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!