Flights of Fancy

Sometimes I think it would be interesting to take a glimpse into the thought process of people like J.R. Tolkien. Or Lewis Carroll. Or Dr. Seuss. What was their thought process (their flights of fancy) as they developed such chimerical writing?

Chimerical (kī–mer-i-kuhl ) is an adjective that means imaginary, wildly fanciful or highly unrealistic. Tolkien, Carroll, and Seuss have written very imaginary, very fanciful and very unrealistic things. How in the world did they ever think of those things? My brain processes must surely be BORING compared to theirs!

Mardi Gras costumes are chimerical (wildly fanciful). Floats for the Rose Parade tomorrow will be chimerical (very fanciful and imaginary). Movies, such as Ratatouille, is chimerical — highly unrealistic because anybody who is anybody knows that rats cannot cook! And those creatures in the Lord of the Rings series are totally unrealistic and wildly fanciful (and downright scary to little kids!).

Chimerical does not have to connote dark, weird, scary things. It could also be applied to ethereal and magical things such as Peter Pan, the tooth fairy, Santa Clause, or the Easter Bunny.

Chimerical can also refer to something that is improbable. Maybe one of your friends has come up with a plan on how to earn one million dollars in the next two days. If your situation is like mine, that plan would definitely be considered chimerical!

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Rived Dreams = Shattered Dreams

Yesterday, I read about a man’s dream to become an author. Not just any ol’ run of the mill author who churns out pulp fiction. He wanted to be an author along the same lines as Shakespeare. He wanted to be that well respected. That ‘classical.’ That enduring through the ages. Yet he mourned that his life was passing by and he wasn’t accomplishing his dream. His dream was almost rived.

He mentioned that he hadn’t reached his 30th birthday. So I ask, “What’s your problem?” He still has plenty of life time left to continue working on his dream!

Rive (rīv – that’s with a long ‘I’ sound) is a verb that means to wrench open or tear apart or to pieces. You can rive a door which would mean you wrenched it open. A bear can rive you or tear you to pieces with his sharp claws and his sharp teeth. This riving is usually done with force or violence. (Can’t say that I’ve heard of a bear tenderly and gently tearing someone to pieces . . .)

Rive also means to shatter, crack, or fracture. If you have high hopes that something will happen and it doesn’t, your dreams are rived (shattered). That’s how this author-to-be felt about his unattained dream. A mirror can be rived (cracked or shattered). A glass dish can be rived (or riven) when it is dropped on the floor. (Hopefully it isn’t your great-grandmother’s china that gets riven!)

Our car’s windshield is rived (cracked) and we’ll have to get it replaced before it can pass inspection next month.

Rive can also mean divide into pieces such as a nation rived by civil war. That pretty much describes many places in the Middle East and some countries in Africa . . .

I hope you continue working on your dreams.  Regardless of your age.  I am . . .

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Stroppy is as Stroppy Does

I was reading an article about podcasting this morning and came across an interesting word.  The author referred to another person as being stroppy.  Having never seen that word before, I dashed over to  Here’s what I learned.

Stroppy (strop-ee — pronounced like the word straw and the word pea) is an adjective that means bad-tempered or hostile.  Quick to take offense.  Because this is the Christmas season, my thoughts turned to Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ story A Christmas Carol.  Scrooge was a bad-tempered person.  A bad-tempered employer.  Generally, just bad-tempered.

Do you know anybody who is bad-tempered all the time?  You might want to tell them to stop being stroppy!

Or, do you know someone who is easily offended?  It seems that you have to tip-toe around them so that you don’t do or say something where they’ll take offense and get mad at you. Those type of people are not fun to be around!

I hope you aren’t one . . .

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My Personal Contretemps

I recently read an interesting article that mentioned since 1960 the working vocabulary of Americans has dropped from 25,000 words to 10,000 words!!! Does that mean my mother and father who only had a high school education had a larger working vocabulary than I do as someone who has earned a Master’s degree (and a Bachelors in English to boot!!)? This statistic is definitely something to think about. And, I guess, in my own small way by having this site, I am helping people improve their vocabulary. At least I hope so . . . .

The article also mentioned a website called On this site, you can ‘test’ your vocabulary. You will be given a word. If you answer it correctly, you will get a slightly harder word. If you miss it, the next word will be easier. For every correct word that you get, the site will donate 20 grains of rice through the United Nations to help end world hunger. I have spent some time on this site since my contretemps trying to get up to the highest level which is 50. So far, I’ve only made it to level 44. But in the process, I have come across some dandy words. Words that I will be trying to learn to incorporate into my working vocabulary. Words like contretemps.

Contretemps ( kon-truh-tahnz) is a noun that we get from the French. Pronouncing the word sounds so lovely — such a contrast to what it means. Contretemps is a mishap, an inopportune occurrence. It is an embarrassing mischance, an unforeseen event that disrupts the normal course of things, an inopportune occurrence.

My tripping and falling last week was definitely a contretemps. It was a mishap of inopportune occurrence. It was unforeseen. It definitely disrupted my normal, daily routine. The results are embarrassing — being seen with road rash on my face and huge swollen lips isn’t exactly something that I want to share with the world.

Have you ever accidentally spilled your drink at dinner in front of someone you were trying to impress? That would be a contretemps. Sometimes children will say something in front of someone that is true but also embarrassing. That would be a contretemps. Have you accidentally called a mild acquaintance by the wrong name? That would be a contretemps.

Another word that I learned that fit my experience so aptly was knap. Knap (nap – with a long A sound) means to strike sharply, to break or chip with sharp blows. Well, I must say that I certainly did knap my teeth on the asphalt. So that two of my teeth are chipped! I definitely knapped my teeth sharply.

However, the breaking or chipping with sharp blows usually refers to stone and not to teeth. So, someone who is a sculptor knaps at stone or marble as he is creating his sculpture. Native American Indians would knap flint to make arrowheads.

I highly recommend that you visit Not only will it help you improve your vocabulary, but you can help to ease world hunger in an easy simple way.

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All I Want For Christmas . . .

In the pre-dawn hours last Wednesday morning as I ambulated with two of my friends, I had a nasty spill. The toe of my shoe caught on the edge of the asphalt and I did a face plant. My German-sized nose (inherited from my maternal grandfather) cushioned my fall. Somewhat. Lucky for me, only two of my teeth were slightly chipped. (And bruised!!) The song “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” has taken on new meaning for me! Chip and seal also has a new twist to it– I chip (my teeth) and my dentist seals them. And this leads me to the first word for today.

Ever heard of the word edentate? Edentate (ee-den-teyt) is a fancy adjective that means toothless. I’m lucky that I’m not toothless from my fall!

Newborn babies are edentate. They do not have any teeth for several months. My father was edentate. He didn’t have very good teeth. Back in the early 1940s, the dentist just pulled Dad’s teeth instead of trying to fix them so Dad could keep them. So, Dad was edentate until he got dentures.

Edentate also refers to an order of mammals characterized by the absence of incisors and canines in the arrangement of teeth. These mammals include armadillos, sloths, and the South American anteaters. So you can see how edentate came to mean toothless.

Ambulate is the next word. Ambulate (am-byuh-leyt) is a verb that means to walk about or move from place to place. I was ambulating for exercise when I fell. If school children miss the school bus, they might have to ambulate (walk) to school. During the Christmas shopping season, shoppers sometimes have to do a lot of ambulating at the mall in search of Christmas presents. Or parking spaces.

People who want to lose weight, ambulate on a treadmill. Brides ambulate down the church aisle to be married. Lovers like to ambulate on the beach at sunset.

I think I’m going to heal my body a bit before I do any more ambulating . . . .

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Obviate and Fracas

Well, I’m finally finished teaching my educational psychology class for the semester. Huzzah!! That has been a very time consuming activity which took much of my spare time that I would have normally spent in creating podcasts for this site and writing entries here. Hopefully, I’ll be able to write on a more frequent basis now.

Recently, I was in a meeting when one of the participants used the word obviate. Never heard of it. Went to the dictionary (the online kind of course and not the paper kind). It’s a pretty useful word so I thought that I would share it here.

Obviate (ob-vee-yet) is a verb that means anticipate and dispose of effectively. Render unnecessary. Prevent. If you brush your teeth regularly and make sure you also floss, you will obviate the need to have fillings (hopefully). Meaning it would not be necessary to have fillings. If you exercise, drink plenty of water, eat well-balanced meals, and eliminate empty calories from your diet, you will obviate the need for dieting. Dieting would not be necessary.

If you have a good project manager at work, she can obviate scope creep on projects. You will prevent scope creep from happening. And that’s always a good thing.

If you plan in advance, you can obviate unnecessary shopping trips when you are preparing for Christmas. And that is good. I don’t know anybody who willingly enters the shopping fracas more than necessary.

Fracas (frey-kuhs) is a noun that means a noisy, disorderly disturbance or fight. Riotous brawl. Uproar. That’s a pretty good description of what shopping is like on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving. (I avoid shopping on those days like the plague!)

Sometimes your children can get into a riotous brawl or in an uproar. That would be a fracas. Sometimes at football games, players get upset with the other team’s players or with the referee’s call. Words are spat out in anger. Fists start flying and before you know it a fracas (fight) has started.

At this time of year, you can always warn children to cease any of their fracases because if they continued that would obviate Santa’s coming!

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