipster points, maybe? or as a metaphor: all the brains of a pepo.)

Logofascination: 2 (I really have no idea why, though)

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Meaning: divination by the belly (referring to ventriloquism)

Usefulness: 1 (repurposed, this is an enormously useful word. For starters, my stomach can gastromantically divine all sorts of things - that it's time for elevenses, lunch, a martini, or all three.  However, it is more likely that I will use it to describe food: "Pork that good is unnatural: I suspect gastromancy.")

Logofascination: 1 (I have a thing for the -mancy list. I might need to limit myself to one a week.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Meaning: from a parent or ancestor; originally of dowries from a father or other male ancestor.

Usefulness: 2 (can be used to describe family habits - my cricket addiction is profectitious; compliment babies politely - his nose is positively profectitious! - or to describe assorted mining and media dynasties. Or, of course, trustafarians.)

Logofascination: 2

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Meaning: it's an alternate spelling (and pronunciation?) of pizazz, which is one of the mysterious origin unknown words.

Usefulness: 2 (hipster points: if people correct you, you can look at them pityingly and remark that it's an early variant. Sounds a bit like bees knees, beeswax, and other such melittological slang; so much so that I find myself having to resist the temptation to etymologise folksily.)

Logofascination: 3 (only escapes boring by virtue of having z three times)

Saturday, September 8, 2012


Meaning: niceties, proprieties

Usefulness: 2 (extra points for sounding lovely)

Logofascination: 2

Friday, September 7, 2012


Meaning: Quintessence. Thisness. The defining feature. The vibe, and various other hand-wavy concepts.

Usefulness: 1 (particularly in hand-wavy conversations)

Logofascination: 2 (comes with bonus synonym, haecceity)

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Meaning: of or like a sun-dial, or other instrument that cast shadows; in 1677 one could practice sciatherics, or the Art of Dialling.

Usefulness: 2 (it's rather adaptable: it could apply to speed - he moves sciatherically - or motion - progress has been sciatherical - or antiquity - my phone is sciatherically out of date)

Logofascination: 1 (for sheer obscurity)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Meaning: a flunky, although wiktionary takes it one further: someone "who executes orders of a superior without protest or pity".

Usefulness: 1 (Let's face it, you either are one, or you'd like some)

Logofascination: 2

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Meaning: The OED lists this as a word but does not define it; I shall write and complain.  In context, though, it's pretty clear we're talking about farting. Deep, profound, musical flatulence; sums up most of Rabelais, really. (Context below, if you don't believe me)

Usefulness: 1 (Particularly of meetings. To be exactly confusing you could say "This Urquhartian barytonizing must end. I call for a vote!")

Logofascination: 3 (juvenile fascination: 1)

Monday, September 3, 2012


Meaning: causing weeping

Usefulness: 1 (maybe that's just me...)

Logofascination: 2

Sunday, September 2, 2012


Meaning: Invented for a Blackadder episode, ("Ink and Incapability") it's not yet in any official dictionaries, although this guy suggests 'so frazzled that one goes into a spasm.' There's a suggestion of frantic about it, as well.

Usefulness: 2 (rates very high in work applicability)

Logofascination: 2 (it's in Blackadder, and an episode about dictionaries at that)

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Meaning: it's that dental x-ray (tomography, a particular kind of radiography involving planes, hence tomo - slice, section) where they can see all (a panorama) of your teeth an almost-straight (ortho) line. Was originally called ‘orthoradial pantomography’ which was 'shortened' to orthopantomography.

Usefulness: 3 (unless you work in dentistry or radiography, but it is an impressive sounding word)

Logofascination: 2 (there is something about all those Greek elements lined up together)

Friday, August 31, 2012


Meaning: an Egyptian word - a figurine of a dead person, buried with them to do their chores in the afterlife.

Usefulness: 1 (I might be confusing the word with the thing here, but I don't see why you should have to be dead to have an ushabti, and of course it makes a nice, subtle insult for the workplace*)

Logofascination: 3

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Meaning: to do with, or resembling, soot; dusky or dark.

Usefulness: 2

Logofascination: 1 (I like saying it aloud)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Meaning: a rhetorical term - a description so vivid, it as if the hearer/reader has seen an image.

Usefulness: 2

Logofascination: 2

Monday, August 27, 2012


Meaning: a little cupid (a putti), possibly cupids plural, but in Dickens' Our Mutual Friend, the name for Lady Tippins' little black book, or, really, ledger, from which she is "always booking a new lover, or striking out an old lover, or putting a lover in her black list, or promoting a lover to her blue list, or adding up her lovers, or otherwise posting her book." Methinks milady would've enjoyed Facebook, or accounting.

Usefulness: 3 (flippantly or seriously of contacts or Facebook: Let me consult my cupidon!)

Logofascination: 3

Friday, August 24, 2012


Meaning: used by Gerard Manley Hopkins to describe 'competent but uninspired poetry'. One can almost hear the sniff behind it. Coined from Mount Parnassus, sacred to Apollo and the muses, it is a poetic symbol for poets and poetry, and thus an appropriately over-used image with which to dismiss mere competence.

Usefulness: 2 (the work-insult bonus factor: use of this word is all about tone. I suggest the chutzpah of GM Hopkins, all of 19, describing quite a lot of Tennyson's writing as Parnassian.)

Logofascination: 3 (unless you're a big GMH fan)

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Meaning: Salient, or obvious - originally meant leaping, and then sticking out, and is, I think, slowly evolving from obvious into meaningful.  Invented by Sir Thomas Urquhart's contemporary, Sir Thomas Browne, whose words, while not nearly as stylish as Sir Urquhart's, seem to be more generally used.

Usefulness: 3

Logofascination: 3 (but only because it's etymologically leaping)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Meaning: to do with ropes. Originally relating to a funiculus, or little rope, which means we have the rather lovely plurals funiculi and funicles.

Usefulness: 4 (depending on your location, but I do love the sound of it)

Logofascination: 3

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Meaning: "in the theories of Wilhelm Reich, a supposed excess sexual energy distributed throughout the universe and available for collection, storage, and further use". (I couldn't beat Wiktionary's summary, so I've used it).

Usefulness: 2 (of city bars on a Friday night)

Logofascination: 3 (not well known, but interesting mainly for its meaning)

Monday, August 20, 2012


Meaning: to do with river banks

Usefulness: 2-3 (depends where you live)

Logofascination: 3

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Definition: the science of fermentation, which, as we all know, reaches its highest form in brewing.

Usefulness: 2

Logofascination: 3 (Zymurgy doesn't sound like it'd be that well known, but it is the sort of word that is written up over bars.)

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Meaning: implicit faith in the works or views of others

Usefulness: 1 ("Fidimplicitary, my dear Watson" or "How fidimplicitary of you, my dear Watson!")

Logofascination: 1 (automatically assigned to anything invented by Sir Thomas)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Meaning: a stew, and hence any kind of hodge-podge

Usefulness: 2 (high applicability to work situations)

Logofascination: 1 (gaining special ranking because it sounds like Gallifrey.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Meaning: nonsense, gobbledygook

Usefulness: 2 (can be used to describe meetings, lends itself to alliteration)

Logofascination: 1