New Words for 2006

Words I Just Learned

clachan: a small village that includes a church;
hessian: a strong, coarse fabric made from jute or hemp, a synonym for burlap in the U.K.; in the 1970s, a finely wove type of hessian, used as wallpaper, included a paper backing;
motile: moving, or able to move spontaneously (Christopher Brookmyre, 9/4)
acromegaly: chronic disease caused by a defective pituitary gland, resulting in enlarged bones of the face, jaw, hands, and feet (Augusten Burroughs, 8/31)
medlar: a European tree with white flowers, or the fruit, shaped like apples, of such a tree (Humphrey Carpenter, 8/20)
gaskin: the hind leg of a quadruped between the stifle and the hock;
helve: the handle of a tool, like an ax or hammer (Terry Pratchett, 8/16)
labrick: “The term labrick was in constant use by all grown men except certain of the clergy in the state of Missouri when I was a boy. It had a very definite meaning & occupied in the matter of strength the middle ground between scoundrel & son of a bitch… labrick is a little stronger than ass, & not quite as strong as idiot.”;
zedoary: an Indian plant with yellow flowers, or the dried rhizomes of this plant, used in perfumes, medicines, and cosmetics (Mark Twain, 8/5)
rote: the sound of surf hitting the shore (Bernice Richmond, 7/28)
recrudescence: break out anew, a renewal of activity (Roger G. Kennedy, 7/25)
demantoid: a transparent green garnet (Philip Roth, 7/21)
mole: A massive wall built in the sea, usually of stone, to protect a harbor (Frederick Forsyth, 6-21
pelorus: a card marked in degrees used to take bearings relative to a ship’s heading, instead of using a compass (Thomas Heggen, 6-14)
byssi: the plural of byssus, strong filaments used by mussels and other mollusks to attach themselves to rocks (Jennifer Alisa Paigen, 6-12)
aelurophile: someone who loves cats;
canaille: the common rabble [from the French, the Italian, and the Latin for ‘pack of dogs’];
kourbash: a whip about a yard long made of hippopotamus or rhinoceros hide, used as a punishment in some countries;
: living within a narrow range of depth on the bottom of a lake or sea (Robert A. Heinlein, 6-9)
skiving: British slang for avoiding one’s duty, or work that should be done (Graham Swift, 6-8)
anamorphosis: an image that is distorted unless looked at from a special angle, or with a special instrument;
architrave: the molding around a window or door, also an epistyle;
arpent: French unit of land measurement, about 0.85 acre;
balum rancum: a dance where all the women are prostitutes, and everyone is naked;
hobbledehoy: a gawky young boy;
ridotto: an Italian evening of entertainment, featuring music and dancing;
sagathy: a woven fabric of silk and cotton or wool (Donald Zochert, 6-6)
commensal: a symbiotic relationship that benefits one species, but not the other;
Diwali: (in Sanskrit: Deepavali, “array of lights”) modern name for the Hindu Festival of Lights, celebrated over five days in October or November; in North India, also the start of the financial year;
nadaswaram: double-reed wind instrument of South India related to the shehnai, important at Hindu weddings and other celebrations; the smaller version is a folk instrument called the mukhavina. (According to the Wikipedia, it’s the loudest non-brass acoustical instrument in the world.);
tilak: for Hindus, a decorative or ritual mark usually worn on the forehead, also tilaka; sometimes called a bindi, bottu, pottu, or teep. (Yann Martel, 5/18)
trundle: small wheel or roller, a low cart or bed (David Grand, 5/15)
carcanet: jeweled headband or necklace (Patricia Highsmith, 5/13)
jitney: slang for a nickel [which is why the term is used for buses and small vans; they originally cost five cents to ride] (Jane Jacobs, 5/9)
bourguignon: reduced red wine, onions, parsley, thyme, and butter; another way to say Burgundy sauce;
spindrift: sea spray blown by the wind, also spoondrift (Vincent Patrick, 5/6)
corbie: Scots phrase for a raven or crow;
fusil: light flintlock musket;
gandersnipe: Pennsylvania settlers’s term for the great blue heron;
quaich: Scots phrase for a two-handled drinking cup;
whang: leather or hide thong or whip (Conrad Richter, 4/22)
camion: truck or bus;
erysipelas: acute disease of the skin caused by streptococcus, marked by inflammation and fever (Willa Cather, 4/8)
cloche: bell-shaped woman’s hat;
pleach: interlace branches and vines to make a hedge or border;
scot and lot: municipal tax in England, based on ability to pay (Michael Frayn, 4-3)
courgette: British English for zucchini;
: spotted or blemished — i.e., not immaculate;
misericord: room where monks can go when monastic rules have been relaxed — also refers to the relaxed rules (Vikram Seth, 4-2)
ensorcelled: enchanted or bewitched;
trews: tight-fitting trousers, usually Tartan (Neil Gaiman, 3-27)
marcasite: mineral with the same composition as pyrite, but a different crystal structure;
spectrobolometer: combined spectroscope and bolometer [duh!], used to determine the distribution of energy in a spectrum (Lucy Jago, 3-26)
frore: frozen, frosty (archaic, from my son, 3-23)
claustration: shutting up or enclosing, in a religious cloister or harem;
mensa: the top of an altar; Latin for table (Mark Salzman, 3-12)
asterism: pattern of stars that’s not officially a constellation, i.e. the Big Dipper or Orion’s belt (found online, 3-12)
cathected: invested emotional energy in something (Barbara Ehrenreich, 3-10)
sagamite: three parts of Indian meal and one of brown sugar, mixed and browned over the fire;
septentrional: of the north (Willa Cather, 3-8)
chuntering: muttering and complaining about something (Betsy Lerner, 3-8-06)

1 Response to New Words for 2006

  1. Andrew Rolfe says:

    Just came upon your site through the magic of Google, stayed too long and forgot what I was looking for!

    I hope you won’t take offence at a minor correction to your definition of “hessian”.

    Hessian is a strong, coarse fabric made from jute or hemp, and is a regional synonym for burlap; you will never hear “burlap” from anyone in the UK unless they are are quoting from an American/Canadian source. As an aside, I discovered “burlap” in a Leonard Cohen book of poetry some 28 years ago.

    The paper backing is interesting; back in the 1970s, there was a trend for “rustic chic”. Part of this trend was hessian wallpaper. A very fine woven type of hessian was bound to backing paper and was used in many middle class houses. It was hugely expensive, trapped dust, and the trend didn’t last long. The light weight replica hessian used for this wallpaper might not have been able to support the weight of many potatoes if recycled as sacking, but at least it didn’t smell as bad as sackcloth!

    I clearly remember my parents being very keen on it but, being teachers, not being able to aford it.

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