My Favorite Words – Simon Winchester

atkins-bookshelf-wordsSimon Winchester is a British-born American journalist and author, recognized for his best-selling non-fiction books: The Professor and the Madman (1998), The Map that Changed the World (2001), The Meaning of Everything (2003), Krakatoa: The Day the Wold Exploded (2003), and A Crack in the Edge of the World (2005). Two of his most successful books, The Professor and the Madman and The Meaning of Everything, focus on the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Naturally, Winchester has a deep respect for the OED, and of the English language itself. In the paperback edition of The Professor and the Madman, Winchester shares with his readers his favorite words out of the nearly 750,00 words defined by the OED. His selection of words were based on three criteria: first, he had to like them; second, they were “shamefully misunderstood”; and third “all can be used without the risk of sounding foolish or bombastic.” Readers will have to judge that third criterion by their own experience.

Philogyny: admiration of women (opposite of misogyny)

Tourbillion: a whirlwind or vortex; the mechanics of a watch

Sainfoin: a pink-flowered plant, of the legume family, native to Asia

Terbinth: a small Mediterranean tree, of the cashew family, that yields turpentine and tanning material

Loosestrife: plants with leafy stems and yellow or white flowers, of the primrose family

Pellucid: easily understood, transparently clear

Cacoethes: the uncontrollable urge to do something harmful

Chance-medley: a random occurrence or accident

Boustrophedon: a form of writing alternate lines that proceed in one direction, and reverse direction in the next (eg, from left to right, and then right to left)

Read related posts: Words Invented by Dickens
Rare Anatomy Words

For further reading: The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester, Oxford (1998)

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