GR to HA
Bill Long 11/15/10
Difficult Words from Webster's Collegiate, 11th Edition
guacharo--GWA cha ro. The oilbird, or Steatornis caripensis.
The bird is native to Venezuela. To be more precise, the origin of this nocturnal bird is in Caripe , in the state of Monagas. Hence the name. We can go further. The Latin Steato means "fat" or "tallow," and so is used to describe the squatty nature of this bird. Something that is steatopygian has a fat ass. A steatornis is a fat bird. The Steatornis caripensis establishes its position, flying as it does in caves by night, by echolocation. La Cueva del Guacharo National Park is an enormous cavern, near Caripe, that goes deep into the earth.
guaiacum--GWEYE uh cum. A tropical American bush/tree that, in two of its leading species, G. officianale and G. sanctum, is the national tree of Jamaica and the Bahamas, respectively. The word first entered English in the 1550s; the plant/tree was immediately recognized as having valuable medicinal properties. From 1553: "The wood of Guiacum, otherwyse called Lignum Sanctum, wherewith dyverse diseases are healded by the order of the new dyete." Guaiacum had already been popularized in Europe earlier in the century, an the Augsburg banking house of the Fuggers controlled the marketing of it and, thus, heavily promoted its use. Since it was known as the "holy" or "sacred" wood, it was also hung in churhes and houses as an object of veneration.
guanaco--gwa NAH ko. South American mammal with thick fawn-colored coat, related to the camel.
guayule--gwi YU le, a much-branched composite shrub of Mexico.
guenon--GWE non or guh NO(n). African monkey
guerdon--GUR don. Reward or recompense.
gueridon---gay ray DO, a small usually ornately carved stand or table.
guidwillie--good WI lee. Cordial or cheering.
guilloche--gi LOSHE. From an architectural dictionary, we have this definition: "An ornament in the form of two or more bands or strigs twisting over each otehr, so as to repeat the same figure, in a continued series, by the spiral returning of the bands," Gwilt, Encyclopedia of Architecture.
guimpe--GAMP or GIMP. A blouse.
guipure--gi PURE. A decorative lace.
guisard--GUY zard, masker or mummer.
gunnel--GUN nul. A mall, slimy eellike bony fish.
gurry--GAR ee. Fishing offal. This definition of the term comes from American whaling circa 1850 in the following sentence: "Gurry is the term by which they call the combined water, oil, and dirt that 'cutting-in' a whale leaves on deck and below." Sounds a little Melvillish, doesn't it? Or is it Melvilleish?
guyot--GEE oh, a flat-topped, underwater mountain. The term was only coined in 1946 and named after the Swiss geographer Arnold Guyot (1807-84). Though we have the term, almost every use of it I have seen gives an explanatory word or two, such as "submerged oceanic mountains" or "tablemounts." What is the purpose of a word, if you always have to explain it? Most sciences are adopting descriptive rather than eponymous terms to describe phenomena in their fields.
gynecocracy--gin ee KOK racy. Rule by women. Comment?
gynecomastia--gee ne ko MAS te uh. Excessive breast development in a male. Word isn't in the OED, but appears in the Unabridged and the Century (as gynecomasty). One might say that when all men become gynecomastic, we might have a gynecocracy.
gypseous--JIP see us. Obviously this means "resembling or having the qualities of gypsum," but what I didn't know was that the origin of this term (17 th century) is in the medical world. It was first applied to the consistency of expectorations (i.e., phlegm). "And these Expectorators...cast purulent and gypseous Matter out of the Bronchia..."
gyrase--JI rase. Only coined in 1976, it means an enzyme that unwinds double-stranded DNA. As the Wikipedia entry says, "This causes supercoiling of the DNA. Many antibiotics work by attacking bacterial DNA gyrase ."
gyve--JIVE OR GYVE. This is a shackle or fetter. The origin of the word is obscure, though it goes back, mostly in poetic contexts, to the Middle Ages. Not jivin' ya.
habergeon--HA ber jun. A medieval coat of mail shorter than a hauberk. Of course, this raises the interesting question of how long the hauberk was, but plenty of online pictures can help us out here. I was delighted to see that there was a society dedicated to the preservation of chain mail armor. Where do people have time for all this stuff?