Volte-face

January 5, 2010

A French word found in Qiu Xiaolong’s detective novel Red Mandarin Dress. It means a complete reversal or about face.

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Cothurnal

January 4, 2010

From Anu Garg’s word of the day. all of this week’s words relate to terms originating to covering the extremities.

Corthunal means relating to tragedy. it comes from the sandals that Athenian tragic actors would wear on stage.


Borborygmi

January 4, 2010

A word from Tony Kushner’s Angels In America. It is the sort of word that makes me love him and at the same time makes me want to punch him in the face.  It is the sound of stomach rumblings, those noises we all know so well but have no word for.

Could you ever use this word in casual conversation? I doubt it.  But it does make for great metaphor, the petulant whining of a small person.

Even Kushner seems shy about using the word.  He puts it in his act title, but when the time comes to use it, Roy Cohn says stomach rumblings instead.


Pertinacious

January 4, 2010

“At this last question, following so many pertinacious ones, for he soul of him Captain Delano could not but look very earnestly at the questioner.”    — Benito Cereno

since then, the bees kept coming thither, Heaven knows why, or by what pertinacious desire, for far-fetched sweets” — House of the Seven Gables

“There was something in the moody and dogged silence of this pertinacious companion” — Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon

Found in three of my favorite authors is a lovely word that is rarely used anymore, mostly because it has been absorbed by its less extreme cousin.  Tenacious comes from the Latin verb “to hold.”  Pertinacious would mean “to hold through.”  It seems to imply being tenacious through difficulty.  It carries a more negative connotation in its use as well,  a stubbornness.


Fracket

January 4, 2010

A beat up hoodie or jacket.  The kind you would not mine losing or having ruined at a Frat party.  Thanks to “This American Life” and America’s #1 Party School, Penn State, for this one.