New Free Rice Words XXI
Bill Long 5/27/08
The Parade Continues...
1. Stotious is listed in the OED as stocious, and is Anglo-Irish slang for being drunk. The word first arose in 1937: "Slang also appeals to our elementary sense of humour, as when we say of a man who is drunk that he is...stotious." My favorite all-time word for being drunk is stuccoed or, in a pinch, spiflicated."
2. Incondite is derived from the Latin conditus, which means "put together" or "founded" or "put away" or even "hidden." The Roman calendar from the Republic dated things AUC (ab urbe condita--from the founding of the City). The prefix in in Latin can function like the alpha privative in Greek: it reverses the meaning of what follows. Therefore, something incondite is something "ill-founded" or "rude, unpolished, ill-constructed." The OED tells us that it can be said especially of literary and artistic compositions. Austin's Jurisprudence, one of the first attempts in English to systematize that discipline (1832) had this line: "An incondite collection or heap of single and insulated rules." Carlyle could write about a lecture he had heard: "Plenty of incondite stuff accordingly there was..." Our word recondite picks up on the "hidden" or "abstruse" part of the definition and means something "removed from ordinary apprension, understanding or knowledge; deep, profound."
3. If you understand that stound is derived from the Middle High (and modern) German word for "hour," you understand how it means "a time; a short time; a moment; an instant." The word doesn't seem to be used much in our day; usages from earlier days (1600 and 1895) are: "His legges could bear him but a little stound," and "he stayed a long stound."
4. Supremum and infinum are words taken from math. Derived from supremus, the "highest," a supremum is "the smallest number that is greater than or equal to each of a given set of real numbers." Mathematicians today call it the "least upper bound." I suppose we need an illustration to make this clear. If the least upper bound ("S") = 1/n, with n being a positive integer, then S=1. If "n" is "1," then we have S = 1/1 or 1. If "n" is "2," we have "S" = 1/2. Thus, the smallest number which bounds the set on the upper end is "1." That is the supremum. The infinum is the "greatest lower bound."
5. The verb claver has two meanings: (1) to climb or clamber and (2) to talk idly or with little sense; to gossip; palaver; prate. The "talk idly" part of the definition emerged in Scotland in the 17th century and gave rise to several clever usages. My favorite is from 1715: "When ye clatter then, and claver,/ Ye sprinkle all their necks with slaver. I like the word slaver. Literally it is saliva, but figuratively it means "drivel, nonsense; also gross flattery." An 1818 usage of claver seems to look at the word more positively: "A worthy minister, as gude [good] a man..as ever ye heard claver in a pu'pit."
6. A synonymicon is, in a word, a thesaurus or dictionary of synonyms. The word onymicon is derived from the Greek word meaning "name."
7. Let things continue to flow with rheology, which is "the study of the deformation and flow of matter.." In 1929 they published the first issue of the Journal of Rheology. Guess who published it? You got it, the Society of Rheology. A 1930 entry in the OED suggests that a Latin Professor at Lafayette College, John Crawford, came up with the word. Here is a pleasant and easy explanation of what a rheologist does:
"When the hotel clerk at a Society of Rheology meeting asks me what rheology is, I have a ready answer I could use: “Rheology is the study of deformation and flow.” This is true, but not an answer that would usually trigger a light-bulb moment for the friendly staff member.
Instead, I say, “Rheology is the study of the flow of materials that behave in an interesting or unusual manner. Oil and water flow in familiar, normal ways, whereas mayonnaise, peanut butter, chocolate, bread dough, and Silly Putty flow in complex and unusual ways. In rheology, we study the flows of unusual materials.”
I think I might be interested in studying the flow of chocolate. Anyone want to join me?
8. Serein is a rare word but is so suggestive that I thought I would mention it. It is "a fine rain falling from a cloudless sky." Huxley used the term in the late 19th century:
"By local refrigeration, after sunset, the vapour invisibly diffused through the atmosphere is condensed at once into excessively fine drops of liquid water, forming the rain called serein."
I think that the mist which falls from overhead ducts outside Phoenix hotels in the summer might almost be characterized as serein, though it doesn't, in fact, fall from the sky. I wonder if Credence Clearwater Revival had serein in mind...
9. Let's conclude all these words with shadoof. I confess I had never run into this word--an Egyptian Arabic term for a contrivance used in Egypt for raising water for irrigation purposes, consisting of bucket, rod and weight. Here is a picture of one. You will notice that I deliberately linked a page from the "Bible Picture Gallery," a series of drawings for children illustrating life in Bible times. Thus, there might be thousands of third-graders running around saying "Shadoof, shadoof," and I didn't know the word. How embarrassing can you get??
Well, if you study words, you never can be too embarrassed about it all, for ignorance is the key to learning. It takes some other things, too, but realizing one's ignorance is a good place to begin...