Sunday, January 31, 2010


skirl \ˈskər(-ə)l\ intransitive verb: 1. (of a bagpipe) to emit the high shrill tone of the chanter, 2. to give forth music
transitive verb: to play music on the bagpipe
noun: a high shrill sound produced by the chanter of a bagpipe

Etymology: Middle English (Scots) skrillen, skirlen to scream, shriek, of Scandinavian origin

I bet there was a lot of skirling going on for Robert Burns Day on January 25th.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


ablution \ə-ˈblü-shən\ noun: 1 a. the washing of one’s body or part of it (as in a religious rite), b. plural the act or action of bathing

Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, from Late Latin ablutio, from Latin abluere to wash away, from ab- + lavere to wash

Does this word make you think of lutefisk, too?

Friday, January 29, 2010


graphology \gra-ˈfä-lə-jē\ noun: the study of handwriting especially for the purpose of character analysis

Etymology: French graphologie, from grapho- writing + -logie science

Is graphology taken seriously? Can it be used productively, say, in forensic science? (I guess Google or Wikipedia can answer that question, but where’s the fun in that?)

Thursday, January 28, 2010


baobab \ˈbā-ə-ˌbab \ noun: a broad-trunked tropical tree of the silk-cotton family that is native to Africa and has an edible acidic fruit resembling a gourd and bark used in making paper, cloth and rope

Etymology: New Latin bahobab

Weren’t baobabs featured prominently in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


nabob \ˈnā-ˌbäb\ noun: 1. a provincial governor of the Mogul empire in India,
2. a person of great wealth or prominence

Etymology: Hindi navāb & Urdu nawāb, from Arabic nuwwāb, plural of nā'ib governor

Nabob, baobab, nabob, baobab!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


zooks \ˈzooks\ interjection: used as a mild oath (archaic)

Etymology: short for gadzooks, perhaps from God's hooks the nails of the Crucifixion

TWENTY-SIX — Myriad ethical debates have sprung up around Project Greensleeves’ initiative and what its repercussions might be for humanity. Coined “self-directed evolution” by some liberal proponents and an “abomination of nature” by their more conservative counterparts, the issue has become a central focus of fierce political battles over presidential elections and judicial appointments. Political flames were stoked recently when a privately owned florist’s shop was firebombed by angry protesters. Police were called in to break up the demonstration, and a local law enforcement official who spoke anonymously declared, “Whereas no one questions the logic behind Project Greensleeves’ endeavors, I personally don’t know if circumventing the ‘ick’ factor of traditional ingestion is worth the cost in lives over this debate.”

Monday, January 25, 2010


yawp \ˈyawp\ intransitive verb: 1. To make a raucous noise; squawk, 2. clamor, complain
noun: 1. a raucous noise; squawk, 2. something suggestive of a raucous noise (specifically rough vigorous language)

Etymology: Middle English yolpen

TWENTY-FIVE — Homo sapiens chlorophyllensis and luciferensis will live in symbiosis, the blue providing light for the green to photosynthesize, and the green supplying oxygen through exhalation for the blue to breathe (who will have to keep on eating and excreting like their ancestors).

Sunday, January 24, 2010


xylograph \ˈzī-lä-ˌgraf\ noun: 1. An engraving in wood, especially one used for printing, 2. a print taken from an engraving in wood

Etymology: Greek xylo- wood + -graph something written or drawn

TWENTY-FOUR — At this time scientists in Project Greensleeves and its daughter operation Project Lucifer cannot bioengineer photosynthesis and bioluminescence in the same person. It is believed humans will develop into two sub-species: the green Homo sapiens chlorophyllensis and the blue Homo sapiens luciferensis.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


wangle \ˈwaŋ-gəl\ intransitive verb: to resort to trickery or devious methods
transitive verb: 1. to adjust or manipulate for personal or fraudulent ends,
2. to make or get by devious means; finagle {wangle an invitation}

Etymology: perhaps alteration of waggle

TWENTY-THREE — The answer is coelenterazine, the luciferin (or light-emitting molecule) responsible for the blue bioluminescence in marine creatures such as some jellyfish and squid. Human skin bioengineered to produce coelenterazine can throw off light to be utilized by others in close proximity for photosynthesis.

Friday, January 22, 2010


venery \ˈve-nə-rē\ noun: 1. the art, act or practice of hunting,
2. animals that are hunted; game, 3. the pursuit of or indulgence in sexual pleasure,
4. sexual intercourse

Etymology: for definitions 1 & 2 Middle English venerie, from Anglo-French, from Old French vener to hunt, from Latin venari to hunt, pursue; for definitions 3 & 4 Middle English venerie, from Medieval Latin veneria, from Latin venus sexual desire

TWENTY-TWO — If the entire human race is transformed into green plant people living off sunlight, how are Scandinavians and others residing close to the poles supposed to survive during that part of the year shrouded in perpetual night?

Thursday, January 21, 2010


urea \yu-ˈrē-ə\ noun: a nitrogenous compound that is the chief solid component of mammalian urine

Etymology: New Latin, from French urée

TWENTY-ONE — If humans convert to a photosynthetic diet, it is believed the digestive system will evolve into a shriveled vestige, no more useful than today’s vermiform appendix.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


torpid \ˈtor-pəd\ adjective: 1 a. having lost motion or the power of exertion or feeling; dormant, numb, b. sluggish in functioning or acting {a torpid frog} {a torpid mind},
2. lacking in energy or vigor; apathetic, dull

Etymology: Middle English, from Latin torpidus, from torpēre to be sluggish or numb

TWENTY — Engineers in Project Greensleeves ran a tube from the mouth back into the body (via the navel). The test subject inhaled through his nose and exhaled through his mouth, thus diverting carbon dioxide, the waste product of traditional cellular respiration, back into the body for use in photosynthesis. The solution was awkward, inelegant and prone to malfunction. Luckily a clever member of the respiration team discovered a switch in the lungs of all humans; when the switch was flipped the lungs suddenly began to work in reverse.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


shyster \ˈshīs-tər\ noun: a person who is professionally unscrupulous especially in the practice of law or politics

Etymology: probably from German Scheisser defecator

NINETEEN — Modified plant cells were embedded in the skin of test subjects. Chlorophyll from the cells’ chloroplasts captured photons from sunlight; membranes in the cells converted those photons into energy-storage molecules. In plants these resultant molecular batteries are used to convert carbon dioxide into useful organic compounds. How were humans to acquire the carbon dioxide necessary for this last step?

Monday, January 18, 2010


rapscallion \rap-ˈskal-yən\ noun: rascal, ne’er-do-well

Etymology: alteration of earlier rascallion, irregular from rascal

EIGHTEEN — Project Greensleeves holds the most promise if its considerable technological and biological challenges can be met. It purports to overcome the human species’ reliance on consumption of food and expulsion of waste by converting people into photosynthesizing creatures modeled on plants.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


quagga \ˈkwä-gə\ noun: an extinct mammal (Equus quagga) of southern Africa that resembled and was related to the zebras

Etymology: obsolete Afrikaans, from Khoikhoi quácha

SEVENTEEN — Scientists and engineers working in Project Pantheon poured wet conrete down the mouths of test subjects. Once hardened, the resultant conrete plugs formed effective barriers to ingestion, but the test subjects invariably perished.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


ptomaine \ˈtō-ˌmān, tō-ˈmān\ noun: any of various organic bases which are formed by the action of putrefactive bacteria on nitrogenous matter and some of which are poisonous

Etymology: Italian ptomaina, from Greek ptōma fall, fallen body, corpse, from piptein to fall

SIXTEEN — Project Tetrablock proposed inserting a time-release unit of food into the gut of a person, but the size of the nutritive parcel that would last an entire life span would render that person immobile.

Friday, January 15, 2010


ordure \ˈor-jər\ noun: 1. excrement,
2. something that is morally degrading

Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from ord dirty, foul, from Latin horridus horrid

FIFTEEN — In Project Alphomega the entrance and exit to the alimentary canal was sewn shut, but this proved to be problematic on various levels.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


nonce \ˈnän(t)s\ noun: 1. the one, particular or present occasion, purpose or use {for the nonce},
2. the time being
adjective: occurring, used or made only once or for a special occasion {a nonce word}

Etymology: Middle English nanes, alteration (from misdivision of then anes in such phrases as to then anes for the one purpose) of anes one purpose, irregular from an, on one

FOURTEEN — Scientific visionaries strive for a future in which the digestive system can be bypassed altogether.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


mooncalf \ˈmün-ˌkaf\ noun: a foolish or absentminded person; simpleton

Etymology (from Michael Quinion in World Wide Words): “The earliest recorded example of mooncalf was in a thesaurus of 1565, in which the term was explicitly applied to a woman. The reference here was to a false pregnancy, to a growth in the womb that was not a foetus. The idea was that it had been created under the baleful influence of the moon. Later, by Shakespeare’s day, it could refer to a misshapen birth or a child with a congenital defect.
     “But the figurative sense of calf as applied humorously to human beings (sometimes as a term of endearment, sometimes to somebody who was stupid, meek or inoffensive), and the idea of somebody who is under the influence of the moon (later generations would talk about somebody being moonstruck) influenced mooncalf to the point where it shifted its sense to mean either a person who wasted time idly daydreaming (who mooned about in an absentminded way), or who was incorrigibly foolish.”

THIRTEEN — Imagine the voiding party’s embarrassment when the man returning from the sus has a piece of spinach stuck between his teeth. Should they try to ignore the faux pas? Should they instead find a tactful way to let him know?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Lilliputian \ˌli-lə-ˈpyü-shən\ noun 1. an inhabitant of Lilliput, 2. (often not capitalized) one resembling a Lilliputian, especially an undersized individual
adjective: 1. of, relating to, or characteristic of the Lilliputians or the island of Lilliput, 2. (often not capitalized) small, miniature {a lilliputian camera}

Etymology: from Lilliput, an island in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels where the inhabitants are six inches tall

TWELVE — If, during a social voiding session, one member of the party is overcome with hunger or thirst, he excuses himself to the sustenance closet. There he satisfies himself with a glass of water or a light snack behind the closed door of a stall. After finishing ingesting, he wipes his mouth, brushes his teeth, washes his hands and exits the S.C. to rejoin his friends.

Monday, January 11, 2010


keratitis \ˌker-ə-ˈtī-təs\ noun: inflammation of the cornea of the eye

Etymology: New Latin, from Greek kerato- horn + -itis inflammation

ELEVEN — Friends defecate and urinate together as a form of social bonding. They gather at one another’s homes or in public houses called coproterias. A coproteria’s chairs and benches are fitted with latrines.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


jodhpur \ˈjäd-(ˌ)pər\ noun: 1. (plural) riding breeches cut full through the hips and close-fitting from knee to ankle,
2. an ankle-high boot fastened with a strap that is buckled at the side

Etymology: from Jodhpur, India (geographical name)

TEN — The old taboo against reference to alimentary egress has been so thoroughly overturned that social pasttimes have sprung up around it.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


ingress \ˈin-ˌgres\ noun: 1. the act of entering; entrance {the seal prevents ingress of moisture},
2. the power or liberty of entrance or access {an area with restricted ingress}

Etymology: Middle English, from Latin ingressus, from ingredi to go into, from in- + gradi to go

NINE — Over time voiding waste shed its old taboo connotations and came to be viewed as an act of purification. After all, it stands to reason that if ingesting food is self-pollution, then ridding the body of that matter is cleansing.

Friday, January 8, 2010


hark \ˈhärk\ intransitive verb: to pay close attention; listen

Etymology: Middle English herkien

EIGHT — Concomitant with the development of food as an obscenity and eating as a private act was the societal glorification of the notion of purity.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


gyre \ˈjī(-ə)r\ noun: a circular or spiral motion or form (especially a giant circular oceanic surface current)

Etymology: Latin gyrus, from Greek gyros rounded

SEVEN — Sus humor is a type of crude or off-color humor dealing with eating, drinking, cooking or food preparation in general. It is considered subversive and underground, and is seen by cultural critics as a rejection of the taboo against reference to alimentary ingress.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


fiducial \fə-ˈdü-shəl\ adjective: 1. taken as standard of reference {a fiducial mark},
2. founded on faith or trust,
3. having the nature of a trust; fiduciary

Etymology: Latin, from fidere to trust

SIX — The restaurant disappeared long ago, and it is recalled merely as an odd historical footnote provoking giggles in the classroom.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


elute \ē-ˈlüt\ transitive verb: to remove (adsorbed material) from an adsorbent by means of a solvent

Etymology: Latin elutus, past participle of eluere to wash out, from e- away + lavere to wash

FIVE — Practically every building, from the humblest dwelling to the grandest public edifice, contains at least one dedicated room to which the hungry may excuse themselves; it is referred to euphemistically as the S.C. or sus (short for “sustenance closet”.)

Monday, January 4, 2010


dint \ˈdint\ noun: 1. archaic blow, stroke, 2. force, power, 3. dent
transitive verb: 1. to make a dent in,
2. to impress or drive in with force

Etymology: Middle English, from Old English dynt

FOUR — Eating is viewed as a necessary biological function to be conducted quickly and discreetly behind closed doors.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


crepuscule \kri-ˈpəs-(ˌ)kyül\ noun: twilight

Etymology: Latin crepusculum, from creper dusky

THREE — Over time any act of non-private consumption is considered a breach of social etiquette.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


burble \ˈbər-bəl\ intransitive verb: 1. to make a bubbling sound,
2. babble, prattle
noun: 1. prattle, 2. the breaking up of the smooth flow of air about a body (as an airplane wing)

Etymology: Middle English

TWO — In this imagined world a public display of gluttony is a cultural taboo.

Friday, January 1, 2010


anodyne \ˈa-nə-ˌdīn\ adjective: 1. serving to alleviate pain,
2. not likely to offend or arouse tensions; innocuous
noun: 1. something that soothes, calms or comforts,
2. a drug that allays pain

Etymology: Latin anodynos, from Greek anōdynos, from a- not + odynē pain

ONE — Imagine a world where conservation is valued and conspicuous consumption is frowned upon.