Sunday, May 31, 2009


pelagic \pə-ˈla-jik\ adjective: of, relating to, or living or occurring in the open sea; oceanic {pelagic sediment} {pelagic birds}

Etymology: Latin pelagicus, from Greek pelagikos, from pelagos sea

It’s easy to see the relationship between today’s pelagic and yesterday’s littoral, but don’t forget about January 15th’s fluvial; check it out here.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


littoral \ˈli-tə-rəl; ˌli-tə-ˈral, -ˈräl\ adjective: of, relating to, or situated or growing on or near a shore especially of the sea
noun: a coastal region, especially the shore zone between high tide and low tide points

Etymology: Latin litoralis, from litor-, litus seashore

According to Merriam-Webster’s online pronunciation audio clips, littoral and literal sound exactly alike. I guess one tells the difference based solely on context.

Friday, May 29, 2009


nevus \ˈnē-vəs\ (plural nevi \ˈnē-ˌvī\) noun: a congenital or acquired usually highly colored area on the skin that is either flat or raised

Etymology: New Latin, from Latin naevus

Different kinds of nevi have different anatomical or physiological origins. Moles, for instance, are made up of melanocytes (the cells that produce the pigment melanin), while port-wine stains get their color from dilated capillaries.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


nasion \ˈnā-zē-ˌän\ noun: the intersection of the frontal and two nasal bones of the human skull, visible on the surface of the face as a distinctly depressed area directly between the eyes and just superior to the bridge of the nose

Etymology: Latin nasus nose, sense of smell

The nasion is a depression and the inion is a projection. Could the two fit together like puzzle pieces? Only one way to find out. (Make sure your volunteer is a friend.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


inion \ˈi-nē-ˌän, -ən\ noun: the most prominent projection of the occipital bone at the lower rear part of the skull

Etymology: New Latin, from Greek inion back of the head, diminutive of in-, is sinew, tendon

According to Wikipedia the inion is not a straight synonym for the external occipital protuberance, but more precisely the highest point of said protuberance. I’m a little confused, though, because none of the anatomical diagrams I find online distinguishes between the two. If you can describe the difference or point to a picture that does, please post a comment.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


puerile \ˈpyu(-ə)r-əl, -ˌī(-ə)l\ adjective: 1. juvenile, 2. childish, silly {puerile remarks}

Etymology: French or Latin; French puéril, from Latin puerilis, from puer boy, child

Sometimes the sound of one word as its uttered suggests another, and so on like a chain: puerile, putrid, puce…

Monday, May 25, 2009


palpate \ˈpal-ˌpāt\ transitive verb: to examine by touch especially medically

Etymology: probably back-formation from palpation, from Latin palpation-, palpatio, from palpare to stroke, caress

Is there a medical term for diagnosing through smell? Olfactate?

Sunday, May 24, 2009


auscultate \ˈo-skəl-ˌtāt\ transitive verb: to examine by listening to sounds arising within organs (as the lungs) as an aid to diagnosis and treatment

Etymology: back-formation from auscultation, Latin auscultation-, auscultatio act of listening, from auscultare to listen; akin to Latin auris ear

A doctor needs a stethoscope to listen to a patient’s heart or lungs, but sometimes a grumbling stomach may be auscultated by an unaided ear clearly across a room.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Nictitating Membrane

nictitating membrane noun: a thin translucent sheet or layer beneath the eyelids present in some animals that can be drawn across the eye to protect and/or moisten it while retaining visibility

Apparently humans possess vestigial remnants of nictitating membranes. Check in the mirror if you don’t believe me. (You can reference this chart so you know what to look for; the bit in question is called the the plica semilunaris.) I just checked myself, and sure enough there it was! Who knew?

Friday, May 22, 2009


nictitate \ˈnik-tə-ˌtāt\ intransitive verb: wink or blink

Etymology: alteration of nictate to wink, from Latin nictatus, past participle of nictare

Nictitation can be an invitation to osculation.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


grimoire /grim-ˈwär/ noun: a book of instructions in the use of magic, especially summoning demons

Etymology: Old French grammaire, from Ancient Greek grammatikos relating to letters

I can’t help but see the word grim in grimoire’s first syllable; coincidentally, one could make the argument that the use of a grimoire to summon demons indeed would be grim, i.e., “ghastly, repellent or sinister in character.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


formant \ˈfor-mənt, -ˌmant\ noun: of speech sound, any of several resonant bands of frequencies held to determine the phonetic quality of a vowel

Etymology: German formant, from Latin forma form, shape, likeness

Formants are what make a female voice sound female and a male voice sound male, even if you compare a deep female voice to a high male voice.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


emetic \i-ˈme-tik\ noun: an agent that induces vomiting

Etymology: Latin emetica, from Greek emetikē, from feminine of emetikos causing vomiting, from emein to vomit

I guess a kinetic emetic would be an agent that induces projectile vomiting.

Monday, May 18, 2009


emesis \ˈe-mə-səs, i-ˈmē-səs \ noun: an act or instance of vomiting

Etymology: New Latin, from Greek, from emein

Emesis is the nemesis of one prone to motion sickness.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


groat \ˈgrōt\ noun: 1. (usually plural but singular or plural in construction) hulled grain broken into fragments larger than grits, 2. a grain (as of oats) exclusive of the hull

Etymology: Middle English grotes, plural, from Old English grotan, plural of grot; akin to Old English grēot grit

I don’t hear many Americans use the word groats.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


stoat \ˈstōt\ noun: the common Holarctic ermine (Mustela erminea) especially in its brown summer coat

Etymology: Middle English stote

How many oats could a bloated stoat gulp if a bloated stoat could gulp oats? You could replace oats with groats and it would still make sense.

Friday, May 15, 2009


palaver \pə-ˈla-vər, -ˈlä-\ noun: 1 a. a long parley usually between persons of different cultures or levels of sophistication, b. conference, discussion, 2 a. idle talk, b. misleading or beguiling speech
intransitive verb: 1. to talk profusely or idly, 2. parley
transitive verb: cajole

Etymology: Portuguese palavra word, speech, from Late Latin parabola parable, speech

Do you palaver?

Thursday, May 14, 2009


micturate \ˈmik-chə-ˌrāt, ˈmik-tə-\ intransitive verb: urinate

Etymology: Latin micturire to desire to urinate, from meiere to urinate

According to Merriam-Webster there’s not a shade of difference in meaning between micturate and urinate, but I wonder if there might be in the real world. Wikipedia’s entry on urination uses the term micturation whenever it describes the physiology of voiding oneself, so perhaps micturate is more a scientific term and urinate an everyday word.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


diegetic \ˌdī-ə-ˈje-tik\ adjective: (of film sound) that which occurs as part of the action (rather than as background) and can be heard by the film's characters

Etymology: Greek diagesis recounted story

Diegetic, dietetic, diabetic…

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


metamict \ˈme-tə-mikt\ adjective: (of a mineral) having a disrupted crystal structure due to radiation damage from internal radioactive impurities

Etymology: origin unknown

I should confess that the etymology is only unknown to me. Meta- comes from Greek by way of Latin and means “among, with, after.” As for mict, any guesses? The Latin word micturire means “to desire to urinate,” but I doubt that has anything to do with it!

Monday, May 11, 2009


edema \i-ˈdē-mə\ noun: 1. an abnormal infiltration and excess accumulation of serous fluid in connective tissue or in a serous cavity; dropsy, 2 a. watery swelling of plant organs or parts, b. any of various plant diseases characterized by such swellings

Etymology: New Latin, from Greek oidēma swelling, from oidein to swell; akin to Armenian aytnu- swell, Old English ātor poison

Edema would make a lovely name for a girl.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


don \ˈdän\ transitive verb: 1. to put on (an article of clothing), 2. to wrap oneself in, 3. take on; to assume or acquire as or as if one's own

Etymology: Middle English, contraction of do on

If Doff were a cartoon character, Don would be his partner in crime.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


doff \ˈdäf\ transitive verb: 1 a. to remove (an article of wear) from the body, b. to take off (the hat) in greeting or as a sign of respect, 2. to rid oneself of; put aside

Etymology: Middle English, from don to do + of off

Doff should be the name of a cartoon character.

Friday, May 8, 2009


dudgeon \ˈdə-jən\ noun: 1. obsolete a wood used especially for dagger hilts, 2 a. archaic a dagger with a handle of dudgeon, b. obsolete a haft made of dudgeon, 3. a fit or state of indignation (often used in the phrase in high dudgeon)

Etymology: Middle English dogeon, from Anglo-French digeon, dogeon
(Origin for dudgeon in sense 3 is unknown)

Try not to think of dungeon as you read the word dudgeon.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


cicatrix \ˈsi-kə-ˌtriks, sə-ˈkā-triks\ noun: 1. a scar resulting from formation and contraction of fibrous tissue in a wound, 2. a mark resembling a scar especially when caused by the previous attachment of an organ or part (as a leaf)

Etymology: Latin cicatric-, cicatrix

Cicatrix makes me think of cicada.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


dyspepsia \dis-ˈpep-shə, -sē-ə\ noun: 1. indigestion, 2. ill humor; disgruntlement

Etymology: Latin, from Greek, from dys- + pepsis digestion, from peptein, pessein to cook, digest

Would Dyspepsia Cola pose a market threat to Pepsi?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


transmogrify \tran(t)s-ˈmä-grə-ˌfī, tranz-\ transitive verb: to change or alter greatly and often with grotesque or humorous effect
intransitive verb: to become transmogrified

Etymology: origin unknown

“It was a transmogrifying bee / Came droning down on Chucky’s old bald head / And sat and put the poison. It scarcely bled, / But how exceedingly / And purply did the knot / Swell with the venom and communicate / Its rigour!”

— John Crowe Ransom, “Janet Waking”

Monday, May 4, 2009


transmigrate \(ˌ)tran(t)s-ˈmī-ˌgrāt, (ˌ)tranz-\ transitive verb: to cause to go from one state of existence or place to another
intransitive verb: 1. (of the soul) to pass at death from one body or being to another, 2. migrate

Etymology: Latin transmigratus, past participle of transmigrare to migrate to another place, from trans- + migrare to migrate

Today’s entry continues the morbid, superstitious theme begun yesterday with revenant.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


revenant \ˈre-və-ˌnäⁿ, -nənt\ noun: one that returns after death or a long absence

Etymology: French, from present participle of revenir to return

Wikipedia’s entry states, “A revenant is a visible ghost or animated corpse that was believed to return from the grave to terrorize the living. Belief in revenants emerged in Western Europe during the High Middle Ages.”

Saturday, May 2, 2009


bumptious \ˈbəm(p)-shəs\ adjective: presumptuously, obtusely and often noisily self-assertive; obtrusive

Etymology: bump blow, impact, jolt + -tious full of, abounding in

Bumptious is fun word for an odious quality.

Friday, May 1, 2009


concatenate \kän-ˈka-tə-ˌnāt\ transitive verb: to link together in a series or chain

Etymology: Middle English, from Late Latin concatenatus, past participle of concatenare to link together, from Latin com- with, together + catena chain

The Concatenating Circumstances would be a great name for a band.