Winning Words IV
Bill Long 6/13/05
Moving Quickly Now...
The next several words are less exciting than the previous ones, and so I can breeze through them more quickly.
9. Gossoon. The OED says that this Anglo-Irish word, which means "a youth; a servant-boy" is an alteration of garcon, garcion. The Century has a helpful quotation: "In most Irish families there used to be a bare-footed gossoon, who was slave to the cook and the butler, and who in fact, without wages, did all the hard work of the house." The same author said in another book (1802), "Even the cottiers (i.e., the "cotters," who dwell in cottages. The OED spells it "cottar.") and gossoons speak in figure and in trope." Well, you either know this or you don't.
10. Hirtellous. As we know, this word is absent from the Collegiate but it also doesn't appear in the OED. The Century has it, and the Webster's 3rd International has both hirtellous and hirsutulous, which mean the same thing--minutely (or slightly) hirsute, or hairy. It seems like "little words" tripped people up; just a few essays ago I wrote about esquamulose (lacking minute scales). Actually the Century has a word that would have driven even more spellers up the wall: hirsutocinereous, which means "hirsute with cinereous (ash-colored) hairs. I don't think there are many contexts in which one would use this word--perhaps you could use it for someone who is just growing a beard or for a rather smooth leaf--but let's leave it now.
11. Horripilation. This is actually a very useful and vivid term. Derived from the Latin horrere (which underlies all the "horror-type" words in English), meaning "to bristle" or "to be shaggy" and pilus, the word for hair, horripilation is the experience of having one's hair's "bristle" or stand on end. Other sources say that horripilation is "goodbumps" or "gooseflesh," and this is helpful too. You can seek a medical or descriptive explanation of this phenomeon, but more interesting to me are the uses of the word in the religious traditions and in horror/monster literature. For example, the teachings of Sri Sri Ramakrishnan stress the following bodily effects on one who is on the way to enlightenment: "shedding of tears, tremor of the body, horripilation, perspiration and a burning sensation." Richard Burton's famous translation of the 1001 Arabian Nights also makes use of the term. I think the word retains its value today.
12. Hyetology. Underlying this word is the Greek word "hyetos," which means rain. Hyetal means "of or relating to rain;" a hyetograph is a chart showing the average rainfall of the earth or any part of it; hyetography is "the art of showing the distribution of rain" by making use of charts and exhibits; a hyetometor is a rain gage. Finally, hyetology is simply that branch of meteorology that treats of the phenomenon of rain. You would think that with my having lived in the Pacific NW for about 17 years that I would run into this word daily, but indeed I have not. The meteorologists on TV are very attractive people whom I think are not really accomplished meteorologists--thus they might not know too much about hyetology, even though they probably could spell it right.
13. Knickline. I can be extremely brief here, because the only place I found a definition was in the 3rd New International Dictionary. The word hardly appears on the Internet. The definition: "a line formed by the point or angle of a nick in a slope (as of a hill)." Talk about words that don't have a great deal of utility... If the word is barely attested, doesn't seem to create much of a vivid picture for us, or doesn't have a rich etymological story to it, why use it and why use it especially in a kids spelling bee? On to the next.
14. Lorcha. A lorcha is a light Chinese sailing vesssel, built somewhat after a European model, but rigged like a junk. A 19th century attestation gives us more information about it: "A vessel called a lorcha--which is a name derived from the Portuguese settlement at Macao, and which merely means that it is built after the European model..." Both the Century and the 3rd New International have pictures/drawings of a lorcha, but you wouldn't know from looking at both drawings that the same type of boat was meant. The definition given by the 3rd New International is the same as the others, though it adds that it has "batten lugsails." What is a lugsail? "A four-cornered sail, bent upon a yard which is slung at about 1/3 or 1/4 of its length from one end, and so hangs obliquely." The 3rd goes into more detail and even gives us four drawings of various kinds of lugsails, but I will spare you the details tonight.
I think one more essay will suffice to finish these 20 words.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long