Vocabulary: X-actly What You Needed on a Lazy Sunday

It’s time for another fun vocabulary post!  Today’s letter is x.  It marks the spot, denotes a signature, and looks like someone making a snow angel.


Image:  Kerys / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Because of the letter’s rarity in English, many words that begin with x have Greek origins.  You pronounce the x at the beginning with a z sound.  I’ve included pronunciation for some of the less familiar ones.

X axis – The horizontal line on a graph.  It’s math; don’t ask me.  Ask these people who think math is fun (it’s not).

Xanthophyll (ZAN-thu-fill) – This word tripped up Laura (Ingalls) in Little Town on the Prairie during a town-wide spelling bee.  It’s a yellowish or brown pigment that causes colors in autumn leaves.

If you haven’t read the Little House books because you think they’re for kids, go back and reevaluate your life.  Then read them.  They’re much, much better than the television series, which I loved as a child but find completely unwatchable now (except for certain select episodes, most having to do with Alison Arngrim’s delightfully wicked Nellie Oleson).

How could you not love this?!

How could you not love this?!

Image:  @iamnellieoleson / Twitter.com

Xerophyte –  A plant that can survive with very little water.  You often see xeriscapes, or gardens made up of such plants, in arid regions.

Xerotic – No, it doesn’t have anything to do with porn actors doing the nasty on top of a Xerox machine.  Get your mind out of the gutter, you dirty thing.  (Or not; I like that in a person.)

Medical folks refer to abnormal dryness of the skin, mucous membranes, or conjunctiva (in the eye) as xerotic.  Anybody with eczema (like me) probably has a touch of xerosis.

Xenophobia – An intense fear of strangers, or of that which is foreign to one.

“Doctor, maybe we shouldn’t go near those aliens,” Clara whispered nervously.  “They look rather fierce.”

“Nonsense!” the Doctor said. “One unfortunate trait of humans is a predilection for irrational xenophobia.  You’ll see what I mean when Earth gets to the 2016 elections in the U.S.  Let’s go say hello.”


“On second thought, a little xenophobia can be a very healthy thing.  Run!” 

Xhosa (HO-sa) – a South African ethnic group who comprise 8 million members made up of several tribes.  Their titular language is the second most widely spoken after Zulu.  Read more about them at Wikipedia.

Beautiful kids!

Image:  Zakysant / Wikipedia.com / CC BY-SA 3.0

Xilinous (ZY-li-nuss) – Pertaining to cotton.

“I believe that this xilinous material will burn,” said the Doctor.

“G-good,” Sarah Jane replied through chattering teeth, “because this b-bloody planet’s like ice.  Let’s get a fire going, Doctor.”

Xiphoid (say it like typhoid with a z) – Sword-shaped.

Xoanon (zo-annon) – A wooden cult image from ancient Greece.  None have survived except where reproduced in other materials such as stone.

Give me some of that xilinous material. It’s cold in here.

Image: User Mountain / Wikipedia.com

Xù (Vietnamese) –  A South Vietnamese coin that was the equivalent of a cent (one one-hundreth of a dông, which I guess was like a dollar).  Click the links to hear some native speakers pronounce the words.

Xylorimba – A musical instrument like a xylophone with an extended range–it covers many of the sounds a marimba and a standard xylophone can make.

Check out this man demonstrating one on YouTube.

Xylograph – An engraving in wood used for printing.  You see these prints a lot in medieval illustrations, where they’re often called woodcuts.

That’s all for today, kids.  See you next post!

Vocabulary – W is an upside-down M

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter W!

Waftage – the state of being wafted, or an old meaning: transportation through water or air.

I experienced major waftage on my recent flight to London. 

Wastrel – a spendthrift, or a foundling waif (abandoned child)

Welkin (Middle English; chiefly literary) The vault of heaven; the sky

Sea of clouds


Photo:  Elizabeth West

Wether – a castrated male sheep; also wool from a previously shorn sheep.

Whey – the liquid that separates from the curd during the cheese-making process.

Whoreson – a bastard (illegitimate); a disliked and unpleasant person.

I shall smite you, contemptible whoreson!  Also, yer mama!

Image: Eugene Onegin and Vladimir Lensky’s duel. Ilya Repin (1844–1930) / Wikimedia Commons

Widdershins – counterclockwise.

The Doctor and Clara watched in horror as the bewitched TARDIS lifted into the air and began to spin widdershins, throwing off sparks like purple lightning.  

Windigo (Ojibwa; others) also wendigo – a Native American cannibalistic spirit.  Stephen King played with this in Pet Sematary.  The word also refers to the transformation of a person who has eaten human flesh.  A psychiatric syndrome specific to this culture occurs when a person is under the delusion that he has become a windigo.

Woollies (British) – slang for woolen garments, particularly a sweater (in British English, a jumper).  I used this word in Secret Book, heh heh.

Woolly wearing a woolly.  :3

Woolly wearing a woolly.  :3 Buy the woolly at the link below.

Image:  hollyandlil.co.uk

Wormery – a container in which worms are kept for study or to make compost.  Find out more about the second use and how to make your own wormery here.

By the way, I learn from these posts as well; I had no idea you could make a wormery until just now.

Writhe (rhymes with tithe) to squirm about as in pain or effort; contort.  Like worms do when you try to pick them up.

Wroth (Middle English) angry.

“Verily, I was wroth to see the condition of the village after its plundering,” the knight said.

Wunderkind (German) “wonder child,” a child prodigy; one who becomes successful when very young.


Allegedly, I was very successful at farting.

Image:  Portrait of a boy. Attributed to Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725–1805).  Wikimedia Commons. Unconfirmed portrait possibly of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Wuthering – the roaring of a strong wind.  See the famous Gothic romance Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brönte; the title is the name of the house in the book.  One could argue that the winds that were the house’s namesake reflect the tumultuous relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff.

Wye – a structure, particularly a railroad track, shaped like a Y.

Also the beautiful Wye Valley in Wales.  Yes, I put this in so I could use this picture that I took at Tintern Abbey.  Read William Wordsworth’s beautiful poem Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798 at this link.

Wye Valley- looking over Tintern Abbey ruins

Photo:  Elizabeth West

That’s all for today, kids.  May your waftage over the Wye land you not in a wormery, and don’t forget your woollies.

Vocabulary – V is for, well, Vocabulary!

Today’s vocabulary letter is V!  V is for vapid, vegan, and Voldemort.  Whoops, I shouldn’t have said that last one—someone’s knocking at the door.

Looks like he’s busy--I’m safe for now.

Looks like he’s busy–I’m safe for now.

Image:  potterforums.com

Let’s begin!

Vagary – unpredictable, wild, erratic action or quality.

Vacillate – go back and forth, as with a decision.

The Doctor vacillated on whether to go immediately to the Sticky Planet or stop in London first for a pair of wellies. 

Vellum – calf, lamb, or goatskin treated for use as a writing surface.

Come near me with that quill, and I’ll show YOU a surface. 

Come near me with that quill, and I’ll show YOU a surface.

Image:  wisegeek.com

Verdigris (VUR-di-grees) – the green or blue coating you see on copper, brass, or bronze. It can result from exposure and consists of poisonous copper carbonate, copper chloride, or copper acetate.

If you visit the Statue of Liberty, don’t lick it.

If you visit the Statue of Liberty, don’t lick it.

Image:  Elcobobbola / Wikimedia Commons

Vicarious – received in place of another; experienced via imaginative participation.

Viviparous – producing live young.

“I believe this alien is viviparous,” Scully said at autopsy, peering intently into the body cavity and ignoring Mulder’s retching.  “I see evidence that it’s given birth.

Vouchsafe – to allow or give by favour or graciousness.

Vorticose – like a vortex; whirling.

Vulpine – foxlike or pertaining to foxes.

Vulcanology – the study of volcanoes.  From Vulcan, the Roman god of fire.


Images:  museumvictoria.com and startrek.com

Vying – competing.

Buffy’s hand rested comfortably on Mr. Pointy.  She knew she could defeat all the vamps who were vying for a chunk of her slender neck. 




Vocabulary – U is for Universe, which is being a b*tch right now

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter U.  U stands for unit, ukulele, ugly, and universe.  I’m not speaking to that last one at the moment.  If the universe were a significant other, it’d be sleeping on the couch.

Shall we begin?

Uakari – a New World monkey with a short tail.  This little guy lives in the Amazon Basin.

“Margaret, I told you to bring the sunscreen, but you just wouldn’t listen, would you?”

“Margaret, I told you to bring the sunscreen, but you just wouldn’t listen, would you?”

 Image:  Eugenia Kononova/Wikipedia.org

Ubiquitous – a state of being in which a thing exists everywhere all the time or is very common.

Hamish noted the ubiquitous presence of idiots on the internet, as evidenced by their constant trolling. 

Ubiety (yoo-BUY-i-tee) – a condition in which you are in a particular location.  From the Latin ubi (where).  I cannot think of a reason why I would use this word with any regularity.

Udo (OOH-doe) – Japanese word for the Aralia cordata plant also known as “Sun King” or mountain asparagus (parts are edible).  Native to Japan, Korea, and eastern China.  Grown in Western countries as an ornamental perennial.

In your garden, throwin’ some shade.

In your garden, throwin’ some shade.

Image:  whiteflowerfarm.com

Udder – you know what this is.  Do I really have to tell you?

That’s udderly ridiculous!

That’s udderly ridiculous!

Image:  funnypica.com  

Ufology – the study of UFOs, or unidentified flying objects (flying saucers).  Widely regarded as a pseudoscience.

Ugsome, Scotland, Northern UK – loathsome, ugly, disgusting, or offensive.  (Dear Scottish friends–is this even a thing?  If so, I love it.)

Uhlan, German – a light cavalry unit armed with lances and sabers, first seen in Polish armies (in Polish, ulan).  Might be an interesting subject for historical fiction.  I put in a link to the word on Wikipedia because they’re kind of fascinating.

See, totally badass. 

See, totally badass.

Image:  Juliusz Kossak/Wikipedia.org

Uintaite (yoo-IN-tuh-ite) – No, really.  A very pure asphalt mined in the Uinta Mountains of Utah and used to harden soft petroleum products.

Not to be mistaken for licorice. 

Not to be mistaken for licorice.

Image:  gilsonit.com

UK – abbreviation for United Kingdom.  The United Kingdom consists of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.  You do not need to write it with a period (full stop in British English) after each letter.

Ukase (yoo-KASE), Russian – an edict by the czar or autocratic government that held force of law.

Ultima – the last syllable of a word.  Or a Final Fantasy spell.

Ululate – to howl shrilly or produce a trilling sort of wail.

Here’s a ululation:

Here’s another one (this used to scare the shit out of me as a little kid):

Umlaut (OOM-lowt), German – those two dots placed over a letter; shows altered pronunciation.  In German a, o, and u may have the umlaut:

  • ä becomes eehhh.
  • ö sounds like uhhr.
  • To pronounce the ü with an umlaut, you purse your lips into a tight O and say oo.

 “Yes, mein Führer,” said the commandant. 

(Note:  I’m using this example because everybody knows how to pronounce this.)    

Umbrage – offense, displeasure.  To take umbrage is to become offended by something.

The ultimate Umbridge (get it?)  ;)

The ultimate Umbridge (get it?)  ;)

Image:  harrypotter.wikia.com

Unbosom – No, this does not mean to let your girls out of their cage.  It means to disclose or unburden yourself of thoughts and feelings in confidence, such as during a weepy post-breakup sesh with your BFF.

Ungoliant – a being in the Tolkien universe in the shape of a great spider (arggh!).  Mother of Shelob, who tried to eat Frodo and was thwarted by Samwise after Gollum took him up the steps of Cirith Ungol in The Return of the King.

If you understood that last sentence, you are awarded one nerd point.  If you did not, shame on you; at least watch the Lord of the Rings films.

Oh dear God.

Oh dear God.

Image:  lotr.wikia.com

Upbraid – to reproach someone; tell them off severely.

Giles upbraided Buffy for going into the vampires’ nest alone and without Mr. Pointy. 

Upwind – where you want to be standing when someone farts.

Urticaria – a rash caused by an allergic reaction; what you get when you touch poison ivy, oak, or sumac.

Leaves of three; let it be!

Leaves of three; let it be!

Image:  fcps.edu

Ursine – of, like, or pertaining to bears.

Usurp (yoo-SURP) – to seize by force, take without a right to do so.

“Well, that’s unfortunate,” the Doctor said. “Apparently, on this planet, landing the TARDIS directly on the throne is interpreted as an attempt to usurp it.”

Usury – the practice of lending money at batshit crazy interest rates (illegal and unethical).

Who you callin’ unethical?!

Who you callin’ unethical?!

Photo: Rex Features via telegraph.co.uk

Utopia – an ideal society, one that is nearly perfect.  Think Federation planets such as Earth in Star Trek: The Next Generation, upon which poverty, hunger, and war had been eliminated.

Utilize – a fancy way to say use.  Which I hate.  HATE HATE HATE THIS WORD.  Mark Twain, a fierce proponent of plain language, is supposed to have said, “Don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do.”

Uvula (yoov-yoo-lah) – also known as the hangy ball!  It’s that little thing that hangs down in the back of your throat.  Nobody is quite sure just exactly what the uvula does.  I couldn’t find a picture of one that wasn’t gross, so here is a picture of a kitten in a sweater instead.


Image: neatorama.com

That’s all we have time for today, boys and girls.  I must go read some tomes I got from the library that pertain to Secret Book.  Or eat something; I just realized I forgot to do that.  See you next time.

Vocabulary: T Time!

Back with another vocabulary post!  Today’s letter is T, which stands for tea (I’m enjoying a cuppa right now, actually), tacky, television, and terpsichore.   And here we go!

Tardigrade – a tiny invertebrate, also known as a water bear, that is tougher than you.  Read this National Geographic article about why that is true (cool pictures too).

TARDIS – stands for “Time and Relative Dimension in Space.”  What? You don’t watch Doctor Who?

What in the name of Gallifrey is wrong with you?

What in the name of Gallifrey is wrong with you?

Image:  doctorwho.co.uk

It’s the Doctor’s spaceship.  Series 8 has just begun.  The Twelfth Doctor is played by Peter Capaldi, who happens to also be a huge fan of the long-running sci-fi show.  This is gonna be great, heh heh.

Okay, I’ll give you another Ta word, since the TARDIS isn’t a real thing. *sob*

Tachycardia – an excessively rapid heartbeat.

Tchotchke – a knickknack or cheap ornament.

“I am Groot,” Groot said and snickered, pointing at the tchotchkes lined up on the spaceship’s console.  

“Can it, shrub,” Rocket said.  “Those are my special things.  Knock ‘em over and you’re firewood.” 

Teapoy (Indian) – a little three-legged table used for serving tea.

Tesseract – a four-dimensional cube within a cube.

I’m in your universe, messing with your mind.

I’m in your universe, messing with your mind.

Image: JasonHise / Wikipedia.com

Theremin – a musical instrument played by moving the hands in a field, creating oscillations that are translated into sound.  It is named after its inventor, Leon Theremin.

Composer Bernard Herrmann used one to great effect in the score for the original (superior) film, The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).  Click here to watch a video of Theremin playing his invention.  Then go watch the movie on YouTube.

Thespian – refers to the dramatic arts or tragedy; also an actor or actress.

Tilde (TIL-deh)– the little squiggle appearing over some letters; it indicates a nasal pronunciation.  Example:  the Spanish word mañana (tomorrow).

Titular – having a title, or referring to something or someone in title only.

Topiary (TOH-pee-air-ee)– clipping of hedges or shrubbery into shapes.

Read The Shining, by Stephen King.  There is a whole thing about the topiary at the Overlook hotel that will make you never feel safe around hedge animals ever again.

They look innocent enough… 

They look innocent enough…

Image:  travel-paradise.blogspot.com

Toff  –  British slang word referring to a member of the upper class.

Treacle (British) – what we call molasses in the U.S.  Also used to indicate something sickeningly sweet.

“Shall I flatter you, detective?” Moriarty cooed.  “You’re sooo smart, aren’t you?  Does that make you feel all special?” 

“That’s quite enough treacle,” Sherlock said.  “Get on with your evil plot.  I know you’ve got one.    

Trumpery – foolish twaddle, useless, worthless.  Can be either a noun or an adjective.

Tsonga – Bantu language spoken by people in Mozambique, Zambia, and South Africa.  I’m sorry I could not find a link to anyone speaking it.  Learn more here.

Tulle (French) – a thin, fine netting woven of rayon, silk, or acetate.  Used for veils and tutus.

Turgid – swollen, inflated.

“Looking a bit turgid there, Marge; been eating too many salty crisps, have you?” 

“Looking a bit turgid there, Marge; been eating too many salty crisps, have you?”

Image:  harrypotter.wikia.com

Twixt – between.

Twee (British) – dainty, cute or quaint to an excessive degree.

Typhoon – a tropical cyclone or hurricane, mainly Pacific

Like the one that caused this.

Like the one that caused this.

Image:  gilligansisle.com

Tyro (also tiro) – a beginner or novice in anything.

Tzimmes (Yiddish) – also spelled tsimmes, this is a Jewish dish, a stew made from carrots and other root vegetables and dried fruits.  It is eaten at Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year festival.

I don’t know about you, but I think this looks freaking delicious.

I don’t know about you, but I think this looks freaking delicious.

Image: toriavey.com

That’s all the T words I have for you today, people.  Not as many funny ones for this letter.   Until next time!

Vocabulary – S is for (lots of) Stuff

I might have done two R posts—I lost track.  Whatever.  On to the letter S!

S stands for silly, sentimental, sexy, and smart, all things that I am.  Modest too—oh, that doesn’t begin with S?  Too bad!

This may be a long list, unless I can’t find anything.  S pairs with quite a few consonants.

Sacristy – a room in a church where sacred objects, candles, vestments, etc. are kept.

 Image:  Wikipedia.com

Salacious – lecherous, indecent.  When someone leers at you in a creepy, perverted manner, they’re being salacious.

Moriarty gave Sherlock a salacious glance, licking his bottom lip.


Can you blame him? Sherlock is delicious.

Image:  benedictcumberbatch.co.uk

Scintillate – to sparkle or flash, as with brilliance or charm.  Or actual sparks, if you’ve just stuck a fork into a socket.

(PS:  Don’t do that.)

Scarify – to make incisions or break up something, as with skin or soil.  Also used to denote cutting or wounding remarks.

 Professor McGonagall’s criticism of her methods scarified Dolores Umbridge.  Although she laughed politely, later in her office, she broke four kitten plates in her fury.    

Seine (sayne) – a vertical fishing net.  Also a river in France that flows through Paris into the English Channel.

Sexton – the caretaker of a church, its grounds, and the attached graveyard, if it has one.  A sexton may also ring the bells for services.  These days, most modern churches have electronic carillons, but some older ones still have actual bell ringers.

Bell ropes in the church of All Saints, UK.

Image: Evelyn Simak / Wikimedia Commons

Shtick – in comedy, a bit of business that draws attention to the actor or character, especially one associated with that person.

A good example would be Jack Tripper’s physical clumsiness in the old Three’s Company sitcom, though the schtick doesn’t have to be physical comedy.  Another one would be Ellen DeGeneres’s verbal rambling (Bob Saget does this too).

Sic (Latin) – an adverb meaning thus, or short for sic erate scriptum, or “thus was it written.”  When you see it in a document, it means that whatever text it refers to is reproduced exactly as it appeared in the original, even if there are spelling errors.  You put brackets around it instead of parentheses, like this:  [sic].   It does NOT mean spelling incorrect.

Skive – 1. to shave or remove the surface of something, as with leather.  2. (British) to evade or shirk work or some other responsibility.

 We’re experts at it.

We’re experts at it.

 Image:  eclecticdragonfly

Sluggard – lazy person.

Smirch – to smear or stain something; a stain or smudge.  What a sluggard might have on his clothes if he’s too lazy to do laundry.

Snaffle – a common bit used for horses, made of a bit piece (jointed) with two rings on either side.  The bit acts to guide the horse through direct pressure when the rider pulls on the reins.  It does not amplify the pressure the way other bits do.

Mmrrff mgmmmpphhh fmmmmpphfgg.

 Image:  Thowra_uk / Wikipedia

Sommelier (French) – Pronounced saw-muh-LYAY.  The waiter in charge of the wine in a fancy restaurant.

Spiracle – an insect’s breathing hole.

Squalid – filthy, neglected.  Often refers to living conditions resulting from extreme poverty.

Stentorian – loud, a sound with great power.

 Principal Wood read the names of the misbehaving students into the microphone in stentorian tones.  Buffy winced as the Scooby Gang’s monikers were announced one by one. 

Suctorial – adapted for suction, an organ for sucking or producing suction (such as tentacles or the mouthparts of leeches).  Leeches are harmless and don’t hurt; I’ve had one or two on me when I used to play in the creek as a kid.  Doctors have been using them for various treatments even today.

 I’m in yer hand, suckin’ yer bad bloods out.

I’m in yer hand, suckin’ yer bad bloods out.

 Image:  spinalstenosis.org

 Okay, I’m sorry about that; it was kind of gross.  Here’s another picture of Sherlock to get that out of your head.

Sherlock again

Image: benedictcumberbatch.co.uk

 Mmmmm, yesssss……my preciousss…..oh sorry, where were we?

Svelte – slender.

Sward – a piece of land covered with grass.  Hear the word greensward in Daffy’s song here:

Syncope (SING-kuh-pee) – the medical term for fainting. 

That’s all for today, kids.  Find a word you like?  Use it—it’s free!

Vocabulary – R is for Rawr!


I’ve finished the hard copy edit of Tunerville.  Now to put the marks and changes I made on the paper manuscript into the digital one.  I think I’ll do that in the evenings, so I don’t have to lug that damn binder around.

I had a doctor’s appointment the other day and ended up waiting for an hour, but luckily, I had the manuscript with me and just sat there and edited.  Once I got away from the idiots in the waiting room who would not shut up, that is. 


Today’s vocabulary letter is R, the favorite letter of pirates everywhere.  Rrrrr!

Oh, it’s not?  Really?  Well, it’s a pretty cool letter anyway.  Lots of interesting words begin with R.  Let’s look at some, shall we?

Rawr!  Okay, that’s not really a word.  But it’s my favorite. 

Raconteur:  a teller of tales and anecdotes.  No, it isn’t meant to describe writers; it refers to oral stories.  Beowulf is an oral tale passed down for generations before somebody finally wrote it down so generations of English students could gnash their teeth over it. 

Hint:  it’s easier to understand if you read it aloud.  

Raita:  (RY-tah) Hindi.  A dish made of yogurt and spices and/or vegetables eaten in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.  It’s used as a sauce or dip, and sometimes a salad.  I haven’t tried it, but I like Indian food so someday I might.  We have a decent restaurant here. 

A raita with cucumber and mint. Try not to double dip, you dirty thing.

  Image:  Elisabeth Nara/Wikimedia Commons

Realism:  in literature, theater, or art, portraying things as they really are, i.e. in a realistic manner.  Also a literary movement in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that deeply analyzed characters and situations.  Mark Twain, Henrik Ibsen, and Norman Mailer have all been classified as realists.

Recalcitrant:  resists authority, is hard to manage. 

No matter how hard Watson tried, he could not persuade a recalcitrant Sherlock to sit down and relax for a while. 

Well, I give up….

Well, I give up….

Image: stupidfacesofsherlock.tumblr.com/

Rhetoric:  This is a tough one, because it has more than one meaning.  Collins English Dictionary has four definitions:


the study of the technique of using language effectively


the art of using speech to persuade, influence, or please; oratory


excessive use of ornamentation and contrivance in spoken or written discourse; bombast


speech or discourse that pretends to significance but lacks true meaning: all the politician says is mere rhetoric

(rhetoric. Dictionary.com. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/rhetoric (accessed: February 16, 2014).

In my Analysis of Scientific Literature, we used definition 1 to study how science writers got their points across.  Pretty interesting, but I often got so wrapped up in reading the actual articles that I forgot to analyze them.  Because science is cool. 

Rhizogenic:  produces roots. 

The Doctor shook his head sadly.  “This poor alien’s rhizogenic properties doomed him.  See, he could not get out of the Cyberman’s way and was crushed.” 

“Doctor,” Sarah Jane said.  “That’s a carrot.” 

“Well, so it is.  Must have left my glasses in the TARDIS!  Hmm…suddenly, I’d like a salad.  With extra aliens, if you please!”

Rictus:  gaping or open mouth.  I’ve seen / heard this word refer to a grimace as well. 

Riposte:  a sharp and fast retort.  This is what you give when someone disses you and you zap them right back. 

Roister: (verb) to swagger, to revel boisterously.  

Kinda like this.

Kinda like this.

Image: WikiPaintings.com.  Painting by Jan Steen (1626–1679)

Rotund:  round in shape, plump or fat. 

“What a lovely, rotund roast of beef that is, Margaret,” Sir Giles said, licking his chops. “I can’t wait to tuck in.”

Rudimentary:  basic, primitive. 

“Your brain defines rudimentary when compared to mine,” Sherlock said, seemingly failing to notice that Moriarty’s lady friend was sneaking up behind him about to clock him with a vase. 

Ruminate:  to chew cud, as with a cow (ruminant).  Also to ponder something. 

EASTER EGG ALERT!  My sister and I had a lot of fun with this one.  The writer of the early Nancy Drew books, Carolyn Keene (pseudonym for a number of contract writers) made Nancy ruminate over something.  Of course, we knew the other definition first and laughed for days over Nancy chewing her cud.  I use this word in every book I write, for my sister. 

Rye:  a cereal grain used for bread, animal food, and some whiskeys.  A good rye bread is very tasty.  I like the dark kind myself. 

An ear of rye. Similar to but not the same as ryegrass. Don’t try to make bread from that stuff on your lawn.

Image: Wikipedia

That’s all the vocabulary I have for today, people.  Go out and word!

Vocabulary – Mind Your Qs

The letter Q!  An O with a tail!

My literary association with this letter comes from renowned children’s author Beverly Cleary‘s character, Ramona Quimby.   In Ramona the Brave, our intrepid heroine enters first grade, and daring to be different, writes her last initial as a little kitty drawing.

If you’ve never read these charming stories, please do.  They realistically depict family life through the eyes of a spunky little girl.  Author of the Henry Huggins series, The Mouse and the Motorcycle and Dear Mr. Henshaw, Cleary is one of the most beloved children’s writers ever.

And who could forget John de Lancie’s omnipotent, immortal character Q on Star Trek: The Next Generation, who annoyed Captain Picard on a regular basis?

This will be a short list, since Q doesn’t go with many other consonants and few vowels in English except U.  Onward!

Qat (kaht) – Catha edulis, a plant native to Africa and the Arabian peninsula that has narcotic leaves.  Qat—also khat or gat—can be chewed or made into tea.  It’s a controlled substance in the U.S., so don’t go looking for it.

Betcha legendary wild food dude Euell Gibbons never tried this.

Image:  Kaupatuka / Wikimedia Commons

Qiviute (kiv-ee-ute) – Inuit.  The wooly undercoat of the musk ox.  Yarn made from this substance is EXPENSIVE.  As I just learned to knit, this is relative to my interests, though not necessarily my pocketbook.

“What? Cold out here? Naaah.”

Image:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Wikimedia Commons

Quahog (KO-hog) – Native American, Narragansett tribe.  Everyone who watches Family Guy knows this one.  It’s the name of the city the Griffins live in, but it’s also a hard shell clam found around the eastern U.S. shores.

Quaver – to shake or quiver, or to speak in a trembling voice.

Quelch – to squash, squelch.

Buffy and Angel successfully quelched the demon uprising while managing to keep their hair perfect. 

Querulous – complaining, whiny.

The very definition of the word.

The very definition of the word.

Image:  escapepod.org

Quinsy – an old word for a swollen, pustular abscess in the throat, a complication of tonsillitis.  It’s thought to be George Washington’s last illness.  Tonsillitis doesn’t sound like much, but in the days when bloodletting was the typical treatment for sickness, any infection could (and typically was) fatal.  Although when you think about it, the bleeding probably did the job all by itself.

“Pass the cough drops, please, Martha.”

Image:  Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828)  / Wikimedia Commons

Quiescent (kwee-ES-uh nt) – the state of being quiet, still, or at rest.

Kinda like this.

Image:  Alexx1979 / Wikimedia Commons

Quid pro quo – Latin.  This for that, an equal exchange.  A legal term, this expression was made famous by Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in the film version of Thomas Harris’ excellent book The Silence of the Lambs.

Notice I do not link to the movie; while it was outstanding, I prefer you read the book.  If you’re a writer, you can learn a lot from Harris’ prose.

Quokka – a short-tailed marsupial of extraordinary cuteness, found primarily in southwest Australia.   Click on its name to learn more about it.

I can not has medical research? Yes? Thx.

Image:  Loetifuss / Wikimedia Commons

Quorum – the minimum number of members of a group necessary to transact business legally.

“How are we supposed to decide this?  We need twelve people for a quorum and we don’t have them,” Velma said.

“Like, there are zombies on the loose—let’s just get out of here and talk about it later!” Shaggy quavered. “Right, Scoob, old pal?”

“Rike reah!” Scooby agreed, while simultaneously nicking several Scooby Snacks from Shaggy’s back pocket. 

That’s all the words for today, kids.  If you can use any of these in conversation today, I want to hear about it in comments!



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.


Vocabulary – O Yeah

My favorite letter! Hey, I like the shape. It’s kinda like a pizza.

O is for ocean, operatic, and ohmahgawdwhatthehelljusthappened.  Well, that’s not a word. Okay.  That’s a word.  Happy now?

Shall we begin?

Oakum – in old-timey sailor talk, natural fiber ropes that are unraveled and used to caulk cracks on a ship.  They’re jammed in the cracks and coated with pitch, which traditionally would be pine tar.  Oakum is rarely used today, except in the construction of historically authentic tall wooden ships, or maintenance of the real deal.

Jam-packed with oakum.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Oblation – a sacrifice or other offering given in worship.

Buffy rolled her eyes.  She had no time to be the demons’ oblation today.  With her super Slayer strengths, she broke her bonds, kicked all of them into the lava pit and escaped the sewers in time for lunch rush at the Doublemeat Palace.

Occlude – to close off or obstruct something.

Odoriferous – giving off a distinctive smell.

Wand held in front of him, Harry cautiously entered the Muggle attic and sniffed.  He detected the odoriferous presence of a concealed werewolf.  A board creaked in the corner.  He pointed his wand at the corner and yelled “Stupefy!” The stunned werewolf fell to the floor, unconscious.

“Right,” said Harry to the other Aurors. “Let’s get him out and modify the Muggle family’s memories.” 

Sorry, I got carried away.  Been re-reading Harry Potter again, I have.

Oenophobia – fear of wine.  Really?  You’re afraid of wine?  More for me!

I’m only afraid of red wines made from zombie-trod grapes.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Officious – annoyingly assertive or dominant.  Overly enthusiastic about being in charge.  See the first sentence in Stephen King’s The Shining. 

Ogle – to amorously glance at something or someone.

Joker ogled the pretty red-haired nurse.  He grabbed her wrist and yanked her up, ignoring her shrieks.  “Batman would come after you in a jiffy,” he said.  “Lets go, bait!”  He dragged her off into the depths of the asylum, leaving Harley to pout jealously as she cold-cocked a guard.

Ohmmeter  – a thing that measures electrical resistance in ohms.  What’s an ohm?  According to Dictionary.com, ” the SI unit of electrical resistance, defined to be the electrical resistance between two points of a conductor when a constant potential difference applied between these points produces in this conductor a current of one ampere. The resistance in ohms is numerically equal to the magnitude of the potential difference. Symbol:  Ω ”

Yeah, I don’t know what that means either.

Oilskin – cloth that has been treated with oil to make it waterproof.

Ojime  – a Japanese bead worn on a cord.  Click on this link and then the arrow to hear a Japanese person pronounce the word.


Image: Wikimedia Commons

Okra – a mucilaginous vegetable pod often used in making gumbo (yuck).  Delicious when sliced and fried in cornmeal or breaded.  For more information, click this link from the University of Illinois Extension.

Oligarchy – a form of government where power is concentrated in a small class or with just a few people.  Criteria could be wealth, royalty, or some other delineator.

Ombré (ohm-bray) – a French word meaning shaded.

Like this…om nom nom…

Image:  www.beantownbaker.com

Onomatopoeia – a property of some words that means they suggest the sound they refer to.  Examples include buzz, oink, splash, and plop.

Oology – the study of bird eggs, primarily, or the hobby of collecting them.

Opulence – riches, affluence.

Joker’s filthy, bedraggled form looked as out of place in the opulence of Wayne Manor’s ballroom as a turd on a wedding cake.

Orology – the study of mountains.

Ossuary – a repository for bones of the dead.

“Dammit, Miklos, you were just supposed to stack them nicely!”

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Otoscope – what the doctor uses to examine the inside of your ear.

Outré (oo-tray) – French word meaning excessive or extravagant.

The general thought Darth Vader’s diamond-studded cape was a bit outré, but, not wanting to be force-choked, he didn’t say a word. 

Ovine – sheeplike.

Owlery – any Harry Potter fan knows this one.  A place where owls live or gather.  In the Harry Potter series, the owlery was a room at the top of Hogwarts Castle’s West Tower, where the owls used to carry messages ate, slept and rested.

Harry waits for a message, perhaps a recipe for poop-stain removal.

Image:  harrypotterwikia.com

Oxymoron – a contradictory figure of speech.  Examples:  jumbo shrimp, Army intelligence (if you ever watched M*A*S*H*, that may be the first one you thought of), and genuine imitation.

Oysterer – someone who sells oysters.  WHICH I HATE.

“Thass all right then; we love ’em!”

Image: Wikimedia Commons

OzoceriteMindat.org says ozocerite is:

A naturally-occurring odoriferous [!!!] mineral wax or paraffin.

It is used in the making of electrical insulators, high-temperature use candles and waxed paper.

That’s all the vocabulary for today, kids.  See you next time!