Category Archives: Words

There’s a Word for That: Galeanthropy

alex atkins bookshelf wordsEvery Halloween one will witness a predictable number of people, especially children, dressed as cats. Who hasn’t looked at a photo of a 4-year-old dressed as a kitty cat and purred “adorable?” However, all that adorableness flies (or jumps) out the window — and is replaced with deep concern — when a person harbors the delusion that he or she is a cat. Excluding the most dedicated feline cast members of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, the most well-known human cat is New York socialite, Jocelyn Wildenstein, affectionately known as “Catwoman” (and pejoratively known as “The Bride of Wildenstein”) due to the many cosmetic surgeries she has undergone to look like a cat. Google her — truly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Naturally, the English language has a purr-fect word for this: galeanthropy which is defined as the mental condition of a person who believes that he or she is a cat and adopts feline habits and mannerisms (what one could call “cat-titude”). The word is derived from the Ancient Greek words galee (meaning “weasel”) and anthropos (meaning “humanity”). The word is pronounced “Ga lee AN thra pee.” So now, the cat is out of the bag, so to speak. Meow.

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Rare Words to Describe People

alex atkins bookshelf wordsWord lovers take delight in using rare words to describe everyday things and people. The more arcane, the better. This was the inspiration for lexicographer David Grambs dictionary of rare and unusual words for people, titled Dimboxes, Edopts, and Other Quidams: Words to Describe Life’s Indescribable People. Grambs dusted off some old dictionaries and word books from the 1800s to find some fascinating specimens for his “bestiary of people words.” In chapter ten, Grambs list some very rare words for troublemakers (annoyers, meddler, intruders, upstarts, and bores):

agitprop: a vociferous propagandistic agitator, particularly now with leftist or Marxist sympathies.

ami de cour: (from the French, meaning “friend at court”) a fair-weather friend; an insincere friend.

bashi-bazouk: an out-of-control, undisciplined person who is oblivious to laws; a wild person.

bitter-ender: a very stubborn person who refuses to compromise or apologize.

blateroon: a chatterbox.

crosspatch: a person who is disagreeable and ill-natured.

Dogberry: (derived from a character from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing) a smug official who is dumb and inept.

marplot: a person who interferes, well-meaning or not, and ruins things.

mauvais sujet: (from the French, meaning “bad subject”) a thoroughly untrustworthy person

quidnunc: a gossip and newsmonger.

scattergood: a person who wastes time or money (or both).

smell-feast: a person who invites himself to a meal.

stormy petrel: a person who instigates a fight or an argument.

Once you learn them, you can start dropping these words into your conversations or texts and enjoy the reactions.

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Read related posts: Rare Anatomy Words
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Adventures in Rhetoric: Homeoteleuton

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIf you listen to music and pay attention to the lyrics, it is very likely that you have heard plenty of homeoteleutons. Say what? Containing six syllables, the word is certainly a mouthful. A homeoteleuton (pronounced “ho me oh TEL yuh ton”) is a near rhyme, also known as a half rhyme or an imperfect rhyme. Homeoteleutons are especially prevalent in rap music. For example, take a look at this lyric from Rakim’s “I Know You Got Soul”: “When I’m writing I’m trapped in between the line, / I escape when I finish the rhyme.” Line. Rhyme. Really close — but not a perfect rhyme. In the world of hip-hop music, a near rhyme is referred to as slant rhyme. In his song “Respiration,” rapper Mos Def rhymes the following words: narcotic-optics and watches-colossus. Clever.

Incidentally, the word homeotelueton was introduced by Aristotle, the greatest hip thought artist of Ancient Greece. Word. In his influential work, Rhetoric, Aristotle provided the primary meaning: the use of word-endings that are similar (or the same). The word is derived from the Greek word homoioteleuton which means “like ending.” Aristotle also included samples, which are um… all Greek to me. But here are some examples in English (emphasis added to word-endings):

Abraham Lincoln (Gettysburg Address): “But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow, this ground.”

William Shakespeare (The Two Gentlemen of Verona): “[My] mother weeping, my father wailing, my sister crying, our maid howling, our cat wringing her hands.”

Since the secondary meaning has already been discussed in the opening paragraph, let us now turn to the third meaning. A homeoteleuton is an error introduced by a scribe while transcribing a frequently reproduced book, like the Bible. For example, the Old Testament contains several textual errors (missing words or sentences) that scribes made while they were making copies of the Good Book. These errors have existed for hundreds of years until biblical scholars found the missing words or sentences in the Dead Sea scrolls discovered in the late 1940s.

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Read related posts: Adventures in Rhetoric: Adianoeta
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Imagine if Your Parents Named You Marijuana Pepsi

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIn late June 2019, a 46-year-old African-American woman graduated from Cardinal Stritch University Wisconsin, earning a doctorate in higher education leadership. Her doctoral dissertation, titled “Black Names in White Classrooms: Teacher Behaviors and Student Perceptions,” analyzed the impact of nontraditional names on academic achievement. However, neither of these things was what caught the attention of the media — rather it was her incredibly unusual and memorable name: Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck (née Jackson).

I know what you are thinking — why in the world would parents name their daughter after a mind-altering plant and a carbonated sugary soda? In her hometown of Beloit, Wisconsin several rumors arose to explain the incredible moniker. One rumor was that her parents were smoking pot and drinking Pepsi when she was conceived. Given the time period, the post-Woodstock/Summer of Love era, that scenario was very plausible. Nevertheless, it was her mother, Maggie Jackson, who came up with the name, even though her father, Aaron Jackson, objected. Vandyck explains: “She said that she knew when I was born that you could take this name and go around the world with it. At the time as a child, I’m thinking ‘yeah, right — you named my older sister Kimberly. You named my younger sister Robin.'” Vandyck’s aunt, Mayetta Jackson, remembers when Maggie picked the unusual name back in 1972 during the hippie era, when smoking a joint was as common as… well, drinking a Pepsi. Mayetta added, “[After smoking weed, Aaron and Maggie] would cool off with a Pepsi. I thought it was crazy, but they were fun-loving people that it suited them.” Interestingly, it was in late 1971, that Coke introduced one of the most memorable commercials featuring one of the most famous jingles of all time: young people gathering on the top of a hill singing “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.” Perhaps it was a good thing that the Jacksons were not influenced by this, otherwise their daughter would have been named Marijuana Coke, which sounds more like two psychotropic drugs rather than a drug and a soft drink.

As you can imagine, it wasn’t easy for a little girl growing up with an unusual name like that. She recall relentless teasing during her school-age years. During her junior high school days, Vandyck dreaded roll call: “Every single class, the teacher is taking attendance out loud, and as they slowly get down through the J’s, I’m just like here it comes. ‘Marianna? Marijuana?’ And all the students turn to see who it is.” By the time she reached high school, her peers’ attitude about her name shifted — they thought it was cool. Vandyck explains: “They were like, ‘Oh yeah. Man, I wish I had your name. I love that. I’m going to name my kid after you.’ I hear that so much and I go, Lord, please don’t do that to that child.”

But despite the obstacles that her name presented, insisted on being called by her birth name: Marijuana, eschewing more common variations like Mary or Mary Jane. One of her high school teachers told the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel: “They could make a movie about her. I could almost write a book on Marijuana myself in terms of a young student who’s been so resilient and taken even her name and made it into a positive… She’s exactly what any kid in America needs to know about someone who can truly make it if they put their mind to it.” And that’s exactly what she did with her career: she wanted to share her own life struggles and eventual success in order to inspire students. Her doctoral dissertation, in fact, analyzes how black students with unique names are treated by educators in predominantly white settings and how this treatment impacts their academic performance. Specifically, Vandyck found that students “with distinctly black names” were subject to stereotypes, disrespect, and low academic expectations. This in turn led lower self-esteem, career choices, and ultimately fewer educational and career opportunities for students of color.

In an interview with NPR, Vandyck shares her optimistic perspective on life: “”It’s what you do after you recognize that you have this feeling about [having a nontraditional name]. And it’s what you act on from that point on. That’s the most important part…. We can’t always go through life-changing things to make other people happy … and I had to learn that early on.”

Ironically, Marijuana Pepsi has never smoked marijuana and her choice of beverage is orange soda.

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For further reading: http://archive.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/40874017.html
http://www.npr.org/2019/06/21/734839666/dr-marijuana-pepsi-wont-change-her-name-to-make-other-people-happy


There’s a Word for That: Euneirophrenia

alex atkins bookshelf wordsAlthough it sounds like a dreadful mental illness, euneirophrenia is actually a very wonderful, desirable condition, although the word is not found in most authoritative dictionaries. Euneirophrenia is the calm and content mood that a person experiences after having a relaxing night’s sleep and waking from a pleasant dream. The word is formed from the Greek words eu (meaning “good”); oneiro (meaning “dream”); and phrenia (meaning “state of mind”). The word is pronounced “you ne row FREE nee ah.”

The opposite of euneirophrenia is malneirophrenia, defined as the grumpy mood a person experiences after lack of sufficient sleep or a restless night’s sleep or having nightmares — also referred to as “waking up on the wrong side of the bed.” Incidentally, this phrase comes from a superstition held by the ancient Romans who believed that it was bad luck to get out of bed from the left side (the “wrong” side), as opposed to the right side.

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Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
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There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
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There’s a Word for That: Zemblanity

alex atkins bookshelf wordsNo doubt, you’ve heard of the word, “serendipity.” It’s a wonderful word — both in sound and meaning. The word means “finding something valuable or interesting by chance” or “a fortunate or unexpected discovery by accident.” The word was coined by Horace Walpole in 1754 in a letter to his friend Horace Mann. In the letter, Walpole references the characters from a Persian fairy tale titled “The Three Princes of Serendip”: “[The princes were] always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.” Richard Boyle, a Sri Lankan English consultant of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), argues that the definition of serendipity as “simple accidental discovery” is a watered-down definition of the word. Boyle writes: “Even the OED definition, ‘the faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident,’ does not meet Walpole’s prescription of a gift for discovery by accident and sagacity [good judgment] while in pursuit of something else. These ingredients are cumulative and all should be mentioned in the ideal dictionary definition.” [emphasis added]

Zemblanity, on the other hand, is the antonym of serendipity. The definition of zemblanity is making unhappy, unlucky and unexpected discoveries by intent rather than by chance. The word was coined by William Boyd in his novel Armadillo published in 1998. The word is derived from Nova Zembla (meaning “new land”), a frigid, barren land; specifically an archipelago of islands once used for nuclear testing by the Russians. Incidentally, the word is pronounced “zem BLA ni tee.” Here is Boyd’s introduction of the word: “So what is the opposite of Serendip, a southern land of spice and warmth, lush greenery and hummingbirds, seawashed, sunbasted? Think of another world in the far north, barren, icebound, cold, a world of flint and stone. Call it Zembla. Ergo: zemblanity, the opposite of serendipity, the faculty of making unhappy, unlucky and expected discoveries by design. Serendipity and zemblanity: the twin poles of the axis around which we revolve.”

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Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
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There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
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There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
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For further reading: http://www.sundaytimes.lk/090726/Plus/sundaytimesplus_24.html


There’s a Word for That: Thrasonical

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIf you have ever listened to a world-class narcissist speak (consider Kanye West or Donald Trump) you are very familiar with thrasonical speech. Thrasonical, as you may have surmised from the previous sentence, means “boastful” or “vainglorious.” More specifically, it means “resembling, or relating to, or characteristic of Thraso. “Who the hell is Thraso?” you ask. “Is it one of the new Marvel superheroes? Or perhaps it is one of their nemeses?” Nice try, but no; however he is a fictional character. Thraso appears in the comedy Eunuchus (The Eunuch) written around 2 BC by Terence (c. 185-1509 BC), a slave who was freed and emerged as one of Rome’s most notable playwrights. The play centers on forbidden love between Phaedria, a young Athenian man from a good family, and Thais, a courtesan (a fancy way of saying “prostitute”) from a foreign land. One of the individuals who indirectly thwarts their relationship is Thraso, a warrior and slave owner, who is an insufferable, ostentatious braggart. The word, pronounced “thray SON i kul,” is derived from the Greek word thrasos, meaning “bold” or “spirited.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
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There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia
There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology


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