Tuesday, April 16, 2013


smithereens (smi-thə-ˈrēnz)

1. fragments or splintered bits.

Noel and Teddy’s discussion about railway safety had Mary picturing us all smashed to smithereens in a train accident.

Synonyms: atoms, bits, crumbs, dabs, dashes, drops, flyspecks, grains, granules, iotas, mites, modicums, particles, pittances, scraps, shreds, smidgens, specks, touches, traces.

* Of course, the singular form of smithereens would be smithereen, but that's not a very useful word. You are welcome to try, but, as of today, no one has answered the question: how can you use smithereen in a sentence.

** According to one source:
Smithereens is an Irish word. It derives from, or is possibly the source of, the modern Irish 'smidirín', which means 'small fragments'. There is a town near Baltimore, close to the south-west coast of Ireland, called Skibbereen. The name means 'little boat harbour' and it is tempting to imagine sailing ships arriving there from the wild Atlantic by being 'blown to Skibbereen'. The more recent 'Troubles' also bring up images of property/people being dynamited and 'blown to Skibbereen' from all over Ireland. There's no record of any such phrase however, and the similarity between the words Skibbereen and smithereens seems to be no more than co-incidence.
Another enticing notion as to the source of smithereens is that it refers to the shards of metal formed when iron is forged and hammered in a smithy. Again, there's nothing but wishful thinking to support that idea. The actual origin is more prosaic. 'Smiodar' means fragments in Irish. 'Een' is a commonplace diminutive ending, as in colleen (girl), i.e. Caile(country woman) + een. Similarly, smiodar + een lead us to smithereen. As with many words that are inherited from other languages, it took some time for the English spelling to become stable. Both 'smiddereens' and 'shivereens' are recorded in the mid 19th century.
The notion of things being 'broken/smashed/blown to smithereens' dates from at least the turn of the 19th century. Francis Plowden, in The History of Ireland, 1801, records a threat made against a Mr. Pounden by a group of Orangemen: "If you don't be off directly, by the ghost of William, our deliverer, and by the orange we wear, we will break your carriage in smithereens, and hough your cattle and burn your house."
['Hough' is a variant of 'hock' - to disable by cutting the tendons]
Smithereens is one of those unusual nouns that, like suds and secateurs, never venture out by themselves - the word is always plural.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


ty-ro-man-cy (tie-row-man-see)

1. An old form of divination based on interpretations from cheese. Unfortunately, the method does not appear to have been recorded.
Tyromancy always reassures us that the future is gouda. 

Synonyms: beware of munsters, harzer days ahead, palmita reading, havarti dreams come true. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


mag-nil-o-quent (mæɡˈnɪləkwənt/)

1. Of a person: lofty, ambitious, or pompous in expression; grandiloquent. Hence of utterances, compositions, etc. Also (occas.): boastful.
The Lexicon of Cultural Folly contains many magniloquent words, like bombastic, ideopathic, and pulchritudinous, but also some of a more humble and playful nature, like doohickey, gadzooks, and funambulist

Synonyms: boastful, bombastic, flowery, grandiloquent, pompous, turgid.

Saturday, February 16, 2013



1. A question or inquiry which requires more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
Twenty Questions is a game of percontations; a percontation point, however, is punctuation used for irony.

Synonyms: backwards question mark.

Friday, February 8, 2013


effete (ɛˈfiːt)

1. impotent.
In effete attempts to prove their virility, so many set out to lure a woman to bed, when the real adventure is loving her.

Synonyms: barren, crippled, dud, enervated, enfeebled, feeble, forceless, frail, gutless, helpless, inadequate, incapable, incapacitated, incompetent, ineffective, ineffectual, inept, infecund, infirm, nerveless, paper tiger, paralyzed, powerless, prostrate, sterile, unfruitful, unproductive, weak.
2. Of material substances: That has lost its special quality or virtue; exhausted, worn out.
To the bitter, be that through a lack of love or exhaustion by society's gross tendency toward commercialization, the valentine has grown effete.

Synonyms: crapulous, decadent, epicurean, gluttonous, gourmandizing, greedy, hedonistic, immoderate, lush, parsimonious, sybaritic.

3. Figuratively of persons in an intellectual sense, of systems, etc.: That has exhausted its vigour and energy; incapable of efficient action. Also, of persons: weak, ineffectual; degenerate.
And just when the appeal of punny valentines cards seemed effete, we have dictators!

Synonym: bankrupt, burn out , conk out, cripple, debilitate, disable, do in, drain, draw, enervate, enfeeble, fag, fatigue, frazzle, impoverish, overdo, overexert, overextend, overfatigue,overtire, overwork, peter out, poop, poop out, prostrate, run ragged, sap, suck dry, tucker,use up, weaken, wear down, weary.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


prur-i-ent (ˈpruriənt)

1. Exhibiting or characterized by excessive or inappropriate desire or interest; overly curious.
As Walt Disney once said, when you're prurient, you can find lots of interesting things to do! Okay, maybe those weren't his words.

2. Lascivious, lewd; exhibiting or characterized by an excessive or inappropriate concern with sexual matters; encouraging such a concern.
Filth is in the mind of the beholder; from the right angle, everything is prurient. 
A face agog might signify a prurient mind!

Synonyms: bawdy, carnal, crude, desirous, erotic, fleshly,horny, hot, lecherous, lewd, libertine, libidinous, licentious, lustful, obscene, offensive, orgiastic, pornographic, raunchy, salacious, sensual, sexual, smutty, suggestive, unchaste, vulgar.

3. Causing an itching or stinging sensation. 
Hey you, out there in the cold getting lonely, getting old, can you feel me? Hey you, standing in the aisles with prurient feet and fading smiles, can you feel me?*

Synonyms: crawling, crawly, prickling, tickling, tingling.

*I'm aware that those are not the actual words to the Pink Floyd song, but you get it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


rhin-o-lar-yng-ol-og-y (raɪnoʊˌlɛrənˈɡɑlədʒi/)

1. a branch of medicine or surgery that deals with conditions affecting the nose and larynx.
Due to extenuating circumstances, Pinocchio developed an interest in rhinolaryngology as a child. Yet, after achieving fame at such an early age, few people expected him to grow up to be a reputable rhinolaryngologist. 

Synonyms: laryngology, otolaryngology,

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


char-y (/ˈtʃɛərɪ/)

1. causing sorrow.
2. feeling sorrow.
3. dear, precious, cherished.
4. careful, cautious, circumspect.
5. fastidious, shy, particular.
6. careful.
7. careful not to waste or part with.
8. requiring careful handling.
No stories or poems were ever created about the chary love between Oscar and Florrie because is was requited, genuine, and went utterly unfulfilled; no one wants to remember that.

Synonyms: delicate.*

*Chary is really the only word that says so many things so concisely. I think Damien Rice could have used it for his song: "Delicate."