Word Wednesday.



Amphibian; especially: Frog, Toad.

– batrachian adjective.

[Origin: ultimately from Greek batrachos frog.]

(Circa 1828.)

“When the migraine began to fade a little, Marc looked at Merlin, now pinioned by two policemen and moving his batrachian lips in an incoherent automatic way.” – The Accordionist, Fred Vargas.

Sept. 20th: Grave Robbing 101 at Lincoln Park.

Here’s a fun thing to do on a Wednesday evening if you’re in the area:

When the area now known as Lincoln Park was City Cemetery during the 1840s to 1860s, it was a regular smorgasbord for grave robbers — medical schools tended to have a “no questions asked” policy, and a fresh cadaver could pay as much as a month in the coal mines.

Author and tour guide Adam Selzer leads “pupils” on a walking tour of Lincoln Park, showing relics of the old cemetery, a tomb snooping demonstration, and repeating stories and quotes from the archives about all of the body snatching that took place on the grounds — featuring enough tricks of the trade to launch your very own career. Humorous, entertaining, and educational as all get out.

Tickets are $20.00, and all the details are at Atlas Obscura.

Word Wednesday.



1: Frizzle

Verb: Frizzled; frizzling: Frizz, Curl.

[Origin: probably akin to Old Frisian frīsle curl]


2: Frizzle

Noun: A crisp curl. (1613)

3: Frizzle

Verb: Frizzled; Frizzling

Transitive verb

1: to fry until crisp and curled.

2: Burn, Scorch.

Intransitive verb: to cook with a sizzling noise.

[Origin: fry + sizzle]


“The sun was high in the heavens when my companion woke me from a heavy sleep and announced that the porridge was cooked and there was just time to bathe. The grateful smell of frizzling bacon entered the tent door.” – The Willows, Algernon Blackwood.

Word Wednesday.



The use of a word to modify or govern two or more words usually in such a manner that it applies to each in a different sense or makes sense with only one (as in “opened the door and her heart to the homeless boy”).

[Origin: Middle English zeuma, from Medieval Latin, from Latin zeugma, from Greek, literally, joining, from zeugnynai to join; akin to Latin jungere to join.]

(15th Century)

“Elinor smiled. ‘Ooh, extended metaphors.’ ‘It’ll be zeugma next.’ ‘I love it when you talk dirty to me.’ – Splinter the Silence, Val McDermid.

Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain.

A while back, Rick asked me about Bitcoin. Along with the rather alarmed look on my face, I shook my head and said “stay the fuck away from it.” That said, I wasn’t in a position to explain all the reasons why, or the history of it and all that. I just muttered “stay the fuck away” again. Conveniently, David Gerard has a book all about that! Many of you are familiar with Mr. Gerard from Rational Wiki. I got this for Rick, but of course, I had to read it too, because book.

It’s excellent, covers what you need to know, and is informative, entertaining, and sometimes, horrifying. So if you’ve been curious, or thinking maybe you ought to “get in on that”, read first. You can read select excerpts from the book here.

Word Wednesday.



1a: designed or intended to teach b: intended to convey instruction and information as well as pleasure and entertainment.

2: making moral observations.

– didactical, adjective.

– didactically, adverb.

– didacticism, noun.

[Origin: Greek didaktikos, from didaskein to teach.}


“King Rat’s London snarl had assumed a didactic tone. “Pay attention, ratling. This here is the entrance to your ceremonial abode.” – King Rat, China Miéville.

Word Wednesday.


Noun: a use of spells or verbal charms spoken or sung as a part of a ritual of magic; also: a written or recited formula of words designed to produce a particular effect.

Incantational – adjective.

Incantatory – adjective.

[Origin: Middle English incantacioun, from Middle French incantation, from Late Latin incantation-, incantatio, from Latin incantare to enchant.]

(14th Century)

“It seems to me that the menu lies close to the heart of the human impulse to order, to beauty, to pattern. It draws on the original chthonic upwelling that underlies all art. A menu can embody the anthropology of a culture or the psychology of the individual; it can be a biography, a cultural history, a lexicon; it speaks to the sociology, psychology, and biology of its creator and its audience, and of course to their geographical location; it can be a way of knowledge, a path, an inspiration, a Tao, an ordering, a shaping, a manifestation, a talisman, an injunction, a memory, a fantasy, a consolation, an allusion, an illusion, an evasion, an assertion, a seduction, a prayer, a summoning, an incantation murmured under the breath as the torchlights sink lower and the forest looms taller and the wolves howl louder and the fire prepares for its submission to the encroaching dark.” – The Debt to Pleasure, John Lanchester.

Book Note: In all my decades of reading, I’ve read a great many books which could be described as creepy. The Debt to Pleasure is, hands down, the creepiest damn book I have ever read. It’s a compelling read, in spite of the fact that the main character is one without a single redeeming feature. This book gets into your head, and leaves a rather disturbing taste in the brain.

Word Wednesday.



Complete and confident self composure or self assurance: poise.

[Origin: French, literally, perpendicularity, from Middle French, from a plomb, literally, according to the plummet.]


“There are one or two artists, but I have noted that there is only a slight correlation between a taste for history and practising the arts. And over the last twelve years, you might say I’ve got to know all of them. And all of them, whoever they are, are won over by the costumes, the faithful reproduction of official texts, the period atmosphere, and, I think I may say, the fact of wearing an eighteenth-century frock coat. It lends one aplomb. – A Climate of Fear, Fred Vargas.

Word Wednesday.



1: a sharp cleavage: Disunion, Separation <the disjunction between theory and practice>.

2: a compound sentence in logic formed by joining two statements by or: a: inclusive disjunction b: exclusive disjunction.

[Origin: disjunccioun, from Old French disjunction (13c.) or directly from Latin disjunctionem “separation,” noun of action from past participle stem of disjungere.]


” ‘No, Omega, Ariane. She killed one of the guards.’ ‘Good Lord. When?’ ‘Ten months ago. Disjunction – followed by escape.’ ” – This Night’s Foul Work, Fred Vargas.

Word Wednesday.



1 a: having a fine edge or point: sharp. b: affecting one as if by cutting <keen sarcasm>. c: pungent to the sense. <a keen scent>.

2 a: (1) showing a quick and ardent responsiveness <a keen swimmer>. (2) eager; b of emotion or feeling: intense.

3 a: intellectually alert: having or characteristic of a quick penetrating mind; also: shrewdly astute. b: sharply contested <a keen debate>. c: extremely  sensitive in perception.

4: Wonderful, excellent.

– Keenly, adverb.

– Keenness, noun.

– Keen on: very enthusiastic or excited about.

[Origin: Middle English kene brave, sharp, from Old English cēne brave; akin to Old High German kuoni brave.]

(13th century)*

“Daniel is a very keen fellow, and it is why I sent him to Duncarlin – he has gone before, and hates the errand, for the castle and its inhabitants oppress him, and he feels unclean when he has been there.” – The Wicked, Douglas Nicholas.

Am I the only one who remembers Neato keen?

*I am aware of the meanings ascribed in the 1800s. My book choice is set in the early Medieval period, and that’s the definition I am concerned with.

Word Wednesday.



Charlatan, noun.

  1. Quack.

  2. One making usually showing pretenses to knowledge or ability: Fraud, Faker.

– Charlatanism, noun.

– Charlantry, noun.

[Origin: Italian ciarlatano, alteration of cerretano, literally, inhabitant of Cerreto, from Cerreto, Italy.]


That certainly makes me wonder about the inhabitants of Cerreto in the 15th century. Many thanks to rq for the recommend, Uprooted is a splendid story.

“I put my hands on it, and then I said abruptly, “What does it summon? A demon?” “No, don’t be absurd,” the Dragon said, impatiently. “Calling spirits is nothing but charlantry. It’s very easy to claim you’ve summoned something that’s invisible and incorporeal.” – Uprooted, Naomi Novik.

Traveling Libraries.

Children waiting at the Prince George’s County Memorial Library, Maryland, 1951. National Archives/23932511.

Atlas Obscura has a wonderful collection of photos of vintage traveling libraries. They started out with horses and carriages, and in some cases, just a librarian and a horse.

A packhorse librarian leaving a cabin after delivering books, Kentucky, c. 1930s. Goodman-Paxton Photographic Collection/University of Kentucky Libraries Special Collections Research Center.

The Benjamin Franklin bookmobile, Mexico City, 1953. National Archives/23932428.

Benjamin Franklin and Mexico City? Oh my. Quick, someone tell the Tiny Tyrant! There are many more delightful traveling libraries to be seen here.