Glossary: Words beginning with D, E, F

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D (back to top)




degel shachor







disintegrating babelic prism

disordered philological oddments

displacement activities








duded up


dystopian simulacrum

dalmatica (back to top)

“Now that he was closer, Zoe could see the gleaming silk of his dalmatica, in spite of the inclement weather.”

Anne Perry. The Sheen on the Silk. New York: Ballantine Books, 2010. p. 450.

damne (back to top)

Condemned person. (French for “damned.”)

“The exclusion of Muslims and Hispanics, along with the continued existence of anti-black racism, in both Europe and the United States points to the commonalities of the two projects. Imperial dialectics are risible from a position of subalternity, from that of what Fanon called the damnes de la terre. As Fanon’s work suggests, and as the very etymology of the term damne makes clear, the damned is the one who wants to give but who can’t give because what he possesses has been taken from him. The damnes are the subjects who by virtue of their gender or skin color are not seen as subjects who can participate, in generous intersubjective contact with others.”
“Decolonization and the New Identitarian Logics.” Nelson Maldonado-Torres. Radical Philosophy Review (Journal of the Radical Philosophy Association). Vol 8, No 1, 2005. p 62. The author refers us to his book Against War for more discussion of this etymology.

defixion (back to top)

A hex.

“Roman curses…were scratched on thin pieces of lead and tin, tightly folded up, pierced with a nail, and cast into wells or tombs so that they could reach the gods of the underworld, whose aid they invoked. They were called defixiones–binding spells–because they were supposed to restrain or bind the person mentioned in the curse.”
Melissa Mohr. Holy Shit: A Brief History of Swearing. Oxford University press, 2013. p. 44.

degel shachor (back to top)

Hebrew. A “black flag” representing an invalid, illegal, immoral command that it is forbidden to follow.

“He’d recently passed his [Israeli army] matriculation exams, he told me at the pizzeria in Jerusalem where we met, and in one course had learned that certain orders were inherently illegal – ‘like shooting your friend.’ These orders had a degel shachor – a black flag – over them, he told me.”

Eyal Press. Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012. p. 107.

deliquesce (back to top)

To absorb moisture and melt.

“…they had climbed cold rocky slopes into windy heights and camped for a night watching the stars fall and wheel and deliquesce in waves of green and blue that surged like a sea.”
Felix Gilman. The Half-Made World. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 2010.

“Indeed, if words had any vitality to-day, their reduction in number would be a source of strength (as we are accustomed to think all simplicity is), yet, instead, we seem to see about us the deliquescence of all non-specialized thinking, and are left with the greater part of writing, as perhaps the most conservative of the arts, no better than the literature of the past taken at whatever point.”

John Rodker. The Future of Futurism. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co, Ltd. 1926. p. 19.

demosclerosis (back to top)

“If we are candid about it, we can see that everyone is a special interest. Nobody has diagnosed the situation better than Jonathan Rauch, who defined what he called ‘demosclerosis’ 16 years ago. To Rauch, demosclerosis is ‘postwar democratic government’s progressive loss of the ability to adapt.'”
“The System’s Not To Blame. We Are.” Jon Meacham. Newsweek. Feb. 22, 2010. p. 2.

desoufflage (back to top)

“Sir — You outlined the perils of creating money that exceeds the justifiable value of an economy (“Bubble warning”, January 9th). We need a word to describe the consequential twin dangers of inflation and asset bubbles, and may I suggest the French word “soufflage”. Soufflage is what we have had since the start of the Greenspan era, during which the resopnse to an earlier period of excess money creation has been further excess money creation.
The response to soufflage is to return to equilibrium by destroying excess money in one way or another. Perhaps “desoufflage” would aptly describe this.”
“Blowing bubbles.” Georges Hebert, in a letter to the editor. The Economist. Jan 30, 2010. p. 18.

desquamation (back to top)

The peeling off of scaly skin.

“The doctor examined me, or pretended to do so; he noted that the desquamation of the scarlet fever had finished; he told me that as far as he was concerned I could go; he warned me, absurdly, not to expose myself to fatigue or cold, and he wished me good luck.”
Primo Levi. The Reawakening: A Liberated Prisoner’s Long March Home through East Europe. Translated from the Italian La Tregua (1963) by Stuart Woolf. USA: Little, Brown, and Co., 1965. p. 32.

dietrologia (back to top)

“The Vatican’s search for ulterior motives is in tune with Italian political culture, with its love of dietrologia (or “background-ology”).”
“When walls are too high.” The Economist. April 10, 2010. p. 63.

dight (back to top)

“The elves and the arch-fiend laboured jointly at this task, the former forming and sharpening the dart from the rough flint, and the latter perfecting and finishing (or, as it is called, dighting) it.”

Sir Walter Scott, Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft (1830)

disintegrating babelic prism (back to top)

Evoking the fall of the Tower of Babel, a doomed multilingual effort.

“If you move the hand of your little wrist-watch, says the narrator [of Montale’s poem “Carnevale di Gerti”], everything will fall back inside a disintegrating babelic prism di forme e di colori.”
Clive James. “Montale’s Capital Book” (1981), reprinted in Snakecharmers in Texas (Essays 1980-87). London: Picador, 1989. p. 115.

disordered philological oddments (back to top)

A random array of word pieces.

“I came back from my investigation with some comparative prices, which the Greek noted mentally; and with a fair number of disordered philological oddments: that one says something like koshoola for a shirt…”
Primo Levi. The Reawakening (La Tregua): A Liberated Prisoner’s Long March Home through East Europe (1963). Translated by Stuart Woolf. USA: Little, Brown, and Co., 1965. p. 48.

displacement activities (back to top)

Nervous fidgeting — including eating, drinking, and smoking — to displace aggression and tension.
from Desmond Morris. The Naked Ape. New York: Dell, 1967. p 139.

dissentient (back to top)

Dissenting; disagreeing.

There was a chorus of agreement with only one dissentient voice.
Agatha Christie. And Then There Were None. (1939) New York: Berkley Books, 1991. p. 49.

dolmen (back to top)

An ancient stone table.

“The social subordination of women thus stands out an isolated fact in modern social institutions; a solitary breach of what has become their fundamental law; a single relic of an old world of thought and practice exploded in everything else, but retained in the one thing of most universal interest; as if a gigantic dolmen, or a vast temple of Jupiter Olympias, occupied the site of St. Paul’s a received daily worship, while the surrounding Christian churches were only resorted to on fasts and festivals.”
John Stuart Mill. The Subjection of Women. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2001. p 19. Originally London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1869.

draggletail (back to top)
“Finally, in magnificent disorder, came the horde of draggletail soldiers, hirsute and already spattered with mud.”
Charles Pettit. The Son of the Grand Eunuch. New York: Blue Ribbon Books, Inc., 1927. p 215.

dreadnaught (back to top)

“Limitless are the public servants who are indolent and insolent; military commanders whose behavioral timidity belies their dreadnaught rhetoric, and governors whose innate servility prevents their actually governing.”

Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull. The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong. (1969) HarperBusiness (Kindle edition), 2014.

drinkitite (back to top)
Like “appetite,” but for drink rather than food.

Used in Richard F. Burton, ed. and trans. The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night: A Plain and Literal Translation fo the Arabian Nights Entertainments. New York: The Limited Editions Club, 1934. Vol 1. “Tale of Ghanim bin Ayyub.” Note to p 496.

dropsical (back to top)

“Like the reliefs from Hermopolis, fragments of monuments excavated by Woolley in the Maru-aten show that the sunshade temple there had also been taken from Kiya and bestowed upon Meritaten, the inscriptions being changed to apply to her and the features of the Favourite being recarved, and where necessary enlarged into ‘the dropsical cranium’ of the eldest princess.”
Cyril Aldred. Akhenaten: King of Egypt. New York: Thames and Hudson Inc., 1988. p. 288.

drouth (back to top)

“The gentleman is destroyed with dust, making a pilgrimage all the way from the ends the earth to visit the tomb of his ancestors. And with drouth, maybe.”

Nicholas Blake. The Private Wound. New York: Dell, 1968. p. 16.

duded up (back to top)

“He was all duded up in a blue seersucker suit, straw hat, and shoes the color of a new baseball.”
William Kennedy. Ironweed. New York: Penguin Books, 1984 (originally 1979). p 224-225.

duumvirate (back to top)

A government run by two men. From the Roman “triumvirate,” run by three men.

“After the attempted coup of July 20, 1944, it was suggested to Goebbels that the cause might still be saved if Hitler could be sidelined in favour of a Goebbels-Himmler duumvirate.”
Clive James. Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts. (2007) New York: Norton, 2008. p. 282.

dystopian simulacrum (back to top)

“With The Wire, he [David Simon] created a dystopian simulacrum of Baltimore so sprawling and ambitious that it’s often (and justifiably) called the best television show ever made.”
“Drama Etouffe.” Joshua Alston. Newsweek. April 12, 2010. p. 53.

E (back to top)











endopsychic automatism








eppur si muove










ecdysiastically (back to top)

“There was no shortage of psychic advice either, from sources such as the ‘spiritual intuitive’ who double-checks her insights with ‘a consortium of angels named Consortium Seven,’ or a babe ecdysiastically christened Saleena, who offers to ‘balance your energy, awaken your DNA and attract abundance.’”

Woody Allen. Mere Anarchy. New York: Random House, 2007. p. 4.

echolalia (back to top)

“Many savants are autistic or have symptoms that are usually associated with autism: echolalia (‘parroting’), lack of social contact, preference for monotonous activities, and violent outbursts in response to changes in their environment.”
Douwe Draaisma. Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older: How Memory Shapes Our Past. (2001) Translated by Arnold and Erica Pomerans in 2004. Cambridge University Press, 2005. p 74.

edentulous (back to top)


“Are her teeth slightly uneven? Think of her as some edentulous hag.”
F. Gonzalez-Crussi. On the Nature of Things Erotic. Orlando, Fl.: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988. p. 53.

egoic (back to top)

“Of, or relating to, a sense of separate self or individuality; relating to or dealing with states of consciousness confined to the limits of personal identity.” Definition from Accessed January 27, 2006.

“All is a process in this same “Bright” Energy, and you must get connected with Where you come from or you get lost in this hell of egoic life here.”
Adi Da Samraj, June 20 and 28, 2001, to a dying devotee.

ekpyrotic (back to top)

”The ekpyrotic universe, however, predicts a slow collision between universes and hence much milder gravity waves.”

Michio Kaku. Parallel Worlds: A Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos. (2004) Anchor eBooks, 2006.

electuary (back to top)
“Every day he would distribute freely to both rich and poor dozens of bottles of theriac which he had prepared himself. But this was simply to check the effect of viper’s flesh or of the electuary, because he was far more interested in scientific experiments than in medical practice.”
Amin Maalouf. Leo Africanus. (1986) Translated from the French by Peter Sluglett (1988). New York: W. W. Norton, 1989. p. 36.

eleemosynary (back to top)

Given as charity, or dependent on charity.

“In general all persons of sound mind, of mature age, of the Mahometan religion, who are free and in good circumstances, are obliged to pay this eleemosynary tythe.”

Mouradgea d’Ohsson, Ignatius. Oriental antiquities, and general view of the Othoman customs, laws, and ceremonies: exhibiting many curious pieces of the Eastern Hemisphere, relative to the Christian and Jewish dispensations; with various rites and mysteries of the Oriental Freemasons. Translated from the French. Philadelphia: Printed for the Select Committee and Grand Lodge of Enquiry, 1788. p 484.

elixir (back to top)

Al is the Arabic word for ‘the,’ and kimiya is Arabic for substance and art (the ‘chemy’ also has been traced to Greek and Egyptian words). In Arabic, ‘alchemy’ came to be used mainly for the art while the synonym iksir–or al iksir–referred to the substance. To Europeans the word became ‘elixir.'”
Osborn Segerberg, Jr. The Immortality Factor. New York: E. P. Dutton and Co., Inc. 1974. p 69.

enceinte (back to top)


“Serviez tells us that it was generally believed she had been married before; was already, in fact, a mother of children; and Tristran adds, enceinte by some one else at the time of the marriage.”

J. Stuart Hay. The Amazing Emperor Heliogabalus. Rome: “L’Erma” di Bretschneider, 1972. (Originally London, 1911). p 207.

encomiastic (back to top)

Meaning uncertain.

“In just the same way education and physical training in youth, the normal topics of encomiastic anatrophe, mold their subject into the beauty, strength, wisdom, and virtue that inform his mature deeds.”
Jacqueline Long. Claudian’s In Eutropium: Or, How, When, and Why to Slander a Eunuch. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996. p 34.

“The smallest reproach irritates its [democracy’s] sensibility and the slightest joke that has any foundation in truth renders it indignant; from the forms of its language up to the solid virtues of its character, everything must be made the subject of encomium.”

Alexis de Tocqueville. Democracy in America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945. Vol I, p. 265. Quoted in Sen. J. William Fulbright. The Arrogance of Power. New York: Vintage Books, 1966. p. 28.

endopsychic automatism (back to top)

Automatic behavior, hard-wired into the mind, originating from within.

“The old man always appears when the hero is in a hopeless and desperate situation from which only profound reflection or a lucky idea–in other words, a spiritual function or an endopsychic automatism of some kind–can extricate him.”
C. G. Jung. Aspects of the Masculine. (Collected Works.) Translation by R. F. C. Hull. New York: MJF Books, 1989. pp. 141-142.

endovelate (back to top)

”…a bright reflection like a light dying in the endovelate dark of pools…”

Fernando Pessoa. The Book of Disquiet. Edited by Maria Jose de Lancastre. Translated by Margaret Jull Costa. London: Serpent’s Tail, 1991 (a collection of writings that were unorganized upon Pessoa’s death in 1935). p. 190.

enfeoff (back to top)

In feudal society: For a superior to grant the use of land to an inferior, making him a vassal.

“The Supreme One has passed away without issuing a mandate enfeoffing all his sons as kings, and he has merely bestowed a letter on his eldest son.”
Zhao Gao to Prince Huhai. Quoted by Sima Qian (145-86 BCE), Historical Records. Translated by Raymond Dawson, 1994. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. p. 32.

enflesh (back to top)


“…pull up your shirt sleeves, open and give your heart, your mind, and your will and begin to live and enflesh what we have called here emotional purification…”
Peter Roche de Coppens. Apocalypse Now: The Challenges of Our Times. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 1988. p. 222.

ensorcel (back to top)

To enchant; to cast a spell on.

“Then sent I to my herdsman bidding him choose for me a fat heifer; and he brought me one which was the damsel, my handmaid, whom this gazelle had ensorcelled.”
Burton, Richard F., ed. and trans. The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night: A Plain and Literal Translation fo the Arabian Nights Entertainments. New York: The Limited Editions Club, 1934. Vol 1. p 34.

“She answered, ‘This whom thou deemest an ape is a young man, a clever and polite, a wise and learned and the son of a king; but he is ensorcelled and the Ifrit Jirjaris, who is of the seed of Iblis, cast a spell upon him…'”
ibid. p 153.

“He tapped the side of his pack: on it was written: CHARMED, ENCHANTED, ENSORCELLED AND CONFUSTICATED.”
Neil Gaiman. Stardust. New York: Avon, 1999. p. 100.

entelechy (back to top)

“Entelechy, she [psychologist Jean Houston] explains, is a word she coined to describe ‘the dynamic purposeful unfolding of what propels us to actualize our essence.'”

Brian Luke Seaward. Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water: Reflections on Stress and Human Spirituality. (1997) Deerfield Beach, Fla.: Health Communications, Inc. 2007. p. 110.

Ephialtes (back to top)

“…the disorder called Ephialtes, or nightmare…”

Sir Walter Scott, Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft (1830)

epistrophé (back to top)

“If we should avoid interpreting our dreams, we should not be afraid to amplify them imaginatively, through association for example, and, above all, by <I>epistrophé</I> — a ‘turning back’ through likeness to the dream’s archetypal background. We should ask ourselves: ‘What archetype is at work in our unconscious? What god is covertly influencing our lives? What myth are we living without realizing it?’ The act of using the dream to see through the literal appearance of our waking lives to the larger imaginative narratives in which we live, releases us from whatever patterns we are stuck in. It is intrinsically healing and liberating for the soul to be told the stories, the myths, of its tribe.”
Patrick Harpur. The Philosopher’s Secret Fire: A History of the Imagination (2002). Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2003. p. 43.

“As well as single words, groups of words can be repeated, either at the beginning of successive clauses or lines (anaphora), or at the end of successive clauses or lines (epistrophe).”
Neel Burton. Hypersanity: Thinking Beyond Thinking. Acheron, 2019.

eppur si muove (back to top)
Italian: “It moves, all the same.”

Spoken by Galileo, according to legend, after he withdrew, under the threat of torture, his statement that the earth revolves around the sun.
Gilbert Highet. Man’s Unconquerable Mind. New York: Columbia University Press, 1954. p 91.

“Galileo’s phrase ‘eppur si muove’ had a double meaning. The earth moves, and yet so does the Sun, casting the infinite tentacles of energy that condition the modalities of telluric being. The Copernican (re)Turn is the Sun regaining its place as creator, forcefully retaking its throne from the Son.”
Brooker Buckingham. “Gulp of Sun: Rethinking Sacrifice Through Bataille’s Gilles de Raïs.” In Serial Killing: A Philosophical Anthology. Edia Connole and Gary J. Shipley, eds. Schism, 2015. p. 85.

equipoise (back to top)

“If I were writing the story I would want to end it there: a bleak equipoise of mutual ill will.”

James Lasdun. Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked. New York: Picador, 2013. p. 181.

espadrilles (back to top)

Casual, flat shoes.

“He [W. H. Auden] had a curious scuttling gait, perhaps because he always wore espadrilles.”
Anatole Broyard. Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir. New York: Carol Southern Books, 1993. p. 9.

eternullity (back to top)

“…what, borrowing poet Jules Laforgue’s delightful neologism, I would readily call eternullity. This eternity that is nothing, or next to nothing, this endless nullity, this endlessness that imprisons us is what we generally experience as the ‘flight’ of time, the irreversible, unstoppable engulfment of the future, which is not yet, by the past, which is no more.”

Andre Comte-Sponville. The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality. Translated by Nancy Huston. London: Viking, 2007. p. 171.

ethico-kabbalistic (back to top)

Both ethical and mystical.

“It would be correct, therefore, to call it [Rabbi Hayyim’s Nefesh ha-Hayyim] an ‘ethico-kabbalistic’ work, keeping in mind that it is not confined to ethics.”

Norman Lamm. Torah Lishmah – Torah for Torah’s Sake: In the Works of Rabbi Hayyim of Volozhin and His Contemporaries. Hoboken, N.J.: Ktav Publishing House, Inc., 1989. p. 59. This word is endnoted to Peter Wiernik, in Jewish Encyclopedia (Funk & Wagnalls ed., 1901-7), s.v. “Hayyim ben Isaac of Volozhin.”

etiolated (back to top)

Pale, as a plant that has not had enough sunlight.

“Christianity was able to side with rationalism for a while, in an etiolated, deistic sort of way…”

Patrick Harpur. The Philosopher’s Secret Fire: A History of the Imagination (2002). Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2003. p. 55.

“Neith’s consciousness is etiolated this morning because it touches itself irregularly along its own extension in time…”
Nick Harkaway. Gnomon. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2018. p. 4.

euhemerized (back to top)

“So it is that a secularized mythology and a euhemerized pantheon managed to survive and, from the time of the Renaissance, to become a subject of scientific investigation—precisely because dying antiquity no longer believed in Homer’s Gods or in the original meaning of their myths.”
Mircea Eliade. Myth and Reality. (1963) Translated from the French by Willard R. Trask. New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1975. pp. 156-157.

euphrasie (back to top)

“Among persons who, upon this subject, purged their eyes with rue and euphrasie…”

Sir Walter Scott, Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft (1830)

exinanition (back to top)


“If the world contained no evil, it would be perfect, but if it were perfect, it would be God and there would be no world. Such was Simone Weil’s reasoning when she expounded upon the Pauline theme of exinanition or kenosis (renunciation)…”

Andre Comte-Sponville. The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality. Translated by Nancy Huston. London: Viking, 2007. p. 112.

ezelbruggetjes (back to top)

“We learned new labels by a series of mnemonics. Ezelbruggetjes, as we now called them. Little donkey bridges. The mind as a donkey that needs leading across the tentatively spanned chasm.”

Richard Powers. Galatea 2.2. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1995. p. 239.

F (back to top)




fata morgana





























fanfaron (back to top)

“‘Listen, Zaryadyev!’ Roslavlev said in a lowered voice, “You want to show your fearlessness, of course — that’s good, but making us march in step or form a line, training and drilling us under enemy fire! . . . I won’t call it fanfaronade, because you’re not a fanfaron.
Viktor Shklovsky. A Hunt for Optimism. (Originally 1931). Translated by Shushan Avagyan. Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2013. p. 149.

farl (back to top)

”Everything in the house has gone stale on me. Do you want me to bake a farl of soda bread?”

Nina FitzPatrick. Daimons. Boston: Justin, Charles & Co, 2003. p. 122.

farouche (back to top)

“Psychologists have a marginal position in the academic community, poised near the borderline between the humane and the scientific disciplines; we have a farouche professional past, redolent of mesmerism, even of witch-doctoring; and there still exist widespread misgivings — both in academic life and in society at large — about any attempt to examine the mind’s contents.”

Liam Hudson. The Cult of the Fact. London: Jonathan Cape, 1972. p. 86.

fata morgana (back to top)

A magician from English legend, also known as Morgan le Fay.

“…what she should be, a painless fata morgana awakening no unrealizable desires.”
Erich Maria Remarque’s The Black Obelisk (1957). USA: Crest, 1958. p. 112.

“The promise of heaven and the threat of hell–playing on the simplest emotions–what has that to do with truth, that unattainable fata morgana of our brains.”
Ibid. p. 149.

fenrissonr (back to top)

some kind of bad animal

“‘Fenrissonr are creatures talked about in Norway, Sweden, Finland. But they are not animals. They are not organisms. They are not a thing that belongs on earth.’
Elisa pauses in her scribbling. ‘What the fuck are they, then?’
‘They are demons.’
‘Demons?’ Billy says.
‘Hell-wolves,’ Elisa says.
‘If you like,’ Jørgen says.”
Jeremy P. Bushnell. The Weirdness. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Melville House, 2014. p. 194.

feridjie (back to top)

“But when called for an out-door promenade in a long and graceless feridjie she [the Turkish woman] does not show that elegance which one might possibly see if he were allowed within the harem. * * * Then she has a mantle for her whole body — the feridjie.

Samuel S. Cox. The Isles of the Princes; or, the Pleasures of Prinkipo. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1887. pp. 343, 350.

Fernweh (back to top)

”She wonders what to call the feeling and thinks: Fernweh. It’s German — the longing to be somewhere one has never been, the grief one feels at the absence of persons yet unmet.”

Nick Harkaway. Gnomon. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2018. p. 35.

fescennine (back to top)

A type of wedding song, perhaps named after a town in Etruria.

“Wedding guests [in ancient Rome] would sing fescennine songs, full of ribaldry and teasing.”
Melissa Mohr. Holy Shit: A Brief History of Swearing. Oxford University press, 2013. p. 42.

filotimo (back to top)

Honor, conscience, and integrity.

“George Tenet and I are both Greek, and there is a great word for what he is talking about: filotimo. It’s difficult to translate, but basically it means honor, conscience, and integrity…”
Arianna Huffington. Right is Wrong: How the Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America, Shredded the Constitution, and Made Us All Less Safe (and What You Need to Know to End the Madness). New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008. pp. 134-135.

Fingerspitzengefuehl (back to top)

German for a “feeling at the end of one’s fingers.”

“The combination of clear human intelligence, special operations, and raids into the city provided British commanders with what the Germans call Fingerspitzengefuehl, feeling at the end of one’s fingers–a sense for when the Baath regime within the city was ready to collapse.”
Williamson Murray and Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales, Jr. The Iraq War: A Military History. Cambridge and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003. p 153.

finical (back to top)

“Sanitation in an operating theatre [in the 1880s] was widely derided as finical, ladylike and affected, the equivalent of the block being scrubbed before use by a butcher or a headsman.”

Richard Gordon. The Alarming History of Medicine: Amusing Anecdotes from Hippocrates to Heart Transplants. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993. p. 56.

fissiparous (back to top)

“Since Africa shed its colonial shackles nearly half a century ago, its governments have been loth to tolerate secessionist movements, seeing that most African countries are multi-tribal confections, many with fissiparous tendencies.”
“Let those people go.” The Economist. April 10, 2010. p. 15.

“…mainstream parties, weakened by fissiparous electorates, will expand their recruitment within the Muslim electorate…”
“In the year 2030.” Jonathan Laurence. Boston College Magazine, Summer 2010. p. 15.

fitra (back to top)

“Fitra: Created nature, particularly referring to humans. It generally has a positive moral connotation.”

Taner Edis. An Illusion of Harmony: Science and Religion in Islam. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus, 2007. p. 10.

flâcherie (back to top)

“Pasteur threw in [a discovery/cure for] another disease, flâcherie, silkworm diarrhoea.”

Richard Gordon. The Alarming History of Medicine: Amusing Anecdotes from Hippocrates to Heart Transplants. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993. p. 19.

flagitious (back to top)

“The Perditta is chief mourner, on a late occasion—the waiters and sharpers in St. James’s-street, are pall-bearers of the laying-in of that flagitious monster, the coalition.

“Amorous and Bon Ton Intelligence, &c.” Rambler’s Magazine, January 1784.

“…that the secret cause of his dejection and its consequences was something too scandalous or flagitious to be made known…”

Sir Walter Scott, Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft (1830)

“‘Flagitious’ is the term employed by Henry Pringle of the International Reform Federation to specify what today is termed ‘hard-core’ pornography. Bodwell of the Watch and Ward preferred the epithet ‘flagrantly obscene,’ distinguishing such works from those with ‘polite’ indecencies. Those leading the fight against erotica distribution compiled lists of flagitious books…”

Jay A. Gertzman. Bookleggers and Smuthounds: The Trade in Erotica 1920-1940. Philadelphia, Pa.: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999 (2002 printing). pp. 80-81.

flamigerous (back to top)

Unknown; probably similar to “flaming,” from the Latin root for “fire”.

“…that you find yourself in the presence of your Savior, Jesus Christ, who threatens you, flamigerous sword in hand…”
F. Gonzalez-Crussi. On the Nature of Things Erotic. Orlando, Fl.: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988. p. 65.

flâneur (back to top)

Someone who walks around a city and observes it; a “people-watcher”.

“When people at cocktail parties asked me what I did for a living, I was tempted to answer, ‘I am a skeptical empiricist and a flâneur-reader, someone committed to getting very deep into an idea,’ but I made things simple by saying that I was a limousine driver.”
Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. New York: Random House, 2007. p. 22.

“Travis walks. He is defined by walking. He is no flaneur; he walks to erase boundaries, following electric lines, railroad tracks.”

Thomas Dumm. Loneliness as a Way of Life. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2008. p. 111, referring to the movie “Paris, Texas.”

“If nothing else, you seem so well turned out. Bit of a flaneur, for my taste.”

Colin W. Sargent. The Boston Castrato. Great Britain: Barbican, 2016. p. 42.

“Despite comparisons, her work is not the autofiction of Karl Ove Knausgaard and Sheila Heti, whose own voices and personalities cram their pages; nor is it the meditative flâneurie of W.G. Sebald or Teju Cole; it is something more peculiar and thrilling and Cusk’s own.”

“The Queen of Rue.” Lorrie Moore. New York Review of Books. Aug. 16, 2018.

“The boulevardier, or flâneur, was a French 19th-century literary type who wandered Paris with no particular purpose other than to be on the scene. Although flâneurs didn’t necessarily do anything visible to the naked eye, besides hanging around in parks and cafes, they watched what was happening, taking in the bustle of others and so developing a deeper understanding of city life and their changing times.”

“The best way to use social media is to act like a 19th-century Parisian.” Ephrat Livni. Armchair Detective. (Quartz) January 26, 2019.

“At the moment I’m reading Lauren Elkin’s Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London. To flâner is such a masculine activity in France and she has appropriated it for women in an interesting way.”

“Annie Ernaux: ‘I was so ashamed for Catherine Deneuve…'”
Interviewed by Kim Willsher. The Guardian. 6 April 2019.

flapdoodle (back to top)


“As columnist William Buckley says, there are times when ‘crap’ is just a more satisfying word than ‘flapdoodle.'”
Donna Woolfolk Cross. Word Abuse: How the words we use use us. New York: Coward, McCann and Geoghegan, Inc. 1979. p. 141.

flense (back to top)

“I opened the book to the page marked by its ribbon, which they say is made of human skin flensed from the flesh of its mad author.”

“The Queer Experiment.” Donna Ostrowsky. Printed in The Collection, ed. by Tom. Léger and Riley MacLeod. New York: Topside Press, 2012. p. 163.

flinders (back to top)


“…flinders of luminescent gods glimpsed among the wallpaper’s stained foliage…”
Thomas Pynchon. The Crying of Lot 49 (Originally J. B. Lippincott Co., 1965). New York: Perennial, 1999. p. 102.

floccinaucinihilipilification (back to top)

“Putting aside fanciful coinages concocted for immortality in Guinness, a candidate for the longest word to date in English might be floccinaucinihilipilification, defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘the categorizing of something as worthless or trivial.'”
Steven Pinker. The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language. (1994) New York: HarperPerennial, 1995. p. 129.

flophouse (back to top)

A rooming house.

“He slept in flophouses and had no real address beyond his favourite cafe.”
Clive James. Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts. (2007) New York: Norton, 2008. p. 16.

–Where was he living? I asked.
–I’m not sure. One of the flophouses by the Navy Yards, I suppose.
Amor Towles. Rules of Civility (2011). New York: Penguin Books, 2012.

“The people who stopped by to talk with her between noon and 6 p.m. one Saturday included…the clerk of a flophouse, who came to tell her that a bum named Tex had hanged himself in the washroom the night before.”

“Mazie” by Joseph Mitchell. New Yorker. Dec. 21, 1940. Reprinted in Understanding the Essay, edited by Edward O. Shakespeare, Peter H. Reinke, and Elliot W. Fenander. USA: The Odyssey Press, 1966. p. 160.

“Over the years I knew him, I heard stories about things he’d done, like working at the New Yorker, traveling with a circus, and living in a flophouse-cum-whorehouse in Marseilles. * * * …the Hotel de Calais, a flophouse a half-block off the Vieux Port that catered to drifters and sailors, immigrants looking for manual labor, and prostitutes working the narrow alleys behind the docks.”

Michael N. McGregor. Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax. Fordham University Press, 2015.

‘Jock geezer, piggy ring in ‘is ‘ooter,’ sells the Issue. Collects bottles. Drinks wiv a school dahn at ve Bullring, but ‘e azza flop in Mottingham.’
Will Self. The Book of Dave: A Revelation of the Recent Past and the Distant Future. (2006) London: Penguin Books, 2007. p. 157.

“…for many people, a bookshop is a place of last resort, a kind of moral flophouse.”
Anatole Broyard. Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir. New York: Carol Southern Books, 1993. p. 32.

“Dazed and despairing, he writes near the beginning of Jews Must Live, he wandered into a flophouse in the Bowery to bed down for the night.”
Jay A. Gertzman. Bookleggers and Smuthounds: The Trade in Erotica 1920-1940. Philadelphia, Pa.: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999 (2002 printing). p. 263.

foolscap (back to top)

“First, she gathered the foolscap typescript from the bookshelf, and a stack of her own handwritten pages.”
James Carroll. The Cloister: A Novel. Nan A. Talese, 2018.

forelock-tugger (back to top)

A contemplative person.

“Evan Bayh’s retirement led forelock-tuggers to nod sagely that the Senate is broken.”
“The Blair House Test.”  Jonathan Alter.  Newsweek.  March 8, 2010.  p. 21.

fosse (back to top)

“…for greater vigilance on these occasions Belisarius set outposts beyond the fosse, chiefly Moon, and every outpost had a watchdog trained to growl at the least sound of approaching feet.”

Robert Graves. Count Belisarius. 1938.

froideur (back to top)

“But, whereas Silke sees a China that is ‘eager to find a soft-power niche in which it can gain a foothold of goodwill,’ the Indian strategist Brahma Chellaney sees only the froideur of strategic realism.”

“The God of Carnage,” Project Syndicate, Jan. 27, 2017.

frowardness (back to top)

Meaning uncertain.

“That the gods hate evil, at least some kinds of evil, and punish it is an assumption as old as Homer, who represents Zeus as saying that it is men’s own frowardness which brings upon them troubles beyond the allotted portion which everyone must endure.”
H. J. Rose. Religion in Greece and Rome. New York: Harper and Row, 1959. p 92. Originally published as Ancient Greek Religion (1946) and Ancient Roman Religion (1948), London: Hutchinson and Co., Limited.

frowzy (back to top)

Poorly maintained.

“…our ship’s carpenters grumbled of water in the frowzy hold.”
Charles Johnson. Middle Passage. New York: Scribner, 1990.

“The claim of art to our respect must stand or fall with the validity of its pretension to cultivate and refine our senses and faculties until seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and tasting become highly conscious and critical acts with us, protesting vehemently against ugliness, noise, discordant speech, frowzy clothing, and re-breathed air, and taking keen interest and pleasure in beauty, in music, and in nature, besides making us insist, as necessary for comfort and decency, on clean, wholesome, handsome fabrics to wear, and utensils of fine material and elegant workmanship to handle.”
George Bernard Shaw. The Sanity of Art: An Exposure of the Current Nonsense about Artists being Degenerate. London: The New Age Press, 1908. pp. 68-69.

frühvollendet (back to top)

“[Alfred] Einstein says that the word frühvollendet (too early completed) is often ‘strangely and mistakenly’ applied to composers who were never completed, because they were interrupted.”

Clive James. Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts. (2007) New York: Norton, 2008. p. 184.

furze (back to top)

Another word for gorse.

“The ground, especially on the margin of the wood, was full of inequalities – here a pit, there a hillock surmounted with a bush of furze.”
Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne. The Wrong Box. (1889) London: Pan Books, 1966. p. 27.

“The little town, with the tall masts of its disabled schooners in the inner bay, stood high above the flat sea for a few minutes then it sank back into the uniformity of the coast, and became indistinguishable from the other towns that looked as if they were crumbled on the furzy-green stoniness of the shore.”
Sarah Orne Jewett, The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896)

“We grunt up every-last furzy hill and grind and brake back down.”
C. B. Auder,  “In the Dream Version, There Are Baby Goats,” Milk Candy Review, October 10, 2019.

fussbudgetry (back to top)

“The motorcycle may be working now, but when was the oil level last checked? Fussbudgetry from the romantic view, but good common sense from the classic.”

Robert M. Pirsig. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. (1974) New York: Bantam, 1975. p. 242.

fylffots (back to top)

“One morning all the walls were found covered with fylffots, probably the work of one of the many new converts to Hindu mysticism.”

Philip Bedford Robinson. Masque of a Savage Mandarin: A Comedy of Horrors. (1969) Great Britain: Panther, 1974. pp. 173-174.