Glossary: Words beginning with M, N, O

Return to the full glossary index.


M (back to top)




magical thinking

Maginot Line


man-woman hour




















moral acid










macadamised (back to top)

”They quarrelled about a road, the Portsmouth Road. St. John said that it is macadamised where it passes Hindhead, and Terence knew as well as he knew his own name that it is not macadamised at that point.”

Virginia Woolf. The Voyage Out (1915).

macaronic (back to top)

Prose that mixes Latin with the vernacular.

“In early eighteenth-century Britain, men’s submitting to extreme heterosexual desire effeminates them while in the later eighteenth century (unlike the Restoration period), the term [“effeminate”] seems to be increasingly focused on the homosexual, the macaronic, and the foreign.”

Felicity A. Nussbaum. The Limits of the Huamn: Fictions of Anomaly, Race, and Gender in the Long Eighteenth Century. UK: Cambridge Unveristy Press, 2003. p. 70.

Machtstaat (back to top)

“Power state.

“Since their ‘total defeat in 1945,’ he [Joschka Fischer] notes, both countries [Germany and Japan] ‘have rejected all forms of the Machtstaat, or ‘power state,’’ embracing their role as ‘active participants in the US-led international system.'”

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

magical thinking (back to top)

“Another typical characteristic of people who are victims of this neurosis is their propensity for what psychiatrists call ‘magical thinking.’ Magical thinking can take a variety of forms, but basically it is a belief that thoughts in and of themselves may cause events to occur. Young children normally think magically. For instance, a five-year-old boy may have the thought: I wish my baby sister would die. Then he may become anxious, fearing that she actually will die because he wished it.”

M. Scott Peck, M.D. People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983. pp. 36-37.

“Uncorking wines hours before they’re drunk is a form of magical thinking: the surface area exposed to the air is minute and can’t possibly make a detectable difference.”

Ian McEwan. Saturday. (2005) New York: Anchor, 2006. p. 180.

“The first barrier Collins seeks to knock down is Sigmund Freud’s characterization of belief in God as ‘wish fulfillment.’ Freud explains theism as a wish for a perfect father in place of our imperfect human fathers and ‘a universal but groundless human longing for something outside ourselves to give meaning to a meaningless life and to take away the sting of death.’”

George C. Cunningham. Decoding the Language of God: Can a Scientist Really Be a Believer? Prometheus Books, 2009. p. 40.

“Her projections arose from her belief that if he really loved her, he’d respond to her in certain ways. This is ‘magical thinking’ — the belief that others will know what we want, without our telling them.”

Joe Kort, 10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Improve Their Lives

“The emotional logic that underlies this particular crime [the mutilation of the murder victim’s eyes and tongue], then, which I called the logic of shame, takes the form of magical thinking that says, ‘If I kill this person in this way, I will kill shame — I will be able to protect myself from being exposed and vulnerable to and potentially overwhelmed by the feeling of shame” (the ‘objective correlative’ of which consists of being observed and talked about).”

James Gilligan. Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic. (1996) New York: Vintage Books, 1997. pp. 65-66.

“A similar conflation of categories was made by the murderers I discussed in the last chapter, who treated a metaphor (being shamed ‘in other people’s eyes,’ in which ‘eyes’ is a metaphor for other people’s disdain) as if the offense (shaming) and the disdain were a concrete reality, and one could only destroy it by destroying the other person’s actual, concrete, non-metaphorical eyes. But that same mental process, which seems like such an obvious confusion between the metaphoric and the literal, can be seen to run through the whole history of the legal system, where the symbolism of punishment is just as subservient to the laws of magical thinking as is the symbolism of crime.”

James Gilligan. Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic. (1996) New York: Vintage Books, 1997. p. 142.

Maginot Line (back to top)

“The story of the Maginot Line shows how we are conditioned to be specific. The French, after the Great War, built a wall along the previous German invasion route to prevent reinvasion–Hitler just (almost) effortlessly went around it.”
Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Prologue to The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. New York: Random House, 2007. p. xxi.

“They even worried that such a Maginot Line might create a false sense of safety…”
Ted Steinberg. Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014. pp. 332-333.

mantic (back to top)

“Every Sunday night, for an hour, since the last year of the war, Norma took calls from people who imagined she had special powers, that she was mantic and all-seeing, able to pluck the lost, estranged, and missing from the moldering city.”

Daniel Alarcón. Lost City Radio. New York: HarperCollins, 2007. p. 9.

man-woman hour (back to top)

“I thank Trout for the concept of the man-woman hour as a unit of measurement of marital intimacy. This is an hour during which a husband and wife are close enough to be aware of each other, and for one to say something to the other without yelling, if he or she feels like it, Trout says in his story ‘Golden Wedding’ that they needn’t feel like saying anything in order to credit themselves with a man-woman hour.”

Kurt Vonnegut. Timequake. New York: Berkley Books, 1997. p 94.

mara (back to top)

“If a female at midnight stretches between four sticks the membrane which envelopes the foal when it is brought forth, and creeps through it, naked, she will bear children without pain; but all the boys will be were-wolves, and all the girls maras.”

Sabine Baring-Gould. The Book of Were-Wolves. London: Smith, Elder & Co, 1865.

marabout (back to top)

“They [the Tuaregs] also were a literate people, and some manuscripts of Timbuktu are written in Tifinagh, a two-thousand-year-old script developed by the Berbers that spread through the Sahara; one group of Tuareg marabouts, or knowledge men, the Kel Al Süq, maintained the city’s scholarly traditions during the centuries of decline that followed the Moroccan occupation.”

Joshua Hammer. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016. p. 26.

”A court without Fula marabouts and Mandingo griots is no court at all. You know that as well as I do, Bôcar-Biro.”

Tierno Monénembo. The King of Kahel. (2008) Amazon Crossing, 2010.

marl (back to top)

A clay and calcium carbonate deposit.

“In the last week of September 1952, the scholarly excavators gathered up the comparatively few crumbs the Bedouins had left in this richest of all the caves (known as Cave 4) and also found, close by, Cave 5, intact and containing other manuscript fragments, but these were badly damaged because so thickly encrusted with marl.”

Rev. Dr. Charles Francis Potter. The Lost Years of Jesus Revealed. Newly Revised Second Edition. New York: Fawcett Gold Medal, 1958, revised 1962, twentieth printing 1990. p. 64.

mediopathy (back to top)

“There were a number of personal qualities in his favour, too: his powerful speeches, his frenetic activism, his extraordinary gifts as a performer and his lack of any serious political convictions— in fact, Marco’s only real goal was to be in the limelight, thereby satisfying his mediopathy, his need to be loved and admired and his desire to play the leading role— which meant he was capable of saying something one day and the opposite the very next, telling each side exactly what they wanted to hear.”
Javier Cercas. The Impostor. Translated by Frank Wynne, 2017. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2018. p. 174.

megrim (back to top)

The industrial psychologist, Mortimer R. Feinberg, uses the term middle-age megrims to describe the situation so many executives find themselves in when they reach middle life. ‘The thrill is gone,’ says Dr. Feinberg. ‘The man’s body and his mind are not quite what they were ten or fifteen years ago. He will not admit to himself that the natural processes of life are beginning to take their toll, so he blames it all on the job.’

O. William Battalia and John J. Tarrant. The Corporate Eunuch: An Eye-Opening Report on the New Executive Life Style. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1973. p. 74.

melanarchy (back to top)

From melos (black) + arches (to rule).

“Students demonstrated in support of melanarchy in South Africa.”

“Improve your Vocabulary,” Lloyd Rawley. Reprinted from the April 1995 Capital M, Metropolitan Washington Mensa, Bob Hofkin, editor.

meraki (back to top)

“There’s another of my mother smiling toothily, and one of my father with a huge fish we caught one summer, a third of me accepting my degree from the Old Girl: “Your work has meraki, Constantine Kyriakos. It’s got your heart in it. It is the thing that you are. You should stay here, with us, and do tis. It will not make you rich, but it is best.”

Nick Harkaway. Gnomon. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2018. p. 60.

mesalliance (back to top)

Marriage to a spouse of lower social class; also known idiomatically as “marrying down”.

“Dr Barker speculated that fetal programming   in mesalliance with the spread of fatty, sugary foods over recent decades   might explain the epidemic of obesity, heart disease and late-onset diabetes that plagues many rich countries.”

“Slim pickings.” The Economist. Nov. 13, 2010. p. 96.

methylated (back to top)

“She completely ignored Mrs. Vyner, who felt plunged like a specimen into methylated spirit. There was a moment’s full-stop.”

D. H. Lawrence. St. Mawr.

microhistory (back to top)

“There were times, while writing this book, that I wondered if what I was offering was a microhistory of that time when everyone was caught up with “privilege,” either from the vantage point of a new micro-era, one with its own preoccupations, or, at the very least, from the perspective of someone who understands that the moment will pass.”

Phoebe Maltz Bovy. The Perils of “Privilege”: Why Injustice Can’t Be Solved by Accusing Others of Advantage. St. Martin’s Press, 2017. p. 264.

minifig (back to top)

what Legophiles call those little plastic figurines

Maia Weinstock, Brown ’99, has a Twitter series called Scitweeps in which she poses minifigs representing scientists/science popularizers

misprision (back to top)

“He could be charged with misprision of treason (failure to report treasonous conduct) if it’s discovered that he knew about such complicity but failed to report the crime.”

Allan J. Lichtman. The Case for Impeachment. Dey Street Books, April 18, 2017.

“The grotesque results from a delusion of mastery, a misprision of the fleeting nature of a concept.”

David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder. Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2000. [Kindle, 2014.] P. 144.

mithridate (back to top)

“…the language of his discourse, so embroidered with learned words that it was often incomprehensible, except to a little group of learned idlers who spent their days and nights drinking with him and discussing mithridate, the astrolabe and metempsychosis.”

Amin Maalouf. Leo Africanus. (1986) Translated from the French by Peter Sluglett (1988). New York: W. W. Norton, 1989. p. 37.

moil (back to top)

To labor or agitate. Derived from the Latin “soft” — probably in the sense of “tenderize,” as in “to beat until tender”?

“Out in La Tour’s courtyard, his dogs moil around Vivienne, seeking her attention while she sobs and tries to put on her clothes.”

David Huddle. La Tour Dreams of the Wolf Girl. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2001. p. 73.

monoclinous (back to top)

“If they’re [stamens and pistils] in the same flower, it’s ‘monoclinous,’ which translates to a marriage in which the husband and wife share a bed.”

David Weinberger, on Linneaus’ method of plant classification. Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder. New York: Times Books, 2007. p. 74.

monomania (back to top)

Obsession with a single topic.

“This, I perceived, was a one-idea’d nature; betraying that monomaniac tendency I have ever thought the most unfortunate with which man or woman can be cursed.”
Charlotte Brontë, Villette (1853), Chapter II

“Thus, an ambitious man labouring under monomania will imagine himself to be a king…”

Sabine Baring-Gould. The Book of Were-Wolves. London: Smith, Elder & Co, 1865.

“If only those Indians would kill you or Urrio,” he cried, “my film would be worth something.”

There are difficulties in working with a monomaniac.

Julian Duguid. Green Hell. London: George Newnes, 1935. p. 21.

“Flurry, after Harriet’s death, had turned into a man with but one purpose in his head. I suppose you could say he too, like all monomaniacs, was insane.”

Nicholas Blake. The Private Wound. New York: Dell, 1968. p. 182.

“In common life, we do not usually expect monomania. We expect the ordinary spread of motives, and if some seem to be missing, we most naturally assume that they are repressed and unconscious.”

Mary Midgley. Wickedness: A Philosophical Essay. (First published by Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984.) Kindle edition: Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2003.

“The lovelorn individual thinks of nothing if it does not touch his (or her) idol; and his monomania is amply reflected in the reiterative nature of his discourse.”

F. Gonzalez-Crussi. On the Nature of Things Erotic. Orlando, Fl.: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988. p. 51.

“A paper signed by a Surgeon Hammond on September 3, 1868 states that Minor appeared to be suffering from monomania–a form of insanity that involves a fierce obsession with a single topic.”

Simon Winchester. The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary. New York: HarperPerennial, 1999. p 69.

“All my life I have been passionately interested in monomaniacs of any kind, people carried away by a single idea. The more one limits oneself, the closer one is to the infinite; these people, as unworldly as they seem, burrow like termites in their own particular material to construct, in miniature, a strange and utterly individual image of the world.”

Stefan Zweig. Chess Story. Translated from the German by Joel Rotenberg. New York: New York Review of Books, 2006. pp. 12-13.

“If her aim, as a verbal terrorist, was to replicate the conditions of the nation at large inside my head, with its panics and paranoias, its thrashing impotence, its schizoid shame and self-righteousness, its droning monomania, she succeeded triumphantly. Possibly the monomania, the increasing difficulty of thinking about anything other than Nasreen, was the worst of these effects.”

James Lasdun. Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked. New York: Picador, 2013. p. 128.

”Genius hermit, Lancelot pictured. Monomaniacal, wild-eyed, made mad by his own brilliance or, no, semiautistic. Burly beard. Loincloth. Socially incompetent. Savage at heart.”

Lauren Groff. Fates and Furies. New York: Riverhead, 2015.

monozukuri (back to top)

“A samurai would never write software!” barked a senior executive at one of Japan’s biggest electronics firms, as drinks flowed at a dinner party.  His view is widely held in Japan.  Monozukuri (making things) is macho.  From sword-forging in feudal times to machines and microchips today, real men toil tirelessly to make things you can see.  Services are for sissies.”

“Samurai go soft.”  The Economist, July 16, 2011.  p. 70.

moot (back to top)

Verb with object: To present or to argue, especially in a way that diminishes the subject’s significance.

“And now, thanks to leaks about the Palestinian conduct of the negotiations from Al Jazeera, a Qatar-based satellite television channel, it is widely mooted that the process has been killed off altogether.”

“Leaks must not poison diplomacy,” The Economist, Jan 29, 2011, p. 12.

mopery (back to top)

“Mrs. Wilkerson suspected plagiarism. Zoltan confessed, thinking it was a funny rather than a serious thing he’d done. To him, plagiarism was what Trout would have called a mopery, ‘indecent exposure in the presence of a blind person of the same sex.'”

Kurt Vonnegut. Timequake. New York: Berkley Books, 1997. p 68.

moral acid (back to top)

…when I speak of “virtue,” it is more often the sort of virtue which Nietzsche proclaimed, free from all “moralic acid”…

Havelock Ellis. On Life and Sex: Essays of Love and Virtue. Two Volumes in One. New York: Garden City Publishing Company, Inc. 1937. (Formerly Little Essays of Love and Virtue, 1921, and More Essays of Love and Virtue, 1931.) Preface to Vol. 2, p. ix.

mortsafe (back to top)

“Iron cages called mortsafes could be set in concrete above the grave or underground, around the coffin [to prevent bodysnatching].”

Mary Roach. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. New York: Norton, 2004. p. 48.

Moschosphragist (back to top)

One who examines sacrificed animals to look for omens.

“As it grew dark another person appeared: the Moschosphragist from the temple of Serapis, who, every day, examined the entrails of a slaughtered beast for Damia; to-day the augury had been so bad that he was almost afraid of revealing it.”

Georg Ebers. Serapis. New York: William S. Gottsberger, 1885. p. 192.

mother-naked (back to top)

Slang for completely nude.

“So he rose, well-night [sic] lost in ecstasy, and, doffing his raiment, showed himself mother-naked.”

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. “The Reeve’s Tale.” Vol 1. p 381.

“…and, when the drink got the better of them, the portress stood up and doffed her clothes till she was mother-naked.”

Burton, ibid. “The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad.” Vol. 1. p 111.

mulct (back to top)

To fine, tax, or defraud someone.

“…why the consumer should grumble at the rapacity of the miner as long as he allows himself to be mulcted by swollen profits, the costs of an ineffective organization, and unnecessary payments to superfluous middlemen.”

R. H. Tawney. The Acquisitive Society. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1920.

muntu (back to top)

“People are bantu; the singular is muntu. Muntu does not mean exactly the same as person, though, because it describes a living person, a dead one, or someone not yet born.”

Barbara Kingsolver. The Poisonwood Bible. Quoted in Lee Siegel. Falling Upwards: Essays in Defense of the Imagination. New York: Basic Books, 2006. p. 128.

“The African equivalent to Rene Descartes’s famous dictum, “I think, therefore I am,” which is the foundation of much modern Western culture, is called ubuntu and goes something like this: “I am, because you are.” … Nearly all African languages have a word that defines the individual person (umuntu) and a word that places a person in his social context (ubuntu). The concept of ubuntu rests on the idea that people exist by the grace of the community to which they belong and that they are important to the degree to which theytake responsibility for the other members of that community. Your identity is not shaped so much by an inner quest, but by entering into a purposeful relationship with your community.”

“The world according to ubuntu.” Tijn Touber. Ode. Sept. 2004. p. 36.

“He [Rev. Bruce Freeman] confesses that he is influenced by Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s ubuntu theology. According to Bruce, ubuntu roughly means ‘I cannot be without you.'”

Diana Butler Bass. Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith. HarperSanFrancisco, 2006. p. 151.

muzzy (back to top)

“There was something very endearing about Irish hospitality, I thought as I drove back, a little muzzy, to the cottage…”

Nicholas Blake. The Private Wound. New York: Dell, 1968. p. 71.

myrmidon (back to top)

A member of a warlike Thessalian people led by Achilles at the siege of Troy.

“By now the Superior and her myrmidons had returned, and they found I had more command of myself than they expected or would have liked.”

Denis Diderot. The Nun. (1760) Trans. Leonard Tancock. Great Britain: Penguin Books, 1972. Reprinted 1982. p 92.

“I will probably thank the myrmidons as I leave.”

Nick Harkaway. Gnomon. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2018. p. 20.

“Now, the Jewish great and the good, the venerated and the tried, the mandarins and myrmidons, had to pay court to Jared Kushner … who until little more than a few minutes ago had truly been a nobody.”

Michael Wolff. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. Henry Holt and Co., Jan. 5, 2018. Location 2482.

mythologeme (back to top)

“The mythologeme of death is the nucleus of such rituals: to be truly a man, one must have become fully conscious of the inevitability of death and accept it with calm resignation, with the understanding that the continually renewed existence of mankind is ensured only by the insertion of death in the cycle of life.”

Edgar C. Polome. Essays on Germanic Religion. Washington, D.C.: Institute for the Study of Man. 1989. p 17.

mythoscape (back to top)

An archetypal or mythological landscape, metaphorically speaking.

“The recent sad exertions of Richard Heene’s family, they of the Balloon Boy hoax, are testament to the ferocity and desperation driving those who would join this mythoscape of reality kings and queens.”

“The Octomom and Her Babies Prepare for Prime Time.” John Bowe. New York Times Magazine. Nov. 12, 2009.

N (back to top)









nokara khaneh




nouement d’aiguillette





naivasha (back to top)

Peace achieved through cooperation.

From the “Naivasha Protocols,” a treaty of internal reconciliation in the Sudan. Named after the location in the Sudan where talks were held and the treaty was signed in May 2004. “Naivasha” means “rough water” in Maasai.

“If stability is not achieved in Darfur, then the promise of Naivasha — the promise of a just and democratic country able to realize its full potential — will be in serious jeopardy.”

Kofi Annan, U.N. Secretary General. Quoted in “Annan: We must race to save Darfur.” Reuters. May 26, 2005. Accessed May 26, 2005.

narcostate (back to top)

“[Juan Manuel] Santos played a key role in [President Alvaro] Uribe’s brass-knuckle security policy, which transformed Colombia from a guerrilla-infested narcostate into a stable, prospering democracy.”

“A flash of green in Colombia.” Mac Margolis. Newsweek. May 10, 2010. p. 6.

nea-con (back to top)

Pejorative – an unintelligent political conservative. From “neo-con” (“new conservative”) and Neanderthal (an evolutionary ancestor or cousin of human beings).

“The reign of Bush and Cheney and the rise of the neocons and the ‘nea-cons’ (the ‘neanderthal conservatives’) have alienated traditional conservative intellectuals as they had Bill Buckley, the godfather of modern conservatism.”

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. p. 5.

neuroenteric (back to top)

“We often talk about gut feelings. There is now extensive literature on the neuroenteric brain, as though some form of thought might actually originate in the pit of your stomach. Maybe so. And maybe my body just knew that my [maladjusted] car seat was out of whack. But whatever the origin of the sensation, the key feature is that there seems to be an underlying sense or feeling that something is either correct or incorrect.”

Robert A. Burton. On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not. New York: St. Martin’s Grffin, 2008. p. 19.

neurtue (back to top)

“I had a patient in analysis who had the ‘neurotic virtue’ — or, as I shall call it, the neurtue of disappointment. That is, she lived with an unconscious core fantasy that organized the world in terms of disappointment. Every event in life was interpreted in such a way that she was somehow being let down.”

Jonathan Lear. Happiness, Death, and the Remainder of Life. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000. p. 65.

niblick (back to top)

“During a round in Florida the only spark of interest his diffident club bearer showed all day came when he asked if he could borrow Harry’s niblick to go kill a snake.”

Mark Frost. The Greatest Game Ever Played: Harry Vardon, Francis Ouimet, and the Birth of Modern Golf. New York: Hyperion, 2002. p. 40.

“It was easy to believe in miracles if, in the thick of the Depression, you went from being the unpromising second son of an unemployed Hell’s Kitchen longshoreman or, in Runner’s case, of a long-laid-off Poughkeepsie millworker, to being a connoisseur of golf clubs, knowing the difference between a brassie, a spoon, and a mashie niblick.”

James Carroll. The Cloister: A Novel. Nan A. Talese, 2018.

nigrescent (back to top)

“The silhouettes of belly dancers swaying and stepping upon the very fine line which divided the nigrescent sand from the brightening sky.”

Daniel Tegan Marsche. The Eunuch Neferu. Writers Club Press (iUniverse), 2002. p. 51.

nizam (back to top)


“Often used to refer to the divinely imposed order of the universe.”

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

nokara khaneh (back to top)

“In all directions mules were driving in from the pastures to their appointed burthens; the din of their bells, the shouting of muleteers, the voices of commanding officers, the neighing of horses, and the exciting sounds of the nokara khaneh, the Persian military music, joined to the intense activity of every individual, working as it were for his life, under the very eye of a king and master who allowed no negligence of duty, all produced a scene wearing a character entirely its own. ”

James Morier’s Zohrab, the Hostage. London: Richard Bentley, New Burlington Street, 1832. p. 108.

nomophobia (back to top)

“Technology has become so entwined with our lives there is a term, nomophobia, for the fear of losing or being separated from one’s phone.”

“Bookworms and Apples: ‘Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore,’ by Robin Sloan.” Roxane Gay. Dec. 14, 2012.

nonmootness (back to top)

The importance and relevance of an issue, maintained in the face of reasons to consider it unimportant or irrelevant.

“Pregnancy provides a classic justification for a conclusion of nonmootness.”

Roe v Wade, 410 US 113, 1973, written by Justice Blackmun, paragraph 125

(In context, this quotation means that, if the shortness of pregnancy makes litigation impossible and the termination of the pregnancy renders the case moot, nothing will ever be decided.)

nonoil (back to top)

Made without petroleum.

“After years of partisan arguments over the administration’s efforts to open new parts of the country for oil and gas drilling, Mr. Bush will cast his discussion of nonoil sources of energy as an economic imperative for the United States and a national security necessity to reduce dependence on Middle Eastern oil.”
“Bush Will Use Address to Focus on Alternative Fuels and Nuclear Plants.” Elisabeth Bumiller
and David E. Sanger. New York Times. January 31, 2006.

nouement d’aiguillette (back to top)

“‘Frigidity by evil spell’ was thought to be caused by drinking some sort of potion, by the casting of an evil spell or charm, or by the ‘ligature or nouement d’aiguillette’. (The aiguillette was a thin ribbon or string attaching the breeches to the doublet. Nouer l’aiguillette means, literally, to knot or tangle this ribbon, but the idiomatic meaning of nouement d’aiguillette was to cause impotence by casting an evil spell.)”

Pierre Darmon. Damning the Innocent: A History of the Persecution of the Impotent in pre-Revolutionary France (New York: Viking, 1986). Originally Le Tribunal de l’Impuissance (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1979). p. 16.

nowism (back to top)

“Trendwatchers is as irritating as any of its competitors: its reports are littered with references to ‘nowism’ (instant gratification), ‘maturialism’ (consumer sophistication) and ‘tryvertising’ (offering free samples).”

“The status seekers.” Economist. Dec. 4, 2010. p. 86.

nuncupative (back to top)

Oral (esp. of a will).

“In his nuncupative (oral) will, Milton called her [Elizabeth Minshull] ‘my loving wife.'”

Edward Le Comte, in the introduction to John Milton. Paradise Lost and Other Poems. New York: Penguin, 1981. p. xxix.

nurdled (back to top)

Stuck in an inconvenient location (as in the game of tiddlywinks).

“And top players like Kahn travel to each match with their own set of ‘squidgers’ — the smooth round discs used to flip the winks….he uses one he made from a spice jar lid for shooting ‘nurdled’ winks (those very close to the pot).”

“Unsquoppable” by Sam Apple. MIT News, March/April 2016, p. 21.

nyms (back to top)

”I imagine that those who are indiscreet on the Web will continue to have to make the best of it, while sharper cookies, pocketing nyms and proxy cascades (as sharper cookies already do), slouch toward an ever more Googleable future, one in which Google, to some even greater extent than it does now, helps us decide what we’ll do next.”

“Google’s Earth.” William Gibson. New York Times. August 31, 2010.

O (back to top)



omnia exeunt in mysterium














ostrich complex


obnubilate (back to top)

“The most advantageous way to approach God is to put aside everything that is not God. Indeed, it is useful to shut down your mind and let the obnubilating presence of God shut it down for you.”

Denise Lardner Carmody and John Tully Carmody. Mysticism: Holiness East and West. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. p. 212.

omertá (back to top)

The Mafia’s code of loyalty whereby they refuse to rat each other out.

“…he thought I understood the oath of ‘omerta’ which forbids the discussion of such matters upon the pain of death.”

Shirley MacLaine. I’m Over All That: And Other Confessions. New York: Atria Books, 2011. p. 65.

“But he refused to name names — a vow of omerta all too reminiscent of that taken by the low-level operatives first apprehended in the “third-rate burglary” at Watergate.”

Frank Rich. The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina. New York: Penguin Press, 2006. p. 168.

“…a race of people who had brought to the shores of this country anarchism and its bombers, assassins, and the Black Hand and now, organized in something rumored to be called omertá organiza, they had overtaken by force the entire business of illegal liquor.”

Dennis Lehane. Live By Night. New York: William Morrow, 2012. p. 103.

omnia exeunt in mysterium (back to top)

“all things pass into mystery” — medieval saying

Gilbert Highet. Man’s Unconquerable Mind. New York: Columbia University Press, 1954. p 35.

omniincompetence (back to top)

“None of the breaking scandals necessarily suggested high crimes as opposed to simple omni-incompetence.”

“The 25th Amendment Solution for Removing Trump,” Ross Douthat, New York Times, May 16, 2017.

omphaloskepsis (back to top)

“Yoga, Buddhism, asceticism, omphaloskepsis–do you plan to become a fakir?”

The character of Arthur, Sr. in Erich Maria Remarque’s The Black Obelisk (1957). USA: Crest, 1958. p. 89.

ontoaxiological (back to top)

Regarding the study of being (on) and value (axia), both Greek.

“Without such a principled life-ground one is at an onto-axiological loss.”

“Human Life: Beyond Money, Ideology and Productive Forces,” Part III. Prof. John McMurtry. Centre for Research on Globalization. Jan. 11, 2012. Accessed Jan. 11, 2012.

opacous (back to top)


“…merely to officiate light / Round this opacous Earth…”

John Milton. “Paradise Lost,” Book VIII, Line 23. Paradise Lost and Other Poems. New York: Penguin, 1981. p. 216.

opsimath (back to top)

One who learns late in life.

“Do you know that I said you were my amanuensis. Well. I’ve discovered what I am. I am an opsimath.”

The character of the Queen, in Alan Bennett’s novella The Uncommon Reader. New York: Picador, 2007. p. 48.

orfling (back to top)

Meaning uncertain.

“…ushered in by a little girl who might have been a Dickens foundling or ‘orfling.”

James, Henry. Autobiography. Dupee, Frederick W., ed. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1983. Originally 1913. Charles Scribner’s sons. p 172.

oriel (back to top)

“Although formerly flush with the wall, and consequently less noticeable, it now projects like an oriel window, and is decorated in the Louis XV style in accordance with the rest of the room.”

N. M. Penzer, The Harem (1936). New York: Dorset Press, 1993. p. 102.

orison (back to top)

Prayer; from Latin, related to “oration”.

“The first must be followed by the Se’na; the second by the Salawath; the third by the orison consecrated to the dead.”

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 450.

“…how pleasing it is to be sincerely and truly pious in our orisons…”

Mordecai Manuel Noah. “The Sabbath.” Essays of Howard, on Domestic Economy. Originally in the New-York National Advocate. “Eye Nature’s Walks.” New-York: G L Birch and Co, 1820. Reprinted in The Selected Writings of Mordecai Noah. Edited by Michael Schuldiner and Daniel J. Kleinfeld. Westport, Conn. and London: Greenwood Press, 1999. p. 95.

ornithocracy (back to top)

From ornith (bird) + kratia (government).

“As a democrat, I believed that government was for the people, but living in Washington [DC] has turned me into an ornithocrat.”

“Improve your Vocabulary,” Lloyd Rawley. Reprinted from the April 1995 Capital M, Metropolitan Washington Mensa, Bob Hofkin, editor.

orotund (back to top)

Pompous or imposing. From Latin ore rotundo, “with rounded mouth.”

“His orotund rhetoric about ‘freedom on the march,’ ‘democracy,’ ‘tyranny,’ and ‘evil’ undermines itself.”

Sidney Blumenthal. “Bush’s Brezhnev period.” Feb. 2, 2006. Accessed Feb. 3, 2006.

orrery (back to top)

In a five-volume book entitled Celestial Mechanics he [Laplace] laid all this out, and like many men of his time was also intrigued by the orrery, a working model of the solar system as seen, for the first time, from the outside.

Christopher Hitchens. God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. New York: Hatchette Book Group, 2007. p. 66.

osteocephalous (back to top)
From osteo (bone) + kephale (head).

“Locking my keys in the car was really osteocephalous of me.”

“Improve your Vocabulary,” Lloyd Rawley. Reprinted from the April 1995 Capital M, Metropolitan Washington Mensa, Bob Hofkin, editor.

ostranenie (back to top)

“Artistic estrangement — originally ostranenie, a word coined by the Russian literary theorist Viktor Shklovsky — is sometimes translated as ‘defamiliarization.’ A good writer, for example, makes unfamiliar what they depict — jealousy, or a tree, or a siren’s sound — to free it from clichés or preconceptions, forcing us to encounter it as if for the first time, though we have probably been jealous, seen a tree, heard a siren. Estrangement revives perception. For Shklovsky, ostranenie occurs when a writer creates ‘a special way of experiencing an object, to make one not “recognize” it but “see” it.’ The stakes are high. Life, otherwise ‘automatized,’ can pass as if we are unconscious — even as if we never lived at all.”
How Alienation Became My Superpower.” Elisa Gonzalez. New York Times. 23 Nov 2021.

ostrich complex (back to top)

“‘The last I heard was that he had tucked up with Georgina Doublethwait and they had gone to earth in a Paris studio. Isn’t it queer how some people still have that ostrich complex?'”

Dennis Wheatley. The Eunuch of Stamboul (1935) New York: Paperback Library, Inc., 1967. p 45.

overstand (back to top)

“This is not to say that I’m angry or hurt because many Africans mistake light-skinned Black Americans for the people we went to Africa to get away from. I overstand the cultural differences that lead to those misunderstandings.”

Touré, Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What it Means to Be Black Now. New York: Free Press, 2011.