Difficult Words to Spell II
Bill Long 10/30/10
GE's and Beyond
If you take to heart Long's first rule of spelling, which is that every word is trivially easy to spell--for someone--you realize that what you are trying to do in mastering the spelling of the English language is not a task of enormous difficulty; it just takes quite a bit of time. Thus, I would say it is more a task of discipline and memory than of conceptual skill. I have learned that there are basically two types of spellers: those who work best by assembling long lists of words, sometimes organized in various categories, and those who try to learn some things about each word, so that you easily recognize it the next time you hear it. I choose the latter method here, even though those pursuing the former can often go through far more words in the same amount of time. But, as I have frequently said, we have more fun!
Let's continue where we left off last time, with gentamicin.
gentamicin--jen tuh MY sin. Another of our modern (developed 1963) wonder drugs. This one is quite potent and is used in controlled medical situations to treat severe infections.
gerah--GIR uh. An ancient Hebrew measure of weight equal to 1/20 of an shekel. So says Exodus 30:13. Don't suppose this word will make it into polite company, however. Poet William Carlos Williams wrote that a lot depends on a red wheelbarrow; little, it seems to me, depends on a gerah.
gerenuk--GER uh nuk or gu RE nuk. This is a large eastern African antelope. Pictures abound online. They stand on their back legs, stretching to their full height, to get food off of trees. Now, about that Safari, Mildred....
gesneriad--ges NIR ee ad. A family of tropical herbs. Named after one of my two heroes, Conrad Gesner, who died in 1565 at age 49, surrounded by the 63 major books he had written. I suppose he had loved ones nearby, too, but he was utterly devoted to the knowledge business, writing books mostly on the natural world. His monumental tome, Historia animalium, was the most comprehensive survey of the animal world undertaken in the Renaissance. Oh, my other hero? Well, later...
gewgaw/geegaw--GYU goh and JEE goh. I think both words are fair game, based on the "ipecac/ipecacuanha" rule. It means a bauble or trinket or bijou or tchotchke (know those two words, too!). Though, now that I think of it, a bijou (BEE zhu) is something of more value than a mere gewgaw .
gey--GAY, Scottish for very or quite. There are so many rather useless Scottish words in the Merriam Webster's 11th Edition. You would think that the real name of the editor was Frederick C. Macmish.
gharial--GER ee al. It is a large crocodilian of India. The word is derived from the Hindu and Urdu, ultimately derived from Sanskrit. I will ask my Sanskrit instructor to tell me how to write it in ancient Indian characters. Will that help me spell it better? Of course not...you just have to learn it!
gharry--GAH ree or GAR ee. Another Hindu/Urdu word. I missed this word in 2007, I believe. But now, of course, I will never miss it again. It is a horse-drawn cab in India and Egypt, but it looks like the kind of thing that maybe flourished in colonial times. Anyone know if you can still hire a gharry today?
giardia--jee AR di uh. A genus (Giardia) of flagellate protozoans inhabiting intestines.
gid--GID. A disease of sheep caused by the larva of a tapeworm.
gimbal--GIM bal or JIM bal. It is a device permitting a body to incline freely in any direction.
gimmal--GI mul or JI mul. A joined work (like a clock) whose pieces work within each other. Its first definition in the OED, however, is illuminating. It is a "finger-ring so constructed as to admit of being divided into two (sometimes into three) rings." You can see pictures online. The word is derived from the earlier English word gemel (not in our dictionary), which is itself derived from the Latin gemellus , the diminutive of geminus , which means twin. The Gemini space program had two astronauts per mission. Hence the word and the "two-ring" definition.
girn--GURN. It means snarl. Only in Scotland. But there is something to say about this word. It is both a noun and a verb, and the verb, meaning to snarl or "show the teeth in rage, disappointment, etc." is originally derived from "grin," the familiar word for showing the teeth in delight. Ah, perhaps medieval dyslexia was at work in our word-formation. The technical term for letter reversal in the middle of a word is metathesis.
gittern--GI tern. A medieval guitar. Though the OED says that the word is of "obscure formation," we can easily infer that it goes back eventually to the Greek word cithara , which itself was directly taken into English as cithern or cittern in the 16th century.
glace--gla SAY, made or finished so as to have a glossy surface. But our dictionary doesn't have the meaning that everyone knows: "of fruits: covered with icing or sugar" (though our dictionary does have "glaceed"). One web site, which sells "artisan" ice cream (note how the word 'artisan' is taking over our culture...), calls itself "Glace," and talks about "when joy freezes over." Be sure to distinguish it from glacis gla SEE, a term from military engineering to describe an artifical slope of earth used in European fortresses to keep any assailant under the fire of the defenders until the last possible moment.
gleization--glay ZA shun. This is the formation or turning of something into gley. Gley is a blue-grey soil or soil layer in which iron and manganese compounds are reduced through being waterlogged; also such a soil mottled with brownish oxidized patches as a result of periods of relative dryness. We learn from a 1963 quotation that "the words 'glei' (now officially "gley") and 'gleification' were derived from the popular Ukranian and introduced into scientific terminology in 1905 by G.N. Visotskii." Not exactly a household word...yet..
glomus--GLOW mus. If you read the definition in our dictionary, having to do with an "arteriovenous anastomosis" and supporting structures, you are pretty much in the dark as to what it means. It is derived from the Latin word for "ball" or "thread" and actually is a term suggested in the late 1930s to describe a tumor, often in the hand, that makes a sort of ball or skein in the hand. It is almost always benign. The "modern" name of the glomus tumor is a paraganglioma. By the way, the word anastomosis relates to the reconnection of two streams that previously branched out, is most common in medicine. My first acquaintance with the term, however, was in Vladimir Nabakov's Speak, Memory where he writes: "the distant meadows opening fanwise, the near trees sweeping up on invisible swings toward the track, a parallel rail line all at once committing suicide by anastomosis, a bank of nictitating grass rising, rising, rising, until the little witness of mixed velocities was made to discharge his portion of omelette aux confitures de fraises." Wish you could write like that?
All for today.