View Full Version : The learn a new word a day thread

Mr Flibble
03-01-2008, 02:44 AM
OK, I've seen it said that us writers should always be learning new words. So, I thought maybe a nice little thread, so we can share what new words we learn, where they come from, original meanings and all that.

To start I have two.

This is just one of my fave words of all time:
Arachibutyrophobia- Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth.

I mean, that's just huh? There's actually a word for that? Seriously, I mean to get this in an MS somewhere, it's too good to resist.

For a more sensible word, here's one I looked up, because I was going to use it, and I just wondered where it came from. What does it actually mean?


Ok, ( is this just a UK term?), 'to be kept on tenterhooks' means to be kept in suspense, or as nervous as the proverbial long tailed cat.

What the word actually means is this:

It comes from one of the processes of making woollen cloth. After it had been woven, the cloth still contained oil from the fleece, mixed with dirt. It was cleaned in a fulling mill, but then it had to be dried carefully or it would shrink and crease. So the lengths of wet cloth were stretched on wooden frames, and left out in the open for some time. This allowed them to dry and straightened their weave. These frames were the tenters, and the tenter hooks were the metal hooks used to fix the cloth to the frame. At one time, it would have been common in manufacturing areas to see fields full of these frames (older English maps sometimes marked an area as a tenter-field). So it was not a huge leap of the imagination to think of somebody on tenterhooks as being in an state of anxious suspense, stretched like the cloth on the tenter. The tenters have gone, but the meaning has survived.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who loves finding out the real meaning behind phrases.

03-01-2008, 02:57 AM
You're not the only one.

Mr Flibble
03-01-2008, 02:59 AM
Good, I was beginning to worry.

Hey, you didn't put in a word! I need words dammit! I R empty vessel that waiteth to be filled.

03-01-2008, 03:00 AM
No, you're not the only one who loves finding out the real meaning behind phrases. I think it's interesting too!

There was a similar thread to this hanging about last year sometime, where we posted unusual words and their meanings. Unfortunately it seemed to die after a while.

But anyway, I'll play:

apostasy: Total desertion or departure from one's faith, principles, or party.
Apostasy is derived from Greek apostasis, "a standing away from, a defection, a revolt," from aphistanai, "to stand off or away from, to revolt," from apo-, "from, away from" + histanai, "to stand."

Mr Flibble
03-01-2008, 03:05 AM
Apparantly ( shows off geeky internet skills) because everyone forgot what tenters were, and translated it in their minds to tender.

03-01-2008, 03:24 AM
Condition in which a person blinks continuously.
Spasm of the eyelids.

03-01-2008, 03:50 AM

You're not the only one. This is a bookmark I've had for awhile.

Also, "tenterhooks" is not just a UK saying :)

03-01-2008, 04:20 AM
*gets out Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult...*

Excessively fond of one's wife.

03-01-2008, 04:31 AM
I like the original meaning of 'paraphenalia'. In medieval times and later, when a woman married, all her possessions reverted to her husband's name. So her castles, lands, peasants and slaves became her husband's. The law wasn't too harsh, though. It allowed the woman to keep title to some possessions, like her spinning wheel, sewing needles and the like. These articles which were not vested in the husband's name after marriage were called paraphenalia. So really a bloke can't have paraphenalia, it is a word reserved to female possessions.

See! Just shows men weren't THAT greedy!