Vocabulary – P

P is for pizza, prestidigitation, paranoia, and pizza.  Did I mention pizza?  Yes, I’m hungry.


Paisley –a drop-shaped, ornamental fabric pattern.   It originated in Iran, but the word paisley comes from a town in Scotland.  The pattern is very popular even today in the Middle East and southeast Asia.  As a kid, I had a paisley dress of which I was very fond.


Image:  Makemake / Wikimedia Commons

Pallid – pale.   In The Yearling, Penny Baxter is bitten by a large timber rattler.  Author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings describes his face as “green and pallid, like a frog’s belly.”

Note also the use of simile as illustrating the point-of-view character Jody—his thoughts, comparisons, etc. reflect his world.  He would not have compared his father’s pale face to a ream of fine silk, for example.

Pearlescent – a lustrous finish, like a pearl’s surface.

The Doctor bent so close to the beached alien’s glistening, pearlescent surface that his nose nearly disappeared.  “I smell–NOTHING,” he said.  “If this is really a Zaken, it should smell like kippers and chutney.” 

Penury (PEN-yuh-ree) – extreme poverty or deprivation.

Phallic – pertaining to or resembling a penis.


Image:  AgnosticPreachersKid / Wikimedia Commons

Phrenology – a pseudoscience where measurements of the skull and bumps on the head are studied and thought to reveal aspects of the person’s character.  It was popular in the early to mid-nineteenth century.

Piquerism (pick-er-ism)– From the French piquer, to prick.  A fetish involving pleasure at piercing the skin of another person with sharp objects.  Found this one when studying serial killers.

Batman’s lip curled in disgust at the collection of dark-stained pins, sharpened chopsticks, and nails in the drawer.  From the condition of the bodies, he had suspected the same as Gordon—the Pokey Stick Killer engaged in piquerism.  Now he had proof. 

Placebo – a substance that produces a result, such as cessation of pain, but which has no medicinal power.  The result is typically psychological, and is termed “the placebo effect.”

During the sixth season of M*A*S*H*, the 4077th was stuck with a bad batch of morphine, and tried to convince patients that sugar pills were a special new painkiller, until a fresh shipment could arrive.

They know what they’re doing. Most of the time….

Image:  aftermash.blogspot.com

Pluperfect – also called past perfect, the past tense form that shows something happened before something else.   Usually the writer will use had to show this.

Many writers don’t like to use had over and over throughout a passage, such as a flashback, in this tense.  It’s perfectly acceptable to start with it, and then switch to regular past tense.  To avoid confusing the reader, the end of the passage should return to past perfect.  This will close it and return to the present.

Giles stood over the sleeping Buffy.  He wondered if she were dreaming about the last time they had encountered the Kek demons.  Buffy threw them through the flimsy drywall, leaving chunks all over the floor, along with green bloodstains and loose scales.  Her powerful kicks left holes in their chests.  Light fixtures lay like broken Easter eggs around the room.  The mess was incredible.  They had barely escaped the building before Willow’s magical barrier had worn off.

He went to her and shook her gently.  “Wake up, little Slayer,” he murmured.  “Time to go home.”

Polymath – a person who is well-versed in many subjects.  Leonardo da Vinci is probably history’s most famous example.

Prurient – lustful, lascivious.

“I say, Jenkins, this phallic Dorchester architecture is engendering the most prurient thoughts,” Miss Havisham said, fanning her neck.

Image: Quinnanya / Wikimedia Commons

Psittacosis (sit-uh-KO-sis) – an infectious disease caused by breathing an organism found in parrot poop.

Psilosis (sahy-LO-sis) – hair loss.  Not caused by parrots.

Pteronophobia – fear of feathers.  No, really.

Puerile (PYOO-er-il) – pertaining to a child; immature, childish.

“You must be slipping, Joker,” Batman said.  “Your traps have become puerile.  A half-dead alley cat could have escaped that one.” 

Python – a large, non-venomous snake of the family Pythonidae, found in Africa, Asia, and Australia.  Pythons are constrictors—that is, they wrap around their prey and squeeze them to death, then swallow them whole.

Also make good cat toys, apparently.

Image:  Josh Scheinert/BNPS.co.uk / telegraph.co.uk

That’s all for this post.  I must go prepare for possible severe weather.  I’ll wave if I fly by your house.


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