Word Hoard

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


My sister cleaned today in anticipation of the arrival of our mother and our trip to Virginia, which unrelatedly happens to be for lovers. We had some spider webs in the corners of our bay window ceiling. In the vernacular, these are cobwebs. She asked why they were called cobwebs, and I said, "I don't know, but I'll find out, and I bet it has something to do with Old English." I'm right.

Cobweb comes from Middle Englishcoppeweb which comes from Old English attercoppe, atter--poison and copp--head.

Spider comes from ME spither from OE spithra.

(At Meteorology School John Hodgman, resident expert at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, majored in Hurricanes and minored in Crisp Fall Days.)

Friday, September 15, 2006


For an appetizer here is a nice discussion of the phrasal verb cotton to.

This summer I went up to SD to surprise my mother for her birthday. They were camping with my step-father's brother and his wife, so we joined them. My step-uncle, Darrell, and I played a lot of bean bags, and since it isn't the most intensive sport/activity, we had plenty of time to talk. Talking to Darrell, who is in his early fifties, I gathered a few idioms that I cottoned to. The first one was "waters me." As in: "That ringer you made really waters me." Translation--pisses me off. The second was a strong linguistic movement from the phrase "ass over tea kettle." He was telling an anecdote about how he was fishing and a game warden was on the shore and wanted to do game wardeny things. However, the warden "tea kettled" down the embankment. Good stuff.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Opposite of utile. A friend of mine who enjoys words too, and is even better at memorizing them, used the phrase "futiley retraced my steps." She was looking for her keys. I struggle to imagine a more soul sucking adverb than futiley. It does its job perfectly. It annihilates the verb that it modifies. At least the phrase "to no avail" leaves some suspense, but putting futiley in front of anything is a giant black hole. (You probably couldn't even read the last part of that sentence.)

Then comes the pronounciation. I'm fond of fyoo-tyl in the adjective form, but a glottal stop comes in handy to handle the double duty the "l" would have if you went with fyoo-tyl-lee yielding to fyoot-(glottal)-ly.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Kitchen Confidential

I recently finished Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain. As a child reading plenty, I would commit to a pronounciation in my head for various names in the book, right or wrong. The point is that I was okay glossing over an incidental like name pronounciation. Bourdain uses a lot of French for the dishes and preparations of food, plus some culinary jargon. My English dictionaries didn't really help, so I abided. Until now. Now, if you ever go to Les Halles, Bourdain's restaurant at the time of publishing, you might know what you're ordering.

Moules marinieres: Mussels in a butter, garlic, shallot, white wine sauce. Vichyssoise: cold potato leek soup. Beurre noisette: a hazelnut colored reduced butter. Saucisson a l'ail: garlic pork sausage. Boudin noir: blood or black sausage. Lobster Thermidor. From the French Republican month. Gallantine: Made of lean pieces of poultry, game, pork, veal or rabbit, mixed with a forcemeat containing eggs, spices, and other ingredients, and pressed into a symmetrical shape. Aspic. Ballottine. Rillettes: Essentially a Veja-link spread. Pommes dauphinoise: potatoes au gratin. Bearnaise sauce: not Hollandaise sauce. Confit: great fun, who doesn't want to be cooked and sealed in their own fat? Beef Parmentier: not Vern Parmenter, but eponymous for Jean Pommes de Terre-Seed. Bagna Cauda. Navarin: The French term for a rich mutton or lamb stew which has been cooked with root vegetables, usually including small onions or potatoes. au Poivre: with pepper. Magret du Moulard: the breast of a fat Moulard, a cross between a Pekin and Muscovy duck. Pieds du Cochon: pig feet. Cassoulet: pork and beans. Livornaise: Sauce with egg yolks, anchovy paste, and olive oil. Sabayon: eggs whipped with a liquid, wine maybe. Tete du Porc: pig head. Clafoutis: a fruit flan.

Thank you for your patience.