Word of the Week Archive

Cacoethes: A classic example of a so-called 'hard word' - otherwise an 'itch'. Not so much a scratchable physical itch, though - more an incurable passion - as with Juvenal, who famously declared his insanabile scribendi cacoethes - which some who think Juvenal's poetry tedious, translate not as his eternal yearning to write, but an urge merely to scribble. Like Capote on Kerouac's not writing but typing. Though both of these men had the itch. Or were cacoethic.

Chthonic: Going back to school? Beware of Roget! A student of mine, wanting to use a fancy word to describe his fingers after potting geraniums, looked in the famed thesaurus and wrote of them as being 'chthonic'. The word describes a creature living in the earth. The bugs in my newly raked compost are chthonic. My boy's fingers were merely earthy

Duumvirate: One of the few words in the lexicon to sport a double 'u' (as opposed to a 'w'), this designates a system of rule by two people. If the United States were to wish Donald Trump and Sarah Palin on us in 2016, the resulting executive branch would be a duumvirate. Another double-'u'-blessed word might then come to mind: vacuum.

Drimmens: The trail of cold gray water left behind on a kitchen floor by the passage of a careless husband or child who has come in from the snow. This fine and apposite word is a neologism, created ten years ago by the subject of this website. I urge its use, so it eventually makes it into the lexicon.

Delope: In duelling, the act of raising your weapon into the air and firing harmlessly. The over-wrought bodice-ripping novels of Georgette Heyer rather popularized this odd word, which has nothing to do with 'elope' - though a delopement may well perhaps lead to an elopement. At least, in one of Miss Heyer's books.

Haruspex: a seer, first noted among the Etruscan priesthood, who claimed to be able to foretell events from a close inspection of the entrails of dead animals.

Mallemaroking: The carousing of drunken seamen on ice-bound Greenland whaling ships.