A Word for Wednesday

We've come to it at last - the last Wednesday of the year.

And I didn't know how to end this series until a few minutes ago.

I thought about talking about the 39 definitions of the word draw. Yes, you read that right, there's 39. But that seemed rather silly. I had a word - doughty - bookmarked from last week's search. It means "brave, valiant, eminent, noble, illustrious." It's rooted in Nordic culture, the Saxons and Danes and Swedes, which makes me favor it. But ending the year talking about a doughty hero didn't seem right either.

I found the right way, though. It's not an obscure word. It's actually a word that needs no defining because we use it all the time. But it starts with a D, and it's the perfect word to end one year and begin the next. I didn't write a story clip either, because I didn't want to take anything away from the impact of this word. Are you ready for it?



A Word for Wednesday

Guess what, you guys? The word I ended up picking for today is in famous books; the recognizable, household-name kind of famous books :) This makes me quite happy, for two reasons. First, it feels like it's been a while since the chosen word was one that well-known authors used in their works. Second, digging into remote literary corners in the hopes of finding even a trace of related material has been getting old ;) So, yay for an easy word!

Dudgeon - n. Anger, resentment, malice, ill will, discord

Now, if you're like me, you thought the word was "dungeon" at first glance. I was reading through the D section, came to dudgeon and skimmed right past it. Then I realized that I hadn't read anything about castles or stone or dark damp places. I backtracked, actually read the definition (amazing what happens when you read instead of skim, isn't it?), and knew my search for today's word was over. It's a good thing too, because my dictionary was starting to look like a sticky-note hedgehog. And dictionaries just aren't supposed to look like that.

Anyway, dudgeon, as defined above, describes a specific emotion. It can extend, though, to describe a mood. I found several other dictionaries that defined it this way: a sullen, angry, or indignant humor. And, let me tell you, the usage passages make way more sense with the more moody sense of the word. Take a look:

"Now that same night I think it was, or at any rate the next one, that I noticed Betty Moxworthy going on most strangely. She made the queerest signs to me, when nobody was looking, and laid her fingers on her lips, and pointed over her shoulder. But I took little heed of her, being in a kind of dudgeon, and oppressed with evil luck; believing too that all she wanted was to have some little grumble about some petty grievance. But presently she poked me with the heel of a firebundle, and passing close to my ear whispered, so that no one else could hear her, "Larna Doo-un". By these words I was so startled, that I turned around and stared at her. " Lorna Doone, by Richard Blackmore (see? famous work #1)

"And, slamming the door in Meg's face, Aunt March drove off in high dudgeon. She seemed to take all the girl's courage with her; for, when left alone, Meg stood a moment undecided whether to laugh or cry. Before she could make up her mind, she was taken possession of by Mr. Brooke, who said, all in one breathe 'I couldn't help hearing, Meg. Thank you for defending me, and Aunt March for proving that you do care for me a little bit'." Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott (and famous work #2)

So, to oversimplify, dudgeon means being in a really, really bad mood. Easy enough, right? And now to use it myself.

"He's in a rare form, miss," Jerome's butler said as he led the way to the tower stairs. "I'm a warning you, you'd best stay down here."

"You're very kind," I smiled at the dear, grandfatherly man. "But, rare form or not, I'm afraid I have to see him immediately."

He shook his head, muttering under his whiskers, but took my things without argument when I handed them to him. I picked up my skirts and started up the curving flight of steps. The click of my shoes on the stone and the rustle of my skirts dragging behind me were the only sounds to my ears for far too long. What had possessed someone to build so high a tower? One half it's size would have sufficed.

I found Jerome muddling through a mess of parchments. Locked chests formed a haphazard line against the wall. He was drumming his fingers on the table, apparently both blind and deaf to all else.


He started to his feet and his hand went to his hip, to the hilt of his favorite sword. He dropped back into his chair when he saw me, and shielded his eyes with his hand. "Please don't startle me like that."

"I'm sorry, I've never made it up those stairs without you hearing me before." And I had never seen him armed in his study. "Am I correct is assuming that he has contacted you?"

"Yes." He was picking up piles of the paper only to set them down again.

"What are you looking for?"

"My dagger."

"Your dagger? Why would it be up here? You keep it in your chambers, don't you, with the others?"

"No." He stood, scouring the room with his eyes. "I mean, yes, I do. I, I brought it up here two days ago and I haven't seen it since. There's no reason for anyone to steal it. It has no value to anyone but him and myself. Help me find it."

He took his arm as he went to move past me. "Jerome, what's happened?"

"Nothing further."

"I know you too well to believe that."

He huffed a sigh. "Then I ask you to. Believe a lie, this once."

"You intend to give him the dagger, don't you?"

He broke from my hold, gently, but broke all the same. It was the books he started moving this time.

"That's maddness. The dudgeon he bears you will not be so easily appeased."

He slammed a book down. "I have to try, Elaine. I have to try."


A Word for Wednesday

It's almost unbelievable how entertaining reading a dictionary can be.

No, really. I mean that. There's all the familiar vocabulary, of course. Then there's all the scientific vocabulary that no one can actually pronounce and use in normal conversation. (You know that rare species of bird from the Indian peninsula? Yea, that one). And, in the middle of all that, you get words like this:

Dingle-dangle - hanging loosely, or something dangling

Can you believe that's actually in the dictionary? It makes me laugh. Now, I may just be easily amused, but I really like stumbling across those kinds of random words in my vocabular ventures. It's fun.

That aside, here is today's word.

Dicacity n. [L. dicacitas] Pertness

Webster's definition is a little too straightforward for me this time. So I looked it up in The Imperial Dictionary of the English Language (volume 2, to be exact). It had the same exact definition, but it included the etymology of the word - which helped flesh this word out for me: [L. dicacitas, railery, from dicax, dicacis, talkative, witty, from dico, to say]. From what I can gather, and in spite of "0 results" from the online thesaurus, dicacity seems to be synonymous with speaking in a saucy manner or with satirical wit. In a word, being pert. And so we arrive as Webster's one-word definition ;)

Henry Lee used it in his writings on The Campaign of 1781 in the Carolinas, saying "...the proposition was rejected by Cruger, upon the ground, that this affecting ceremonial of right devolved on the victor, with his usual dicacity."

In a vastly different context, this word is used by a character in The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night. He says, "Oh my lord, I seek only to introduce thee to these fellows of infinite mirth, the sons of men of worth, amongst whom there is neither procacity, nor dicacity, nor loquacity; for never, since I grew to years of discretion, could I endure to consort with one who asketh questions concerning what concerneth him not, nor have I ever frequented any save those who are, like myself, men of few words."

So there you have it - a word as easily used by a military general as by a ficticious Arabian. And now it's my turn.

"I was astonished by the captain's cabin. If not for the swaying, and the rope that bound my hands, I would have thought myself in England again instead of aboard a brigand ship. A perfect set of china cups was set out on the desk and books lined the shelves. The man I presumed to be the captain was pouring tea. The pot looked pure and delicate in his large, grime-sodden hands.

"So you finally chose to grace me with your presence, m'lady," he said, without looking up.

He then sat down, propped his feet up on the table, and considered me. "Will you have tea with an old man?"

"With an old man, yes," I said. "With a pirate the likes of you? No, thank you."

"Being difficult, are we?"

"Yes, indeed, we are."

He grinned.

"Will it be the noose, then, cap'n?" the first mate asked, his fingers digging into my arms.

"No." He picked up the tea pot and balanced it on the tips of his seven fingers. There was a chip on the spout. "She lives. There's a dicacity about her I like."

"There's a what about her?" the first mate said.

"Spirit," the captain said. "Throw her back in the brig."

The first mate spun me roughly around and towards the cabin door.

"Watch her, mate," I heard the captain say as we left, "or she'll lash you with that pert little tongue of hers."


Molto Bella

That's Italian for "very beautiful". It can also be translated "very nice." I thought both were appropriate descriptions for the award I was given by the ever lovely and generous Cherie.

I've given and been given so many awards that Mom has dubbed us "the mutual admiration society." I think that's a very accurate description of what the online writing community is. It a place for writers to support and encourage, to inspire and be inspired by each other. It is so nice to sign into my blog and be effectively surrounded by other writers, even if I don't have the time to actively converse with you all. And I feel very blessed to have found and been found by the particular bloggers I have.

You are all molto bella.  


A Word for Wednesday

I was all eagerness to start this month of Wednesday Words. I was certain that the D section would hold all sorts of unique and interesting words. I think my dictionary is laughing at me right now, because the Ds are determined to be difficult. It is astounding how many D-words are words we all know with only a de- or dis- added to the beginning. Stuck between all those prefixed words, I found this one, which will ring December in for us:

Deleble - a. [L. delebilis] That can be blotted out

The verb form is dele, meaning blot out or erase. Every search engine I tried got confused by this word. I wasn't able to find any sort of origin or history about it. I started getting somewhere with "dele" but then some script started malfunctioning and I wasn't able to access my search. So...I was only able to find and access one little tidbit - a sentence by one Fuller. Normally when last names are given by themselves as attribution, it's because the person is well-known, but I have no idea who Fuller is. Regardless, his sentence is useful and goes like this: "An impression easily deleble."

This is a sad little Wednesday post, I know, but not for lack of effort! Merely lack of information ;) I'll attempt to make up the difference by imagination. Here we go.

"It has to be here, it has to."

"You won't find it like this, love."

She chucked a slipper at me. "How do you suggest I find it then?"

"Methodically. Rifling through his things will never do."

She flopped onto the ground and dropped her head into her hands. "I need that letter. I know he has it, somewhere. It exists in real form, and that means it's deleble."

I sat down and lifted her chin. "Answer me this: what does that letter say that you must destroy it?"

Her eyes were haggard when she looked at me. "I cannot tell you."


A Word for Wednesday

Notional - a. 1. Imaginary; ideal; existing in idea only; visionary; fantastical.
                        2. Dealing in imaginary things; whimsical; fanciful.

I know this word doesn't exactly fit the parameters of the challenge - I mean, how obscure can a word be if it's used in the Wall Street Journal? Not to mention that it's a pretty obvious, straightforward variant of "notion" - but it'll have to do. It was either notional or words like "nut-breaker," for which the definition was: [See Nutcracker]. And the definition of "nutcracker" is "an instrument used to crack nuts." Oh yes. There are days when I just want to tell my dictionary, "Really? That's all you have for me?"

So, notional it is. The entymology can be traced back to the 1590s, where it originated from the Latin notionalis, which in turn came from notus. The whimsical, or "full of whims," meaning didn't appear until 1791. Why that is, I have no idea, but it's interesting nonetheless. It seems to be used most often to discuss theological or economic concerns. St. Thomas Aquinas used it a number of times in his systematic theology, but I didn't take the time to transcribe them from GoogleBooks, especially since the context gets really confusing. The economic usage appears to be the modern use of the word as it appears in a number of newspaper and magazine articles discussing various economic issues.

Personally, I prefer the examples included in both Webster's 1828 Dictionary and
The Imperial Dictionary of the English Language. Two tiny sentences, by one Prior and one Bentley, are given right below the definition of this word. I tried to find something out about these two men, but my searches came out dry. Apparently, they were known and respected enough to be included in dictionary, but not famous enough to stand out to Google. Anyway, Prior uses it this way: "notional good, by fancy only made." And Bentley says this: "A notional and imaginary thing." Webster himself adds, "as a notional man" to the entry.

I think it's a great word that could easily be introduced back into the literary realm. There's no need for it be sequestered off for economic theorists. Fiction writers, by definition, are notional. We deal in the imaginary, in the fanciful. Our aim though is to take the notional, put it on paper, and thereby make it something that exists in actual form instead of something that exists "in idea only."

And now to use it myself...

"I was in the midst of deciphering the last scrawled line on the page when another book came crashing down on top of it. I jerked upright and coughed at the dust that puffed out of the decaying pages. Egbert braced his arms on the table and leaned towards me, his smile smug, his eyes mocking.

"Was that necessary?" I moved the volume off my open pages.

"I got your attention."

"What do you want?"

"I don't want anything. Father wants to speak to you. And Mother wants you to eat."

"Father wants to speak to me? Are you sure?"

He scowled. "Yes, I'm sure. Apparently, he's decided there's something of value in that notional mind of yours."

"Well." I took the candle and started for the door through the maze of stacked books and scattered scrolls. "I hope my notions don't disappoint."

"As do I, little brother."


A Word for Wednesday

Nugatory - a, 1. Trifling; vain; futile; insignificant.
                             2. Of no force; inoperative; ineffectual

This word seems to be used most in legal contexts, using the second definition. As in, laws are nugatory because enforcement of them is problematic or impossible. What's interesting, though, is that the etymology of the word has nothing to do with legalities. See here:

c. 1600, from L. nugatorius "worthless, futile," from nugator "jester, trifler," from nugatus, pp. of nugari "to trifle," from nugae "jokes, jests, trifles," of unknown origin.

I had never associated trifling with joking before, but apparently they're related words. Or, rather, they were related words at some point. Today, trifling means unimportant and joking means to poke fun. How those two things connect, I'm not sure. At some point, though, trifle was equivalent to jest and joke.

Regardless of how the meaning of those words diverged from each other, nugatory is akin to the trivial trifle, not the joking jest. Nugatory is also a word that was favored by one our country's best-known military men: George Washington. A man named Jared Sparks complied and published a collection of Washington's private and official communications in The Writings of George Washington. Here are some of the ways Washington used today's word:

"If we have no occasion for troops for the first purposes, and were certain of not wanting any for the second, then all the expense, of every nature and kind whatsoever on this score, would be equally nugatory and unjustifiable."

"In a word, the confederation appears to me to be little more than a shadow without the substance, and Congress a nugatory body, their ordinances being little attended to."

"It seems almost nugatory to dispute about the best mode of dealing with the Algerines, when we have neither money to buy their friendship, nor the means of punishing them for their depredations upon our people and trade."

"One of the reasons against it is a fear, that all the States will not be represented. As some of them appear to have been unwillingly drawn into the measure, their delegates will come with such fetters as will embarrass and perhaps render nugatory the whole proceeding."

Washington wasn't the only American general to use this word. U.S. Grant did as well, though not nearly as much. In closing one of his letters, which I found from The Memoirs of Three Civil War Generals, Vol. I: Ulysses S. Grant, he says this -

"Regretting that all my efforts for alleviating the sufferings of wounded men left upon the battle-field have been rendered nugatory, I remain, &c.,

U.S. Grant,

Between the two of them, I think Washington and Grant provide us a solid idea of how this word can be used with its different meanings. And now it's my turn to use it.

"I felt like one of the rats the were skittering around my feet - desperate and disgusting. I looked back. There was only fog in the alley behind me. I pulled the neck of my coat up and tugged my hat farther down. I passed 317 on my left, kicking something metal as I went by. The clatter was like thunder in my ears.

I reached 321. The two was upside down. I looked back. Still, only the fog had followed me. I knocked. The door opened. There was a table with a dirty oil lamp on it and one chair, but no man.

"Won't you come in, my good sir?"

My insides jumped at the voice. It was like velvet, or silk, but with a sinister thread. I tried to still my heart as I stepped inside.

"Please, take the chair."

I wanted nothing better than to face the darkness that hid that voice. Instead, I took four deliberate steps and sat down.

"With whom do I speak?" I asked.

A laugh sounded from the shadows, deep and rich. "I must offer my apologies, lady," he said. "For mistaking you for a gentleman."

"I shall gladly accept your apologies, should you reveal yourself," I said.

"Well then, I'm afraid I must remain an unforgiven wretch."

"A wretch you may very well be, but I am not concerned with the state of your existence. That is nugatory to me. You have something I need. I should like to procure it. Now, if you please."

I heard him move. One step toward me.  

"Nugatory? Indeed." Another step. "I did not think you so unkind." His voice morphed then, from velvet to diamond. "I am no trifle, madam, nor is my existence an insignificant thing. If you value your life, and the life you wish to save, remember that."


A Word for Wednesday

Noodle - n. A simpleton

I had no idea that "noodle" could be used to describe something besides pasta, did you? Now, I love pasta. I'm half-Italian. Spaghetti and all other forms pasta kind of come with the territory, along with meatballs and tomatoes and olive oil and garlic. So, imagine my surprise when I'm skimming through words and see that noodle is not defined as relating to food. I honestly did a double take. I've heard things like "limp noodle" used to describe people, but the idea is that they're spineless, not silly. This is a drastically different way to use a very common word, which makes it doubly fun :) 

Obviously, this is an obscure useage of the word. Normally obscurity isn't the problem, because the words themselves are distinctive. Well, try typing "noodle, literature" into Google. It doesn't work out very well, unless you want all manner of recipes and stories involving pasta - in which case that search works perfectly. So, I have no idea what the history of this word is, or when it stopped meaning simpleton and started meaning pasta. I was really wanted to know that too, because I'm sure the evolution of meaning would be fascinating.

Noodle tales seem to be a sub-genre under both folk lore and children's stories. I found a number of books with noodle in their titles. Things like The Book of Noodles: Stories of Simpletons or Fools and their Follies by William Alexander Clouston, and All of Our Noses are Here: And Other Noodle Tales by Alvin Schwartz.

I think it makes for a great dialogue. It's almost as fun as using nincompoop. Noodle is just easier to say ;)

"I started walking away. I hadn't taken more than ten steps before I felt mud splatter on my back.

"Go on, keep walking, you noodle," he said. 

I stopped. 

"Ignore him," Elaina took the crook of my arm and tugged. 

I started walking again. 

"Oh, well done," he said. "You're a real hero now, aren't you? Being led away by a girl. What a pair you make! The noddle and the ninny."

Elaina spun on him. "You shut your mouth!"
I grabbed her around the waist. "Ignore him," I said.  


A Word for Wednesday

Nimiety - n. [L. nimietas] The state of being too much

This word provides a nice contrast to last Wednesday's, don't you think? Last week was about nothingness; this week is about fullness. Actually, the idea of this word goes beyond fullness into excess. Superfluity is the perfect synonym for nimiety. Isn't it interesting how both too little and too much of things can become problematic? On the one hand, you can be consumed by the "nothingness" of life. On the other, you can be overwhelmed by the fullness of it. You can have too many things to do, too many places to go, too many people to see. If you spend too much time thinking about it, you can be buried by the excess existence of evil and hurt and cruelty in the world. Or, on the opposing end of the spectrum, you can be overwhelmed by all the beautiful and incredible things in the world because there are just too many to see or do, or even read about, in one lifetime.

I think nimiety is the opposite of nihility. Both define excessive positions so maybe, if they were combined, you'd arrive at moderation. Something like...nihimiety - the state of being in the middle ;)

That aside, I have two usage examples to share. One is actually from a Wall Street Journal article. This is the first time I've found one of my words in modern use. It's rather reaffirming to see that it's possible to incorporate these old words into today's dialogue, not just historically based stories. The article, On Eloquence, was written by Denis Donoghue. He says this: "Normally, we recognize an eloquent event as a flare of expression, an excess or superabundance of its qualities. But there are several kinds of eloquence. Some are thrilling in their audacity—they are prophetic, magical, sublime, we futilely say: if we tire of them or are not in the mood to appreciate their excesses, we say that they are pretentious, as Coleridge spoke of 'a nimiety, too-muchness.' Shakespeare's sonnets are such a case." 

The second is from The Westminister Review, Volume 125. I don't know what work is being reviewed here. I kept scrolling to try to find some context, but after about twenty pages I decided it didn't really matter all that much. This sentence actually has a similar idea to the supposed pretention mentioned in the last usage. Here it is: "The lines to the memory of Victor Hugo are finely expressed, though they err is respect of nimiety of sentiment and adulation." I see no problem with excessive adulation, especially of an author who's work you admire. I guess critics aren't so easily charmed. But that's all right. There's a place for clear, concise language. And there is also a place for works full of supposedly superfluous words - because those "excess" words can be what makes a page memorable; they can make up the audacious eloquence that Donoghue spoke of. I like eloquence and I like a certain amount of audacity. So I think a healthy dose of too-muchness every now and again could be a good thing :)

But onto today's story...

"You are too much sometimes, Evie, you really are."

"What did I do?"

She looked so innocent, so completely oblivious to her own behavior, as she stood there. I added the sheet to the stack in her arms and pulled the next one out of the clothespins. I could not believe I was having to explain things to her again.

"It's just that, well, you have this nimiety about you," I said. "Everything you do is excessive. Even your cooking is over the top. I love you, to pieces, but you really need to learn some moderation, Eve."

Before anyone else gets hurt, I added to myself.


A Word for Wednesday

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I am running so very, very late today. I'm dreadfully behind on all your blogs, and even on returning comments on my own (so sorry!). And I miss being involved with all of you but, like everything else, blogs have seasons. I'm in the Bare-Minimum Season ;) Nonetheless, I am happy to introduce our newest letter of the alphabet - the straight-laced N - and give you November's first word:

Nihility - n. [L. nihilum, nihil, nothing; ne and hilum] Nothingness; a state of being nothing

I chose this word before I left for jiu-jitsu class. It took me till now (three hours later) to realize that it's related to nihilism. Yes, I am that tired and scatterbrained at the moment. Nihilism I recognize; it was one of the worldviews I studied in school. But nihility? It sounded all new and different and so I picked it. And I'm sticking with it because a) I'm already in the ni- pages and it's only the first week of the month so I can't be tremendously picky at this point, b) it is the parent word for nihilism and thus a form not regularly used, and c) it sounds great in dialogue, which makes things significantly easier for me when I'm in a time-crunch.

My search for the origins of this word, or any kind of history surrounding it, came up dry (unless you count the title of an heavy metal album, which I don't). Wordnik was quite helpful in providing some usage examples. I didn't recognize any of the authors - I suppose that's what happens after two weeks of Milton - but familiarity is hardly necessary to showcase use. The following passages are from The Three Cities Trilogy: Rome by Emile Zoa.

"[Pierre] had once visited a coal pit in Belgium, and here he found the same narrow passages, the same heavy, stifling atmosphere, the same nihility of darkness and silence. The flamelets of the candles showed merely like stars in the deep gloom; they shed no radiance around."

"Then, too, the eyes which [Bottecelli] bestowed on his figures, eyes of langour and passion, of carnal or mystical rapture, their joy at times so instinct with grief as they peer into the nihility of human things that no eyes in the world could be more impenetrable."

"And it was the sky then which became all purple and gold, displaying the infinite placidity of a supernatural radiance above the earth which faded into nihility."

"In vain did Pierre seek the Janiculum. In the depths of that ocean of nihility all sunk and vanished, Rome's four and twenty centuries, the ancient Palatine and the modern Quirinal, even the giant dome of St. Peter's, blotted out from the sky by the flood of gloom. And below him he could not see, he could not even hear the Tiber, the dead river flowing past the dead city."

"Ah! Those interminable and lugubrious passages, that frigid and gigantic staircase which seemed to descend into nihility, those huge halls with cracking walls where all was wretchedness and abandonment!"

What I like about these passages is that nihility can be used, and used well, to describe settings and atmosphere. Given that nihilism, as a school of thought, it focused entirely on the nothingness of human experience, I was afraid that nihility would have a similar focus. Certainly, it can be used to describe humanity (such as in the example regarding Bottecelli's paintings). I was quite pleasantly surprised, though, at how effectively it can be used to describe things like darkness and gloom and silence. It replaces the word "nothingness" rather nicely, and adds a ring of sophistication. Instead of saying something faded into nothing, you can say it faded into nihility. And that's a far more interesting way to put it, even though it means exactly the same thing. If you read the above passages again, inserting nothing or nothingess wherever nihility is, you'll see what I mean. The sentences have a different sound to them that evokes a different feeling. There's more foreboding. Nihility sounds like a place the stairs lead to, instead of them just going nowhere. Does that makes sense? I feel like I'm talking in circles. So, I'm going to move onto the story before I get dizzy ;)

"Welcome to the underworld, gents." Torch-light threw shadows over the man's face. He was hardly visible; his dirt-grimed form just another shade of black. "I'll brook no nonsene from the lot of you. I don't care where you're from. I don't care what your story is. You're mine now. That's all I care about. Now get to work."

I took the pick I was handed, and the shovel that was slammed into my side when I spared a glance at my surroundings. I followed the others forward. I was crawling soon, the earth around me everywhere with a clamy embrace. The tunnel opened soon enough into a cavern. There were hundreds of men. Some boys even. All of them picking away at the walls, with sharp, rythmic rings. I headed for an open space before one of the foreman could shove me into a place. I sunk the pick into the rock, and was slammed onto my back.

"Are you ready?" A pair of wide, bloodshot eyes was all I saw. "Are you ready for the darkness?"

I shoved him off me but he only grabbed me again.

"Are you ready for gloom and despair? Are you ready for the nihility of this place? It will consume you. Be ready."

He let go and hobbled off into the shadows until he disappeared entirely.


A Word for Wednesday

Before I get to the last O word of the year, I want to take a quick moment to apologize to all my faithful readers. I have been sadly neglecting all of you, both here on my blog and on all of yours. I will catch up on reading and commenting on all the insightful and amusing and educational and wonderful things I'm sure you've been sharing. It'll probably take me a while at this rate, but I'll get there. Graduation is around the corner, and once I'm done being a full time student, you'll see me around on a more regular basis. So bear with me until then :) In the meantime, I have another word for you.

Oxlike - a. Resembling an ox

I kid ;) That's not actually today's word. But I've come across so many of those kind of circular definitions that I had to share one of them. Oxlike means that something looks like an ox? Really? That's genius. The last pages of the O section were literally filled likewise self-explanatory words. I was hoping (again) to use the last entered word, but

Oyster-woman - n. A woman whose occupation is to sell oysters

isn't exactly useful or a particularly interesting word. So, I ended up picking today's word because I like tone of the definition, and because I can hear it in a story. And since I'm slowly sinking in a swamp of schoolwork, I'm taking the short and sweet route. Here it is:

Oyes - [Fr. oyez, hear ye] This word is used by the sheriff or his substitute in making proclamation in court, requiring silence and attention. It is thrice repeated, and most absurdly pronounced, O yes.

The American Heritage Dictionary had an interesting note on the origin of this word. It says, "The courtroom cry "Oyez, oyez, oyez," has probably puzzled more than one auditor, especially if pronounced "O yes." (Many people have thought that the words were in fact O yes.) This cry serves to remind us that up until the 18th century, speaking English in a British court of law was not required and one could instead use Law French, a form of French that evolved after the Norman Conquest, when Anglo-Norman became the language of the official class in England. Oyez descends from the Anglo-Norman oyez, the plural imperative form of oyer, "to hear"; thus oyez means "hear ye" and was used as a call for silence and attention. Although it would have been much heard in Medieval England, it is first recorded as an English word fairly late in the Middle English period, in a work composed around 1425."

I wasn't able to find the work mentioned above, but I was able to find a treasure trove of examples in A Complete Collection of State Trials and Proceedings for High Treason and Other Crimes and Misdemeanors. It's a twenty-one volume collection complied by a certain T.B.Howell, Esq. in London, published in 1816. I won't post all of them, but I'll give you a smattering.

"Serjeant at Arms: Oyes, Oyes, Oyes! Our sovereign lord the king strictly charges and commands all manner of persons to keep silence, upon pain of impisonment."

"Serjeant at Arms: Oyes, Oyes, Oyes! Lieutenant of the Tower of London , bring forth your prisoner to the bar, according to the order of the House of Lords to you directed."

"Serjeant at Arms: Oyes, Oyes, Oyes! Our sovereign lord the king does strictly charge and command all manner of persons here present, and that have here attended, to depart hence in the peace of God, and of our soveriegn lord the king; for his grace my lord high steward of Great Britain intends now to disolve his commission."

I'm sure the serjeant of arms got tired of saying "oyes, oyes, oyes" before whatever else he was supposed to say, but I like it. It's very official sounding. And if you throw a British accent in, it sounds even better. Now to use it myself...

"I couldn't see him.

I squirmed around two men with pudgy legs and shiny shoe buckles.

I had to see him.

There were black coats, and powdered wigs, and heeled shoes, and fancy pocket watches everywhere. They were all crowding me and I couldn't get past them. I needed to get past them. I spied the pews up ahead and pushed and shoved until I got to them. I started crawling under them. Someone stepped on my fingers once. Is this what mice felt like when they tried to cross the roads when the carriages were running? I heard someone curse and pulled my feet up under the pew as fast as I could. I waited for someone to bend over and see what had tripped them. If they found me, I would be in trouble. But no one did so I started crawling again.

There he was. I stayed there under the first pew in the courtroom, but I could see him at last. He looked tired. He never looked tired. There were two soldiers by him, one on each side. They were holding his arms. I wanted him to look at me. Wished for him to look at me.

A sharp rap sounded and the courtroom filled with lords. Father watched them come in. I watched them too. What were they going to do to him?

"Oyes, Oyes, Oyes!" a man I couldn't see called out. "Our sovereign lord the king strictly charges and commands all manner of persons to keep silence, upon pain of impisonment."

Everyone stopped talking. No one even whispered.

"Oyes, Oyes, Oyes! Lieutenant of the Tower of London, bring forth your prisoner."

One of the soldier men brought Father forward and put him in a little booth. Some other man stood up and started talking. He accused Father. He called him a traitor.

"You're lying!" I scrambled out from under the pew and ran at him. "Father loves the king, he would never betray him. You lier!"

Someone was holding me back. I kept flailing and shouting, "Let him go. He didn't do anything. You have to let him go!"

Someone picked me up. I started kicking, but it was no use. They were taking me away. I couldn't stop them. And Father, he couldn't stop them either. The soldiers had crossed spears in front of him.


A Word for Wednesday

Oscitancy - n. [L. oscito, to yawn, from os, the mouth] The act of gaping or yawning. 2. Unusual sleepiness; drowsiness; dullness

I'm afraid that, yet again, I have no history to give you on this word. It must be something with the O's. Their history is either protected from google or has never been recorded. Neither option helps me ;) But, I was able to find some neat examples of this word's use. The examples include the adverb, adjective, verb, and second noun form of this word (oscitantly, oscitant, oscitate, and oscitation respectively), so don't be suprised if "oscitancy" isn't the exact word used every time.

The Imperial Dictionary of the English Language provided most of them. Two are from a certain Dr. H More. I tried to find his original work so I could get a better handle on the context of the included sentences. I was unsuccessful, so you'll have take your best guess as to what he's actually talking about when he says,  "Which those drowsy nodders over the letter of the Scripture have very oscitantly collected." "Our oscitant, lazy, piety," though, makes sense. I don't recognize any of the other authors, but I'll share their sentences so you get an idea for how this word and it's various forms are used: "It might proceed from the oscitancy of the transcribers." - Addison. "My treatise on oscitation, laughter, and ridicule." - Tatler. And, "He expresses in them no sort of humane sentiment towards these unfortunate men, but the utmost indignation at the oscitancy of those in power, which connived at the public demonstrations of sympathy." - Hallam.

I also found a passage from none other than John Milton. In his prose works, he starts discussing the will of God and how God cannot contradict Himself because of His own character. If it wasn't written in Old English and if I could cut and paste from GoogleBooks, I'd start at the beginning of his argument. Since I don't have time to transcribe it all manually, I'll skip to the part where he uses our word: "...his legal justice cannot be so fickle and so variable, sometimes like a devouring fire, and by and by connivent in the embers, or, if I may so say, oscitant and supine. The vigor of his law could no more remit, than the hallowed fire upon his altar could be let go out."

So there you have it - a new way to describe a sleepy someone (or thing). I now have exactly 27 minutes to come up with a story...next time I give myself a challenge like this, will someone remind me not to schedule it on a day where I normally work full hours and then have jiu-jitsu class at night? It's really not the most brilliant of plans ;) And now I have 25 minutes. Um...

"I set the quill down and rubbed at my eyelids. My work was nowhere near complete, though the sunrays streaming onto the manuscript from behind me had started to turn rosy. I covered a yawn as one of the elder brother's walked past. 

"There is no place for oscitancy here, young one," he said in the gentle, solemn voice all the brothers seemed to share. "Apply yourself until the day is done."

I picked up the quill once more, dipped it in the ink, and began again where I had left off - filling the block letter with beauty fit for the king himself."


A Word for Wednesday

Opprobrious - a. 1. Reproachful and contemptuous; scurrilous. 2. Blasted with infamy; despised; rendered hateful

"Blasted with infamy" - how's that for a description? I like it. It's very forceful. But I'm supposed to be talking about the word itself, not a phrase in the definition. So, back on topic: opprobrious. I was so excited when I saw a little italic "Milton" below the entry in the dictionary for this word. It seemed, at least to me, like it's been a while since I found a word that a famous author used in their famous work. This one is used twice in a classic literary masterpiece that I have yet to read (it's on the top of my read-after-graduation list): Paradise Lost by John Milton.

If it weren't for highlighted search results, I would never have found Milton's first use of this word. It's buried in his description of the chiefs from the pit of hell who "with their darkness durst affront his light."

"First Moloch, horrid king besmeared with blood
Of human sacrifice, and paretn's tears,
Though, for the noise of drums and timbrels loud,
Their children's cries unheard, that passed through the fire
To his grim idol. Him the Ammonite
Worshipped in Rabba and her watery plain,
In Argob and in Basan, to the stream
Of utmost Arnon. Nor content with such
Audacious neighborhood, the wisest heart
Of Solomon he led by fraud to build
His temple right against the temple of God
On that opprobrious hill, and made his grove
The pleasant valley of Hinnom, Tophet thence
And black Gehenna called, the type of hill."

I don't know about you, but I got all confused when I read about Solomon building his temple ('cause it's clearly not referring to the temple of Jerusalem) on the "opprobrious hill." I don't know why I always forget that Solomon started worshipping all his wives' idols at the end of his life but 2 Kings 23:13 describes the opprobrious hill a little differently: "And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abominationes of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile."

Milton's uses the word yet again in a rousing speech by Moloch. He:

"Stood up, the strongest and the fiercest spirit
That fought in heaven, now fiercer by despair
He reckoned not, and these words thereafter spake:
     "My sentence is for open war. Of wiles,
      More unexpert, I boast not: them let those
      Contrive who need, or when they need; not now.
      For, while they sit contriving, shall the rest,
      Millions that stand in arms and longing wait
      The signal to ascent, sat lingering here,
      Heaven's fugitives, and for their dwelling-place
      Accept this dark opprobrious den of shame,
      The prison of his tyranny who reigns
      By our delay? No! Let us rather choose,
      Armed with hell-flames and fury - all - at once -
      O'er heaven's high towers to force resistless way
      Turning our tortures into horrid arms
      Against the torturer."

I don't think we could have been given a better illustration of how to use this word, do you? Just don't compare my usage with his, all right? Because he's John Milton and I'm, well, not. I will use the word. Have no fear on that count. Whether I use it well or poorly, though, you will have to judge. 

"Peter, don't you dare go through there," I shouted, tripping over the shattered gargoyles in the courtyard, spilling the apples. "Do not open that door!" 

"What will you do if I do?" he shouted back. 

"I'll leave you here and you'll have to deal with whatever evil lies behind that door by yourself."

His little face blanched and his fingers started to slip off the giant ring that served as a handle.

"You're too young to understand but it's an opprobrious place." It was deathly quiet and the apples looked too bright. I grabbed his hand. "We shouldn't be here. Let's go."

"No!" He yanked his hand free. "I'm not too young. And I'm not scared. It's just an old building."

Before I could stop him, he opened the door and wriggled inside. It closed behind him. I hardly heard the thud over the beating of my heart. What had he done? I looked around. Gargoyle faces laughed at me with their hideous faces, prodding me to leave this horrid, infamous place. I wanted to. Oh, how I wanted to. But Peter. I faced the doors. I placed a hand on the ring and a dreadful creak sounded behind me. I spun to see the twisted iron gate closing and dead leaves blowing across the yard. I dropped the bag and dashed inside to the sound of apples bumping down the steps behind me.


A Word for Wednesday

Today we welcome O words to the blogosphere. I've been looking forward to today, thinking things like, "O, happy day" "O, this will be fun" "O, I bet there are a lot of really interesting words I can bring for this month." And then I started looking at the words. Did you know that most of the O section in the dictionary are derivative forms of the same words? Or that the definitions for "on" and "our" last three pages? 'Tis true, on both counts. I had to get all the way to op- words before I found a worthy word:

Operose - a. [L. operosus, from opera, operor] Laborious; attended with labor; tedious

It makes me happy to have replacement word for tedious. Don't get me wrong, tedious is a terrific word but tedious things spoken of tediously can be tremendously tiring. (I couldn't resist. I'm in an alliterative mood.) It's a good thing to be your own thesaurus. The more you can swap words within a sentences without changing the meaning, the more freedom you have to set the mood, add to the atmosphere, and clarify your style and voice. And it gives you a huge advantage in Scrabble.

I suspect, though, that Edmund Burke - the Irish statesmen, orator, author, and sundry other things - didn't have time to play Scrabble. He did, however, use our word in two of his addresses. Or he used it twice in the same address. I'm not sure.  He changed subjects so many times in The Speeches of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke that I'm not sure where one speech ended and another began. Here is the first time he used it: "We thought, Sir, that the utmost which the discontented colonists could do, was to disturb the authority; we never dreamt they could of themselves supply it; knowing in general what an operose business it is, to establish a government absolutely new." After moving from American colonial politics to economics and accounting, he uses it the second time, saying, "A complex, operose office, of account and and control, is in itself, and even if members of Parliament had nothing to do with it, the most prodigal of all things. The most audacious robberies, or the most subtle frauds, would never venture upon such a waste, as an over-careful, detailed guard against them will infallibly produce."

Lucy Aikin uses the word a bit differently in her Memoirs of the Court of Queen Elizabeth. I was unable to find the full context of this quote. I could only uncover the usage itself, the book title, and the author's name. I wasn't able to read sample pages or search the entire book on GoogleBooks like I normally do. So, your surmises will be as good as mine as to what "they" refers to: "They were conducted on a scale of grandeur and expense which may still surprise; but taste as yet was in its infancy, and the whole was characterized by the unmerciful tediousness, the ludicrous incongruities, and the operose pedantry of a semi-barbarous age."

Obviously, operose has a wide range of appropriate use. It can fit as easily into a regular description as it can into a political treatise or Parliamentary proceedings. So now you have one more word to choose from when faced with describing some wearisome thing :) Onward to the story clip! Assuming I can think of one in the next few minutes...

"Your mother's a calling you, lass," Duncan said, a blast of cold air rushing inside with him. "Best not keep her."

"Aye, I've stayed too long already." I tucked the wool closer around the little ones packed into the bed like newborn kine in straw. "Send for me if they worsen?"

He nodded. I wrapped myself in own wools and was pulling the door closed behind me when he called my name. I turned back, expecting him to be seated by the hearth where I had left him. But he was at the door, his hand on the other side of the handle. I looked up at him while the wind bit at my face.

"I cannot thank you enough. It's an operose thing you've been doing these last days, caring for them."

"Please, Duncan, it's nothing. You know what a joy they are to me, and to all of us."
"I'm still obliged to you, lass."

I smiled at him and he almost smiled in return. Then he shut the door and I hurried home, the blasting highland air for my companion. All these years, and he still called me "lass."


A Word for Wednesday

I had the hardest time choosing a word for today. It will be the last of the S words so I wanted it to be especially interesting. I thought it might be fun to do the very last word in the S section of the dictionary, until I saw that this was the word:

Syzygy - n. [Gr. to join] The conjunction or opposition of a planet with the sun, or of any two of the heavenly bodies. On the phenomena and circumstances of the syzgyies, depends a great part of the lunar theory.

Yeah. I am not an astronomer. I can't even find all the basic constellations. I have no idea what a syzygy would look like to describe it, much less explain the history of lunar theory and then write a story around a stellar phenomena. So I abandoned my last-word-of-the-section plan, started flipping pages, and came across...

Swasher - One who makes a blustering show of valor or force of arms

I was all eagerness because I knew I could write a story around that. I could even explain that a swasher is different than a swash-buckler (who is actually "a sword-player; a bully or braggadocio"). But, it's not exactly an obscure word, so I kept looking. And let me tell you, original words get harder to find the farther you get into any given section in the dictionary. I finally found one I liked. It's related to a rather common word, but it's the original form and thus counts as obscure. At least, that's how I'm counting it because I like the look and sound of it.

Suveran - a. [from L. supernus, superus, super. The barbarous Norman word souvereign, seems to be formed of L. super and regnum; a strange blunder]
1. Supreme in power; possessing dominion.
2. Supreme; chief; superior to all others.
3. Supremely efficacious; Superior to all others.
4. Supreme; pertaining to the first magistrate of a nation

That sentence in the brackets makes me smile. "The barbarous Norman word...a strange blunder." Can't you just see Webster at his desk, shaking his head at the ineptitude of someone who had the audacity to put super and regnum together? I mean, really, what kind of folly is that?? Very strange indeed ;)

Google was decidedly unhelpful tonight, as was Wordnik and the several other pages I normally turn to for word-related research. None of them turned up anything, except that there is someone named "TheSuveran" on Twitter. So, other than the fact that suveran is father to sovereign, there's really nothing more to tell about it. I shall proceed directly to the excerpt then and, just for the fun of it, I'm going to try to incorporate swasher into the story as well.

"Oh, honestly," I pulled him away from the stall. "Must you be particular about absolutely everything?"

"Why, yes. How else do you suppose I succeed in my endeavors?"

"Careful, Rodger, you're about to trip over your pride."

He laughed, took the basket from me, and tucked my arm in his. "Indeed, I am. It is good of you to warn me."

"I'm surprised you did not see the threat yourself, since you are so very suveran in knowledge and endeavor."

He pulled up and turned to me with a reply when a commotion broke out in the market square ahead. Rodger dashed off. I followed on his heals. Melons were spilt all over the ground and a long-haired boy was in the center, his back against the tipped wagon, a sword in his hands. He was shouting and waving it wildly, pointing at no one and yet at everyone.

"Here," Rodger handed me the basket. "Now there's no telling what this swasher will do, so stay behind me."

"But -"

He looked straight at me. "Rose, stay here. And no do not try to rescue me, I beg you."

I folded my arms over the basket and watched him excuse his way into the open square.


7 Words + 7 Links

Today has been one of those really lovely days. The weather is perfect - the last taste of summer with the first taste of autumn. I got to study outside with the sunshine and warm breeze all around me and my little brother's laughter in the background. And then I got a great score on an exam I had to take. And, as if the fact that I'm now only 16 credits away from my degree, I got an award! It came all the way from Ireland (which isn't nearly as impressively far away as it sounds since places in the blogsphere are only clicks away not miles and miles), courtesy of Christine Murray. I'm supposed to match/link my own posts with the seven descriptive words given, and then pass it on to seven others. So here we go.

Most Beautiful: This one was easy. Because dreams are beautiful things and I wrote this on a beautiful day

Most Helpful: Oh dear, oh dear. Unlike so many of my fellow writers who blog, I don't post helpful things; unless words count, in which the majority of my posts could be classified as helpful. But I don't classify them that way. When I think "helpful," I think of all the grammar/query/writing-related instructional posts that so many of you have done. So...I'm going to go with this, to help you with insults. Because if we must insult, we ought to do so with wit!

Most Popular: This is actually my second most popular post. I'll tell you about the post that was really the most popular in a minute. But I'm so glad that so many of you liked this as much as I did. It gives me an excuse to post it again. And I'm always ready to post about how stinkin' sweet my little brother is. He'll be half-asleep walking to the bathroom at midnight, see that my light is on, and call me: "CayCay? I want to give you a hug."

Most Controversial: No one actually voiced controversy over this, which surprised me exceedingly. I kept checking for comments, waiting to cringe because I had offended or angered someone. That never happened, but the post certainly has the potential to cause controversy. At least, it's the only post I can find that comes even remotely close to fitting the "most controversial" category.

Most Surprisingly Successful: Technically, this post was the most popular. It had the highest number of page views (assuming the stats button is accurate), but I couldn't believe it. Why? Well, normally my Wednesday posts get at least one comment (Cherie should get a "Faithful Commenter" award for that. Seriously.) Not this time. I really liked the character in it and just assumed that no one else particularly cared for him or that the whole post was too long or, or, or. You can imagine my surprise, then, when it topped the stats listing!

Most Underrated: I'm going to go with my post on the Vikings for this one. I don't spend a lot of time talking about my manuscript or the research that went into it. I do try not to bore you to tears, so I've purposely refrained from telling you absolutely everything I know about Viking culture. I find it fascinating but, like most research, not all of it needs to be shared. That's the difference between great historical fiction (which gives you enough detail) and boring historical fiction (which suffocates you in detail). That said, the Vikings are close to my heart because there's so much more to them than the legend/stereotype/etc. Their non-pillaging qualities are vastly underrated.

Most Prideworthy: I'm proud of myself for actually starting a blog, so this category was easy. See?

I was going to write blurbs on the seven people I'm going to pass this 7X7 award on to but (a) I've spent too long on this post already. I really can't neglect my reading assignments any longer and (b) I can't do them justice in a matter of seconds. SO, know that every single person I link is fantastic and you should go browse their blogs. It's worth it.







and Lydia.


A Word for Wednesday

Spurious - a. [L. spurius] 1. Not genuine; not proceeding from the true source, or from the source pretended; counterfeit; false; adulterate. 2. Not legitimate; bastard

For clarity, I abridged the definition in first introducing this word. The unabridged entry includes these notes: "Spurious writings are such as are not composed by the authors to whom they are ascribed. Spurious drugs are common. The reformed churches reject spurious ceremonies and traditions. By the laws of England, one begotten and born out of lawful matrimony, is a spurious child. A spurious disease is not of the genuine type but bears a resemblance in its symptoms."

You see? This is another one of those words that has a very broad range of use :) And such words are great fun to play with. Aside from the fact that it's origin is Latin, I wasn't able to find any sort of history or historical context for this word. I was, however, able to find a number of passages where it's used. A few dealt with scientific experiments and medical procedures, but I couldn't make heads or tail of them. There were two, though, that showcase this word's use in very different contexts.

The first is from a collection of Letters from Port Royal written at the time of the Civil War.  “In the introduction to "Slave Songs of the United States," a collection made chiefly at Port Royal and published in 1867, this particular song is set down as spurious, that is, as being sung to a well-known "white folks '" tune.” Interesting, no?

The second is an excerpt from the Memoirs of the Jacobites of 1715 and 1745 Vol. II.  “The indignities which were wreaked upon the unfortunate Jacobites as they entered London have been detailed in the life of Lord Derwentwater. Amid the cries of a savage populace, and the screams of "No warming pan," "King George for ever!" an exclamation which proves how deeply the notion of spurious birth had sunk into the minds of the people, the Earl of Nithisdale was conducted, his arms tied with cords, and the reins of his horse taken from him, with his unfortunate companions, into the Tower.”

Between the Letters, the Memoirs, and the unabridged definition, you should now have an idea of when and where and how to use "spurious" :) Here's my use:

"I saw his mailed fist coming toward my face. I saw it and stood my ground. The pain would be awful, I knew, but not awful enough to tempt me to yield. The force of it threw me to the ground. I forced the black spots from my eyes, spit the blood out of my mouth, ignored the agony raging in my head, and stood back up. He had mounted his horse.

"You have until dawn. I will not have my holdings polluted by the likes of you." If lips could drip contempt, his would have.

"I'm not leaving," I said.

"You are the spurious seed of a spurious house and I will not have you in my sight!"

"That is not true!" I lunged for him, but his henchmen clamped down on me. I might as well as been in irons. So I shouted instead. "My father was a good man. How dare you speak of him that way."

His smile was as cold and crooked as the links of his mail. "You're a bastard, boy. How good could your father have been?"

I yanked at my arms but my strength did not avail me. "He was a better man that you. And I'm no bastard."

"Is that so? Well, well, I see that you're as ignorant as you are illegitimate. What a pity he never told you." He nodded to the men holding me. "Leave him."


A Word for Wednesday

Sortition - n. [L. sortitio] Selection or appointment by lot

From what I can gather, this word was largely - almost exclusively - used in the context of politics. It actually still exists in the electoral system today, but it is used to fill lower level offices (such as selecting jurors). In ancient Anthens, though, sortition was the primary method of appointing officials. In it's entry discussing Athenian politics, the Encyclopaedia Britannica  says, "The real effect of sortition was to equalize the chances of rich and poor without civil strife. Now it is perfectly clear that it could not have been this object which impelled Solon to introduce sortition; for in his time the archonship was not open to lower classes, and, therefore, election was more democratic than sortition, whereas later the case was reversed."

The use of the lot as a tool to fill political appointments was not particular to the Greeks. It seems the Romans used it as well, as mentioned in this passage from A History of Rome During the Later Republic and Early Principate. "The existing system did not even make it possible to elect a man who would certainly have the conduct of the African war; and if we suppose that in this particular case the division of the consular provinces did not depend on the unadulterated use of the lot, but was settled by agreement or by a mock sortition, the probity rather than the genius of Metellus must have determined the choice, for Silanus was assigned a task of far more vital importance to the welfare of Rome and Italy."

Edmund Burke made a similar complaint - that the lot has no eye to choose men suitablee to the position - in Vol. III of The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke. "No rotation, no appointment by lot, no mode of election operating in the spirit of sortition or rotation, can be generally good in a government conversant in extensive objects: because they have no tendency, direct or indirect, to select the man with a view to the duty, or to accommodate the one to the other."

Sortition had one other historical use. And that was in the athletic arena. I found an article in Gerald P. Schaus' Onward to the Olympics: Historical Perspectives on the Olympic Games that said this: "The sortition procedure [...] apparently took place near the judges' seating. Small lots (mikroi kleroi), inscribed with letters, were thrown into a silver vessel that Lucian called a kalpis, dedicated to the god. The competitors prayed to Zeus, then each on picked a lot from the vessel. A whip-wielding mastigophoros was standing by to make sure no one looked at his letter." If you think about it, we have a sortition procedure in sports today. It involves a coin, a toss, and the definite absence of whip-wielding mastigophoros ;)

Now, generally, I try to incorporate some of the history and common usage of the word into my scenes. I'm not going to be able to do that this time. I tried, I did. As it turns out, though, I am incapable (at least right now) of writing a political scene or an ancient Greek one. Go figure. Anyway, here it is:

"This is absurd," I said, trying to fasten my cuff link and keep up with Jon. "Father knows how I feel about this."

"Yes, and he's chosen to ignore your opinion. Why are you surprised? You had to know this was coming."

"I'm not. I just - will you help me with this?" I stopped and held out my arm.

He fastened my link and then straightened my cravat. "Edmund, I know you don't like this. But you must follow Father's wishes. For all our sakes."
"Jon, I will not have my future or my happiness decided by sortition."

He licked his lips and glanced at his boots. "Ed, if you do not - "

"I know. Believe me," I took a breath. "I know."

He met my gaze again. "Tread carefully then, brother."

I nodded and he left me to face the ponderous double doors alone.


A Word for Wednesday

Sciolist - n, [L.sciolus, a diminutive formed on scio, to know] One who knows little, or who knows many things superficially; a smatterer

A smatterer. I like it. It reminds me a saying I heard one. I don't remember who said it or who they were describing, but the description went like this: "A jack of all trades and master of none." Sciolist conveys the same idea, I think, only regarding knowledge instead of skill.

Even though I always use my Webster's 1828 for the posted definition, I like to look the words up in several other places. Reading the variety of ways the same meaning is expressed often helps me get a better understanding of the connotations that are attached to the word. One dictionary put it this way: "a pretender of profound knowledge." I think I'll use that phrase next time I want to describe an arrogant know-it-all. The alliteration makes for a much more interesting sentence, don't you think?

I was able to find a number of works that used sciolist. I didn't recognize a single title or author and, for most of them, the excerpt made no sense whatsoever. I did find two, though, where I could trace the context quickly. The first was from a Classic French Course in English by William Cleaver Wilkinson, in which he discusses how various authorities view Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws. He considers it to be Montesquieu's masterpiece, but goes on to say, "By others, it is dismissed very lightly, as the ambitious, or, rather, pretentious, effort of a superficial man, a showy mere sciolist."

The second was from A Book for All Readers: An Aid to the Collection, Use, and Preservation of Books and the Formation of Public and Private Libraries by Ainsworth Rand Spofford. In this particular passage, Spofford writes about the different kinds of readers who resort to a library, saying, "And among the would-be readers may be found every shade of intelligence, and every degree of ignorance." He continues with a list, first describing the timid reader, and then "the sciolist variety, who knows it all, or imagines that he does, and who asks for proof of impossible facts, with the assurance born of the profoundest ignorance."

What a horrid way to be described, especially if such a description is deserved! A pretentious pretender of profundity. Ouch. In the abstract, though, it's great fun to say with all those Ps. But now I have to figure out how to use the actual word, not the expositions of it, in a story.

"The man standing before me was of the conniving sort. Oh, he hid it right well, under faultless speech, clothes of the highest fashion, and a pompous air that surrounded him like ladies' perfume. He meant no good, despite all his declaration of nobility. Of that much I was sure.

"I must interrupt you, sir," I said. "And ask you to take your leave."

He seemed genuinely surprise. "Is my proposition so odious to you?"

"Not at all. Your proposition, if it had any basis in reality, would be grand indeed. As it stands, however, I cannot justify the investment of my resources in such a ludicrous endeavour." I stood. "Good-day."

"You are mistaken, Mr. Tremont," he came forward with his hand outstretched. "Let me assure you of the prudence - "

"Mr. Walker, you have said quite enough. I advise you to spare both your breath and your time, for you are wasting them on me."

"I'm afraid I do not understand."

"Allow me to enlighten you." I clasped my hands behind my back and came around to the front of my desk. "I am very particular regarding the men I entrust my affairs to. I must have absolute confidence in the soundness of their minds and the strength of their characters. You fill neither requirement and so, again, I bid you good-day."

He glanced away, chuckling, and then back at me. "I think you'll find I do, upon closer acquaintance."

"I do not desire a further acquaintance with you, sir. I know precisely who and what you are. Your proposition made that most evident."

He raised his chin, a hard glint of pride flashing into his eyes. "And who am I, sir? Or what?"

"You are sciolist. The knowledge you claim to possess is superficial at best, and pretentious at worst. I want nothing to do with your schemes." I returned to my seat and bent over the affairs that were spread out on my desk. "My man will see you out."

(You guys, check out the time stamp. Seriously, look! It's HOURS and HOURS before midnight. I actually managed to post in the middle of the day instead of the very last second of it! I feel accomplished :)


A Word for Wednesday

Oh dear me. Here I am again. Or, rather, here we are again: me writing this thing far too late and you either reading it far too late or reading it on Thursdays. I'm up to my eyeballs in my studies. I have 18 credits left to earn for my English BA. I'm only taking 6 of those as courses but since I'm studying the remaining subjects independently and then testing out (usually in a matter of two weeks), I'm effectively in the middle of an 18-credit semester while working 20-30 hours, trying to learn a foreign language, and preparing for a concert my community is performing on September 11th. I think I qualify as being busy ;) But everyone is busy so that's hardly an excuse for my neglecting both my own blog and all of yours. An explanation is far better and mine is this: finishing school is my priority right now. Over writing, over jiu-jitsu, and over blogging. So there you have it, take it or leave it as you will. And now onto more interesting things. Namely, the last A word for this year:

Avaunt - excl., Begone; depart; a word of contempt or abhorrence, equivalent to the phrase, "Get thee behind me."

I so wish people still spoke with words like this. They're so heavy with feeling when compared to today's vocabulary Think about it, "avaunt" versus "go away." There's just no contest. At least not for me. Avaunt wins hands down, by far, bar none.

Blessedly for me, I found this site called Wordnik. It appears to be a community of word-lovers. There are words for each day plus random words plus ways to interact with others. I'm sure it's worth more than the ten seconds I spent there but those ten seconds were very well spent. Some wonderfully thoughtful person(s) posted a whole list of literary examples on the side of the definition. I'll share the three I liked the most.

"But avaunt ye idle specters, the desires and requests of my friend are a law to me." Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, February 11,1784

"Leave me in peace, unwelcome overtures; avaunt, with your desires, ladies, for she who is queen of mine, the peerless." Don Quixote

"I will die a Saxon - true in word, open in deed - I bid thee avaunt! - touch me not, stay me not!" Ivanhoe

See what I mean? There are peerless words as well as women, and I think this may very well be one of them. I cannot think of a word it's equal in meaning or effect. Of course, that could be because it's nearly midnight...but I'd prefer to give the word the credit, not a tired brain ;) Ah, well, I have nothing more to give you but a scene/narrative/clip/call-it-whatever-you-like. Here it is:

"Pray, excuse me," I bowed to the gentlemen circled round me. "There is a matter I must attend to."

They all smiled genially, nodding "of course, of course" and turned their attention to one another. I paused at the doorway to look back. I was not missed. That much was evident, despite every assurance to the contrary given by my grandfather, father, and various other relations. I turned my back to the bright parlor with its soft music and easy conversation and hurried down the west wing. It was best this way. For me to be a visible participant in high society but not a member of any importance.

I took two flights of stairs and a hallway to reach the room my father had kindly reserved for my use. I shut the door as I would any other day. When the handle had clicked shut, though, I listened through the door for footfalls. Satisfied that I had not been followed, I strode to my desk with its twin globes on either end. I spun one until Australia was beneath the iron rim, the other so that Britain was in line. I smiled. My man had done his work well - not the faintest sound was audible. I turned to the bookshelves that lined the wall behind my desk and pressed against the center shelf. The door opened with only the shush of rug beneath and I slipped inside.

"I was beginning to wonder after you, mate." He was sprawled on the ground, throwing and catching his open knife in the air over and over.

"A senseless worry, I assure you," I said.

"If you say." He got to his feet and took a roll of parchment from inside his vest.

I was careful not to snatch the paper out of his grimy hands. I tucked it into my coat.

"You will be recompensed for the service you have rendered me," I said. "Give my name to a Mr. Douglas when you land. He shall see to it."

"And if I want it now?"

"You shall not receive it, Ned. Now, leave. We are finished here."

He stayed, eyeing me.

"Avaunt! Or I shall have you removed."

"Is that so, mate?" He stepped closer, until I could smell the leather and sun on him. "From the hidden compartment of your study? How will you do that?"

"I will do it myself."


More Bloggity Love

I have been bequeathed yet another award! Behold the verdant object:

It was given to me by Anita. She recently signed a book deal for her debut, SPLINTERED. I think all of her followers, myself included, were almost as excited by her news as she was ;) The banner of her blog matches the description of her book: eerie and whimsical. Anita isn't eerie herself, though. She's actually very amusing and friendly and just plain 'ole fun. Click over to her blog and browse if you have a minute :)

So the rules for this award are as follows:

1. Thank and link to the person(s) who nominated you.
2. Share seven random facts about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to five blogging buddies.
4. Contact those buddies to congratulate them.

When Anita was passed this award she shared seven reasons why her main character was cooler than her, because she's creative like that. All the reasons my MC is cooler than me boil down to one thing (and if I go through the un-boiled reasons, I'll get into all the cultural and ideological facets of those reasons and then this post will too long for consumption), so I'll give you the one reason my MC is cooler and then six random facts about myself. But first I have to thank Anita - the thanking rule should never be broken. Thank you, Anita!

And now, why my main character is cooler than me:

He's a Viking. Think this guy only younger:

I think that pretty much sums things up, don't you?

Now for randominity regarding me...

1. I'm half Italian. I have the dark hair and dark eyes to prove it, though I didn't get all of the Mediterranean skin tone.

2. I was obsessed with the Far East when I was younger. To the point where I made myself a kimono and wore chopsticks in my hair.

3. I've never been in an airport by myself. So the idea of flying to and from Italy alone and navigating terminals with no one to make sure I don't get lost or miss my connecting flights? Slightly terrifying.

4. I used to collect hotwheels. My sisters and I would set up hotwheel races with our cousin during holidays. Let me tell you, they don't run very well on carpet.

5. Purple is favorite color, which isn't saying much because everyone in my family loves purple, but still. I maintain my favor.

6. I want to have the entire Prince Valiant comic collection. My brother got a hardcover volume with original illustrations and...well, my love of Prince Valiant was immediately resurrected. Although, I think it may have ruined my brother for life. He keeps talking about how he wanted to be born when he could be a knight. Him and I were born in the wrong time period ;)

Well, that takes care of rules 1 and 2. Rule 3 is giving me problems though. See, within the last few posts (which is a few weeks for me) I've passed the Liebster and the Cute Blogger award on to fellow bloggers. I'm pretty much out of people to give award to that (a) I haven't given one to already or (b) haven't just gotten one themselves. So, if any of you lovely followers would like to pin the verdant square on your blog, take it with my leave and blessing. I'd be happy for any and all of you to have it.

Fair enough?