flwyd | Entries tagged with word


Tuesday, March 8th, 2016 12:01 am
flwyd: (cthulhufruit citrus cephalopod)
I don't think I'd want to live on a nudist, sun-worshiping plantation with people who only eat coconuts, but I think I'd enjoy visiting for a few days. The Wikipedia article has some pretty amusing stories of a crazy German man.

Originally posted by [livejournal.com profile] prettygoodword at cocovore
cocovore (KOH-kuh-vor) or cocoivore (koh-KOH-ee-vor) - n., someone who eats coconuts.

Especially, one who eats ONLY coconuts. Yes, a real thing, or was. This has been showing up lately because of a recent translation of a novel about August Engelhardt, leader of a cult of cocovorous nudists. Read the Wikipedia article.



Sunday, January 24th, 2016 03:52 pm
flwyd: (Trevor baby stare)
I think "adoxography" pretty well describes a lot of web journalism.

Originally posted by [livejournal.com profile] prettygoodword at adoxography
adoxography - n. fine writing on a minor or trivial subject; rhetorical praise of things of doubtful value.

Unlike most rhetorical terms, this is NOT from ancient Greek, but rather coined at the start of the 20th century to describe an ancient Greek practice of having students of rhetoric make speeches praising such things as gout or fleas. The roots are Late Latin adoxus, paradoxical or absurd, borrowed by Erasmus from Greek adoxus, inglorious + graphos, writing. As an example, we can again point to Erasmus and his Praise of Folly.

Sorry for the light posting this week -- external obligations. Which will continue next holiday week -- regular posting should resume on the 30th.



Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 11:44 pm
flwyd: (I *kiss* linguists)
If you ask a PhD student what she'll do tomorrow, she might say "just dissert."
Originally posted by [livejournal.com profile] prettygoodword at dissert
dissert (dih-SURT) - v., to discourse at length on a subject.

What a dissertation does. Adopted around 1620 from Latin dissertāre to set forth at length, the frequentive form of disserere, to arrange in order, from dis-, apart + serere, to join (the root of series).

flwyd: (I *kiss* linguists)
A couple months ago I mused:
Head, neck, chest, arm, leg, groin, butt, hand, foot, thigh, knee, shin, toe, brow, eye, nose, mouth, tongue, tooth, jaw, ear, hair, thumb, breast.

Body, finger, elbow, shoulder, eyebrow, forearm, forehead, belly, penis.


No wonder "vagina" sounds so awkward: it's the only trisyllablic word for a major externally-accessible body part I can think of. It's also clearly Latin-derived while the others (excerpt penis?) are Germanic. No wonder it needs so much slang.

Recently I realized there is a nice, short, Germanic word for female genitalia: cunt. Even better, it encompasses the whole vulva (another Latin word), not just the passage between the cervix and the labia minora (Latin again). (Acquaint yourself with the relevant anatomy.)

The history of cunt

The etymology of cunt traces at least to Middle English (cunte, "female genitalia"). The first known reference in English apparently is in a compound, Oxford street name Gropecuntlane cited from c.1230 (and attested through late 14c.) in "Place-Names of Oxfordshire" (Gelling & Stenton, 1953), presumably a haunt of prostitutes. Cunt shares cognates in several Old Germanic languages and is perhaps linked to Latin cuneus (wedge) or cunnus (vulva).

Cunt has been considered taboo and impolite since the 15th Century (Shakespeare alluded to the word but didn't use it directly) and obscene and illegal since 1700. This shouldn't be too surprising: genitalia is a fairly universally taboo subject with dozens of slang terms and euphemisms in every language. Cunt was probably considered obscene because it unambiguously refers to a woman's genitals; polite discourse of the time only referred to sex organs indirectly. Even the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue glossed the word as C**T, The chonnos of the Greek, and the cunnus of the Latin dictionaries; a nasty name for a nasty thing: un con Miege. (emphasis mine). It was impolite to directly refer to women's genitals in a slang dictionary! Contemporary society has dropped many centuries-old taboos, including direct genital discourse in many contexts. So let's also drop the taboo on calling a cunt a cunt.

Twat (origin unknown) gained use in the 1650s, perhaps as a more polite replacement for cunt. It too became considered vulgar, and doesn't seem to have sustained a long literary life, based on this ngrams comparison of cunt, twat, and vulva.

That ngrams graph shows a promising rise in use of cunt in written English since 1950 (after some notable pre-war literary appearances). This may originally have been driven by offensive use. It was then picked up as a common topic by feminist writers; some wanted to banish the term as offensive; others wanted to reclaim the term as powerful. Ngrams suggests that the latter is gaining ground: "her cunt" now appears in twice as many books as "a cunt".

Isn't cunt offensive?

Thanks to context, the word can be both offensive and powerful. It remains offensive to call someone a cunt; it equates the whole of the person with a single sexual body part. It is likewise offensive to call a person a twat or a pussy. Even the accepted medical terms would be offensive if used as an epithet: she's such a vagina is offensive, though vagina and vulva are such awkward words that nobody uses them as insults. Likewise, penis words applied to a person are also offensive: he's such a {dick, prick, schmuck}, though the male versions seem less offensive: a guy's more likely to say I'm a dick sometimes than a gal is to say I'm a cunt sometimes. Calling someone an elbow, a thumb, or another non-head body part is likely offensive, too. One of my favorite exchanges on the old Forum2000 site was Q: My girlfriend is a cunt. A: I think you're making an is-a/has-a error. Many young logicians fail to make this distinction.

When used to refer to a body part rather than a person, cunt is unambiguous and direct, which is powerful. It acknowledges female sex organs as normal, like any other body part. It doesn't imply that a woman's genitals are a cat, a rodent, a mollusk, a food, or any other silly euphemism. Cunt and twat don't try to be cute like coochie, fanny, or vajayjay; instead they fit in with other short, direct, Germanic body parts like head, arm, leg, and groin. You could say that cunt rolls off the tongue.

Vagina comes from medical Latin; vagina in general Latin means sheath, scabbard, and similar enclosing uses. Medically, the vagina is the passage between the uterus and the vulva. Using vagina as the polite and accepted term for the whole of female genitalia denigrates several important components in female anatomy and sexuality, not least of which is the clitoris. Cunt covers the whole kit and caboodle, as does vulva. In a medical context, use vulva to refer to the whole package and vagina to refer to the passage. In a context where belly or gut would sound better than abdomen, use cunt or twat over vulva. Even in medical contexts, Germanic words may be a better choice:

Novick remembers one of the first arguments he had with a prudish supervising clinician who insisted that their HIV questionnaire use the words vaginal secretions when asking women if their partners performed oral sex on them. Novick thought the word choice was preposterous because the clinic served a low-income area with a heavily Latino population. He fought and eventually won over the supervisor when he showed that half the participants didn’t know what vaginal secretions were. But when they were asked if they knew what Novick’s term meant, there was 100 percent comprehension. His choice of words? Cunt juice.

Post script: penis

Researching this post, I was hoping to find a similar nice Germanic word for penis. It's not as awkwardly medical as vagina, but there's a whole host of monosyllabic slang terms like dick, dong, schlong, and wang that sound better. "I'm gonna suck your dick" sounds sexy, "I'm gonna suck your penis" sounds like a procedure. Unfortunately all the Online Etymology Dictionary results for penis are euphemistic. Penis itself was originally Latin for tail, which makes me wonder how to refer to the penis of an animal with a tail. Plug tail and tickle tail appear for penis in 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, with tail itself meaning prostitute and several other tail associations for lewd women. Wikipedia's Penis article claims that English previously used yard, though that also seems derived from a measuring stick. There are more objects shaped like a penis (tail, shaft, tool, wiener) than like a cunt, so perhaps it's natural that people would reuse a term rather than evolve a distinct word. Now pardon me, I need to make a saving throw vs. rod, staff, or wand.


Thursday, April 17th, 2014 10:25 pm
flwyd: (I *kiss* linguists)
Originally posted by [livejournal.com profile] prettygoodword at escutcheon
escutcheon (ih-SKUHCH-uhn) - n., a shield or shield-like area displaying a coat of arms; an ornamental or protective plate or bezel around a keyhole, door handle, drawer pull, light switch, faucet, circuit-breakers, etc.; a panel or plate that protects or hides another piece, especially one that protrudes slightly; a plate on the stern of a ship inscribed with the ship's name; the pattern of distribution of hair upon the pubic mound; the depression behind the beak of certain bivalves, the ligamental area.

The first is the best-known meaning, the one involved in the phrase "a blot upon the escutcheon," meaning a stain on one's reputation. The second/third meanings can get very general, of which the ship's name is a specialization. The pubic hair one amuses me the most, however. First attested in the 1470s as Middle English escochon, from Anglo-French escuchoun, from Vulgar Latin an unattested Vulgar Latin form derived from Latin scūtum, shield.


So "a blot upon the escutcheon" could also be a euphemism for a period. I'll have to start using that phrase.

Body Syllables

Monday, February 3rd, 2014 12:17 am
flwyd: (Vigelandsparken heels over head)
Head, neck, chest, arm, leg, groin, butt, hand, foot, thigh, knee, shin, toe, brow, eye, nose, mouth, tongue, tooth, jaw, ear, hair, thumb, breast.

Body, finger, elbow, shoulder, eyebrow, forearm, forehead, belly, penis.


No wonder "vagina" sounds so awkward: it's the only trisyllablic word for a major externally-accessible body part I can think of. It's also clearly Latin-derived while the others (excerpt penis?) are Germanic. No wonder it needs so much slang.
flwyd: (1895 USA map)
When you write a story down, it only happens one way.
When you adapt a book to film, the characters have specific appearances.
When you draw shapes on a map, a smeared spectrum becomes four crisp colors.

I want to expound more on these ideas in a blog post, but starting the year with an intellectual all-nighter wouldn't be very auspicious.
flwyd: (intense aztec drummer DNC 2008)
The wrong words said with the right energy are better than the right words read stiffly from a page.


Thursday, January 10th, 2013 12:38 am
flwyd: (escher drawing hands)
Originally posted by [livejournal.com profile] prettygoodword at tsundoku
tsundoku (tsun-DOH-ku) - n., the piling up of unread books.

Borrowed late last year from Japanese, from tsumu, to pile up + doku, to read/reading (using an alternate character reading), with a pun on tsundeoku, to leave piled up. Usage in English is rapidly evolving, but it seems to get used as a verb of the action as well as the noun of the act.


Tsundoku is problem endemic in the Stone households.

Dia de Saudade

Sunday, January 30th, 2011 03:24 pm
flwyd: (rose silhouette)
I happened to look up saudade on Wikipedia and discovered that today is Dia da Saudade in Brazil.
The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness.
A holiday for an emotion like that transcends memorial day, because it doesn't just focus on things which are no more, but things which could have been or even could yet be. Like many complex emotions, many languages describe something like it. But it's often easier to understand by observing a person than reading a definition, so watch a video of Cesaria Evora singing "Sodade", her most famous song.

What makes you feel saudade?
flwyd: (Vigelandsparken thinking head)
I got some Viagra spam with the subject "Throb of consciousness; but they cannot go with us, th" and some difficult to follow spiritual cruft. That seemed like an interesting phrase, and Google's got about 400 hits for "throb of consciousness. They all seem to be of a florid mystic bent, with Hindu/Yogic, Buddhist, and Judaeo-Christian variants and even a quote by Nietzsche. This spiritual connotation seems a bit odd to me, because "throb of consciousness" is a perfect description of the headache I had this morning when I didn't want to get out of bed, but decided I needed to roust myself and make a doctor's appointment.

"The beginning and end of the world-process, from the first throb of consciousness to its final leap into nothingness, with the task of our generation settled for it ; all drawn from that clever fount of inspiration, the Unconscious, and glittering in Apocalyptic light, imitating an honest seriousness to the life, as if it were a serious philosophy and not a huge joke, such a system shows its creator to be one of the first philosophical parodists of all time." -- Friedrich Nietzsche

Minor Adjustments

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009 09:45 am
flwyd: (xkcd don quixote)
Now that we're back in Guatemala, we've successfully readjusted from Honduran vocabulary:
Salva Vidas is water, not beer.
Sodas are aguas, not refrescos.
Mantequilla means butter, not some strange variation on sour cream.
A fist full of currency is actually worth something.
Baleadas (tortillas with beans, eggs, and onions) are not to be found, but if you look hard enough you may find atol de elote (hot liquid corn with sugar and spices).

The town of Antigua is kind of like Mayan ruin sites, except:
The ruined temples have Catholic, not Mayan, symbology.
The ruined temples have small maintained areas where the culture still worships.
Outside the ruined temples, people sell candles, not replica stone work.

We've been staying at a hotel called Ummagumma. It's only been open for a few years, but it totally feels like a place backpackers would have hung out after gathering with several species of small animals and grooving with a pict.


Friday, March 20th, 2009 06:15 pm
flwyd: (bad decision dinosaur)
There's been a lot of media noise in the past week or so about over $160 million in "bonuses" paid to employees of AIG, a company the U.S. government has recently spent close to $200 billion to prop up. Many of those bonuses went to employees of the Financial Products division, "the guys who got us into this mess in the first place."

Most people's reaction, hearing it phrased like that, goes something like "What the fuck? Those greedy banker fuckwads have some nerve, throwing big piles of taxpayer money on bonuses for people whose performance was dismal?!?!?!?!?!?" President Obama expressed outrage and said his staff would look into all legal routes of getting that money back. AIG's counter was "We were contractually obligated to give those bonuses."

Now, in my lexicon, "bonus" implies that it's contingent on something. At work, we all get a bonus at the end of the year if our division meets certain earnings goals; if we the division doesn't meet those goals, we don't get bonuses. In the past I've also gotten a performance bonus where my boss said "I think these employees did a great job this year, they should get a special reward." In both cases, "bonus" means "It might not happen, but if it does, you get extra cash."

The $160 million in question at AIG turns out to be from an arrangement where they didn't expect much opportunities for traders to make profitable trades, so they set up their 2008 employment contracts to apply the 2007 bonus in 2008 as well. This is more or less equivalent to a car dealer telling his sales team "I don't expect us to sell many cars next month, but I don't want you to quit, so you can have the same commission next month as you had last month." At that point, I don't think of it as a "bonus" but as a "salary." I'm not sure to what extent AIG was in control of the story as it broke, but using the term "bonus" when the thing under discussion is more like a "salary" doesn't really help the discussion.

This is not to say that AIG's payment structure is a good one, that their employees deserve that much money, or that they shouldn't have renegotiated the employment contracts when the company nearly collapsed, taking the global economy with it. It's just important to understand what's going on and to have the finesse to be outraged about the right issues.
And 0.002 dollars will NEVER equal 0.002 cents.

Navel Gazetteer

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008 04:20 pm
flwyd: (spiral stone)
Navel Gazetteer, noun: a list of places your mind can visit while pontificating.

AIM at English

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008 11:03 pm
flwyd: (farts sign - Norway)
[livejournal.com profile] flwyd how's Frday?
[livejournal.com profile] flwyd apparentyl my keyboard doesn't like e tonight
[livejournal.com profile] flwyd but I'll be delivering cats on Saturday night
[livejournal.com profile] evilfuzzymonste oh, wow, I must be sleepy! For a moment, I read that as "De-liver-ing"


Saturday, October 6th, 2007 06:28 pm
flwyd: (Vigelandsparken thinking head)
gymnome, n.: One who wears naught but a beard.


Friday, September 21st, 2007 10:52 pm
flwyd: (fun characters)
The words "verbose" and "perverse" had a baby in my head this afternoon.

Verberse, adj. Discussed at length in the hopes that the subject will somehow make more sense.

"His presentation was quite verberse, but it's still a terrible idea."
flwyd: (transparent ribbon for government accoun)
Listening to the BBC via Colorado Public Radio tonight, I heard an interview with the author of The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't.

I've known for a long time that the BBC is a dependable source of proper English, polite but persistent interviewers, quality investigative reporting, and cricket scores like "one hundred and eighty-seven not out." But I never expected to hear the word "asshole" several times in five minutes on the Beeb.

It's not one of the Carlin seven, but anybody who used the word on national TV in the U.S. would be in hot water. I credit Sutton with the cleverness of using "asshole" in the title of the book, thereby creating a context in which it can be used non-obscenely. They can't very well censor the title of the book; nobody would know what they were talking about.

I suppose it's similar to encoding illegal programs as prime numbers which can be legally discussed on the Internet.


Sunday, February 4th, 2007 04:47 pm
flwyd: (fun characters)
The Super Bowl announcer just said (emphasis in original) "Manning has called his tight end an ex-factor."

Update: The worst use of language I caught was the Colts' owner's word "partnershipping."

Turn of Phrase

Sunday, January 14th, 2007 04:44 pm
flwyd: (Trevor over shoulder double face)
Homophobia makes adult Jesus cry.
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