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confusticate (kuhn-FUHS-ti-keyt) - v., (U.S., inf.) to confuse, confound, bewilder.

Especially by making things complicated. This dates back to around 1850 -- another colorful 19th century pseudolatinate coinage, a portmanteau of confuse and complicate. The contemporary version is, of course, confuscate. Despite being used primarily in the U.S., Bilbo Baggins uses it in The Hobbit.



Jul. 25th, 2017 08:05 am
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fishify (FISH-i-fai) - v., to turn into fish; (fig.) to drench in water (making as wet as a fish).

Thanks Shakespeare for ensuring this one survives, with Mercutio taunting Romeo, "Without his Roe, like a dried herring. O flesh, flesh, how art thou fishified?" (where Roe is both short for Rosaline, with whom he assumes Romeo has just spent the night, and another name for milt, or fish semen -- apparently Romeo is pale from his night's exertions with Juliet).



Jul. 24th, 2017 07:44 am
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yaffle (JAH-fuhl) - n., the European green woodpecker (Picus viridis).

Also called yaffingale, yappingale, laughing Betsy, yuccle, hickwall, rain-bird, weather-cock, and nickel pecker. The name is imitative of its laughing call.



Jul. 21st, 2017 08:45 am
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cursorial (kur-SOHR-ee-uhl) - adj., adapted for running.

Used of both limbs and the organism itself. For the latter, typically what's being described is long-distance running, like a horse or wolf, rather than short bursts, like a mouse or cheetah. Humans are, let it be noted, also cursorial. The word I acutally had on my list is hypercursorial, which seems to mean specialized to running as opposed to walking (I can't find an actual definition). Coined in 1836 from Latin cursōrius, of running, from cursor, runner, from cursus, past participle of currere, to run.



Jul. 19th, 2017 07:32 am
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khachapuri (ha-dja-POO-ree) - n., a Georgian cheese-filled pastry.

That's Georgia the country in the Caucasus, and this is the national dish. Supposedly better than pizza. That's a hard /h/ at the beginning, like the start of Hanukkah. From Georgian, natch, where the -puri part means bread, ultimately from ancient Greek purós, wheat, but the first part is tricky: it's either from xač̣o, curds, or xač̣a, the name of the baker who supposedly invented it -- frankly, the first sounds more likely, but what do I know.



Jul. 18th, 2017 07:35 am
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krummholz (KROOM-hohlts) - n., the stunted, twisted trees growing at the timber-line.

Said line being where it's too cold for trees to grow either on a mountain or in subarctic territory. The trees are bent that way because of the freezing winds, where they can only grow in cover -- and they bend over to make their own if need be. Adopted in 1903 from German Krummholz, from krumm, crooked/bent/twisted + Holz, wood (cognate of holt).

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septentrion (sep-TEM-tree-uhn) - n., (obs.) the northern regions, the North.

This one has been around since the late 1300s, originally as Septemtrio(u)n, adopted from Latin septentriō/septentriōnem, the northern regions, from septemtriōnēs/septentriōnēs, the seven stars of Ursa Major, from septem, seven + triōnēs, plowing oxen.



Jul. 12th, 2017 07:43 am
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pickthank (PIK-thangk) - n., (arch.) one who curries favor by providing flattery or gossip, a sycophant, a yes-man.

One who picks (i.e., seeks) for thanks. "Some pickthank contrived to let the little great man know what had taken place." First recorded in the 1490s, and used memorably by Shakespeare:
Yet such extenuation let me beg,
As, in reproof of many tales devised,
which oft the ear of greatness needs must hear,
By smiling pick-thanks and base news-mongers
1 Henry IV, III.2


Jul. 11th, 2017 07:32 am
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yean (YEEN) - v.t., (arch.) (of sheep or goats) to give birth to.

To lamb, only also applicable to goats. In Old English, it was almost always specifically to lamb, and the ultimate PIE root is *h₂egʷnos, a lamb. But as anyone who has looked at caprids knows, they are a spectrum and it can be hard to tell, among the the varieties in the middle, which is a sheep and which a goat -- and indeed the hanzi 羊 means any caprid. Regardless, I find it cool that we have, or once had, a verb specific to giving birth to a lamb or kid.



Jul. 10th, 2017 07:46 am
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xebec or zebec (ZI-bek) - n., a three-masted Mediterranean sailing ship with overhanging bow and stern and usually both square and lateen sails.

Originally often used by corsairs, then adapted more to cargo. Here's examples of full lateen-rigged and mixed square-lateen rigged xebecs:

Lateen-rigged xebec
(thanks Wikimedia Commons)

Note that I had any leftover x-words or anything. Borrowed in 1757 as chebec from French chébec, from either Spanish xabeque (modern jabeque) or Catalan xabec (which latter influenced the English spelling), ultimately from Arabic šabbāk, small warship/fishing boat, from šabaka, to entwine.



Jul. 7th, 2017 08:04 am
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xiphias (ZEE-fee-uhs) - n., the swordfish or broadbill (Xiphias gladius).

This puppy, named for its swordlike bill:

Swordfish or broadbill

A predatory, highly migratory fish found worldwide. The common name comes from he Latin name, xiphiās, in turn from Greek xiphías, from xíphos, sword. Since a gladius is a type of Roman sword, this means the scientific name means "Swordfish sword." Sheesh.

That wraps it up for X-words. Back next week with the regular mix of mixed-up words.



Jul. 5th, 2017 07:41 am
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xeme (ZEEM) - n., a small Arctic fork-tailed gull (Xema sabini or Larus sabini).

More commonly called Sabine's gull or fork-tailed gull. Authorities seem to agree that the name comes from the genus, and as far as anyone can tell, it's an invented genus name, with no meaning from any roots (it only looks Greek). So, yeah. You can still play it in Scrabble, regardless.



Jul. 3rd, 2017 07:47 am
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Theme week! -- the letter X.

xanthic (ZAN-thik) - adj., yellowish.

Or sometimes just yellow. Compare xanthous, which is yellow, or sometimes yellowish. I'd understand if you mixed up the two in daily use. Both are from Greek root xanthós, yellow, with basically equivalent adjectival endings.

No post tomorrow because of a local holiday. Stay safe!



Jun. 30th, 2017 07:41 am
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mulligrubs (MUHL-i-gruhbz) - n., a despondent, sullen, or ill-tempered mood; (obs.) a griping of the intenstines, colic.

When this first appeared, at the end of the sixteenth century, it was spelled mulliegrums, and it's speculated that it's possibly an alteration of megrims, headache (itself a mangling of French migraine). Regardless, the sullenness was the original meaning, with the colic somehow added later -- and then largely obsolesced. The mood survives in some British dialects, especially Australian, but deserves wider circulation.



Jun. 28th, 2017 07:46 am
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spandrel or spandril (SPAN-druhl) - n., the approximately triangular surface bounded by the outer curve of an arch and an adjacent straight-side figure bounding it; the surface between two adjacent arches and the horizontal cornice above them; a triangular space under a stair, or the material that fills the space; a horizontal, usually decorated member between the windows of each story of a tall building; the space, or the decoration within it, on a stamp between an oval figure and the corner.

Two spandrels marked S (thanks, Merriam-Webster). Lots of space-filling uses between a curve and a bounding rectangle. Used since the 15th century as spandrell, from Anglo-French spaunder, probably from espandre, to spread out, from Latin expandere, to expand.


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