These operate by a triple motion:
* Randomly flick through a dictionary until my interest is piqued by a word I do not know
* Search online for an appropriate image
* Expand on what occurs to me, below the image, with notes as necessary.
Started Jan 2022
Cornflowers sound as if they are named to be agrestal. But couldn’t the word apply usefully to many people, those who go a little feral as they chafe against the restrictions of their conventional settings?
Agrestal: growing wild in a cultivated field
‘Will you marry me, Jason?’
‘The sleek Triumph Amourette Range combines elegance with sophistication to create a must have for every woman's lingerie drawer’ – but not for long, I suppose, for ‘amourette’ is defined as a trifling and ephemeral love affair.
To take a notorious example of amourette action, in 2004, Britney Spears and Jason Alexander - apparently in a state of some intoxication - were married at her instigation. It lasted 55 hours before being annulled on the grounds that Spears ‘lacked understanding of her actions, to the extent that she was incapable of agreeing to the marriage.’ Of the various models in Amourette adverts, I’ve chosen the one who looks most like Britney. She’s wearing a 10166797 Triumph Amourette 300 W Bra. It sounds too good to be so short-lived: according to Swiss manufacturer Triumph International the bra offers ‘a comfortable and contemporary fit and feel, paired with chic and intricate, feminine styling… The soft semi-sheer lace is both attractive and comfortable. The stunning neckline flatters and accentuates your curves for a delicate everyday lingerie look’.
Has the time for the return of the aventail, out of fashion for 600 years? It does, after all, cover pretty much the negative of a medical mask: what better to celebrate on the catwalk when and if we get clear of using those?
An aventail is a flexible curtain of mail attached to the skull of a helmet that extends to cover the throat, neck and shoulders. Aventails were most commonly seen on bascinets in the 14th century and served as a replacement for a complete mail hood. By the dawn of the 15th century, the plate-armoured neck guard of the Great Bascinet replaced the aventail.
I’ve had one, but without the language to call it anything more specific than a blister. In fact a vesicle is a circumscribed elevation of skin of 0.5 cm or more in diameter containing a liquid, and a bulla is the same thing but over 0.5cm – it’s just a size thing. Maybe I've only had vesicles. As for what the illustration shows, it depends I guess on how big you print the photograph.
The Earth travels
The Earth travelsabout 584m miles (940m km) per year in circling the sun. That's about 1.6m miles per day, or 66,627 mph. Circumsolar is a rather unusual unusual word, in that it's easy to work out what it means - yet I hadn't seen it used before...
Does the availability of a word affect what you look at? I think it can. I don't recall ever taking much notice of the jointed stems of grasses and sedges, but now that I know that such a stem is one of the meanings of ‘culm’…
The photograph is of the jointed goatgrass (Aegilops cylindrica), which sounds as if it must have particularly well-developed culms.
How do you measure a dodkin – that is, any coin of small value? Real terms is surely advisable, and it turns out that the decimal penny is now the lowest value coin in British history: even though you get 100 to the £ as against 1,920 half-farthings (1842-69), 960 farthings (1707-1960) or 200 decimal halfpennies (1971-84). All were dodkins in their day, but the half-farthing, for example, never dipped below a value equivalent to 5p in current money. The BBC graphic takes the story to 2018, since when the 1p has depreciated further…
Can cows eat fog? Apparently so, fog being the term for long grass and other plants left standing in a pasture for winter grazing.
The less familiar word ‘Foggage’ is defined as ‘the right to pasture cattle on fog’. As a winter feeding system, foggage is becoming recognised as having environmental benefits compared with using silage.
What is the hexaplanation for this? A hexapla is a sixfold text in parallel columns, most often used to show alternate translations of the bible. These columns are in the Francis Quadrangle at the University of Missouri in Columbia – they are the only remaining part of an Academic Hall that burned down in 1892. So the hexapla nation in question is the United States.
What can I buy with this? Something, surely? It’s a hiaqua - a necklace of large dentalium shells, formerly used as money by natives of the North Pacific coasts of America.
In this late 19th century necklace, columns of dentalium shells alternate with colourful beads and buffalo hide spacers. Dentalium is a large genus of tooth shells or tusk shells, marine scaphopod molluscs in the family Dentaliidae. Peoples of the Northwest Pacific Coast would trade dentalium into the Great Plains, Great Basin, Central Canada, Northern Plateau and Alaska for other items including many foods, decorative materials, dyes, hides, macaw feathers from Central America, and turquoise from the American Southwest.
‘Mease’ is a rare enough word that an image search throws it up only as a primarily American surname, mostly borne by long-haired women and bearded men. Here are Kurt, Alma, Philip, Tonya; Dailisa, Paul, Leslie, Edward; Jon, Sarah, Darrell, Julie; Jessica, Quentin, Anna and John Mease. Names apart, a mease is a unit of 500 herrings, though I saw no evidence of fishmongery in what information the net provides on this not-all-that-measly sample – albit, if they were herrings, 16 of them would make up only 3% of a mease.
The narwhal is generally cited as the obvious example of a one-toothed animal, but I’m not so sure. True, it is known for its single sword-like spiral tusk, a dental development which protrudes from their heads. Yet consider: both males and females are born with two small teeth embedded in their skulls, not one. Only in males does the front left tooth normally grow into a spiral tusk up to 10 feet long, so the description does little for the vast majority of females, though 3% of them do develop a (small) tusk. Moreover, 1 in 500 males develop a second tusk from the other tooth. Monodonts? It seems a superficial claim.
Where is the worst place to store fat? Probably the heart. But the question may be academic: so far as I know, there’s no way to control the geography of pinguescence – the process of becoming fat.
This plastron is on the underside of a turtle. The term ‘plastron’ has also been applied to human body armour.
Birds and people hear pretty similarly, even though birds don’t have an external ear structure. Rather, their ear entrances are covered by auricular coverts, circles of soft loose-webbed feathers. Many owls, you might counter, do have external ears. However, these are just tufts of feathers: they have no connection to the skeletal structure of the ear and aren’t used to direct sound to its opening. Their true purpose is uncertain, but is likely to include camouflage, courtship, and communication, and to signal aggression to other owls. The technical term for such tufts is plumicorns (say 'plume-i-corn'), from the Latin for ‘feather-horn’.
Pictured is the Long-Eared Owl (Asio otus), the common name of which is likely to compound any confusion.
Is this a qoutity?
I think not. Whereas
these seventeen syllables
make up a haiku.
‘Quotity’ is a certain number of individuals etc, a nice contrast to the less specific nature of a quantity. A haiku, at least under western conventions, consists of the inviolable quotity of 17 syllables arranged in three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables respectively. The image is of the Korean band Seventeen, taken in 2021. It has thirteen members, potentially undermining its status as a quotity equivalent to a haiku. There is an explanation: ‘Seventeen’ stands for ‘13 members + 3 units + 1 team’, representing the 13 individual members from 3 different units (hip-hop, vocal, and performance) who all come together to form the one K-pop group. Still, I'm not sure this Seventeen is a quotity. It may be, of course, that the question refers to itself, not to the band, in which case I'd say that the number of words / syllables / letters in 'Is this a quotity?' is too arbitrary a matter to make it a satisfying example - though it does contain seventeen characters, if we're including the spaces.
Scapulimancy strikes me as implausible, even if you’re forecasting the prices or health of cattle.
In Ancient China oracle bones were used for divination: if an ox scapula was used, that was ‘scapulimancy’. Questions were carved onto the bone using a sharp tool. Intense heat was then applied with a metal rod until the bone or shell cracked: the diviner would then interpret the pattern of cracks to answer the questions, and add the prognostication to what was written on the bone.
This may be a chance to make art: the nematic phases of liquid crystal – in which the molecules are oriented in parallel but not arranged in well-defined planes – could be rendered in a crystalline liquid to make an abstract painting that enacts its molecular process.
Note: this is Figure 1 from the 2021 paper ‘Meta-stable nematic pre-ordering in smectic liquid crystalline phase transitions’ by Nasser Mohieddin Abukhdeir and Alejandro D. Rey, Department of Chemical Engineering, McGill University, Montreal. It shows ‘a schematic of a growing liquid crystalline front summarizing the phenomena of interest: nematic (orientational) and smectic-A (lamellar) liquid crystalline ordering and interfacial splitting. The orientationally/translationally-order smectic-A mesophase is on the left (blue), orientationally-ordered nematic mesophase is in the center (green), and the isotropic liquid (no orientational or translational order) is on the right (red).’
Is this mere snotter? Or doesn't it matter that I’d never heard of a simple word with five meanings?
Probably not, as there’s not a lot more to say…
Snotter: something of no importance / a length of rope with an eye spliced in each end / a fitting which holds the heel of a sprit close to the mast / to breathe heavily / to snivel
‘Speluncar (adjective) - from the Latin spelunca, cave: of, pertaining to, or resembling a cave; of the nature of a cave’ – OED.
Are we compatibly thigmotropic? If I move to draw you into a kiss, will you melt into my arms - or pull away?
This couple certainly look to be on the engaged side of 'thigmotropism': the movement of an organism in response to a stimulus, in particular the habit of turning towards or away from a physical contact.
Is this O’Keeffe’s tuzzy-muzzy? Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) vehemently denied any vaginal intent in such works as The Blue Flower, 1918. Yet few have accepted that, leading to her co-option by Freudians and feminists alike. Randall Griffin, in Phaidon’s book on her, suggests that ‘O'Keeffe's aim was to distinguish herself from her contemporary male artists by producing paintings that would seem both audaciously sexual and innately feminine’. Moreover, Lisa L. Moore has argued that her flowers should be seen as part of a lesbian tradition, since evidence suggests that O'Keeffe had several affairs with women. So perhaps 'tuzzy-muzzy' is the word for what she paints. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as ‘1. A bunch of flowers’ and ‘2. The female genitals’.
What was I saying, that warrigals couldn’t drag me away? Well, maybe these could, provided that they moved on from each other.
‘Warrigal’ is an Australian term for a wild or untamed horse.
She’s wearing one: a belted jacket in cardigan-style. Maybe the wamus will warm us, too.