Today’s Murderous Mountweazels: ADZUKI; KIAUGH; CHOOK
I think this is… a portmanteau? It comes from the early 80s, and refers to obnoxious TV personalities in advertisements, like The Noid, or Joe Suzuki.
Actual definition: It’s a bean. That’s not very exciting at all. In particular, it’s the red bean that’s often used to make red bean paste found in a lot of Chinese and Japanese dishes. In 2009 Pepsi Japan released an adzuki-flavored Pepsi product, even.
So this is probably one of those things that tons of people know, but I had never run across it until now. Strange.
This one has to be Scottish, right? It’s actually pronounced “kish” and it’s slang for money, because all the words I don’t know seem to refer to money.
Actual definition: It’s Scottish! But it’s pronounced more like it’s spelled than I would have guessed, and it means “trouble or worry” which, I guess money is the source of, frequently. So, not a total wash.
By hook, or by crook, or by chook! Of the three, this is the only word that my spellcheck doesn’t like out-of-the-gate, so it must be obscure. We’ll say it’s a fisherman who’s also a criminal.
Actual definition: The word I was most afraid to search as I also half-expected it to be some horrible insult. It appears “chook” comes from the sound used to call chickens and hens and, thus, in Australia (and NZ) it’s also a word used to refer to a chicken or a hen.
Encarta helpfully adds a second definition: “an offensive term that deliberately insults a woman’s age or appearance”. The lesson here is if you go to Australia you should be careful about making chicken calls.
October 4th, 2016
Today’s Miscreant Mountweazels: BAWBEE, TRAIK, FALCATE
Bobby Trake Falcate IV, the finest British actor you’ve never heard of.
My best guess: Something like a geegaw? A noun meaning a worthless little bit of a thing.
Actual definition: (n.) – a coin of low value.
Specifically, “bawbee” is apparently the Scottish halfpenny issued from the mid-15th to 16th century, but has come to generally mean “a coin of low value”. My guess, for once, wasn’t far off. All my time playing Balderdash! as a child is paying off!
My best guess: A word stolen from Icelandic, it’s some kind of axe/shovel.
Actual definition: (v.) 1. – to become ill or lose one’s good health. (2.) – to stroll, wander, or stray.
Not Icelandic, but Scottish. Two Scot words? I don’t look these up in advance, so it’s an odd coincidence. Anyhow, I don’t hang around a lot of Scotsmen, and even on that rare occasion when I have, I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard of “traik”, but there you have it. It doesn’t say “archaic” in any of the places I looked, so I assume it’s still in active use, but Merriam-Webster says “Popularity: Bottom 20% of words”, so this may be one of those words that really only a true Scot would use.
My best guess: Most of these have been nouns, this one looks excitingly like a verb! To falcate: the opposite of placate. Instead of making someone happy, when you falcate them you’re actively vexing them.
Actual definition: (adj.) – curved like a sickle; hooked.
So, not a verb at all. It looks like it’s used a lot in biology, based on the examples I’ve seen (“the falcate mandibles”, “the fin was falcate”). In retrospect, I also feel pretty sure that I’ve seen this in use in some fantasy novel somewhere. I can imagine a sword being described with a “falcate blade”, and me just reading that passage, somewhat mentally nodding and glossing over it, and never learning what that word meant.
On a related note, this is also the sort of word that may well show up in Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun. I am about halfway through the first book (The Shadow of the Torturer) and the language is both effusive and elusive. In Wolfe’s own words, many of the words used are “archaic, obscure (but never invented)”, resulting in an interesting read. I’m pretty into it so far and look forward to seeing where it goes.
August 3rd, 2016
Today’s Venerable Volume of Mountweazels: VENULAR, VILL, VIREO
That’s either a magic spell, or Julius Caesar really lousing up his speech about conquering.
My best guess: An anatomical term, like “dorsal”, meaning “along some bodily axis”.
Actual definition: (n.) – 1. A small vein; 2. One of the branches of a vein in the wing of an insect.
Veins! It should have been obvious. Given the real specific context of the word, though, I’m not terribly surprised I haven’t heard, and it’s not the worst word I’ve encountered. You know what, venular gets a pass.
My best guess: A plant, found mostly in northern Africa, low to the ground with really annoying pollen.
Actual definition: (n.) – A territorial division under the feudal system; township.
Oh, so like a villa or even a village. That one should have been more obvious, but I was reading it with a harder sound. In retrospect, here’s a fun Scrabble tactic to try: don’t have all the letters for a word? Just play as many of them as you have, and start subtracting until you get to some root word!
My best guess: An online service that allows you to submit videos that you hope will go viral.
Actual definition: (n.) – Any of several small, insectivorous American birds of the family Vireonidae, having the plumage usually olive-green or gray above and white or yellow below.
Well, that’s fairly specific. Probably not an unusual word if you’re a birder. I am not a birder. I’m guessing neither is the owner of vireo.com, who’s opening offer to sell the domain name of vireo.com is $10,000. Come on, Audubon Society, you know what to do here.
July 11th, 2016
Today’s Mouthful of Mountweazels: VANG, SIMNEL, NIDI
Say that five times fast.
(n.) – Each of two guy ropes running from the end of a gaff to opposite sides of the deck.
So, it’s a nautical term. I like boats. I’ve ridden on a number of them, and read my fair share of books about boat things. Most recently, “Red Seas Under Red Skies” (the second book of the excellent “Gentlemen Bastards” series). I have never run across the word “vang” in any context that I can remember. Why such a specific name for a rope?
(n.) – “sweet cake,” c.1200, from Old French simenel “fine wheat flour; flat bread cake, Lenten cake,” probably by dissimilation from Vulgar Latin *siminellus (also source of Old High German semala “the finest wheat flour,” German Semmel “a roll”), a diminutive of Latin simila “fine flour”
That is one convoluted definition. More familiarly, I guess “simnel cake” is a thing in the UK, made with marzipan (also a fun word) and eaten around Easter. Wikipedia says that simnel cakes have been around since medieval times but I guess they never really took off outside of the British Empire. Fruit cakes have never been overly popular, and my spell-checker doesn’t think it’s a real word either.
(n.) – 1. a nest, especially one in which insects, spiders, etc., deposit their eggs; 2. a place or point in an organism where a germ or other organism can develop or breed.
The plural of “nidus”, which is pronounced “nye-duhs”. NIDI is pronounced “nie-die”. Neither of those pronunciations make sense to me, and “depositing” eggs sounds creepier than it probably should. All I can think of is that insect that Khan puts into Chekov’s ear, and it’s the worst.
July 6th, 2016
For brothers, and all the camaraderie that the word implies, my oldest brother Adam and I were never all that close. Part of this, I imagine, was due to the age difference. When you’re in your thirties, perhaps, six years is not that much. The difference between age seven and age thirteen, however, may as well be a light-year.
Our personalities, as well, could probably not have diverged more. Where he was reserved, I was outspoken. Our mutual love of LEGO notwithstanding, where his hobbies were ones of solitude and observance– photography, journalism, reading, old TV shows– mine were more of engagement and attention deficit disorder (theatre, video games, action figures). Where he was Oscar, I was Felix or— whichever one was the tidy one, that was him to a tee. Me? A fucking disaster, from my bedroom to my occasional blue language, the latter courtesy of meeting friends in fourth grade who introduced me to the likes of N.W.A. and 2 Live Crew (and of which Adam would almost certainly still disapprove). (Joe, for his part, managed to straddle a bit of both worlds growing up, as the middle child seems to do: neither overly neat nor messy, and just generally involved in everything for good or ill.)
In a sense, these stark contrasts were also just purely markers of our individuality, a product of how we were raised. I don’t claim to know much about the human condition, how we become who we become, whether its driven by nature or nurture, but I would certainly describe the way we were raised as “having our nature nurtured”. The way my mom sees it, people are going to be whoever they’re going to be and it’s a far better thing to encourage them to be the best version of that, and to enjoy it, rather than to force them to fit into the world in some wholly unnatural way. I can’t say as I disagree. Growing up, we were allowed to pursue our own paths for happiness, whatever that entailed. One of the things that I believe this engendered in us is a strong sense of self, and of self-reliance. And although me and my two brothers often did have afternoons and summer days riding bikes together or chasing each other around the yard with cap guns, it was also not uncommon for all of us— my parents included— to be off in separate rooms of the house, tending to our own projects, following our own muses.
Perhaps it is telling that when we, as a family, played the card game canasta, we always preferred to play the version that is “every man for himself” instead of playing with partners, even when there were just four of us playing. In any case, learning to live with one’s self— to survive without a partner— is a valuable thing. I highly recommend it.
As we grew older, as if in keeping with our theme of being polar opposites, Adam and I seemed to drift further in opposite directions. He had gone off to school in Montana for a couple of years, true, but when he finished he moved back near our parents. As for me, I moved out the day I left for college and never looked back (save for the occasional visit home, rarely for more than a week at a time).
I never really saw him much after I moved out. After both he and our parents moved to San Antonio, visiting was harder but I tried to make the time once a year to fly down. Still, he was often busy. He was at work, or off on one of his many adventures. We would talk from time-to-time. He would write me, occasionally, and at some length. It was usually good news tinged with a bit of bad (broken cars and money troubles, the usual sorts of things). I would, even less occasionally, write back; I have always been bad about that.
And I’ve missed my chance to write him again, ever again. I’m not saying this in self-pity. Rather, it serves to point out one the most fundamental ways in which he was different from me, and indeed from most people I know: he was, endlessly, a thoughtful human being. There was very little he did in life without someone else in mind. Always a card, always a call, always a thoughtful gift on birthdays, on Christmases. When I was visiting North Bend and my friend Eric passed, he dropped everything to drive me up to Eugene, no questions asked, to be with my friends. For that and a thousand other things, I am grateful.
I tried to repay him in kind, where I could, and I didn’t always succeed. The larger point is that I really had to actively try. To him, it was closer to a second nature. Why wouldn’t you be thoughtful? Why shouldn’t you care?
Adam would have been forty-four today, June 21st, the equinox, the longest day of the year, and perhaps all that sunshine that was the source of his generally sunny disposition. Happy birthday, dear brother. You are missed.
June 21st, 2016