My First Podcast

I am attempting to get a podcast started to go along with this blog. There will be different words on the podcast than are here in the blog. I hope that you’ll enjoy listening to it.


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Rock On Oh Raconteur

I hope you had a filling and satisfying Thanksgiving. (Food, glorious food . . . I love that song from the movie Oliver . . .)

Family gatherings are most interesting. Some families enjoy them and look forward to them (like I do) and others endure or try to avoid them. One of the reasons that I enjoy our family gatherings is because one of my brothers-in-law is a raconteur.

A raconteur (noun – rak-uhn-tur) is a person who tells stories or anecdotes with great skill and wit. This brother-in-law always seems to have a great story or incident that he very skillfully shares. He is definitely a great raconteur. By the way, a raconteur does NOT tell the same story over and over thus putting people to sleep faster than Tylenol PM. That person is a bore!

Also in my family, are several nephews who are trenchermen. A trencherman (noun – tren-cher-muhn) is one who has a hearty appetite, is a heavy eater, or is a person who is devoted to eating and drinking to excess. (That’s NOT my nephews! Just the hearty appetite part.) Or, a trencherman could be a table companion which leads me to include the archaic definition which is one who frequents another’s table, is a hanger-on, or a parasite. So probably depending whether or not you like the person, a trencherman could be a person who has a hearty appetite or is a person whom you consider to be a parasite.

And speaking of appetites, I just HAVE to include a fun food word here — amuse-bouche (uhmyooz boosh). This comes from the French. We all know that amuse is to entertain in an enjoyable or cheerful manner. Bouche is French for mouth. So amuse-bouche is somthing that entertains the mouth. This is usually a small complientary appetizer offered at some restaurants like chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant. There is a local steak house that places a small bucket of peanuts to shell and eat as you look at the menu. Amuse-bouche — mouth pleasers.

So, if you have to share a meal with a trencherman, it would be good to have some amuse-bouches available and a raconteur to help liven the conversation.

Bon appétit!

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Chichi — Sheesh!

Do you know a woman who is very stylish? Chick? Always seems to have her act together both in dress and mannerisms? I do. And, when I’m around this type of a woman, I always end up feeling like a huge, lumpy sack of brown Idaho spuds — with a few clods of dirt thrown in for good luck. I know, I know, I shouldn’t allow myself to be intimidated or feel inferior or so . . . so . . . so klutzy! But that is easier said than done . . .

These elegant and stylish women are very chichi (shee-shee). This is a fun word to say. Just try it. I bet you can’t say it five times in a row without getting your tang all toungled up. Oops! (How un-chichi of me . . . )

Chichi is an adjective that means elegant or stylish. Showily or trendy. It also can mean someone who is pretentious, flashy, ostentatious, or flamboyant. So, maybe if you like the woman who is chichi, it can have a good connotation (elegant or stylish) and if you don’t particularly care for her you might think she leans more toward the flashy or ostentatious side of the definition.

Ostentatious. (Don’t you just hate it when you look up a word in the dictionary and the definition uses words that you don’t understand?? Sorry about that!) Ostentatious (os-ten-tey-shuhs) is an another adjective meaning a conspicuous show in an attempt to impress others such as an ostentatious dresser. Someone who tries to dress so that people will be impressed with how expensive their clothes are or with what a good figure they have. It can also mean intended to attract notice such as an ostentatious donation to a charitable fund (money given to impress more than to assist those in need), or as elaborate Christmas decorations in your yard, or in the type of car (or cars) that you drive.

Pretentious (pri-ten-shuhs) is similar to chichi and ostentatious. It’s an adjective that means making an exaggerated outward show, ostentatious, pompous. Being pretentious could be applied to many situations — making an exaggerated outward show of intelligence, kindness, patience, athletic ability, or musical ability. Generallly the person is seriously lacking in the quality that they are being pretentious about.

So, my advice (if anybody is asking for it) is that a woman should lean toward the elegant side of being chichi. Everybody should avoid being ostentatious or pretentious. If you are a genuinely good person, that will come through and you won’t have to impress others with your possessions or actions. They’ll be impressed because of the fine qualities that you possess.

(Whew! Was that a little preachy, or what?)

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Dumbledore, hag-rid, chimerical . . . oh my!

One of the easiest ways that I learn new words is to watch out for them in my reading. I’ve recently come across a plethora of mighty fine words.

In October, my husband and I visited Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse. (Most impressive!) To survive the drive through Wyoming, I retreated to a pile of books that had been stacking up by my bedside. (The trip to and fro netted a nice lot of completed readings . . . 3 magazines and 4 books!)

I read Mayor of Castorbridge by Thomas Hardy. I was totally delighted with this book — and almost overwhelmed at all of the words that were unfamiliar to me. Fifty-four in all! I wrote them in a little notebook so that I could look up and learn the definition.

There were two words there that were absolute gems of discovery! One was dumbledore and the other was hag-rid. Anybody who has read any of the Harry Potter books (or seen the movies) is very familiar with those two words. Or should I say names??

Care to guess what dumbledore means? A dumbledore is a “humble” bee or rather, a bumble bee! Not a fancy yellow-jacket or wasp or hornet. Just a simple honey bee. What interesting connections you can make between the character named Dumbledore and the meaning of the word!

And, what about hag-rid? Thomas Hardy says that hag-rid means indigestion. The Oxford English Dictionary defines hag-rid as ridden by a hag or affected by nightmares. I think I like Tom’s definition better. . . Next time I have indigestion, I’ll be sure to mention that I suffer from hag-rid!

And, before I move onto the word chimerical, I’ve just GOT to mention one other word that J.K. Rowling used that I am impressed with. As you know, Hagrid has a pet hippogriff. It was quite by accident that I stumbled across what a hippogriff was. (I must beg my high school English teacher’s pardon who tried to teach me about mythology . . .)

I thought that a hippogriff was a creature born from Rowling’s imagination. Not so. A hippogriff is a real creature in mythology — or at least as real as mythological creatures can get!

So, all the while I thought Rowling was creating a whole host of new words to fit into her magical world, she really wasn’t. (Either she is just using words and phrases that are very common to all of the charming people in England and not to those of us in America or she is a collector of fine words and can string them along to tell a fascinating story.) Now onto chimerical.

While in Milwaukee, I read “Kaffir Boy” which is a true story of a Black youth, Mark Mathabane, growing up in apartheid South Africa. I highly recommend reading this book! The author of this autobiography can speak several tribal languages in addition to Afrikaans and English. So naturally I was impressed when he used several words that were not familiar to me! One such word was was chimerical.

Since this is the second time that I came across this word in my reading, I thought it was high time that I looked it up and learned it!

Chimerical (kI-'mer-i-kl -- note that the 'ch' makes a 'k' sound). This adjective means filled with idle fancies and wild dreams; whimsical, fanciful.

In June of 1976, ten thousand students were peacefully marching against the requirement made by the Department of Bantu Education that all black schools had to use Afrikaans instead of English as the spoken language. Policeman had formed a barricade and halted the protesters.

Without provocation, the police suddenly opened fire killing several young children and wounding many others. The government thought that the student rebellion was’chimerical’ or in other words idle fancies, without substance. They believed that once the outside Communist agitators were ferreted out that the blacks would once more be subservient to the whites like they had been in the past. The black students’ grievances were anything but chimerical!

Now that you’ve learned four words (dumbledore, hagrid, hippogriff, and chimerical), I also hope that you’ll be motivated to read “Mayor of Castorbridge” or “Kaffir Boy” — or both! Great reads!

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Words Learned in Milwaukee

My husband has the opportunity of being in Milwaukee this week for some training for his work. Since I have an over-abundance of vacation days that I need to use before the end of the year, I, too, am currently in Milwaukee.

Just down the road from our hotel is a two-story Barnes and Noble book store. Since I love books as much (or more) as I do words, we headed down there to take a look.

As usual, my wanderings led me to the reference materials section. I felt compelled to check out the dictionaries that they had . . . maybe there was a new one out . . . . Aha! there WAS one that caught my attention. Actually several did. They were a series of “100 Words that a (fill in the blank) Should Know.”

The first one I browsed through was 101 words that every word lover should know. I’d like to share one of the words that I saw. (Most of them I knew. Pat myself on the back . . . .) The word was humuhumunukunukuapuaa. Yup. You read that right.

This is the name of the state fish of Hawaii. While Hawaii is a delightful place to visit (I’ll be going there in January for the third time) and has beautiful topical fish (that I love to see as I snorkel), I can’t for the life of me figure out why I as a word lover should know this word! I mean, just how many times will that come up in my normal conversation? If I used it in a conversation, my friends would think that I was mumbling a voodoo chant.

Which leads me to say this about that. I believe that as a person increases his or her vocabulary, the words should be words that ‘normal’ people would use, words that would fit naturally into a conversation — or words that people might read in newspapers or magazines. And, I don’t think this word fits into those categories. (The editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries that published this series of books evidently have a different point of view . . . .)
So, here are a couple of words that I think fit into my pre-defined categories of useful words to know.

The first is exiguous (eg-zig-yoo-uhs). Exiguous is an adjective that means scanty, meager, small, or slender. You could say that you have an exiguous income and ask your boss for a raise. Or maybe the budge for a project that you are working on is too exiguous. Personally, I would like to think that I am exiguous in stature — and not behemoth.

Are you familiar with behemoth? Behemoth (bi-hee-muhth) is a noun that means any creature or thing of monstrous size or power. I would like to be behemoth in power . . . but not particularly in size.

The last word today is embrangle (em-brang-guhl). Embrangle is a verb that means to entangle, confuse, perplex. Sometimes politicians embrangle people with all of their glib nonsense. Sometimes husbands embrangle their wives. (Sometimes????)

Well, I hope that you are not embrangled by what I have said here. I hope that you’ll find ways to appropriately use these words so that your vocabulary is behemoth and your waistline is exiguous.


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Great Salutations!

Welcome to WordSmithie — where I’ll share new words. Interesting words. Words that are fun to say. Words that you’ve probably seen or heard before but aren’t quite sure what they really mean.

I will also have a podcast that you can catch in iTunes called WordSmithie (you were expecting it to be called something else??). I’ll post the podcast on Tuesdays and Fridays — unless a holiday falls on those days. Some of the words in the podcast will be the same that I post here. Many will be different.

Today’s Word
Senectitude. Noun. Se-NEC-ti-tude. It means old age.

I get up at 5:15 a.m. every week day and waddle 3 miles so that I can maintain good health well into my senectitude.

My children chide me about getting Alzheimer’s in my senectitude.

I won’t let senectitude stop me from having fun with technology!

In my senectitude, I’ll know far more vocabulary words than my children ever will in their juvenescence**!

If you have a favorite word, or an interesting word that you would like to share (clean ones, mind you), please feel free to send me an e-mail at After all, helping each other increase our vocabularies is far more fun than trying to go it alone.’Til next time!

**Juvenescence. Noun. Ju-ve-NES-cence. A young offspring that is still in the process of growing.