Monday, April 30, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Z - Zen


I can't believe Z is finally here. Did you make it? I did. I beat the challenge. I posted every single day, except Sundays, and only once or twice did I post late, on a Saturday.

I won't say a whole lot about my challenge experience today, because that's best saved for the reflections post, coming up on May 7th. For now, I'll just say: it was really nice to meet all you new bloggers!

zen [zɛn] n. a school of Mahayana Buddhism that asserts that enlightenment can be attained through meditation, self-contemplation, and intuition rather than through faith and devotion and that is practiced mainly in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam

Synonyms: there are no synonyms, but apparently the word zen is used as a street name for lysergic acid diethylamide

Etymology: school of Mahayana Buddhism, 1727, from Japanese, from Chinese ch'an, ultimately from Skt. dhyana "thought, meditation," from PIE root *dhya "to see, contemplate."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Y - Yakuza


I can't believe it's almost over. One more day, and we've made it! Anyway, happy Saturday, everyone.

ya·ku·za [yah-koo-zuh] n. (pl.) 1. a Japanese criminal organization involved in illegal gambling, extortion, gun-running, etc. 2. a member of this organization

Synonyms: there are no direct synonyms, but this organization is similar to the Mafia, Triads, Vory, Cartels, and many other organized crime groups

Etymology: traditional Japanese organized crime cartel, lit. "eight-nine-three" (ya, ku, sa) the losing hand in the traditional baccarat-like Japanese card game Oicho-Kabu. The notion may be "good for nothing," or "bad luck" (in someone who runs afoul of them), or it may be a reference to the fact that a player who draws this hand requires great skill to win.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A to Z Challenge: X - Xenophobia


There are some really disturbing photos for this word if you do a Google image search. I'm not sharing them here, not because I don't care about what's wrong with the world, I do, but activism is not really the point of this blog.

Anyway, although it might seem similar, xenophobia is not quite like racism or bigotry. It's not about prejudice or hate, it's about fear. Japan was a very xenophobic society in the Meiji era. You might say the United States has a lot of xenophobes in it today.

xen·o·pho·bi·a [zen-uh-foh-bee-uh] n. intense and often irrational fear of foreigners or strangers, or of that which is foreign or strange

Synonyms: there are no direct synonyms, but some related words are: nationalism, isolationism, ethnocentrism, jingoism, racialism

Etymology: 1903, from xeno- "foreign, strange" + -phobia "fear" (see phobia). Earlier (c.1884) it meant "agoraphobia."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A to Z Challenge: W - Wasabi


Wasabi - yum! I've only had real wasabi once or twice. The stuff you get in most Sushi restaurants is not real wasabi; it's a paste made from horseradish and mustard, died green. It's not bad, but it's still not the real deal.

So - wasabi my ninja? Get it?

wa·sa·bi [wah-suh-bee] n. a very pungent green Japanese condiment made from the root of the herb Eutrema wasabi

Synonyms: none, but wasabi tastes and causes your nasal passage to react similar to horseradish and mustard

Etymology: herb root used in cooking, 1903, from Japanese.

Wow. What a boring etymology. However, now I'm hungry.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A to Z Challenge: V - Viscous


So much more fun to say and write than thick, viscosity is a measure of the resistance of a fluid which is being deformed by either shear or tensile stress (from Wikipedia), but like any great word, it can be applied poetically to mean many more varied and interesting things.

vis·cous [vis-kuhs] adj. having a thick, sticky consistency between solid and liquid; having high viscosity

Synonyms: sticky, viscid, glutinous, gluey, adhesive, gummy, syrupy

Etymology: late 14c., from Anglo-Fr. viscous, from L.L. viscosus "sticky," from L. viscum "anything sticky, birdlime made from mistletoe, mistletoe," probably from PIE root *weis- "to melt away, flow" (used of foul or malodorous fluids); see virus.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A to Z Challenge: U - Ululation


We're getting so close to the end. It's going to feel very strange, to not have these easy posts to write every morning. To not feel obligated to visit as many blogs as possible each day.

If you're taking part in the challenge, then you'll probably want to prepare for the reflections post on May 7th (see the badge over there on my sidebar).

ul·u·la·tion [uhl-yuh-ley-shun] n. the act of howling, wailing, or lamenting loudly

Synonyms: I don't think there are any real direct synonyms for this word, but the internet claims they are: howling, wailing

Etymology: 1590s, from L. ululationem (nom. ululatio) "a howling or wailing," noun of action from pp. stem of ululare "ululate," a reduplicated imitative root (cf. Gk. ololyzein "to cry aloud," Skt. ululih "a howling," Lith. uluti "howl," Gael. uileliugh "wail of lamentation," O.E. ule "owl").

Monday, April 23, 2012

A to Z Challenge: T - Tenuous


Man. I hate Mondays. I had to get up extremely early today, and now I don't feel well. Oh well, that's enough complaining for now, let's get to today's topic.

ten·u·ous [ten-yoo-uhs] adj. 1. long and thin; slender 2. having thin consistency; dilute 3. having little substance; flimsy

Synonyms: slight, weak, dubious, shaky, doubtful, questionable, insignificant, flimsy, sketchy, insubstantial, nebulous

Etymology: 1590s, irregularly formed from L. tenuis "thin," from PIE root *ten- "to stretch" (cf. Skt. tanuh "thin," lit. "stretched out;" see tenet) + -ous. The correct form with respect to the Latin is tenuious. The sense of "having slight importance, not substantial" is found from c.1817.

NOTE: Today is my day to post over at the A to Z Challenge blog, so head over there for some more T related fun.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A to Z Challenge: S - Samurai


Man, as you can probably tell from the time of day this post is going up, I hate blogging on the weekends. But that's part of the A to Z Challenge, to push yourself.

sam·u·rai [sam-oo-rahy] n. (pl.) 1. the Japanese warrior caste that provided the administrative and fighting aristocracy from the 11th to the 19th centuries 2. a member of this aristocracy

Synonyms: there are no direct synonyms, but it is similar to the European knight

Etymology: 1727, from Japanese samurai "warrior, knight," originally the military retainer of the daimyo, variant of saburai, nominal form of sabura(h)u "to be in attendance, to serve."

Space Battles

For a special bonus today, I'm covering a second topic. My friend and critique partner, Simon C. Larter, has a short story in the new anthology: Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6. It should be a very exciting read, so if you're into Sci-Fi, I highly recommend you check it out at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Flying Pen Press.

Now, if you don't know Simon, you should definitely visit his blog, where you can read about a fun and unique clause in his author contract for this story.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A to Z Challenge: R - Raconteur


Happy Friday, everybody! I'm going to meet one of my online writer friends today for the first time, but I can't talk about him, because he's very secretive about his identity. Which scares me a little.

I'm mostly joking, but let's get to work, anyway.

rac·on·teur [rak-uhn-tur; Fr. ra-kawn-tœr] n. a person who is skilled in telling stories and anecdotes in a captivating way

Synonyms: anecdotist, storyteller, narrator

Etymology: 1828, from Fr. raconter "to recount," from re- (see re-) + O.Fr. aconter, from a- "to" + conter "to tell" (cf. recount).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Q - Quixotic


Q oh Q, how shall I compare thee ... er, something like that. If you can't tell from the title of my blog, I like the letter Q. I remember when I first settled on that title, and how worried I was people would think it was stupid. It seemed a bit Quixotic to me, but people ended up liking it, and it all worked out.

quix·ot·ic [kwik-sot-ik] adj. caught up in the romance of noble deeds and the pursuit of unreachable goals; idealistic without regard to practicality

Synonyms: unrealistic, idealistic, romantic, absurd, imaginary, visionary, fanciful, impractical, dreamy, Utopian, impulsive, fantastical, impracticable, chivalrous, unworldly, chimerical

Etymology: "extravagantly chivalrous," 1791, from Don Quixote, romantic, impractical hero of Cervantes' satirical novel "Don Quixote de la Mancha" (1605). His name lit. means "thigh," also "a cuisse" (a piece of armor for the thigh), in Mod.Sp. quijote, from L. coxa "hip."

Like Gargantuan, this is another word that comes from a novel. Isn't it fun to imagine writing such an important piece of literature that terms from your novel become widespread words?

UPDATE: I completely forgot this was coming up, but Kela McLellenad talked me into an interview not long ago, and you can read it, here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A to Z Challenge: P - Pilfer


I don't remember where I first heard this word (probably Dungeons & Dragons), but I've always thought it sounded like the nicest way to refer to petty thievery.

pil·fer [pilfər] v. to steal (typically a small amount or item of little value)

Synonyms: filch, steal, purloin, lift, pinch, thieve, prig, nick, swipe

Etymology: c.1400 (n.), from O.Fr. pelfre "booty, spoils" (11c.), of unknown origin, possibly related to pelf. The verb is first recorded 1540s. Related: Pilfered; pilfering.

NOTE: Today is my day to post over at the A to Z Challenge blog, so please stop by, and read some things about P.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A to Z Challenge: O - Onomatopoeia


Also known as, how many vowels can we string together in a row without looking stupid?

on·o·mat·o·poe·ia [on-uh-mat-uh-pee-uh, ‐mah-tuh‐] n. the formation of a word, by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its referent

Synonyms: there are no synonyms, so instead, examples: sizzle, murmur, buzz, splat, chop, meow, honk, boom ... I could go on like this for some time.

Etymology: 1570s, from L.L., from Gk. onomatopoiia "the making of a name or word" (in imitation of a sound associated with the thing being named), from onomatopoios, from onoma (gen. onomatos) "word, name" (see name) + a derivative of poiein "compose, make" (see poet).

Monday, April 16, 2012

A to Z Challenge: N - Ninja


That "image" to the left, which is really just a picture of text, is something I've been seeing on Facebook lately. It's kind of funny, but it also makes perfect sense, logically.

Because Ninja, like Katana, is originally a Japanese word that has only been adopted into English because it has been used so often. Probably because of TMNT. The point here, though, is that Ninja, like all Japanese words, does not add an "S" to the end to become plural. Many Ninja are spelled the same as one Ninja. So that's probably how the Ninja were hiding from the thesaurus so well. LOL.

nin·ja [nin-jə] n. pl. a member of a class of 14th-century Japanese mercenary agents who were trained in the martial arts and hired for covert operations such as assassination and sabotage

Synonyms: there are no direct synonyms for this word, but some related words are: ninpo, ninjitsu, Kunoichi, Shinobi, monomi

Etymology: Ninja is an on'yomi (Early Middle Chinese-influenced) reading of the two kanji "忍者". In the native kun'yomi kanji reading, it is pronounced shinobi, a shortened form of the transcription shinobi-no-mono (忍の者). These two systems of pronouncing kanji create words (ninja/ninsha or shinobi-no-mono) with similar meanings.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A to Z Challenge: M - Marlinspike


This fun word appears in the first paragraph of one of my favorite recent reads, The Dust of 100 Dogs, by A.S. King.

mar·line·spike also mar·lin·spike [mahr-lin-spahyk] n. A pointed metal spike, used to separate strands of rope or wire in splicing

Synonyms: marlinespike, marlingspike

Etymology: (from Marlin) large marine game-fish, 1917, shortening of marlinspike "pointed iron tool used by sailors to separate strands of rope" (1620s), from M.Du. marlijn "small cord," from marlen "to fasten or secure (a sail)," probably frequentative of M.Du. maren "to tie, moor." The fish was so called from the shape of its elongated upper jaw.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A to Z Challenge: L - Laicism


See that guy over there? He's a layman. I actually didn't know this word existed until last night. I was familiar with its root, laic, which means of or relating to laity, as opposed to matters of the clergy, or in other words, secular. But then when I was researching laic, last night, I came across laicism, which is so much more awesome.

la·i·ci·sm [ˈlā-ə-ˌsi-zəm] n. 1. doctrine of opposition to clergy and priests 2. the nonclerical, or secular, control of political and social institutions in a society

Synonyms: there are no direct synonyms for this word, but some related words are, secularism, laity, laical, laically

Etymology: the etymology can only be found for the root word, laic: 1560s, from Fr. laïque (16c.), from L.L. laicus, from Gk. laikos "of or belonging to the people," from laos "people" (see lay (adj.)).

Note: I've installed the A to Z navigation buttons on my side bar, to the right over there (just below the follower widget). Feel free to play with them, as it's a fun way to visit the participating blogs. If you want to know more, or would like to get the code for your own blog, visit the post from the creator, Marcus Clearspring.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A to Z Challenge: K - Katana

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This is one of those words that's not going to have any synonyms, or much of an etymology, because it's actually a word from a foreign language, that has been used commonly enough in English, it's been adopted. Like Ninja.

ka·ta·na [kəˈtänə] n. a curved, single-edged sword that is the longer of a pair worn by the Japanese samurai

Synonyms: there are no direct synonyms of katana, but some related words are wakizashi, tanto, okatana, and nodachi

Etymology: 1610s, from Japanese.

See? Not much of an etymology, eh? Still, it's an awesome word, and history's greatest sword.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A to Z Challenge: J - Juxtaposition

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Man. I'm tired this morning, but I still had to come to work, so let's just get right down to business.

[juhk-stuh-puh-zish-uhn] n. an act or instance of placing close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast

Synonyms: collocation, apposition

Etymology: 1660s, from Fr. juxtaposition (1660s), from L. iuxta "beside, near" + Fr. position (see position (n.)). Latin iuxta is a contraction of *iugista (adv.), superlative of adjective *iugos "closely connected," from stem of iugum "yoke," from iungere "to join" (see jugular).

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A to Z Challenge: I - Ichor


I've always pictured ichor as the slightly venomous saliva that drips from the fangs of creatures like Orcs, Goblins, Ogres and so forth, but it actually has a broader scope than that.

Still, any word that gives me an excuse to use an image from The Lord of the Rings is pretty dope.

i·chor [ˈī-ˌkȯr, -kər] n. 1. Greek Mythology The rarefied fluid said to run in the veins of the gods
2. Pathology A watery, acrid discharge from a wound or ulcer

Synonyms: (there are, of course, none for the primary definition) sanies, suppuration, festering, purulence, pus

Etymology: 1630s, from Gk. ikhor, of unknown origin, possibly from a non-I.E. language. The fluid that serves for blood in the veins of the gods. Related: Ichorous.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A to Z Challenge: H - Haberdasher


I really wanted to go with holdfast today, in honor of last night's Game of Thrones episode, but after researching it this morning, Martin apparently made that word up, at least in the context of it being some kind of small medieval fort or fortification.

So instead, you get haberdasher. It's on the mind because my sister is getting married this summer.

hab·er·dash·er [hab-er-dash-er] n. a retail dealer in men's furnishings, as shirts, ties, gloves, socks, and hats

Synonyms: clothier

Etymology: early 14c., "seller of various small articles of trade" (late 13c. as a surname), agent noun from Anglo-Fr. hapertas "small wares," also a kind of fabric, of unknown origin. Sense of "dealer in men's wares" is 1887 in Amer.Eng., via intermediate sense of "seller of caps."

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A to Z Challenge: G - Gargantuan

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No, not orangutan, although it looks somewhat similar. This refers to something much larger.

Does anyone recognize that picture? It's an artist's interpretation of the game Shadow of the Colossus, one of the best, and most beautifully designed games every made. Anyway ...

gar·gan·tu·an [gaː(r)ˈgæntjuən] adj. of immense size, volume, or capacity; gigantic

Synonyms: elephantine, giant, jumbo, massive, colossal, gigantic, enormous, tremendous, immense, mammoth, humongous, stupendous, prodigious

Etymology: 1590s, from Gargantua, large-mouthed giant in Rabelais' novels, supposedly from Sp./Port. garganta "gullet, throat," which is from the same imitative root as gargle.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A to Z Challenge: F - Fetor


Finally! A word I've actually used in my own writing. Sure, I've only done it once, but it still counts. Let's get right down to business.

fe·tor also foe·tor [fē-tər] n. an offensive stale or putrid odour; stench

Synonyms: malodor, malodour, reek, stench, stink, mephitis

Etymology: “offensive smell,” mid-15c., from L. fetor, foetor, from fetere (see fetid).

This one ended up so short! Oh well, it's Friday. Have a great weekend, everybody.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A to Z Challnege: E - Esoteric


Does everyone remember The Esoteric Order of Dagon? What? No one reads Lovecraft anymore? It's mentioned most frequently in one of H.P. Lovecraft's most famous tales of the weird and wicked, The Shadow over Innsmouth.

But that's not really the point of this post. As fascinating as both that short story, and the cult that's mentioned in it are, the word esoteric can have a much broader meaning, and application.

es·o·ter·ic [es-uh-ter-ik] adj. 1. understood by or meant for only the select few who have special knowledge or interest; recondite
2. private; secret; confidential

Synonyms: obscure, private, secret, hidden, inner, mysterious, mystical, mystic, occult, arcane, cryptic, inscrutable, abstruse, recondite, cabbalistic (notice the similarity to our A term: arcane)

Etymology: 1650s, from Gk. esoterikos "belonging to an inner circle," from esotero "more within," comparative adv. of eso "within," related to eis "into," en "in" (see en- (2)). In English, originally of Pythagorean doctrines. According to Lucian, the division of teachings into exoteric and esoteric originated with Aristotle.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A to Z challenge: D - Dexterity


Dungeons and Dragons nerds will know this as one of the six fundamental attributes of all characters. Who doesn't remember STR, DEX, CON, INT, WIS, and CHA? Most of you have no idea what I'm talking about? Crap. Sorry, never mind.

It's still a cool word though, and though the noun might be difficult to fit into your writing, dextrous makes a great adjective.

dex·ter·i·ty [dekˈsterəti] n. 1. Skill and grace in physical movement, especially in the use of the hands; adroitness.
2. Mental skill or adroitness; cleverness.

Synonyms: 1. skill, mastery, touch, craft, finesse, artistry, proficiency, smoothness, neatness, deftness, nimbleness, handiness (I personally always thought agility was a near-synonym for dexterity, if not an actual synonym, but in my searches it doesn't come up)
2. cleverness, art, ability, ingenuity, readiness, aptitude, adroitness, aptness, expertness, skilfulness

Etymology: 1520s, from M.Fr. dexterité (16c.), from L. dexteritatem (nom. dexteritas) "readiness, skillfulness, prosperity," from dexter "skillful," also "right (hand)" (cf. O.Fr. destre, Sp. diestro, etc.), from PIE root *deks- "on the right hand," hence "south" to one facing east (cf. Skt. daksinah "on the right hand, southern, skillful;" Avestan dashina- "on the right hand;" Gk. dexios "on the right hand," also "fortunate, clever;" O.Ir. dess "on the right hand, southern;" Welsh deheu; Gaulish Dexsiva, name of a goddess of fortune; Goth. taihswa; Lith. desinas; O.C.S. desnu, Rus. desnoj). The Latin form is with the comparative suffix -ter, thus meaning etymologically "the better direction." M.E. dester meant "right hand," and in heraldry dexter means "on the right side."

Sorry this one got so long, but man, that etymology is no joke. Apparently, historically, people thought left-handedness was for idiots.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A to Z Challenge: C - Cuirass


This one is fun. First of all, because any word that includes ass is fun, especially when it ends in -ass. But also because it's part of a suit of armor, and let's face it, armor is one of the key elements when it comes to bad-assery.

cui·rass [kwɪˈræs] n 1. (Military / Arms & Armour) a piece of armour, of leather or metal covering the chest and back
2. (Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Zoology) a hard outer protective covering of some animals, consisting of shell, plate, or scales
3. (Transport / Nautical Terms) any similar protective covering, as on a ship

Synonyms: there are no actual synonyms for this word, but some related terms might be: hauberk, breast plate, plate armor, culet, faulds, brigadine.

Etymology: "armor for the chest and back," mid-15c., from M.Fr. cuirasse (15c.), from L.L. coriacea vestis "garment of leather," from L. corium "leather, hide" (see corium). Cognate with It. corazza, Sp. coraza, Port. couraça.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A to Z Challenge: B - Batholith


I actually use this word occasionally in my writing. I have a love affair with mountains, so it comes up from time to time. It's also just so fun to say, it rolls off the tongue like good Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

What? You don't consider Scotch that smooth? You might be drinking the wrong stuff. Anyway, let's get to the important parts:

bath·o·lith [bath-uh-lith] n. - a very large irregular-shaped mass of igneous rock, esp granite, formed from an intrusion of magma at great depth, esp one exposed after erosion of less resistant overlying rocks

Synonyms: batholite, pluton, plutonic rock

Etymology: 1903, from Ger. batholith (1892), coined by German geologist Eduard Suess (1831-1914) from Gk. bathos "depth" + -lith, from lithos "stone."

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A to Z Challenge: A - Arcane

Happy Sunday morning challengers! I know many people don't read blogs on Sunday, and I certainly don't normally, but today is the official beginning of the April A to Z blogging challenge.

I'm going to keep my posts very short, because the point is really to visit as many blogs as possible. My theme, in case you can't already tell, is awesome words that begin with the letter of the day.

I'll share the word, its definition, some synonyms, and then as much etymology as I can find. I love etymologies, don't you?

So, anyway, here's today's word:


arcane [ɑːˈkeɪn] adj. - requiring secret or mysterious knowledge to be understood.

Synonyms: mysterious, secret, hidden, esoteric, occult, recondite, cabbalistic.

Etymology: 1540s, from L. arcanus "secret, hidden, private, concealed," from arcere "close up, enclose, contain," from arca "chest, box, place for safe-keeping," from PIE *ark- "to hold, contain, guard" (cf. Gk. arkos "defense," arkein "to ward off;" Arm. argel "obstacle;" Lith. raktas "key," rakinti "to shut, lock").