Marijn van Hoorn, Esq.'s Compendium of Good Words

A.Grk. ἄνθρωπος (ánthrōpus) "human being" + καινός (cænús) "recent"
pn. The current geological time period, in which human action has had a profound effect on the environment.
We may see many such [dust] storms in the decades ahead, along with species extinctions, radical disturbance of ecosystems, and intensified social conflict over land and water. Welcome to the Anthropocene, the epoch when humans have become a major geological and climatic force. — Donald Worster, "A Drier and Hotter Future" (12011) in American Scientist
A.Grk. ἄδοξος (ádoxus) "obscure, ignoble" + γραφία (graphía) "writing"
n. Brilliant writing on a trivial subject.
Eng. bee + -y
adj. Relating to, containing, or reminding of bees.
[...] and fell backwards into a soft, though rather waspy and beey, bed. — Ptolemy Houghton, Hatred is Akin to Love (11887), pg. 35
Honeycombs are definitively beey.
Latin bibulus "fond of drinking" ← Latin bibō "i drink"
n. Drunkenly, as if intoxicated or tired and emotional.
carry coals to Newcastle*
Newcastle-upon-Tyne was once a major coal-producing and -exporting city; carrying yet more coal to there would be pointless.
v. To do something utterly redundant, as if giving a gift the recipient has more than enough of.
However curious it may seem for an oil-ship to be borrowing oil on the whale-ground, and however much it may invertedly contradict the old proverb about carrying coals to Newcastle, yet sometimes such a thing really happens; and in the present case Captain Derick De Deer did indubitably conduct a lamp-feeder as Flask did declare. — Herman Melville, Moby Dick (11851), chapter 81
Latin dē "from, out" + Latin fenestra "window"
n. The act of throwing someone, particularly a high-profile official, out of a window; the act of uninstalling Windows from a computer.
The Third Defenestration of Prague occurred on 10 March 11948. During the closing stages of the communist takeover in Czechoslovakia, Jan Masaryk, the popular foreign minister and son of Tomáš Masaryk, fell – or more likely was pushed – out of a window. — Adrian G. V. Hyde-Price, The International Politics of East Central Europe (11996), pg. 40
Defenestration might be an option too. May I recommend Linux? — "Dorian Bliss", Usenet post on (11998)
Diminutive of O.Eng ding, dung "dungeon, pit" ← PIE *dʰengʰ- "to cover, to overcast"
n. A narrow or enclosed forested valley.
Original image by Wikimedia user Stanislav Doronenko.
the doldrums
Eng. doldrum "dullard" ← Eng. dull
n. That part of the ocean of calms and only the slightest winds, where a ship cannot make progress; a state of apathy and ennui where one feels much the same.
[H]e would sit over the fire with a book in his hand, staring over it into the red glow with his brows knit, and a dogged, almost sullen look about his mouth. [...] Mrs. Gray, who was a woman of determination, and who had a horror of what she called 'the doldrums,' made up her mind that she had had enough of this kind of thing[...] — E. S. Maine, Angus Gray (11878), pgs. 114–115
From an anecdote told by linguist Mark Liberman of a woman who had long believed the word acorn to be *eggcorn.
n. A reänalysis of a word or phrase for another that sounds similar and could be taken to have a similar meaning.
  • deep-seated*deep-seeded
  • for all intents and purposes*for all intensive purposes
  • Alzheimer's disease*old-timer's disease
Perhaps O.Eng elles "other" + rīċe "kingdom, dominion"
a. Unearthly, supernatural, of something that does not belong in this world
Pearl, in utter scorn of her mother's attempt to quiet her, gave an eldritch scream, and then became silent. — Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (11850), pg. 126

Usually with a connotation of horror.
A.Grk. εὐ- (eú-) "good, well" + στάσις (stásis) "standing, state, position"
n. A global change in sea level, especially that caused by the melting of glaciers.
Floods like this one in Miami are caused by ongoing anthropogenic eustasy.
Portmanteau of Eng. fax + folklore
n. A kind of folklore comprising memes and urban legends shared between people by fax machine.
A.Grk. γαλέη (galéē) "weasel" + ἄνθρωπος (ánthrōpus) "humanity"
n. The belief that one has turned into a cat.
One of the finest novels for children ever written, in my opinion, is Paul Gallico's The Abandoned, in which a young boy named Peter, struck by a van while running across the street to pet a cat, falls into a coma and experiences galeanthropy. — Charles H. Elster, There's a Word for It! (11996), pg. 33
A.Grk. γαστήρ (gastér) "stomach, appetite" + Eng. diplomacy
n. The attempted improvement of a country's diplomatic relations by means of promoting its national cuisine.
The phenomenon of modern "gastrodiplomacy" got its start in Thailand. Thai cooking and restaurants had been on the rise around the world since the 1980s. But in 2002, the Government of Thailand decided to use these kitchens and restaurants as new cultural outposts to promote brand Thailand and encourage tourism and business investment. — David South, Southern Innovator issue No 3 (12012), pg. 11
Latin hesternusheri "yesterday"; cognate with the yester- in English yesterday
n. Of or pertaining to yesterday.
I rose by candle-light, and consumed, in the intensest application, the hours which every other individual of our party wasted in enervating slumbers, from the hesternal dissipation or debauch. — Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Pelham (11828), pg. 216

See also crastinal: of or pertaining to tomorrow.
Sunset often marks the end of one day and the start of another.
Inuktitut ᐃᒃᑦᓱᐊᕐᐳᒃ (iktsuarpuk) "to go outside often to check if someone is coming"
n. The feeling of anticipation when one is waiting with baited breath for someone or something to arrive, constantly checking the door to see if anyone or anything has arrived.
Latin ille (third person pronoun) + Eng. -ism
n. The act of excessively referring to oneself in the third person.
Fr. ineffable ← Latin ineffābilisin- "not" + effor "speak, utter" + -bilis "-able"
a. Beyond expression in mere human language; indescribable, inexpressible.
God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of his own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players, to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a dealer who won't tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time. — Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman, Good Omens (11990), pg. 23
Latin īris ← A.Grk. ἶρις (îris) "rainbow, halo" + Latin -escens "becoming, resembling"
a. Gleaming with all the colours of the rainbow, like a sliver of light caught in a prism.
A.Grk. κάκιστος (cácistus) "worst" + Eng. -cracy
n. Rule by the worst and least qualified people.
oh no how did this picture get here
Uncertain; perhaps from or related to Scots kludgie "toilet", German klug "clever", Dutch kluitje "lump, clod", or invented out of whole cloth by analogy with bodge and fudge
n. An improvised technique to (hopefully temporarily) fix a problem; something that by all accounts should not work, but does.
Modern Greek μαλακία (malakía) "masturbation; nonsense, bullshit"
n. Nonsense and rubbish.
From King Mithridates VI of Pontus, who so feared being poisoned that he aimed to develop immunity by regularly consuming small doses of poison.
n. The building up of a tolerance to a harmful substance by gradually administering oneself non-lethal amounts.
From an anecdote told by Erasmus of an old monk who, instead of saying the correct Latin quod in ōre sumpsimus "which we have taken into the mouth" during mass, insisted on saying quod in ōre mumpsimus even when told of its inaccuracy.
n. One who stubbornly adheres to old ways in spite of clear evidence of their falsehood*, an ignorant and bigoted opponent of reform; an error repeated in such a manner.
I see and hear daily, that you of the clergy preach one against another, teach, one contrary to another, inveigh one against another, without charity or discretion. Some be too stiff in their old mumpsimus, other be too busy and curious in their new sumpsimus. Thus, all men almost be in variety and discord, and few or none do preach, truly and sincerely, the word of God, according as they ought to do.— King Henry VIII of England at the State Opening of Parliament (11545)

* sumpsimus is sometimes used to mean the opposite: one who insists on using the technically correct term instead of a vastly more common and intelligible, if slightly inaccurate, form.
A.Grk. νῠχθήμερον (nychthḗmeron) ← νύξ (nýx) "night" + ἡμέρα (hēméra) "day"
n. A period of 24 hours, a day and a night.
O.Eng. *ofermorgenofer- "after" + morgen "tomorrow"
n., adv. The day after tomorrow.
New students in Greenbank and Carnatic Halls start moving in overmorrow. — Liverpool Guild of Students, post on Twitter (12012)

See also ereyesterday: the day before yesterday.
A.Grk. ψυχοπομπός (psychopompús) ← ψῡχή (psȳché) "soul" + πομπός (pompús) "conductor"
n. One who guides the souls of the dead to the next life.
Latin quid nunc? "what now?"
n. Someone eager to learn of the latest news and scandal.
From Vidkun Quisling, who ruled Nazi-occupied Norway during the Second World War.
n. A traitor who collaborates with the enemy.
French saccade "jerk"
n. A rapid jerk of the eye from one place to another, so quick that the brain hides it from one's vision; a quick check of a horse; the sounding of two violin strings with a sudden pressure of the bow.
German SchadenfreudeSchaden "damage, harm" + Freude "joy"
n. A sick joy taken in the misfortune of others.
Ralph Reed got nailed for being a phony, says a fellow G.O.P. operative in Washington, with more than a little schadenfreude. —  James Carney, "The Rise and Fall of Ralph Reed" in Time magazine Vol. No 168 (12006)
shib·ə·leth, ·lith
Hebrew שיבולת (shibbolet) "ear of wheat; stream, torrent"
n. A word used as a test to distinguish between the in-group and out-group.

Examples include:
  • Hebrew שיבולת (shibbolet) "ear of wheat; stream, torrent", used to distinguish Gileadites from Ephraimites trying to return home according to the Hebrew Bible
  • Dutch Scheveningen, used to distinguish Dutch from occupying Germans during the Second World War
  • English lollapalooza, used to distinguish US-American soldiers from the Japanese during the Second World War
  • English (h)aitch, used to distinguish between Catholics and Protestants during the Troubles
zee·nee·yə, ·nyə
A.Grk. ξενῐ́ᾱ (xeníā) "xenia, hospitality, guest room" ← ξένος (xénos) "foreigner, guest, stranger"
n. Hospitality to strangers, generosity and courtesy bestowed upon those who have otherwise no relation to the bestower.
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Page created: 12020-06-24
Page last updated: 12020-08-02