Words You've Learned from Reading and Writing

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Myrealana

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When my son was whining to me about the pain of having to read "The Alchemist" for English, I told him to shut up and be thankful it wasn't "The Scarlet Letter."

The only thing I got out of that book was that I learned the word physiognomy.
 

boatman

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When my son was whining to me about the pain of having to read "The Alchemist" for English, I told him to shut up and be thankful it wasn't "The Scarlet Letter."

The only thing I got out of that book was that I learned the word physiognomy.

It's a good word, one that has stuck with me for decades since I learned it from Joseph Conrad's Typhoon:

CAPTAIN MACWHIRR, of the steamer Nan-Shan, had a physiognomy that, in the order of material appearances, was the exact counterpart of his mind: it presented no marked characteristics of firmness or stupidity; it had no pronounced characteristics whatever; it was simply ordinary, irresponsive, and unruffled.
 

DanielSTJ

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Staccato:

Adverb & adjective:

1. With each sound or note sharply detached or separated from the others.
 

Jason

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List 6

List 6

Pillock
- a stupid person
Squamous - Scaly
Pellucid - Translucent or transparent
Gallophobia - the fear of France or of French people
Oenophile - a wine lover
Tsundoku - the act of buying and stockpiling a lot of books that you never read
Coffle - a line of animals or slaves fastened or driven along together (Arabic origin for 'caravan')
Nonce - temporarily
Ensorceled - enchant; fascinate
Crenellations - The battlements of a castle or other building
Casket - A burial box that is rectangular and does not narrow at the head or feet. First in use in the US as late as 1849. cf. coffin.
Coffin - A burial box that narrows for the head and feet, like the Halloween decorations do. In use long before casket.
Asinine - Another word for foolish or stupid
Petrichor - the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil
Pronk - The gait of deer, antelope, etc where they move in a series of bounds
Internecine - Destructive to both sides in a conflict
Repartee - Conversation/speech characterized by quick witty comments or replies
Cupule - a cup-shaped structure in a plant or animal (i.e. acorns)
Automaton - a mechanical device that mimics the movements of a human
Physiognomy - a person's facial features or expression, especially when regarded as indicative of character or ethnic origin
Staccato - With each sound or note sharply detached or separated from the others
 

DanielSTJ

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Febrile:

1) Having or showing the symptoms of a fever.
2) Having or showing a great deal of nervous excitement or energy.

P.S. Nice list Jason! I learnt a few words from it.

I think I'll consult this thread more often to increase my vocabulary. Seems like a swell idea!
 
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Jason

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@ DanielSTJ: Thanks - every set of words is added to the original post, so you can easily just reference from there if you prefer :)

@ Everyone - as you add words you've learned from reading (and writing), it helps me to compile if you use this format for the word and definition*:

word - definition

*typically the OED is used as the standard reference for definitions unless it's not available

Cheers
 

Tazlima

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So this is a word I learned from reading many years ago, and today that knowledge helped my company dodge a bullet.

My employer was tasked with naming a series of items (names that will be seen by clients on an ongoing basis) and decided to go with a theme of pleasant-sounding plant names. Additionally, as an in-house mneumonic, each plant name started with a different letter of the alphabet, and today I recieved the final, approved list.

And there, as our "D" plant selection, was the word "Dahlia."

Now dahlias are indeed plants, lovely flowers in the daisy family, and if you google "dahlia," you'll get nice, pretty flower pictures.

Unfortunately, the word is also strongly linked to the term "Black Dahlia," a brutal and highly-publicized murder case from the 1940s. (Google that one at your own risk). My employer was obviously unaware of this.

"But wait," I thought, "Time marches on. It's been eighty years. Maybe it's no longer common knowledge, and I'm the one weirdo in the office who happens to have heard of 'Black Dahlia.' I don't want to make a fuss for no reason." So I decided to do an informal poll of two younger coworkers who happened to be nearby.

"I'm going to say a phrase," says I, "And I want you to tell me the first thing that comes to mind."

"OK."

"Black Dahlia."

"Murder," says one without hesitation.
"Murder," the second agrees.

Houston, we have a problem... but I think, "Maybe I was too leading in my choice of word association; I did say the name of the case itself." So I asked a follow-up question. "What if I had just said 'dahlia?" Would you have thought of the flowers rather than murder?"

Coworker 2: There's a flower called a "dahlia?"

Me: "Thanks. That's exactly what I needed to know."

I sent appropriate emails and it will forever remain a non-issue, but it just goes to show how important it is to know, not only the meaning of words, but sometimes multiple meanings, and so I'm adding these to the list:

Dahlia- noun. Any composite plant of the genus Dahlia, native to Mexico and Central America and widely cultivated for its showy, variously colored flower heads.

Black Dahlia - Elizabeth Short (July 29, 1924 - January 14 or 15, 1947) known posthumously as "the Black Dahlia," was an American woman who was found murdered in the Leimert Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.
 
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Siri Kirpal

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Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

whin: a thorny bush, such as gorse
burn (no, not what happens with fire): a small stream or brook)

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

DanielSTJ

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Peripatetic.

Adjective:

1) Traveling from place to place, especially working or based in various places for relatively short periods.
2) Aristotelian.

Noun:

1) A person who travels from place to place.
2) An Aristotelian philosopher.
 

Keithy

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Be very careful how you spell this one:

Formication - a sensation like insects crawling over the skin.
 

Blinkk

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I got this from a Gene Wolfe novel.

Ephemera - Things that exist or are used and enjoyed for only a short time.
Acyrologia - An incorrect use of words, particularly replacing one word with another word that sounds similar but has different meaning.
 

Maryn

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(I have an ongoing list of words I'm trying to learn. Thanks for all the great additions!)
 

DanielSTJ

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Diphtheria.

Noun:

1) An acute, highly contagious bacterial disease causing inflammation of the mucous membranes, formation of a false membrane in the throat that hinders breathing and swallowing, and potentially fatal heart and nerve damage by a bacterial toxin in the blood. It is now rare in developed countries because of immunization.
 

Maryn

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I remember sobbing when I read Mrs. Mike, about a woman who marries a Canadian Mountie, lives in the wilderness, and their baby dies of diphtheria. IIRC, I was about twelve and it was set in 1902 or so. That's not that long ago that something fully preventable killed people with ease. Hurray, medicine!
 

DanielSTJ

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I learned this word by a story written by an AWer.

Lambrusco.

1) A variety of wine grape grown in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy.

2) A sparkling red wine made from the Lambrusco grape.

Plural noun: Lambruscos

1) A red or white wine similar to Lambrusco produced elsewhere.
 

Siri Kirpal

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Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Machair: a Scottish word for a fertile plain, used by both Scots and non-Scots especially to mean a meadow by the coast.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

MaeZe

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Luddite...
I can't quite remember the book I read last year that had the actual Luddites in the story. Dang, little bits come to me. I'll remember it eventually. Before the book I thought the word meant something else like a brainless brute. That was wrong of course. They were against technology.

[sidenote: Maybe someone knows the book. The protagonist was being pressured to marry some old guy that was cruel to his employees at the mill he owned. (The Luddites trashed the mill.) Her sister already had to marry for an income, not a happy marriage, she had a baby. But eventually the protagonist discovered the cruel mill owner had pulled some shenanigans and really the woman and her sister had an inheritance they were both being cheated out of. Still can't recall the name.]

... Automaton [ah-TAH-muh-tahn] - A moving mechanical device made in imitation of a human being. (As a child, having only read the word, I thought it was prounounced [otto-MAY-tahn])
They don't need to be a human form. There is a famous silver swan automaton complete with swimming fish in a stream in the Bowes Museum in England.

Midden - slurry or septic tank
Middens are also where one finds all kind of archeological bits like pottery shards and shells and bones, the trash pits of prehistoric peoples.

Prehistoric means before history recorded by some form of writing, not necessarily as far back as dinosaurs. It's easy to mistakenly believe it means before Homo sapiens. We had a few hundred thousand years before we developed written communication.

Squamous: Scaly
Squamous also means skin in medical terminology. Squamous cells are skin cells.

In Japanese, tsundoku is the act of buying and stockpiling a lot of books that you never read.
Ah! A word describing me.

...Allow me to contribute from my list:

casket, n.
A burial box that is rectangular and does not narrow at the head or feet. First in use in the US as late as 1849. cf. coffin.

coffin, n.
A burial box that narrows for the head and feet, like the Halloween decorations do. In use long before casket....
Never knew that, or if I ever did, I had forgotten.

....Unfortunately, the word is also strongly linked to the term "Black Dahlia," a brutal and highly-publicized murder case from the 1940s. (Google that one at your own risk). ....

Black Dahlia - Elizabeth Short (July 29, 1924 - January 14 or 15, 1947) known posthumously as "the Black Dahlia," was an American woman who was found murdered in the Leimert Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.
Cut completely in half, that woman is, along with other incisions. I admit to having a morbid curiosity.

...Ephemera - Things that exist or are used and enjoyed for only a short time.
(E-fem-a-ra ... I think) I had that definition a tad wrong. I thought it referred to collectible paper items. I can see now that was a false assumption on my part.

Diphtheria....
I have to remind myself the first syllable is pronounced 'dif' (there's probably a more accurate phonetic spelling of it). Before I did that I frequently misspelled it as diptheria. Same with tetanus. I have to sound out tet-a-nus to remember the spelling.

Here's my contribution:

Who knew there were a lot more terms from 1984 than Newspeak? Someone used the word, duckspeak the other day and I found a Wiki page of other terms from the novel.

duckspeak – Voicing political orthodoxies without thinking, lit. "to quack like a duck" That one's getting a lot of use from me lately.

List of Newspeak Words

These two might come in handy:

prolefeed – The steady stream of mindless entertainment to distract and occupy the masses.

doublethink – the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct otherwise referred to as cognitive dissonance.
 
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R.A. Lundberg

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I suspect that the number of words I have learned from reading is longer than the number of words I can put in a post here. But then I've been reading pretty much continuously for the last forty plus years, so it's not that big a surprise.
 

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Learned so much reading Shakespeare

“My liege, and madam, to expostulate
What majesty should be, what duty is, Why day is day, night night, and time is time,
Were nothing but to waste night, day and time.
Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief.”

This is one of my favorite quotes from Hamlet. When I read it for the first time, I had no idea what expostulate means.

Expostulate - express strong disapproval or disagreement.

There are so many new words that I learned and added to my vocabulary just by reading Shakespeare! The Bard has a distinct influence on my writing.
 

April Swanson

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(I have an ongoing list of words I'm trying to learn. Thanks for all the great additions!)

Me too! Can't believe it's taken me so long to find this thread!

So, I learn a new word every morning, picked from the list I add to when I'm reading. My rule is if I don't know the definition well enough to use the word, rather than simply understand, then it goes on the list. Apologies if my words are simple. I have an appalling vocabulary...

Today's word is: amity (n) - friendly relations.

Also, saw nonce further up the list. Just wanted to point out that word also means sex offender – especially a paedophile. Something to bear in mind!
 

April Swanson

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“My liege, and madam, to expostulate
What majesty should be, what duty is, Why day is day, night night, and time is time,
Were nothing but to waste night, day and time.
Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief.”

This is one of my favorite quotes from Hamlet. When I read it for the first time, I had no idea what expostulate means.

Expostulate - express strong disapproval or disagreement.

There are so many new words that I learned and added to my vocabulary just by reading Shakespeare! The Bard has a distinct influence on my writing.

I was force-fed Merchant of Venice at school and have dodged Shakespeare ever since, which is ridiculous, given my quest to read all the greats. Do you have a recommendation for a noob?
 

Krampus Nacht

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