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Tuesday Word: sockdolager

A sockdolager is a decisive blow, whether the punch to the face that knocks out the boxer or the statement that sends that person you got into a debate with over the Continental European shoe sizing system versus the Mondopoint system or whether sausage is best consumed in patty or link form, or whatever people are getting riled up about these days, running off with their (hopefully metaphorical?) tail between their legs. It can also be anything EXTREME -- very loud, heavy, difficult, long, etc. It's a very silly-sounding word that demands to be taken seriously!

Take its fortuitous role in American history. In the sense of a knock-out blow, sockdolager sort of turned out to be the sockdolager for Abraham Lincoln, whose assassin, John Wilkes Booth, used a line from Our American Cousin containing the adjectival form of sockdolager as a cue to enter Lincoln's theater box and shoot him.

"Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, you sockdologising old man-trap."

This line was apparently so hilarious that it generated enough laughter to cover and distract the audience from Booth's movements. Or maybe Booth figured he'd have to leave the play after he murdered Lincoln, so hey, why not at least hold off until they got to his favorite part? The world may never know.

Sockdolager comes from "sock" as in "hit" -- sock it to me! -- and...dolager? Well, that's another mystery.
Southwest BBQ pork sandwich and sweet potato fries
Sliced BBQ pork with sauteed peppers, onions, and cheddar. From the Corner Cafe at Tunxis Community College in Farmington, CT.

Monday word: gamp

gamp (gămp), noun

An umbrella, especially a large one.

Etymology:  mid-1800s, named after Mrs. Sara Gamp, a character in Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens.  Mrs. Gamp always carried a large, faded umbrella.

This is chiefly a British colloquial term.  Does someone know if it's still in use in Britian today?
can·on [ˈkænən]:
origin: (13th Century) Greek; kanōn= rule", Latin; canonicus= one living under a rule

Dr. Who as personal jesus, stories falling outside the accepted episodic happenstance are to be properly labeled "alternate universe" or AU. "Headcanon" as concepts existing only in one's brain or desire. "Retcon" short for retroactive continuity to call back canon and reestablish it under a new telling or in light of new information.

"Canon" is a word you hear used a lot lately, though mostly in terms of comic books or television storylines, the original usage of the word is biblical however. So, the definition expands beyond the accepted or degreed works & laws considered sacred, or the individual clergyman belonging to a church, to be an established set of rules or principles in works and practices of all kinds (by which something is judged); a criterion; that which is considered authentic.

In addition, there is a form of music referred to as "canon", where two or more independent melodic lines (or "voices) are injected into a piece, overlapping, until they morph into one consistent sound - such as the thoroughly famous: Pachelbel Canon in D Major.

yew [ˈyü\]:
origin: (before 900) Welsh; ywen, Irish = stem or shaft

On Palm Sunday, this past Sunday and the Sunday before Easter, Christians honor the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a Donkey (the animal symbolizing peace, unlike the horse ridden into battle). The people are said to have laid down cloaks and branches of trees upon his path. As everyone in the world does not have access to palms or palm trees, several other substitutions are used: box, yew, willow, and olive.

I grew up with yew trees actually and never realized it until now, a community surrounded by trees with rigid green needles that never lost their color -- evergreens -- that grew little red berries that us young children would pretend to gobble (as parents had forbidden eating them as poisonous) or collect for decorative purposes in our little games and the established canon of our childhood rituals. Long ago, the wood of a yew tree, both strong and pliable, was seen ideal for making bows in archery too.

The fact that this year's Palm Sunday is followed immediately by a "blood moon" (or total lunar eclipse) feels especially auspicious, even if the appreciation is purely academic or scientific. Don't worry if you miss it, there are three more chances of seeing the moon turn red, or "a grouping of four" known throughout science and mathematics as the Greek-described tetrad; a bonus word for my tardiness!

Crab-Cheese Pilaf

A "dieters" version from the Weight-Watching chapter of the Good Housekeeping Cookbook, 1963.

Crab-Cheese Pilaf

Recipe and moreCollapse )

Friday words: Photopsia and phosphenes

Medical terms again, this week and the next:


NL., fr. Gr. fw^s, fwto`s, light + 'o`psis sight.

An affection of the eye, in which the patient perceives luminous rays, flashes, coruscations, etc. See phosphene.

from Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)

These can be caused by eye diseases, or simply by pressure--the flashes one sees when one's eyes are closed, esp. if a little pressure is applied with the hands to the closed eyelids, are phosphenes.
BBQ pork ribs, baked beans, and sweet potato fries
From the Corner Cafe at Tunxis Community College in Farmington, CT.

Thursday word: vaticide

vaticide (VAT-uh-seyed) - n., the murder of a prophet; the murder of a poet.

Also one guilty of doing either of these. The ambiguity of this word goes back to its Latin root: vātēs meant any of seer/prophet/bard/poet, and while in daily life, no one would consider a hack poetaster a true seer (witness the opening of Juvenal's first satire), at the higher levels there was some conflation of the inspiration from the Muse and from a divinity that breathed through a seer. Notice, also, oracles delivered their words in verse -- in perfect hexameters, at Delphi, for example. These days, the word is usually understood to point at the prophet, but being (at least sometimes) of the other tribe it threatens, I tend to think of that meaning first -- especially around poetry slams.

And with a killer verse, he won the slam -- it was total vaticide.



Tuesday Word: vernalagnia

Spring has hit the southeastern US full force. There are bees a-bumbling, geese a-laying, swans a-swimming, hormones a-raging. Pollen is a-streaming into every facial orifice and a-coating every car. Students and workers are staring out of every window, desperately longing to be outside, forgetting that they typically spend their down-time maintaining their internet addictions and running errands, not frolicking in fields of flowers.

Nevertheless, the cold seems to have broken, and there's something going around, in addition to what I hear is a very intense and nasty yet mercifully brief stomach bug: vernalagnia! It's just another word for spring fever, whether a romantic, dreamy mood brought on by spring or a seasonal increase in sexual desire.

While I encountered both definitions in abundance during my research, the origins of vernalagnia seem more in line with the latter one, with verna, meaning "of spring," synonymous with vernal, and -lagnia, meaning "lust." I like to imagine a frustrated high school teacher hurling it at their students: You were my best-behaved class! Now you're just a bunch of vernalagniacs!

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