Vocabulary: C is for Cookie, and other Assorted Things

Today, let’s visit the letter C.  Consonants are a bitch to think up lists for because in English, rarely can you put two together to begin a word.  So once again I have two for you, except for cs and ct.  If some are in other languages, we’ll both learn some new words.  I’m learning as we go also.


Canard – a false or baseless rumor.  French for duck; may stem from a very old saying “to half-sell a duck,” or to cheat someone.1

Catafalque – the platform a dead dignitary rests on when his or her body lies in state.

Celebrity – a person of renown, a famous person.  What few writers will ever be; these days, seems dependent on having a spray tan, a purse dog and a very low IQ.

Centaur – a mythical being with the head, arms and torso of a human and the hindquarters of a horse.  In Harry Potter, they live in the forest surrounding Hogwarts Castle and are fierce, proud creatures.

Challah – (KHAL-uh) A Jewish egg bread eaten on Sabbath and holidays.  Traditionally braided.  I’ve personally never tried it because I sadly don’t know any Jewish people, but it looks delicious, doesn’t it?

Mmm, mmm!

Chifforobe – combination piece of furniture that looks like a small armoire stuck to a chest of drawers.  The word is mostly used in southern regions.  In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Mayella Ewell claims she asked Tom Robinson, her accused attacker, to come into the yard to bust up an old chifforobe for firewood.

Cilice – (SIL-is) originally, a haircloth garment worn by monks to produce repentant discomfort.  Now means any garment/device used for that purpose.  In Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, Silas wears a metal cilice around his leg that draws blood.  Modern metal cilices typically do not.  This is an example of artistic dramatic license.

Citrine – a greenish-yellow color.

Cliché – an overused phrase or word, such as flat as a pancake, pure as the driven snow, etc.  Writers should avoid these.  They make writing look amateurish and stale.

Cloaca – (klo-A-kuh) originally Latin for sewer.  The place where poo, pee and eggs come out of a chicken.  Don’t think about this before breakfast.

Copyeditor – the person who looks at manuscripts or ad copy for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.   All writers should be able to do at least a basic copy edit on their own work before submitting it to anyone!

Coelacanth – a lobe-finned fish with bluish scales. A deep-water dweller, thought to be extinct until a South African ship accidentally brought a live one up in a shark gill net in 1938.

Looks like he’s smiling.  You would be too if you’d made it through several million years of evolution.

Crepuscular – I bet you thought this had something to do with pus, didn’t you?  No, it means pertaining to, active at, or resembling twilight.   I guess that makes Edward Cullen crepuscular.

Crookshanks – Hermione’s cat in the Harry Potter books;  an ugly, orange, squashed-faced tom she regards with real affection.  He is half Kneazle, giving him unusual intelligence and an uncanny ability to ferret out untrustworthy people.

Part One of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows comes out in theaters November 19th!

Okay, Potternerdgasm over.  Back to the list!

CSI –crime scene investigation.  The TV drama CSI has been responsible for something real-life detectives and prosecutors term “the CSI effect,” meaning juries have come to expect miraculous revelations from crime scene techniques, which will point an unyielding finger at perpetrators.  In real life, this seldom happens.

Cthulu – one of H.P. Lovecraft’s Elder Gods, or Old Ones, ancient, sorta evil alien beings worshipped as deities.  Commonly known for looking as though his head was replaced by a squid, like Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Meme attempted.

Cudgel – an old-fashioned word for a heavy stick used as a weapon.  As in fairy tales: The robber set upon the miller with a cudgel and relieved him of his bag of treasure.

Cupola – (KYOO-pu-luh) that little dome-like thing on top of buildings that sometimes looks like a tiny gazebo.  Can be square.  Seen commonly on top of barns, domes, houses and towers.

Cupola mounted on a roof.

Image by ralph_man / Flickr.com

Cyanosis – a blue discoloration caused by lack of oxygen in the blood, as with blockage or cessation of breathing, or exposure to cold air or water.  Usually visible on a person’s lips.  Corpse-y detail mystery writers should remember.

Cyberpunk – science fiction genre characterized by high-tech, dystopian elements such as cybernetics, dope, urban decay and direct interactions with computers and human brains.  Very postmodern and film noir-ish.

I’m not familiar with this genre, but I’ve been dabbling in sci-fi recently.  If you have any recommendations of books or films you think I or other readers might enjoy, please share in the comments.  If I got it wrong, please tell me.  Thanks!

Czardas – Hungarian: czardas (CHAHR-dahsh) an intricate folk dance, the national dance of Hungary!  Look here for one performed at a Hungarian dance academy.

Czarism – a government like the one under the Russian czars, despotic.

1.  Citation: Modern Language Association (MLA): “canard.” Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 24 Oct. 2010. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/canard>.

4 thoughts on “Vocabulary: C is for Cookie, and other Assorted Things

  1. You’ve never tried Challah? It’s available sometimes at the supermarket where I shop and I’m sure there must be a bakery near you that carries it during the right occasions. My ex-wife used to make it sometimes. She was of Italian heritage so I’m not sure where she picked up the recipe. What she made was quite good. I think her challah bread was the only one I ever tried.
    When I used to play the viiolin as a kid I tried to master a song called “Czardas” which was kind of a showpiece for violinsts. I could never get it to sound right.


    Tossing It Out

    • I like him too. He does do that annoying end-of-chapter foreshadowing thing, like “Little did they know what would happen next.” But overall they’re pretty enjoyable. He writes good chase scenes.

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