Category Archives: Words

Words, Glorious Words

Today’s post is a little later than I like them to be. I got a late start on the laptop today because I had to spend my morning writing time out on the patio with the cat. She likes to lay outside when it’s nice, or when it’s not nice, or really, whenever she can tell I’m about to settle down to something inside, and she refuses to let me rest until I go out with her for at least a little bit. Then I had to run a couple of errands for our family business. Also, I slept til 0900, and that was mostly because I stayed up wayyy too late last night, but that’s another story.  Perhaps because of the mild discombobulation I endured this morning, I’m trying something a little different. Instead of blogging about books or writing or the insanity caused by too many books or too much writing, I’m going down a level in complexity and writing about three words… two favorites and a new (to me) word. I’m doing this in conjunction with Wondrous Words Wednesday over at the Bermuda Onion blog. If you like words… and I suspect that since you’re reading them, you do… you should check the site out.

Defenestrate (dē-ˈfe-nə-ˌstrāt) transitive verb —

  1. 1:  a throwing of a person or thing out of a window

  2. 2:  a usually swift dismissal or expulsion (as from a political party or office)

I first encountered this word while reading Elizabeth Wurtzel’s memoir Prozac Nation around the time it came out. I can’t remember the exact passage, but apparently, Ms Wurtzel was quite the fussy baby, and at one point, she said her father called her mother and said that if she didn’t come take their baby off his hands for a little while he was going to defenestrate her. I had never encountered the word before, but it sounded like something nasty and horrible. When I found out that he was saying “I’m about to toss this bundle of shrieks out the window” I felt a sudden rush of joy at how wonderful my language was… that it actually had a word for such a thing. It’s still one of my favorite words, and I’m always happy when I have a chance to use it. Well, as happy as one can be when talking about windows and things (or people) being thrown out of them.

Absquatulate  (ab(zˈkwächəˌlāt, abˈsk-) intransitive verb
  1.  slang: decamp<a frontiersman preparing to absquatulate and head for the wilderness>

  2.  slang: abscond<the cashier absquatulated with the funds>

I learned this word from my sister Mandy while we were hiking from Georgia to North Carolina along the Benton MacKaye Trail. (Similar to the Appalachian Trail but not nearly as civilized. Great place.) Often, when we were getting ready to leave, she’d sling her pack on her back and say “Let us absquatulate.” It took me a while to pick up what she was saying over the sound of my bones and muscles creaking (walking a couple hundred miles with a 50 pound pack stresses your body in ways you might not even know exist) but I fell in love with it. It’s almost as much fun to say as pasta aglio e olio (garlic and oil… more or less pronounced “Ollie-Oh-Eee-Oh-Lee-Oh,” though I learned in Italy that one shouldn’t yodel it, no matter how tempting it is to do so) and it just so perfectly defines the act of getting one’s tail in gear that I try to teach it to as many people as I can.

Voluminous (\və-ˈlü-mə-nəs\)
  1.   consisting of many folds, coils, or convolutions :winding

  2.  a:  having or marked by great volume or bulk :large<long voluminous tresses>; also:full<a voluminous skirt>b:numerous<trying to keep track of voluminous slips of paper>

  3.  a:  filling or capable of filling a large volume or several volumes<a voluminous literature on the subject>b:  writing or speaking much or at great length <a voluminous correspondent>

Notice how I didn’t spell this “Vol-Um-Ni-Ous?” Until last week, I didn’t. I’m mildly dyslexic, something I was never diagnosed with as a child since the stereotype is that ‘dyslexic = illiterate.’ I suppose it often does keep people from learning to read, but perhaps because I don’t have it too seriously, and because my eyes usually mix up the middles of words and not the front or back (something countless email forwards and viral Facebook posts like to point out doesn’t always affect reading comprehension) no one ever noticed. (Though my Mom did tease me when I told her that a baseball player I liked, “Steve Gravey,” was about to bat, and there are other stories about that kind of lexical misreading in my past.) Fast forward to now, many years later, to a moment just a week ago when I’m proofreading a chapter and trying to figure out why my spell-checker kept flagging ‘volumnious.’ I’d used the word, I’d read the word, I knew damn well it was a word! Then I decided to look it up. Well, I suppose I could spin this as a story about how one can overcome one’s handicaps (“Dyslexics of the world, untie!”) but since my condition is fairly mild, I would feel weird talking about it that way. So, I’m just going to say that the English Language is wonderful, and even if someone like me mixes up the letters in the middle of a word, people can still understand what you’re saying.

That’s all for today. I’ll be here Friday with Book Beginnings and maybe Friday 56, along with news about Part Two of my book (which I can now describe without (very much) profanity) and anything else that catches my eye in the world of those of us who hallucinate while staring at dead tree pulp. Saturday will see my end-of-year review of the books I’ve read, and I’ll try not to put you to sleep with that.