Word Of The Week – Libertine

The Libertine starring Johnny DeppI have never seen the Johnny Depp movie “The Libertine”, nor have I eaten at a restaurant named “The Libertine” (real), or had drinks at a bar (real) or pub (real) named “Libertine”, or enjoyed the taste of a “Libertine Ale” (real), or, to the best of my knowledge, inhaled the fragrance of White Musk Libertine (real) perfume.

But I do remember, when first stumbling across the word in my late teens, having an idea for a man who during the day pretended to be a conservative but at night donned a mask and costume to become “The Libertine”, scourge of the straight-laced.








  1. a person, especially a man, who behaves without moral principles or a sense of responsibility, especially in sexual matters.
  2. philanderer, playboy, rake, roué, Don Juan, Lothario, Casanova,Romeo;
  3. a person who rejects accepted opinions in matters of religion; a freethinker.
  4. characterized by a disregard of morality, especially in sexual matters.
  5. “his more libertine impulses”
  6. freethinking in matters of religion.
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Word Of The Week – Vexillology

The recent situation with the Confederate Flag and its origin, history and place in modern culture reminded me of a word I first discovered way back in my junior high school (better known as the Stone Age to modern readers) Social Studies class.

Or, to be more precise, I discovered it in the school library.

In Social Studies, on a Friday, we were discussing flags of the world and I asked the teacher if there was such a thing as a person who was an expert in flags.

“Why don’t you research that and report back on it next week?”, he replied, which is teacher-speak for, “I don’t know, so I’ll turn it back on you to provide an answer.”

During lunch, I stopped by the school library and asked the matronly librarian the same question.

(By the way, there was a time in my young life that I wanted to be a librarian, though I’d never seen a male librarian up to that point, because I thought librarians were the smartest people in the world. And they got to be around BOOKS all day!)

She returned with a volume of the encyclopedia and a Webster’s dictionary opened to the word, “Vexillology” and I trotted off to an empty table to copy down the information. When I got home I checked our own encyclopedia, but the information was the same. Monday, my Social Studies teacher asked if I had found the answer to my question and I gave my short report that affirmed there was such a thing as a person who was an expert in flags; a vexillologist.


noun vex·il·lol·o·gy \ˌvek-sə-ˈlä-lə-jē\

Definition of VEXILLOLOGY

:  the study of flags

— vex·il·lo·log·ic \(ˌ)vek-ˌsi-lə-ˈlä-jik\ or vex·il·lo·log·i·cal \-ˈlä-ji-kəl\ adjective

— vex·il·lol·o·gist \ˌvek-sə-ˈlä-lə-jist\ noun


Latin vexillum

First Known Use: 1959

Big Bang Theory Screen Capture of Sheldon and Fun With Flags

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Word Of The Week – Interpellate

Questioning of an international political figure to illustrate the meaning of interpellateHere’s a word, if you’re an American, that you would be more apt to find in news accounts, books or magazines from elsewhere in the world because it is seldom used in the U.S. but is common in international language. The definition explains why;

interpellate   \in-ter-PELL-ayt\


: to question (someone, such as a foreign minister) formally concerning an official action or policy or personal conduct


At the international tribunal, U.N. officials interpellated the premier about his country’s acquisition of illegal weapons.

“The group noted that Mr. Lotilla was being interpellated at the time by Rep. Elpidio F. Barzaga, Jr., a member of the majority bloc who supported the fare hike.” — Melissa Luz T. Lopez and Vince Alvic Alexis F. Nonato,Business World, January 23, 2015

Interpellate is a word you might encounter in the international news section of a newspaper or magazine. It refers to a form of political challenging used in the congress or parliament of many nations throughout the world, in some cases provided for in the country’s constitution. Formal interpellation isn’t practiced in the U.S. Congress, but in places where it is practiced, it can be the first step in ousting an appointed official or bringing to task an elected one. The word was borrowed from the Latin terminterpellatus, past participle of interpellare, which means “to interrupt or disturb a person speaking.” The “interrupt” sense, once used in English, is now obsolete, and interpellate should not be confused with interpolate, which means “to insert words into a text or conversation.”

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Word Of The Week – Sere

Desert illustrating the definition of "sere"While reading Dan Simmons’ “Hyperion” last week, I came across the word “sere” and one of the cool things about reading an ebook is that you can highlight a word in question and see the definition IF you have a wireless connection. At the time, I did not and I had to use my iPhone, which always has a data connection, to look up the meaning of this word.


adjective \ˈsir\

Definition of SERE

1:  being dried and withered

2:  archaic :  threadbare

Variants of SERE

sere also sear \ˈsir\

Examples of SERE

  • <a sere region that can’t support agriculture>


Origin of SERE

Middle English, from Old English sēar dry; akin to Old High German sōrēn to wither, Greek hauosdry, Lithuanian sausas

First Known Use: before 12th century

Related to SERE


arid, droughty, dry (also sear), thirsty, waterless


damp, dank, humid, moist, wet

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Word Of The Week – Jiggery-Pokery

Language is so wonderful! Even as you think you have a pretty wide-reaching vocabulary, someone, usually a writer, but in this case a very intelligent and well-read justice of the Supreme Court, will introduce you to a new word or phrase that you had never heard before.

This past week Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a scathing dissent of his co-supremes majority decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act against a court challenge by accusing his assenting colleagues of “interpretive jiggery-pokery”, which sent me scurrying to my dictionary to identify this phrase I had never heard before.

Justice Antonin Scalia

I’m sure more than a few people (OK, maybe it was just me) thought that the Supreme Court Justice was making up a word, since he had stated that, “Words no longer have meaning…” and suspected he was illustrating that point with the seemingly nonsensical phrase, Jiggery-pokery. However, it turns out he was using an English term that dates back to the late 1800’s meaning, “deceitful or dishonest behavior”, but it’s even a little more descriptive than that. In popular usage, it meant what we mean when we say “baloney”, “rubbish” or “hogwash” to indicate what has been stated holds very little or no truth.

Editors over at the Oxford English Dictionary traced the phrase back to a Scottish word, “Jouk”, which meant to skillfully twist one’s body as to avoid a blow. It seems pretty obvious that Scalia was writing that the majority justices had twisted their views or bent themselves in order to make words seem what they did not clearly (in his opinion) mean.

But it’s even a little more descriptive than that.

The word, “Jouk”, led to Scots using the word or its variable of joukery to describe trickery, or even worse, dealing in an underhanded way. Another Scottish word, “Pawk”, meant a trick. The words were eventually combined into the phrase joukerypawkery, or what is referred to as rhyming reduplication. It eventually morphed into the English phrase “jiggery-pokery” that Justice Scalia employed. A real word/phrase with a real defamatory meaning.

It seems clear that Scalia was attempting to paint his colleagues as people who were willing to bend and twist themselves to perpetuate a trick or in a tricky fashion to arrive at the basis for their decision. Quite the insult, I would think, to his colleagues. He’s clearly not trying to win friends and influence people.

But he did broaden our vocabulary.

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Word Of The Week – Gossamer

Spider web on tree limbThe word “gossamer” has always been one of my favorite words. I know that I first read it somewhere as a child and even though the context (the passage was about a spider’s web) made it pretty clear what the word meant, I still, as was my habit when confronted with new words, looked it up in the dictionary and so discovered that it could also refer to a light, delicate material, such as a “fairy’s gossamer wings.”



gos·sa·mer \ˈgä-sə-mər also ˈgäz-mər, ˈgä-zə-\

: a piece of a spider’s web
: a very light or delicate material

Full Definition of GOSSAMER

1:  a film of cobwebs floating in air in calm clear weather
2:  something light, delicate, or insubstantial

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Word Of The Week – Inculcate

Inculcate definitioninculcate

[in-kuhl-keyt, in-kuhl-keyt]

verb (used with object), inculcated, inculcating.

  1. to implant by repeated statement or admonition; teach persistently and earnestly (usually followed by upon or in):

to inculcate virtue in the young.

  1. to cause or influence (someone) to accept an idea or feeling (usually followed by with):

Socrates inculcated his pupils with the love of truth.

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Word Of The Week – Prefatory

PrefatoryFor some reason, I prefer this word over the modern-day “Introduction” that is so familiar to most of us.


adjective pref·a·to·ry \ˈpre-fə-ˌtȯr-ē\

: included at the beginning of a book, speech, etc., as an introduction

Full Definition of PREFATORY

1:  of, relating to, or constituting a preface <prefatory remarks>

2:  located in front

Examples of PREFATORY

  1. The speaker made some prefatory remarks.
  2. Each chapter in the book has a prefatory quotation.

Origin of PREFATORY  Latin praefari

First Known Use: 1675

Related to PREFATORY


beginning, introductory, precursory, preliminary, prelim, prelusive, preparative, preparatory, primary

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Word Of The Week – Synecdoche

Synecdoche graphicHere’s a word I stumbled across when I saw this graphic over on Pinterest, I believe, and found myself enamored by its sound and meaning.

Here’s the official Dictionary.com definition:


noun, Rhetoric

  1. a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole or the whole for a part, the special for the general or the general for the special, as in ten sail for ten ships or a Croesus for a rich man.

Origin of synecdoche

Medieval Latin and Greek – 1350-1400; < Medieval Latin < Greek synekdochḗ, equivalent to syn- syn-+ ekdochḗ act of receiving from another, equivalent to ek- ec- + -dochē,noun derivative of déchesthai to receive.

Let me know in the comments if you’re able to use the word “Synecdoche” this week and how.

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The 14 Highest Rated Books Of 2015

Trigger Warning book coverGoodreads shared with BuzzFeed their 14 highest rated books of 2015, as voted on by members of Goodreads (I’m one, are you?) thus far this year.

Under the Fiction category I’ve already read The Secret Wisdom of the Earth and I want to read The Little Life. I haven’t read either book listed under Non-Fiction and probably won’t this year, nor do I read books in the Young Adult or Romance categories because they’re just not my things, you know?

I’ve read The Girl on the Train in the Mystery and Thriller category and I want to read The Stranger. I really want to read both A Darker Shade of Magic (short stories by the inimitable Neil Gaiman) under the Fantasy and Sci-Fi category and finally, I don’t have any interest in either book listed under the Historical Fiction category, though sometimes I do enjoy books of that genre.

Have you read any of these 14 highest rated books of 2015? Or are there any you see on the list that you’d like to read? Let me know in the comments.

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Word Of The Week – Terroir

terroir imageA few years back when I was researching wines I came across the word, “Terroir”, and ever since I have loved how it just rolls off the tongue, though I admittedly have few opportunities to use the word in writing or conversation.

Here’s the definition from Dictionary.com:



[ter-wahr; French ter-war]


  1. the environmental conditions, especially soil and climate, in which grapes are grown and that give a wine its unique flavor and aroma: the high quality of the region’s terroir.
  2. also called goût de terroir [goo duh terwahr, gooduh ter-war]. the unique flavor   and aroma of a wine that is attributed to the growing environment of the grapes.
  3. the conditions in which a food is grown or produced and that give the food its unique characteristics: grass-fed beef with an Idaho terroir.

Origin of terroir

< French: literally, ‘soil, land’>


Let me know in the comments if you’re able to use the word “Terroir” this week and how.

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Dictionary Of Clichés

A couple of weeks ago when Cindy and I were over at Daytona Beach, we stopped in at a used book store we had visited before.

I walked back to the “Writing” section and after a minute or two of scanning the 6 shelves they had dedicated to the subject, I came across this beauty; The Dictionary of  Clichés by James Rogers, for an excellent price of only $5.00. This will be a great addition to my reference bookshelf!

The Dictionary Of Clichés

There was also an extra “kick” in it for me because when I opened the Dictionary Of Clichés up and began to browse through it to be sure it was intact, I glanced at the first entry and was pleased to see that I already knew the origin and definition of A-OK.

A-OK Entry in The Dictionary Of Clichés

Yeah, I’m easily amused.


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Samuel ‘Mark Twain’ Clemens Died On This Date In 1910

Samuel 'Mark Twain' ClemensIt was on this day 105 years ago that the man who is often quoted as saying “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated” did, in fact, really die. What Samuel ‘Mark Twain’ Clemens actually said to the journalist who came to his door in 1897 to investigate his presumed fatality was “The report of my death is an exaggeration,” but the various misquotes about Clemens’ denial of death have taken on lives of their own.

In 1909, 73-year-old Clemens proclaimed: “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.'”

He was eerily accurate in his prescience. He died of a heart attack that next year, on this day exactly one century and 5 years ago – April 21, 1910 – at the age of 74, precisely one day after Halley’s Comet’s closest approach to Earth. He was buried next to his wife in Upstate New York. His only surviving child placed next to his grave a monument that was 12 feet long, or two fathoms deep – the depth at which it’s safe for an average steamboat to pass, a riverboat expression known as “Mark Twain,” from which Samuel Clemens chose his pen name.

Thanks to The Writer’s Almanac for some of the above.


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Neil Gaiman On Writing

Neil Gaiman in front of a bookshelf.Neil Gaiman says just write; just get the words down; don’t worry about your first draft, no one will ever see it; get the ideas and the words down. Just write.

That is hard advice for me to follow. I need to know where the story is going and how it will get there. I need to go over the words and examine the phrases and inspect the plot and, and, and all the other things I need to do first.

But I’ll try it.

Because Neil Gaiman said it.

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25 Maps That Explain The English Language

I know just enough Latin to be dangerous (though how dangerous can a dead language actually be?) and only enough to understand the basis of words in English.

And I do the same with other languages such as Spanish (took it in high school back in the Ice Age), Greek (studied it in college back in the Paleolithic Age), and French (tried to learn it 8 years ago before we went to France). But I freely admit that, outside of understanding word origins, I have never really enjoyed learning a language enough to speak and write it. You may feel the same since, “only 18% of Americans report speaking a language other than English.”

So for those of you like me who want to dig deeper but don’t care to go exploring in dusty old tomes filled with the words of old or dead university professors, then you might enjoy the visual learning aspect of these 25 Maps That Explain The English Language.

Map of the English Language

Just be careful…I’ve gotten lost in there a few times.

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20 Phrases You’ve Likely Misused

Intents and Purposes misuseWe’ve all done it, at one time or another. Like misheard lyrics of a song (‘Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy), a misheard phrase can and does easily work itself into our everyday speaking, sometimes to hilarious effect.

Here is a list of 20 phrases you’ve likely misused. Of this list, I’ve only been guilty of number 10, but there is also no doubt I’ve misused others that are not included in this particular group.

Do you see any you may have misused?

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The I Love Writing Weekly Roundup

Global English Editing logoEvery Wednesday, the good folks at Global English Editing post their “I Love Writing” weekly roundup of the best writing on the web for the previous week. I’ve been subscribing to their RSS feed for a few weeks now and there’s always some interesting stuff in there.

For example, last week there were articles on syntax, how to improve clarity and conciseness, female writers using androgynous names, writing what you DON’T know, and thinking like an editor.

Take a few minutes to peruse their past few roundups and see if you find some interesting subject matter for yourself.

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“The Scarlet Letter” Published 165 Years Ago Today

the_scarlet_letter325pxIt was on this day in 1850 that “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne was first published. I remember my 11th grade American Literature teacher in high school assigning it to us to read and how legalistic in their religious practice I found the Puritans to be. Sadly, it reminds me of many who still operate in that fashion today.

Hawthorne was living at a time when there was almost no such thing as American literature, in part because the American publishing industry was so behind the times. In order to publish a book, a single printer would edit the manuscript, set the type, operate the printing press, bind the pages into books, and then sell them. It was remarkably inefficient, and so it was almost impossible to produce a best-seller, since so few copies were available to be sold.

But by 1850, books were being printed by machines. Long, continuous sheets of paper were fed into steam-powered printing presses, and factories of workers folded, pressed, and stitched the pages into books.The Scarlet Letter became the first great American novel in part because it was the first novel that could reach a large audience.

scarletletter325pxHawthorne had long been fascinated by America’s Puritan history, especially since one of his own ancestors had been a judge in the Salem witch trials. Ten years before starting “The Scarlet Letter”, he had read a historical account of a woman who had to wear the letter A on her chest as a punishment for adultery. He used that woman as the main character of the novel, and he named her Hester Prynne.

He finished writing the book on February 2, 1850. He was exhausted and felt sick from spending so much time indoors, without exercise. The next evening, he read the conclusion to his wife; he said, “It broke her heart, and sent her to bed with a grievous headache, which I look upon as a triumphant success.”

On March 16, 2,500 copies of The Scarlet Letter were published, and they sold out within 10 days. Critics loved it, and it established Hawthorne as one of the best writers in America. Henry James would later call it “the finest piece of imaginative writing yet put forth in this country.”

Over the course of the weeks my American Literature teacher spent dissecting and analyzing the book (I read it though completely the first night it was assigned, then read along with the class), allowing us to ask our questions and state our views, I came to truly enjoy the characters of Hester Prynne, Pearl, and Arthur Dimmesdale, while feeling sorry for what anger did to Roger Chillingworth and intolerant legalism did to the Puritans of the town.

If you’ve never read “The Scarlet Letter”, I highly recommend it.

Thanks to “The Writer’s Almanac” for portions of the above.

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