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.

Collocation and Pejoration.

‘I am a gentil womman and no wenche’: from Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Merchant’s Tale, c1386. Photograph: Alamy.

Linguists call it collocation: the likelihood of two words occurring together. If I say “pop”, your mental rolodex will begin whirring away, coming up with candidates for what might follow. “Music”, “song” or “star”, are highly likely. “Sensation” or “diva” a little less so. “Snorkel” very unlikely indeed.

What do you think of when I say the word “rabid”? One option, according to the dictionary publisher Oxford Dictionaries, is “feminist”. The publisher has been criticised for a sexist bias in its illustrations of how certain words are used. “Nagging” is followed by “wife”. “Grating” and “shrill” appear in sentences describing women’s voices, not men’s.


Perhaps “rabid” is collocated with “feminist” more often than with those other words (if the data the OUP uses includes online discussions, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case). Sexist assumptions find their way into speech and writing for the simple reason that society is still sexist.

Language, as the medium through which we conduct almost all relationships, public and private, bears the precise imprint of our cultural attitudes. The history of language, then, is like a fossil record of how those attitudes have evolved, or how stubbornly they have stayed the same.

When it comes to women, the message is a depressing one. The denigration of half of the population has embedded itself in the language in ways you may not even be aware of. Often this takes the form of “pejoration”: when the meaning of the word “gets worse” over time. Linguists have long observed that words referring to women undergo this process more often than those referring to men. Here are eight examples:

Those examples are Mistress, Hussy, Madam, Governess, Spinster, Courtesan, Wench, and Tart. I’ll just include Hussy here:


This once neutral term meant the female head of a household. Hussy is a contraction of 13th-century husewif – a word cognate with modern “housewife”. From the 17th century onwards, however, it began to mean “a disreputable woman of improper behaviour”. That’s now its only meaning.

My whole lifetime, hussy has carried a negative meaning only. I had no idea it actually meant head of a household, much like my surprise over the primary definition of paraphernaliaClick on over for the full article and to see the rest of the words, and how they have changed over the years! (I got to this article from another interesting one, on how American is taking over English all over the world. I get teased a lot for using English spelling rather than American, but that was how I was taught, and I’ll keep using it.)

Word Wednesday.



Concupiscence, noun: strong desire; especially: sexual desire.

Concupiscent, adjective.

[Origin: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin concupiscentia, from Latin concupiscent-, concupiscens, present participle of concupiscere to desire ardently, from com– + cupere to desire.]

(14th Century)

It wasn’t like an apple, or any crisp fruit, where you might sink your teeth in and lever a piece away from the orb. She bit through, faint resistance of the skin and then concupiscent flesh. Juice slicked her cheeks and chin, coursed down her forearm, dripped from her elbow. The flavor was—intense. Honeyed, but not cloying, complex and buoyant. – Dust, Elizabeth Bear.

Word Wednesday.



1a: characterized by abundance: copious. b: generous in amount, extent, or spirit. c: being full and well developed.

2: aesthetically, morally, or generally offensive.

3: exceeding the bounds of good taste: overdone.

4: excessively complimentary or flattering: effusive.

– fulsomely, adverb.

– fulsomeness, noun.

Usage: The senses shown above are the chief living senses of fulsome. Sense 2, which was a generalized term of disparagement in the late 17th century, is the least common of these. Fulsome became a point of dispute when sense 1, thought to be obsolete in the 19th century, began to be revived in the 20th. The dispute was exacerbated by the fact that the large dictionaries of the first half of the century missed the beginnings of the revival. Sense 1 has not only been revived but has spread in its application and continues to do so. The chief danger for user of fulsome is ambiguity. Unless the context is made very clear, the reader or hearer cannot be sure whether such an expression as “fulsome praise” is meant in sense 1b or in sense 4.  [Merriam-Webster.]

[Origin: Middle English fulsom, copious, cloying, from full + –som -some.]

(13th century.)

“Glad to meet you, sir. I have heard your name mentioned in connection with that of your friend. You interest me very much, Mr. Holmes. I had hardly expected so dolichocephalic* a skull or such well-marked supra-orbital development. Would you have any objection to my running my finger along your parietal fissure? A cast of your skull, sir, until the original is available, would be an ornament to any anthropological museum. It is not my intention to be fulsome, but I confess that I covet your skull.” – The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle.


adjective: having a relatively long head with a cephalic index of less than 75.

[Origin: New Latin dolichocephalus long-headed, from Greek dolichos long + – kephalos, from kephalē head.]


Word Wednesday.



2 . Transitive verb: to inform against: betray.

Intransitive verb: to turn informer.

[Origin: Middle English pechen, short for apechen to accuse, from Anglo-French apecher, empecher to ensnare. A shortening of appeach, an obsolete variant of impeach. Related: Peached; peaching. ]


“I have the cabman who took you to Whitehall and the cabman who brought you away. I have the commissionaire who saw you near the case. I have Ikey Sanders, who refused to cut it up for you. Ikey has peached, and the game is up.” – The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle.

While James Cagney never actually said the line “you dirty rat”, I can hear his voice in my head, saying “you dirty, rotten peach!”

Word Wednesday.



1: having, showing, or arising from intense often vicious ill will, spite, or hatred.

2: productive of harm or evil.

-malevolently, adverb.

[Origin: Latin malevolent-, malevolens, from male badly + volent-, volens, present participle of velle to wish.]


“He had a vision of that lone velvety ear, fluttering like a huge malevolent moth through the attics at the Schloss.” – Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand, Fred Vargas.

Word Wednesday.



1: having a natural aversion; also: not sympathetic: hostile. Opposed, averse, contrary; having or showing antipathy.

2: arousing antipathy.

Antipathetically – adverb.

Antipatheticalness – noun.

[Origin: Greek antipathḗs opposed in feeling, anti– + –pathēs, adj. derivative of páthos, with –etic by analogy with pathetic.]


“Schnee, the colony’s governor, called upon Fu Hao in the unexpected company of his antipathetic military counterpart, Oberstleutnant Lettow-Vorbeck.” – Everfair, Nisi Shawl.

The Rising Tide of the Theocalypse.

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. (YouTube).

Educational standards have hit a new low with the Tiny Tyrant and De Vos, and it looks like they are about to be delivered yet another blow. Does anyone think that Liberty ‘University’ is any sort of high standard when it comes to education? Outside of Trump, that is, who always finds a crowd of acolytes there.

Jerry L. Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, will be part of a White House task force, an official from the White House told The Chronicle on Sunday.

The news is the first official comment from the White House on the topic since Mr. Falwell told The Chronicle in January that President Trump and others in his inner circle had asked him to head up a task force on reforming regulations related to higher education.

Even so, information on the task force’s role, membership, purview, and timing is still scant.

“We are working on a task force that Jerry Falwell will be involved with,” was all the official would say on the topic for now. He is someone who was authorized by the White House to speak on the subject but not be named.


Mr. Falwell said he and others at Liberty have also been developing position papers on various higher-education topics which he has shared with the White House and the U.S. Department of Education. At the White House, he said, he’s been sending the papers to Andrew Bremberg, who is an assistant to the president and director of the Domestic Policy Council, a White House agency that has under prior administrations exerted considerable influence on higher-education policy.

Let me guess: god, god, prayer, god, bible, god.

The full story is here.

Word Wednesday.



1a: lacking social experience or grace; also not tactful: crude.

1b: crudely made or done.

2. not planar.

– gauchely adverb
– gaucheness noun

[Origin: French, literally, left]


“I got out of my car, map of Glasgow in hand, and asked her for directions I did not need in an English I hoped was gauche and charming.” – Irene, Pierre Lemaitre.

Facebook, Oh Facebook XVII.

Clay Higgins. © Facebook.

We open with republican congressman Clay Higgins, who seems to be a tad fuckin’ bloodlusty.

In a Facebook post, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.), a viral YouTube star who was elected to Congress last November, argued that Christendom “is at war with Islamic horror.”

“Their intended entry to the American homeland should be summarily denied. Every conceivable measure should be engaged to hunt them down,” Higgins wrote. “Hunt them, identity them, and kill them. Kill them all. For the sake of all that is good and righteous. Kill them all.”

Oh, but it’s ever so bad that some of those people you so demonize feel exactly the same way, right? That makes them evil, but being an indiscriminate bloodthirsty killer is okey dokey if you’re white and at least nominally christian. Got it. Don’t go speaking like you represent America, either, because you sure as hell don’t represent me.

“Not one penny of American treasure should be granted to any nation who harbors these heathen animals. Not a single radicalized Islamic suspect should be granted any measure of quarter,” Higgins said in the post.

Oh stuff it, you obnoxious blowhard. This isn’t pirate land, and no one is after your “treasure”. What other nations do isn’t any of your business, Clay. Many of them are setting a fine example of how to be an excellent nation, and how to focus on integration, love, and empathy, rather than how to be a self righteous psychopath. Every single person who elected this fucking idiot? You should be godsdamned ashamed of yourselves.

Via The Hill.

Then there’s Harvard students…

Harvard College rescinded admissions offers to at least ten prospective members of the Class of 2021 after the students traded sexually explicit memes and messages that sometimes targeted minority groups in a private Facebook group chat.

A handful of admitted students formed the messaging group—titled, at one point, “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens”—on Facebook in late December, according to two incoming freshmen.

In the group, students sent each other memes and other images mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children, according to screenshots of the chat obtained by The Crimson. Some of the messages joked that abusing children was sexually arousing, while others had punchlines directed at specific ethnic or racial groups. One called the hypothetical hanging of a Mexican child “piñata time.”

After discovering the existence and contents of the chat, Harvard administrators revoked admissions offers to at least ten participants in mid-April, according to several members of the group.

The Harvard Crimson has the full story.

Word Wednesday.



Coming or having recently come into existence.

[Origin: Latin nascent-, nascens, present participle of nasci to be born.]

(C. 1624)

“Near the end of Delancey Street, the smells of sea and fresh water, along with the stench of refuse that those who lived near the waterfront simply dumped off the edge of Manhattan every day, mingled to produce the distinctive aroma of that tidal pool we call the East River. A large structure soon slanted up before us: the ramp approach to the nascent Williamsburg Bridge. Without pausing, and much to my dismay, Stevie crashed onto the boarded roadway, the horse’s hooves and carriage wheels clattering far more loudly against wood than they had against stone.” – The Alienist, Caleb Carr.


Word Wednesday.



1. The process or act of vitrifying or the state of being vitrified.

2. Something that is or has been vitrified.


Verb -fied; -fying

Transitive verb: to convert into glass or a glassy substance by heat and fusion.

Intransitive verb: to become vitrified.

Vitrifiable – adjective.

Vitrification – noun.

[Origin: Middle French vitrifier, from Latin vitrum glass.]


“This is in fact a DEEP SEVEN cadaver, and appears to have undergone some sort of postmortem vitrification process, or perhaps a hibernation from which it failed to emerge, approximately seven million years ago.” – The Jennifer Morgue, Charles Stross.