An Omnifarious Dictatress

I came across an interesting word in my reading the other day. It was dictatress. Dictatress (dic-ta-tress) is a noun that means a female dictator or a female who dictates or commands.

This word could have a nice connotation or a not so nice one. A not so nice connotation could refer to a domineering wife who dictates to her husband what to do. Or dictates to her children what to do. Or a female boss who commands her employees in all things they should do.

On the nice side of things, it could generally refer to a female in a leadership position either in the military or the business world. A director who directs a non-profit organization. Someone who is the chairman of the board of directors for a hospital or a business. Someone who is in command and also happens to be female.

This word doesn’t necessarily have to apply to a human. It could refer a feminine ‘thing’ such as a country and ‘her’ leadership position in world politics. The ocean could be a dictatress as she dictates her command over ocean going vessels. Paris could be considered a dictatress because of her strong influence over fashion or food.

The other word for today is omnifarious. Omnifarious (om-nuh-fair-ee-uhs) is an adjective that means of all forms, varieties, or kinds. If you had omnifarious knowledge, you would have all kinds of knowledge. You would know lots of stuff about lots of stuff! You could be an omnifarious reader — reading J.K. Rowling, James Patterson, David McCullough, Maya Angelou, or the Wall Street Journal. A garden could have an omnifarious types of flowers, trees, and shrubs. A grocery store could carry an omnifarious assortment of products (a wide variety from Oriental specialty items to locally grown corn on the cob).

So, if you have an omnifarious dictatress, you have a female who dictates in all kinds of ways over all kinds of subjects!

A Word Fugitive

Have you ever had a word that you’ve heard before, or read before, and you think you have a vague idea of what it means? A word fugitive that flees and hides in the dark cobweb filled corners of your brain and refuses to connect to a definition? Non sequitur is that kind of word for me. Somehow, when I think of it, I connect it to mythological creatures, like a unicorn. Ha! How wrong I am. . . .

Non sequitur (non se-kwi-ter) is a noun that refers to a thought, comment, or reply that does not logically follow what has just been said. If you are in a conversation with a couple of your friends and you are talking about a movie that you have all recently seen, and one person makes a comment about a vacation they are planning on taking, that comment would be a non sequitur. Totally out of context. Not even close to what is being discussed.

Non sequitur can also refer to a conclusion that does not follow logically what preceded it. An invalid argument. For example, if you say that all dogs are brown, this object is brown, therefore this object is a dog. That is a non sequitur. The brown object could be a hat, or a car, or a mountain.

So, my thought process about the definition of this word is a non sequitur. It sorta sounds like centaur. A centaur is a mythological creature that is half man and half horse. A unicorn is a mythological horse-like creature. Therefore a non sequitur is a mythological horse-like character. . . .

Such non sequitur thinking . . .

How Tricky

Our son-in-law knows a very clever card trick.   His legerdemain is amazing to watch — especially when you don’t know how the trick works.

Legerdemain (lej-er-duhmeyn) is a noun that means an artful trick, trickery, or deception.   A show of skill or deceitful cleverness is legerdemain.  It comes from Old French that means ‘light of hand.’ 

If you have watched any of the Ocean’s 11, 12, or 13 movies, there is lots of trickery and deception going on.  Enron’s debacle could be considered a financial legerdemain — before it was discovered and people were caught and brought to trial.  Sometimes a smooth talking salesman’s sales pitch could be a legerdemain — especially if he convinced you to buy something that you really didn’t want!

Tomorrow  is a state holiday and I will be busy doing something fun with my family.  So, I won’t be posting any podcast!


A Word With Many Meanings

Today, instead of sharing 2-3 words with you, I’m going to share one word that has 4 widely disparate meanings. Wait a minute, now that the word disparate flowed from my fingers as I was typing, I think I’ll provide that definition, too! First, disparate, so that you will then be able to understand what I mean about the other word.

Disparate (di-spar-it) is an adjective that means distinct in kind, essentially different, not at all similar. If two people had disparate ideas about how to handle a situation, they would have distinctly different ideas about what to do. For example, parents sometimes have different ideas about disciplining their children. One parent may favor spanking a child for a wrong doing. The other parent may favor talking to the child in an effort to explain why the child’s behavior was inappropriate.

Since I’ve said the word that I want to share today has disparate meanings, that indicates that the word has meanings that are very different from each other. With that said, I’ll get on with sharing the word. And that word is malkin.

Malkin (mawl-kin) is a noun. The first meaning is an untidy woman. Sometimes in the past, it has referred to a lower class kitchen maid. (That’s how Chaucer used the word!) So, if a woman is not clean, if she has sloppy, dirty clothes on, and if her hair is in disarray, she is a malkin.

The second meaning is a scarecrow, a ragged puppet, or a grotesque effigy. You can probably see how people could call a scarecrow a malkin. If a woman is a sloppy, unkempt person with a rowdy hair-do, she might look like a scarecrow or a raggedy puppet.

The third definition is a mop. Now, you might ask, how does this fit in. If the mop was made from a bundle of rags, it might look like a scarecrow which in turn might look like an untidy woman. Several hundred years ago in England, these mops were made to clean ovens or artillery pieces and were referred to as malkins. This definition isn’t commonly used today.

The third definition is a cat. Since 1673, malkin has been used as a name for a cat and thus used to refer to cats in general. However, this was normal back in the 1600s and so this definition isn’t common either.

The fourth definition is a hare. In the 1700s, England and Scotland referred to hares as a malkin. Having never been to England or Scotland, I don’t know if they still refer to rabbits as a malkin. (If any of my readers are from these parts of the world, it would be great if you could let me know if this definition is still in use!)

So, if you have a pet rabbit, you can call it a malkin. If you have a pet cat, you can call that a malkin. If you have a scarecrow at Halloween time, you can call that a malkin. If you clean out your oven with a rag mop, call it a malkin. If you’ve been backpacking for a week without showering, washing your hair, or changing your clothes, you might look disheveled and untiddy — and could refer to yourself as a malkin!

Malkin . . . an untidy woman, a scarecrow, a cat, a hare . . .

Eructate and Flatulate

Yesterday, when I learned the word defalcate, it reminded me of two other similar sounding words — eructate and flatulate. (However, defalcate is in no way close to the other words in definition!!!) If you have any pre-adolescent boys (and even adolescent ones!) these two other words could be great to have in your vocabulary.

Eructate (i-ruhk-teyt) is a verb that means to belch. Eructate doesn’t refer to a dainty, quiet, burping. Eructating is louder, more forceful. Boys tend to have belching contests. They tend to think it’s cool to belch. On the other hand, mothers tend to want their children to have good manners and belching doesn’t play into having good manners!

We have a saying at our house: You can eructate when you hear the lady of the house eructate. Which means, since the lady of the home (me, the mother) doesn’t particularly like belching and would prefer my children to have good manners, I don’t belch. (Rarely . . . ) So, by saying this, my sons refrain from belching (especially at the dinner table). But they are not extremely upset. Because there is always the slim chance that Mom just might belch. Maybe . . . And if she does, then they can let loose with their own belches! The word eructate is a more genteel word than belching, so if you use the word enough, your children might start saying it, too. And that would add dignity to your sons’ conversation when talking about eructating with their buddies.

The second word that sounds similar to defalcate and eructate is flatulate. Flatulate (fla-choo-leyt) is a verb that means to pass gas. Using the word flatulate is more proper and politely acceptable than using other slang words for this bodily function.

So these two words are good to incorporate into your vocabulary — and for your children (especially the male ones!). It’s one way for your sons to impress their friends with their large vocabulary while still talking about these bodily functions.

Don’t Defalcate!

One of my employees showed me a book he purchased. It was titled something like 15000 Words An Educated Person Should Know. I flipped through the book with interest. Would I know most of the words? Would there be any that I wouldn’t know? (Read that to mean ‘am I educated enough to know all of the words in the book?’)

Well, I did come across a word that I didn’t know. A great word! It’s defalcate. Defalcate (di-fal-keyt) is a verb that means to embezzle. Quite a few years ago, one of my acquaintances defalcated money from the company where she was working. Because it was a first offense, she wasn’t sent to jail. (I don’t know how much money she embezzled. Maybe she didn’t take very much money and maybe that was taken into consideration for not sending her to jail.)

So, if a person misuses funds, if they steal, if they embezzle, if they take money from their work that doesn’t belong to them, that is defalcating.

Defalcate. That’s a mighty fancy word for stealing . . . .

WordSmithie 29th Podcast

The 29th podcasting session for WordSmithie is now available. It covers the words trepid, intrepid, and petrify.