Glossary: Words beginning with S, T, U, V

Return to the full glossary index.


S (back to top)

Sabbath gasbag

















semiliterate famulus





















six sigma






snuffling gabble








spiritus fermenti



















swan upping




synod unbenign


Sabbath gasbag (back to top)

“When I first referred to the people who pontificate on Sunday morning talk shows from Washington as the ‘Sabbath gasbags,’ it was part of a plan to systematically insinuate the phrase into the language.”

“Sabbath Gasbags, Speak Up.” Calvin Trillin. New York Times, June 1, 2013.

saccade (back to top)

The brief span of time when the eye sees nothing because it is moving and changing its focal point.

“But you don’t notice that you’re blind during saccades because your brain fills in the screen in your head to make it seem like you’re looking out of two little windows in your head.”

Mark Haddon (in the character of Christopher). The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 2004. p 117.

“Functionally no useful information comes in during the saccades, so that the reader’s visual information when reading text consists of a discrete series of “snapshots” from the fixation.”

Alexander Pollatsek and Keith Rayne. Foundations of Cognitive Science. Chapter 10. Quoted on August 14, 2005 post, accessed August 26, 2005.

salariat (back to top)

“…very few professionals are free practitioners. The overwhelming majority are salaried employees. This has been true for many decades and is increasingly the case today as even the traditionally independent doctors and lawyers are swept into the salariat.”

Jeff Schmidt. Disciplined Minds: A Critical Look at Salaried Professionals and the Soul-Battering System that Shapes Their Lives. (Rowman & Littlefield, 2000) Kindle Edition.

samizdat (back to top)

Self-published books in Communist Russia.

“During the communist years, unauthorized religious writings circulated in carbon-copy form, the so-called ‘samizdat’ or ‘self-published’ books.”

Frederica Mathewes-Green. At the Corner of East and Now: A Modern Life in Ancient Christian Orthodoxy. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1999. p 252.

sanctibullying (back to top)

“By 2011, I had a slightly different interpretation, viewing YPIS less as scrappy one-upmanship than as what I called sanctibullying — online pile-ons where the competition was over who could be the most sensitive (as demonstrated by insensitivity to the target of the moment).”

Phoebe Maltz Bovy. The Perils of “Privilege”: Why Injustice Can’t Be Solved by Accusing Others of Advantage. St. Martin’s Press, 2017. p. 63.

sanguinolent (back to top)

“Several of the policemen made themselves up a wad of betel which turned their teeth and gums an unattractive sanguinolent color.”

Dominique Lapierre. City of Joy. Translated from the French by Kathryn Spink. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1985. p. 191.

sapid (back to top)

Adjective. Tasting pleasantly strong.

“There is a charming set piece that Jules Janin wrote in 1826, alluding to the sapid qualities of an erotic kiss…”

F. Gonzalez-Crussi. On the Nature of Things Erotic. Orlando, Fl.: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988. p. 153.

sartori (back to top)

A stroke of fashion genius. Hybrid of sartor, Latin for “tailor,” and satori, Japanese for “enlightenment.”

“Not long ago I experienced sartori–not satori, spiritual enlightenment, but rather a sartorial revelation about how I should wear my hair.”

Frederica Mathewes-Green. At the Corner of East and Now: A Modern Life in Ancient Christian Orthodoxy. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1999. p 131.

satyagraha (back to top)

The policy of nonviolent resistance initiated in India by Mahatma Gandhi as a means of pressing for political reform.

From Sanskrit: satyam, truth; graha, determination.
American Heritage Dictionary, 2000.

saudade (back to top)

“But for Buddhists reincarnation is literally a drag–a wheel full of friction and frustration…The happiness we experience is fleeting, and buried inside much of it is the sort of deep sadness that the Portuguese refer to as saudade.

Stephen Prothero. God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World–and Why Their Differences Matter. New York: HarperOne, 2010. p. 182.

savonon (back to top)

“Then the altar was wiped again with red wine and rosewater, then consecrated oil (called ‘chrism’). … When this washing and anointing is over, the bishop takes off this garment [white cotton that ties in back and goes over robes], the ‘savonon,’ and it is immediately cut up into squares, which are distributed to worshippers as they leave.”

Frederica Mathewes-Green. At the Corner of East and Now: A Modern Life in Ancient Christian Orthodoxy. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1999. p 51.

saxaul (back to top)

“And there, in the desert, begins the saxaul forest.”

Viktor Shklovsky. A Hunt for Optimism. (Originally 1931). Translated by Shushan Avagyan. Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2013. p. 37.

scalene (back to top)

adj. Describing a triangle with three unequal sides.

“…the world around us seemed to have returned to primeval Chaos, and was swarming with scalene, defective, abnormal human specimens…”

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. 33.

scathe (back to top)

“Come back and so will we,

Keep faith, and we’ll keep faith;

But if you show us treachery

It shall be to your scathe.”

Fish in a frying pan, singing to a girl. “The Tale of the Fisherman and the Jinni.” The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night. Rendered from the literal and complete version of Dr. J. C. Mardrus; and collated with other sources; by E. Powys Mathers. The First Volume. London: The Casanova Society, 1923. p. 51.

scrivener (back to top)

“But today Pliny is considered more of a scrivener, an unreliable inventory taker, rather than a systematic synthesizer like Aristotle.”

Stephen T. Asma. On Monsters: An Unnatural History of Our Worst Fears. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. p. 34.

scrump (back to top)

To steal apples.

“But the symbolic nature of the fruit (knowledge of good and evil, which in practice turned out to be knowledge that they were naked) was enough to turn their scrumping escapade into the mother and father of all sins.”

Richard Dawkins. The God Delusion. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006. p. 251.

scruple (back to top)

As a verb: To take care to avoid committing a moral error.

“It is not a job which you need scruple to accept from any idea that I am offering it with a view to compensating you for the loss you have sustained through your service to my daughter…”

The character of Sir George Duncannon in Dennis Wheatley’s novel The Eunuch of Stamboul. Boston: Little, Brown and Co, 1935. pp. 26-27.

“If he once suspects that you have got on to this thing he will not scruple to employ his secret police against you, to ensure his own safety.”

The character of Diana Duncannon in Dennis Wheatley’s novel The Eunuch of Stamboul. Boston: Little, Brown and Co, 1935. p. 116.

sdvig (back to top)

“He taught Mayakovsky as a painter would teach another painter. He taught him how to break the planes, how to insert a plane into another, he taught him what was then called sdvig (shift, dislocation).”

Viktor Shklovsky. A Hunt for Optimism. (Originally 1931). Translated by Shushan Avagyan. Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2013. p. 103.

semibarbarous (back to top)


“…a semibarbarous people…”

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

semiliterate famulus (back to top)

A slave or servant (famulus, Latin) who doesn’t read so good.

“In spite of the late hour, the parson could not refrain from challenging his semiliterate famulus.”

Stefan Zweig. Chess Story. Translated from the German by Joel Rotenberg. New York: New York Review of Books, 2006. p. 6.

sempiternal (back to top)

“Only the sempiternal white forage cap planted on top of his bald skull elevated the poverty-stricken appearance of his personage.”

Dominique Lapierre. City of Joy. Translated from the French by Kathryn Spink. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1985. p. 102.

sexsomnia (back to top)

“…a condition in which someone has a sexual experience while asleep…”

“Sexsomnia: Not as funny as it sounds.” March 24, 2006. Accessed March 24, 2006.

sfumato (back to top)

A naturalistic style of painting in which the lines are blurred as if in mist. From the Italian for “smoky.”

“The gods were everything and nothing; they got lost in a sfumato.”

Franz Cumont. The Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism. Authorized translation. Chicago: Open Court Publishing Company, 1911. p 88.

sgriob (back to top)

“You might think, for example, that the word sgriob is just a bad hand at Scrabble; it’s actually the Gaelic word describing the tingle of anticipation felt in the upper lip before drinking whisky.”

“BBC Alba shows power of Gaelic lobby.” Allan Brown. The Sunday Times (London). October 5, 2008.

shaffafiyya (back to top)

“‘A new word burst out in the medinas,’ she [Fatima Mernissi] writes, ‘a word as explosive as all the atomic bombs combined: shaffafiyya (transparency)’ — a gloriously subversive word in any society that is ruled by dark mafias.”

Paul Berman. Terror and Liberalism. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2003. p. 155.

shagreen (back to top)

Rough leather.

“Tony climbed into the car after Ella; he noticed the thin silk of her legs, a shagreen smoking set against the gray upholstery at her elbow.”

Benjamin Rufus Kittredge. Crowded Solitude. New York: Coward-McCann, Inc., 1930. p. 260.

sham (back to top)

“She wondered if this boy might not be seeing quite distinctly through all the sham of her futile existence. He was not her type.”

Benjamin Rufus Kittredge. Crowded Solitude. New York: Coward-McCann, Inc., 1930. p. 8.

shambolic (back to top)

British slang for chaotic.

“Towards the end she was almost unrecognisable from the bouncy, suburban young woman who first rose to fame: stick thin (apart from the surgical enhancements), with an erratic beehive hairdo and multiple tattoos; a cartoon of immoderate loucheness. She hadn’t released an album for five years. Her recent comeback tour was cancelled, after an agonisingly shambolic performance in Belgrade.”

“A losing game.” [Amy Winehouse obituary.] The Economist, July 30, 2011. p. 53.

“Forgive my shambolic penmanship. I’m on an airplane, and my laptop battery is dead so I’ve taken up a pen for the first time in years.”

Maria Semple. Where’d You Go, Bernadette. New York: Back Bay Books, 2012. p. 90.

“By the middle of May of 536, Theodora’s approach to doctrinal issues was becoming shambolic, and the events of the next few months – especially Justinian’s ban on the men condemned by the Council – raise questions about just how seriously claims about the personal piety of the imperial couple should be taken.”

David Potter. Theodora: Actress, Empress, Saint. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. p. 176

“But he and a handful of others combined communications technology with old-fashioned salesmanship to grow a shambolic rump of mostly silent believers into a fledgling movement that spans the country.”

“These Coloradans say Earth is flat. And gravity’s a hoax. Now, they’re being persecuted.” Graham Ambrose, Denver Post, July 7, 2017.

“In private, Bannon told people he was disillusioned with Trump’s shambolic governing style.”

“‘I Have Power’: Is Steve Bannon Running for President?” Gabriel Sherman. Vanity Fair. Dec. 21, 2017.

“By default, everybody had to look to the voluble, aphoristic, shambolic, witty, off-the-cuff figure who was both ever present on the premises and who had, in an unlikely attribute, read a book or two.”

Michael Wolff. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. Henry Holt and Co., Jan. 5, 2018. Location 1093.

“President Trump, as part of his kickback to the white evangelicals who got him elected, has fashioned this idea of religious supremacy into a cornerstone of his shambolic administration.”

“Whose Religious Liberty Is It Anyway?” Katherine Stewart. New York Times. Sept. 8, 2018.

shefakat (back to top)

“The Shah moreover has announced his shefakat, his good feeling, towards you.”

The character of Haiji Ibraham in James Morier’s novel Zohrab, the Hostage. London: Richard Bentley, New Burlington Street, 1832. Vol. I, p. 300.

shekkeh (back to top)

According to Morier’s footnote to the sentence below: “The shekkeh is a punishment common in Persia, by which a criminal is tied by the legs to two posts, with his head downwards, and then cut into two equal parts.”

“In the first place, your camels could not make five steps without falling, so slippery and mountainous is the soil, and lucky would you think yourself if they did not all split up in twain, like a criminal who has undergone the shekkeh.

A character in James Morier’s Zohrab, the Hostage. London: Richard Bentley, New Burlington Street, 1832. p. 12.

shoganai (back to top)

“From late February until May they endure pollen allergies, mostly caused by Japanese cedar, or sugi, trees. Usually the affliction, entailing sneezing, eye irritation and huge medical bills, is shrugged off as shoganai–it can’t be helped.”

“Killing two birds with one tree,” The Economist, March 9, 2013, p. 51.

shrasp (back to top)

“She shrapsed, which is like a combo shriek and gasp.”

Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, Center City, Minn.: Hazelden Publishing, 2010.

Note: Brown spelled it “shrapsed,” but to follow the spelling of “gasp,” it would make more sense as “shrasp”.

shtarker (back to top)

“This Yiddish word, rooted in the German stark, “strong,” is defined by the lexicographer Sol Steinmetz as “a strong-minded person willing to wield power.””

William Safire. “Rooting For A Fellow Shtarker To Keep Helm.” The New York Times. Nov. 26, 2002.

“Hearing an intellectual shtarker like Meltzer talk about such stuff makes me want to go back to school.”

“The Windows of the Soul Need Cleaning.”  Dick Cavett.  May 14, 2010.

simarre (back to top)

Also spelled simar, cymar, or zimarra. A women’s robe fashionable in the 17th and 18th centuries. Fromaget’s translator’s footnote says: “A kind of sleeveless wrap of taffeta, open down the front, and usually worn next the skin.”

“I had almost given way to my feelings when, by chance (or otherwise), the simarre that she was wearing parted, and discovered charms that I had not expected.”

Nicolas Fromaget. Eunuchs, Odalisques, and Love: A Frenchman’s Amatory Adventures in Turkey. (Translated into English from the French Le Cousin de Mahomet, ou la Folie Salutaire (1742); translator unknown.) New York: Panurge Press, 1932. p. 103. (The author died in 1759; his year of birth is unknown and there is no surviving portrait or personal anecdote.)

simon-pure (back to top)

The real thing. Based on a character, Simon Pure, in Susanna Centlivre’s play A Bold Stroke for a Wife who is impersonated by another.

“One has to bear in mind that each revival of Neo-Confucianism represented a sharp deviation from simon-pure Confucianism.”

Pitirim A. Sorokin. Man and Society in Calamity. New York: E. P. Dutton and Company, Inc., 1942. p. 212.

sinecure (back to top)

An easy, well-paid job.

“Far from being a sinecure which I am about to offer you it is a job which requires courage, brains, and ability.”
The character of Sir George Duncannon. From Dennis Wheatley’s novel The Eunuch of Stamboul (1935) New York: Paperback Library, Inc., 1967. p 31.

“He even had a job, a sinecure, more highly paid than his old job had been.”

George Orwell. 1984. (Originally published 1949.) New York: The New American Library, 1961. p. 237.

“Many MPs held sinecures granted by the Crown, which ensured that they would support the King’s government, right or wrong.”

Adam Sisman. The Friendship: Wordsworth and Coleridge. New York: Viking, 2007. p. xxii.

“In 1812 Wordsworth had written to Lord Lonsdale soliciting his aid in obtaining some lucrative office, and the following year Lonsdale helped him to obtain a post as Distributor of Stamps for Westmoreland and the Penrith District of Cumberland. It was not quite a sinecure; there was some real work involved, but Wordsworth was free to hire an assistant to do most of this and keep whatever profit remained.”

Adam Sisman. The Friendship: Wordsworth and Coleridge. New York: Viking, 2007. p. 414.

sirenomelia (back to top)

Otherwise known as “mermaid syndrome.”

“Milagros, whose name means ‘miracles’ in Spanish, was born with her legs connected from thigh to ankle–a rare condition known as sirenomelia, or ‘mermaid syndrome.'”

“Peru’s ‘miracle baby’ doing well after surgery, her doctors say.” AP. Providence Journal. June 9, 2005.

siroc (back to top)

A hot wind.

“…how I listened to every blast of wind, as if it were a dull ugly siroc on its way to consume me.”

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. (1818) Introduction by M. K. Joseph. Oxford University Press, 1998. p 149. The character of Dr. Frankenstein. The note reads that “siroc” is from “sirocco, a hot wind blowing from N. Africa across the Mediterranean and parts of S. Europe.”

Alternate spellings:

“I am the goddess of the sandstorm, the scirocco, the whirling winds of barrenness.”

Raven Kaldera. Hermaphrodeities: The Transgender Spirituality Workbook. USA: XLibris, 2001. p. 34.

“The sirocco has no specific season, but blows as and where it chooses, at times almost as fiercely as the tramontane.

Peter S. Beagle. In Calabria. San Francisco: Tachyon, 2017. p. 67.

sirreverence (back to top)

An offensive comment or a routine excuse for making it.

“Sirreverence comes from “save-reverence,” which people used to say before or after mentioning something likely to offend. The apology came to stand for the thing it excused, and so sirreverence came to mean “turd,” as in these lines from Shakespeare’s early rival Robert Greene: “His head, and his necke, were all besmeared with the soft sirreverence, so as he stunk worse than a Jakes Farmer,” a person who cleans out privies for a living.”

Melissa Mohr. Holy Shit: A Brief History of Swearing. Oxford University press, 2013. p. 159.

six sigma (back to top)

“‘Aviation is just about the only field that consistently manages to operate at the highest level of performance, which is defined by six sigma,’ [Jeff] Roberts [group president of civil training at flight-simulation manufacturer CAE] says, using the managerial buzzword for any process that produces fewer than 3.4 defects per one million opportunities.

Jonah Lehrer. How We Decide. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. p. 258.

skua-bitten (back to top)

A skua is a bird similar to a gull or a jaeger.

“Lately I held your skua-bitten brother in my hand and probed his corpse with my fingers…”

Sjón. From the Mouth of the Whale. (2008) Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb (2011). New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013. p. 12.

Sláinte (back to top)

A Gaelic toast meaning “good health.”

“Well, now, drink it down. It’s an experience. Slainthe.”

Nicholas Blake. The Private Wound. New York: Dell, 1968. p. 18.

slivovitz (back to top)

Eastern European plum brandy.

“…the Serbian snipers with slivovitz to numb their consciences and keep their trigger fingers loose.”
Lance Morrow. Evil: An Investigation. New York: Basic Books, 2003. p. 63.

”Even after the kerosene lamps were blown out and the novelist had put away his guitar and the slivovitz had warmed everyone’s bellies and they had fallen asleep in the communal area, feeling warm and safe, Lancelot worried about the poor boy alone in the forest, deep freeze all around.”
Lauren Groff. Fates and Furies. New York: Riverhead, 2015.

“The local Czech players included prisoners who had streamed out of the gates of Kounic College, having survived interrogations by the Gestapo, and mothers with their children who, as Gerta witnessed, in an onslaught of euphoria threw themselves at the legions of haggard and exhausted foreign soldiers, who with hungry eyes kept on demanding more slivovitz.”
Kateřina Tučková. Gerta. (Originally: Vyhnání Gerty Shnirch. Czech Republic: Host, 2009.) Translated from Czech by Kateřina Tučková and Véronique Firkusny. Seattle: Amazon Crossing, 2021.

sloggy (back to top)

Based on “slog,” meaning a difficult journey. Used as an adjective by Arianna Huffington in a chapter title in her book Right is Wrong: “Iraq: The Long Hard Slog Gets Longer and Sloggier.” Based on the phrase “long hard slog” by Donald Rumsfeld, predicting the trajectory of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Chapter title in a book by 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.

“I’ll book-tour again this year, and I’ll see many good friends–booksellers, interviewers, and my publisher’s remote operatives–acquired in earlier rounds. But the net effect is a slog through a morass of Sartrean repetitions.”

Jonathan Lethem. “‘Open thy bowels of compassion.’ – Congreve, The Mourning Bride.”
Robin Robertson, ed. Mortification: Writers’ Stories of Their Public Shame. (2003) New York: Perennial, 2005. p. 145.

sluttish (back to top)

Sexually unrestrained; i.e. like a slut.

“He sat down in the sluttish armchair and undid the straps of the brief case.”

George Orwell. 1984. (Originally published 1949.) New York: The New American Library, 1961. p. 151.

snarge (back to top)

“…’snarge’ is the word for the residue left on a plane or in its engine after an encounter with a bird.”

Steven Church. One With the Tiger: Sublime and Violent Encounters Between Humans and Animals. Soft Skull Press, 2016.

snuffling gabble (back to top)

“I believe that it is quite probable, as Frau Forster-Nietzsche says, that it is Wagner’s snuffling gabble about Christianity that finished him.”

H. L. Mencken, 1921, quoted by John P. Koster, Jr. The Atheist Syndrome. Brentwood, Tenn.: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1989. p. 92.

somatophobia (back to top)

Fear of the body.

Used by Elizabeth Spelman.

souterrain (back to top)

“Then the salt-girl went away, and the slave cried ‘Where is the souterrain-guardianess?'”

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 Barber’s Tale of his Fifth Brother.” 33rd Night. Vol 1. p 394.

Burton writes in his note to this translation that “Arab. ‘Sardabeh’ (Persian)=an underground room used for coolness in the hot season.” He adds, “every house in Baghdad…has one.”

sozzled (back to top)

“We did go to bed a bit sozzled, though.”

Nicholas Blake. The Private Wound. New York: Dell, 1968. p. 85.

spandrel (back to top)

In architecture, a triangular shape between arches.

“Spandrels have no function; they are a consequence of the shape of arches.”

David Berreby. Us and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind. New York: Little, Brown, and Co. 2005. p 286.

spatulate (back to top)

“I nodded, and I drove my nail-file through

His gesturing hand, nailing the spatulate

Emphatic fingers to the chapel gate.”

Philip Bedford Robinson. Masque of a Savage Mandarin: A Comedy of Horrors. (1969) Great Britain: Panther, 1974. p. 41.

“None of the thimbles that Jennie had packed for Robert would fit Matthew’s spatulate fingers.”

Alex Myers. Revolutionary. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014.

spectrogenic (back to top)

“Hearsay suggests Rabindranath Tagore once organized a séance to invoke the
spirit of his dead servant….This seemingly
inconsequential anecdote not only underlines Tagore’s interest in the
intangible, the ‘spectrogenic’, the Being’s limits; the ghost’s refusal to answer Tagore’s question about what happens after life instantly eviscerates life’s claim over truth/knowledge and questions ontology’s control over presence.”

Suvadip Sinha (2015) Ghostly Predicament, Interventions, 17:5, 728-743,
DOI: 10.1080/1369801X.2014.984615 p. 729.

spinet (back to top)

A musical instrument like a small harpsichord.

“The small room contains a writing desk painted with a tracery of flowers, tall-backed chairs and a spinet.”

Marge Piercy. He, She, and It. New York: Fawcett Crest, 1991. p. 262.

spiritus fermenti (back to top)


“Nobody was trying to kill Hemingway and Fitzgerald except the manufacturers of what W. C. Fields called spirituous fermenti.”

Clive James. Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts. (2007) New York: Norton, 2008. p. 838.

spoor (back to top)

“So many otters congregated along the south bank that the Dutch named the spot Otterspoor.”
Ted Steinberg. Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014. p. 64.

“Some typists like to aim for perfection and will actually enjoy correcting all their typos. Myself, I’d rather xxxx over a mistake. Let the typescript reflect your humanity and imperfection, I say — everything that poet Les Murray, a typewriter devotee, calls ‘the spoor of botch.’”

Richard Polt. The Typewriter Revolution: A Typist’s Companion for the 21st Century. New York: Countryman Press, 2015. p. 133.

Africa’s ambassadors to the New World have come and worked and died, and left their spoor, but no recorded thought.

Deborah G. Plant in her introduction to Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon. Amistad, 2018.

“Today there is an intricate scrimshaw of deer, fox, and cat spoor tracing the ivory snow.”

Professor Nil. Hallucination May Constitute the Final Theorem: A False Memoir. William Weiss, 2011.

stammaitic (back to top)

“Dolgopolski claims that the stammaitic (late anonymous rabbinic) argumentation does not reproduce the logic of linear progressive time.”
Max K. Strassfeld, Trans Talmud: Androgynes and Eunuchs in Rabbinic Literature, University of California Press, 2022.

stanchion (back to top)

“He halted, grabbed the stanchion as the train went past, and swung himself on.”

Dennis Wheatley. The Eunuch of Stamboul (1935) New York: Paperback Library, Inc., 1967. p 231.

starets (back to top)

“At the outset Rasputin was a kind of Russian equivalent to a backwoods revivalist, but one who specialized less in evangelism than in soothsaying and healing. (His gifts as a healer, though doubtless mainly dependent on mental suggestion, were not completely bogus.) The calling was an ancient one, overlaid with a rich patina of tradition. An almost indispensable requirement for practicing it was an adequate term of preparation as a strannik, a variety of pious hobo. The wanderer, after acquiring sufficient sanctity in his travels, might eventually gain recognition as a starets: a holy man and lay religious teacher of the type made fashionable in modern times by Dostoyevsky.”
Edmond Taylor. The Fall of the Dynasties: The Collapse of the Old Order: 1905–1922. (1963) New York: Skyhorse, 2015. Chapter 9: The Gravediggers of Autocracy.

stelionnat (back to top)

”From this kind of analogy came the accusation of ‘stelionnat’ [fraud] which weighed over the impotent, who, in the words of Anne Robert, dared to ‘enlist themselves in the holy and sacred militia of legitimate love, without possessing those dotal weapons that are necessary to the accomplishment of the wedding solemnities.’”

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. 59.

stemmatic (back to top)

Adj. Relating different surviving versions of texts to reconstruct the original version.

“Without a single archetype behind the texts that thereafter lent readings to one another as they proliferated, further contaminating the tradition, Hall judged that stemmatic criticism was irredeemably frustrated.”

Jacqueline Long. Claudian’s In Eutropium: Or, How, When, and Why to Slander a Eunuch. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

stentorian (back to top)

Adjective. Having a booming voice.

“The Giant, eyeing Gulliver with condescendence and contempt, spoke at him in a voice so stentorian it could have done stand-in voice-over work for a wrathful God.”

Sawney Hatton, Dead Size

“He thought wildly of endeavouring to attract the attention of the people in the streets and collected his breath for a stentorian shout but, when he gave it, the gag prevented any sound except an uncouth rumble coming from his mouth.”

Dennis Wheatley. The Eunuch of Stamboul. Boston: Little, Brown and Co, 1935. p. 180.

“Anyway, adjectives such as raucous, strident, piercing, shattering, and the like, don’t really do it justice but will give some idea of its capabilities when this stentorian scion of the house of Harry is suitably excited.”

Dermot O’Hanlon. In Triplicate: Unlikely Tales. (2016)

stertorious (back to top)

“They [the expatriates, including Hemingway] did not see [Ford Madox] Ford as a ‘master of English prose’; to them he was ‘like Bairnsfather’s Old Bill, or like a friendly walrus, obese, stertorious, heavily comic.'”

Arthur Mizener. The Saddest Story: A Biography of Ford Madox Ford. New York and Cleveland: World Publishing Co., 1971. p 331.

stridulation (back to top)

“…I began talking about the whirring or grinding sound in my head. I used the word stridulation, and as Dr. Schachtel was not familiar with it, I treated him to a dissertation on galvanic sounds.”

Anatole Broyard. Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir. New York: Carol Southern Books, 1993. p. 49.

stupidaggine (back to top)

“So the Olmec and their successors must have had the wheel for more than two thousand years. ‘Why didn’t they use it for anything other than little toys?’ he asked in Italian. ‘How could they not have understood that you could make bigger wheels and put them on carts? Hanno fatto proprio una stupidaggine, quei tipi.’

Charles C. Mann. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. p. 222.

suborn (back to top)

To bribe or cajole someone toward an illegal act.

“Don’t suborn perjury–you know I’m opposed to that–but make sure she’s not going to make you look like a liar.”

Larry Beinhart. Salvation Boulevard. New York: Nation Books, 2008. p. 333.

“In 396 Eutropius suborned the criminal Bargus to accuse him of treason and had him exiled to the Oasis, where or on the lam from where he died (Zos. 5-9).”

Jacqueline Long. Claudian’s In Eutropium: Or, How, When, and Why to Slander a Eunuch. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

sudoku (back to top)

A Japanese numeric crossword puzzle that gained popularity in Britain when the Times began printing puzzles in November 2004. The word is Japanese for “the number that is alone.”

“It is not exactly Sudoku, is it?”
Columnist for the London Times on Tony Blair’s rearrangement of his Cabinet members. Quoted in “Japanese Number Puzzle Conquers Britain.” Jill Lawless, AP. Cincinnati Post. May 24, 2005.

suffumigation (back to top)

“The lighting lamps fed by peculiar kinds of medicated oil, and the use of suffumigations of strong and deleterious herbs, are the means recommended.”

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

suicism (back to top)

“Suist = one who loves themselves, a selfish person. Suicism = selfishness, n. 1654 R. Whitlock’s Zootopia, ‘This Schisma of suicism, and Selfishness, hath spawned most of the Heresies and Schisms, that are abroad in the world’.”

Simon Critchley. Suicide. Thought Catalog, 2015.

superannuated (back to top)

“The life of a superannuated scholar, without hope, without prospect: is that what he is prepared to settle for?”

J. M. Coetzee. Disgrace. New York: Viking, 1999. p. 175.

“Particles of smog, held in suspension but thinned out by the weekend furlough, recalled to the superannuated, by their faintly acrid tang, the burning cow-dung of an Indian village: suggested, to the romantic, the camp-fires of an Arab caravan.”

Philip Bedford Robinson. Masque of a Savage Mandarin: A Comedy of Horrors. (1969) Great Britain: Panther, 1974. p. 54.

“Man wisely invents motor-cars and other machines, automobile and locomotive. The horse is superannuated for man.

But alas, man is even more superannuated for the horse.”

D. H. Lawrence, St. Mawr

“I remembered that his hands trembled and, though he could hardly be called superannuated–he was in his mid-sixties–his voice had the wheezy sound of very old age that I now realized was, or could be, the voice of depression…”
William Styron. Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness. New York: Vintage, 1992. p. 27.

superbity (back to top)


“She went to the stake without a stain on her character except the overweening presumption, the superbity as they called it, that led her thither.”

George Bernard Shaw, in his 1924 Preface to Saint Joan. New York: Penguin Books, Inc., 1946. p. 4.

supercinnabar (back to top)

From “cinnabar,” a red pigment.

“Cinnabar is mercury sulfide, a compound of the two male-female essences of Western alchemy. The Chinese alchemist believed that through refining he could extract a supercinnabar and from that elixir make a superior gold. But this supergold was not an end in itself. It was a means to achieve something the Chinese alchemist considered more important: immortality.”

Osborn Segerberg, Jr. The Immortality Factor. New York: E. P. Dutton and Co., Inc. 1974. p 74.

sutler (back to top)

“At least four different officers did telegraph Grant to inquire as to whether his order applied to Jewish sutlers, the merchants and peddlers who followed the military camps selling tobacco, liquor, clothing, food-stuffs, and a wide range of other nonmilitary goods in stores on or near the post, under license from the commander. The word ‘sutler’ comes from a root meaning ‘to follow a mean or low occupation’ (the word ‘soot’ comes from the same cognate), and no doubt for that reason Jews, even back in Europe, had long been permitted to engage in it. As so often before, they were admitted into this less-than-respected trade and then hated all the more for practicing it.”

Jonathan D. Sarna. When General Grant Expelled the Jews. New York: Schocken, 2012. pp. 18-19.

swan upping (back to top)

English for counting swans.

“‘Today, the Crown retains the right to ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water, but the queen only exercises her ownership on certain stretches of the Thames and its surrounding tributaries,’ it says.
Each year, a census is carried out of the swans on stretches of the Thames in the counties of Middlesex, Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire, it says. This practice is known as swan upping.”

“Police investigate after queen’s swan found barbecued.” Saskya Vandoorne and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN. August 22, 2013.

swivet (back to top)

“Contemporary America can still work itself into something of a swivet over the question of ‘Who shot J.R.?’”

“”Barkis Is Willin’”: An Address at Princeton’s Sesquicentennial.” Oct. 23, 1998. Reprinted in George F. Will. With a Happy Eye But…America and the World, 1997-2002. New York: The Free Press, 2002.p. 190.

synallagmatic (back to top)

It [marriage] became a ‘synallagmatic’ [reciprocal] contract (Boucher) or a ‘redhibitory’ [revocable] act (Pleues), in the spirit of which ‘the Burgundians and Saxons had been accustomed to purchasing their wives from parents and guardians.’

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. 59.

synecdoche (back to top)

A particular symbol that represents a larger entity.

“Marriage has always been my synecdoche of choice, a wedding-cake part for the whole of my life.”

Lauren F. Winner. Girl Meets God: A Memoir. New York: Random House, 2002. p. 218.

synod unbenign (back to top)

An evil cabal (group).

“…To the blank Moon

Her office they prescribed; to the other five

Their planetary motions and aspécts,

In sextile, square, and trine, and opposite,

Of noxious efficacy, and when to join

In synod unbenign…”

John Milton. “Paradise Lost,” Book X, Lines 656-661. Paradise Lost and Other Poems. New York: Penguin, 1981. p. 286.

syntagma (back to top)

A unit made from a collection of separate elements. From the Greek. Plural: syntagmata.

“He still had 3,000 Africans, 1,200 Greeks, 1,500 Campanians, 200 Iberians, 400 Etruscans, 500 Samnites, 40 Gauls and a troop of Naffur, nomadic bandits met with in the date country, in all 7,219 soldiers, but not a complete syntagma.”

Gustave Flaubert. Salammbo. Translated by A. J. Krailsheimer. England: Penguin Books, 1977. (Originally published 1862.) p. 268.

“In the fourth dilochy of the twelfth syntagma, three soldiers knifed each other to death fighting over a rat.”

Gustave Flaubert. Salammbo. Translated by A. J. Krailsheimer. England: Penguin Books, 1977. (Originally published 1862.) p. 162.

T (back to top)












tertium quid



















tabac (back to top)

”The tabac sold eggs still rotted with chicken shit.”

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

tachisme (back to top)

“If the elite revel in Finnegans Wake, or in atonal music, or in tachisme, it is also because such works represent closed worlds, hermetic universes that cannot be entered except by overcoming immense difficulties, like the initiatory ordeals of the archaic and traditional societies.”

Mircea Eliade. Myth and Reality. (1963) Translated from the French by Willard R. Trask. New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1975. p. 188.

taikonaut (back to top)

A Chinese astronaut. From “taikong,” space (Chinese) and “naut,” sailor (Greek).

“The taikonaut [Yang Liwei] replied, ‘Thanks to you, and thanks to the people, for putting confidence in me.'”
Christopher Bodeen, AP, “China’s First Space Traveler Returns to Earth, 15 Oct. 2003

talatat (back to top)

Excavated ruined sandstone blocks at Karnak, originally from Arabic but the original word is unknown.

“From the eighties of the last century talatat were brought to light in a spasmodic flow as official campaigns were mounted to clean up the ruins at Thebes and strengthen their foundations.”

Cyril Aldred. Akhenaten: King of Egypt. New York: Thames and Hudson Inc., 1988. p. 72.

tarradiddle (back to top)

“‘True,’ Swithin admitted, suddenly remembering all the tarradiddles he had told her the night before so that she should not worry about him.”

Dennis Wheatley. The Eunuch of Stamboul (1935) New York: Paperback Library, Inc., 1967. p 30.

tatterdemalion (back to top)

Person in tattered clothing.

“A Truly Clever Person who conducted a savings bank and lent money to his sisters and his cousins and his aunts was approached by a Tatterdemalion who applied for a loan of one hundred thousand dollars.”

Ambrose Bierce. “The Eligible Son-In-Law.” Printed in The Monk and the Hangman’s Daughter, and Fantastic Fables. New York: Albert & Charles Boni, 1926. pp. 280-281.

“…the tatterdemalion beggar, set upon by dogs…”

Joseph Campbell. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. (1949) Novato, Calif.: New World Library, 2008 (third edition). p. 205.

“…the natural law: the neglected, tatterdemalion lode from which, if we set out to do it, we can mine a public philosophy which will bring the West out alive.”

William F. Buckley, Jr. Quotations from Chairman Bill: The Best of Wm. F. Buckley, Jr. Compiled by David Franke. Pocket Book, 1971. p 198. from NR, Jan 28, 1961, p 57.

tekelteh (back to top)

“A tekelteh, by the blessing of the Prophet, is a wonderful thing…At night your slave took from his tekelteh your Majesty’s blessed firman, which, if placed on a rock would melt it into dust, and also his Highness the Vizir’s letter to the bankrupt moonshee.”

A character in James Morier’s Zohrab, the Hostage. London: Richard Bentley, New Burlington Street, 1832. p. 97.

telluric (back to top)

Pertaining to the Earth.

“Besides not being evangelical, individualistic morality has been superseded by political events and telluric happenings.”

Juan Luis Segundo, S.J. Evolution and Guilt. (1972) Volume Five: A Theology for Artisans of a New Humanity. Trans. John Drury. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1974. p. 111.

tenterhooks (back to top)

Nails that hold cloth as it is stretched on a frame.

“The list of culprits [in France’s Panama Scandal] was published in small installments so that hundreds of politicians had to live on tenterhooks morning after morning.”

Hannah Arendt. The Burden of Our Time. London: Secker and Warburg, 1951. Published in the US as The Origins of Totalitarianism. p 96.

tergiversation (back to top)

”At last, in fear of his life, he had taken sanctuary in the Church of the Apostle Peter at Constantinople; and only after much temporizing and tergiversation consented—not being of the stuff of martyrs—to approve the findings of the Council.”

Robert Graves. Count Belisarius. 1938.

termagant (back to top)

A violent woman. From a deity ascribed to Islam in European morality plays in the Middle Ages.

“Nevertheless the rehabilitation of 1456, corrupt job as it was, really did produce evidence enough to satisfy all reasonable critics that Joan was not a common termagant, not a harlot, not a witch, not a blasphemer…”

George Bernard Shaw, in his 1924 Preface to Saint Joan. New York: Penguin Books, Inc., 1946. p. 4.

tertium quid (back to top)

Latin for “third thing.”

“The Man should have looked after his Wife, who should have avoided the Tertium Quid, who, again, should have married a wife of his own, after clean and open flirtations, to which nobody can possibly object, round Jakko or Observatory Hall.”
“At the Pit’s Mouth” by Rudyard Kipling. The Best Short Stories of Rudyard Kipling. ed. Randall Jarrell. Garden City, New York: Hanover House, 1961. p 5.

Teufelskreis (back to top)

“‘Samsara’ is a Pali/Sanskrit term that describes life’s tendency to repeat itself. In Tibetan, it is translated as ’khor ba, which means ‘circling.’ This circling is an endless round of compulsive flight and fixation. In German, ‘vicious circle’ is Teufelskreis, a ‘devil’s circle.”

Stephen Batchelor. Living with the Devil: A Meditation on Good and Evil. New York: Riverhead, 2004. p. 59.

thakat (back to top)

“Perowne sits on the other sofa, facing Grammaticus across the scarred, polished thakat table, and pushes the nuts towards him.”

Ian McEwan. Saturday. (2005) New York: Anchor, 2006. p. 207.

thaumaturge (back to top)

A wizard.

“…his comrades tell me that he is a rabbi, in fact a Melamed, a person learned in the Torah, and even more, in his own villages in Galicia, was famed as a healer and a thaumaturge.”

Primo Levi. Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity. Translated from the Italian Se questo e un uomo (1958) by Stuart Woolf. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996. p. 68.

theophorous (back to top)

Having to do with God.

“Their names [Talmudic angels] were usually concocted of a root indicating the function, and a theophorous suffix, usually ‘el.'”

Joshua Trachtenberg. Jewish Magic and Superstition: A Study in Folk Religion. New York: Atheneum, 1970. p 98.

theotropic (back to top)

In search of God.

“Take a look at the sunflower, a heliotropic plant, a plan that throughout the day rotates its corolla following the sun’s path. Man is ‘theotropic,’ looking for God even without knowing and even when denying that he is looking for me.”

Joaquin Antonio Penalosa. God’s Diary. trans. Alvaro de Silva. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Erdmans Publishing Company, 2002. p 73.

“Thralls were disenfranchised persons of uncertain origin, the bastard sons of battle captives, fugitives, or vagabonds—rank outsiders in a ruthlessly structured feudal society. Snatched by priests from birthing beds, such male infants were, so it was said, rescued by the Church from the vale of sin, to be protected and raised in rectories and monasteries—but at the price of growing up as Church slaves. A major ecclesial institution like the Cathedral could count a dozen such servi, attached to the Cloister in perpetuity. Mostly, they were degraded laborers—rat catchers and gravediggers. Unlike even the lowliest serf, a man of the thrall could never expect to marry, work for himself, own a plot of land, or pursue a life outside his holder precinct. But some thralls, beginning as favored children, became personal servants to prelates…”
James Carroll. The Cloister. Nan A. Talese, March 6, 2018.

“The combination cg has the value of dg in words like ‘edge.’ The first element in the name of Beowulf’s father “Ecgtheow” is the same word as “edge,” and, by the figure of speech called synecdoche (a part of something stands for the whole), ecg stands for sword and Ecgtheow means ‘sword-servant.'”
Alfred David, “A Note on Names.” In: Seamus Heaney. Beowulf: A New Verse Translation. New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 2000. p. xxxi.

“A thrall (Old Norse: þræll, Icelandic: þræll, Faroese: trælur, Norwegian: trell, træl, Danish: træl, Swedish: träl) was a slave or serf in Scandinavian lands during the Viking Age. The corresponding term in Old English was þēow.”
Thrall.” Wikipedia. Accessed 15 September 2021.

threnody (back to top)
“…an impassioned threnody of gratitude for the revelation of her beauty, in which, through the fervor with which the words thrilled, the presence that had caused such bedazzlement became palpable in its nobility…”
Roger Lewinter. The Attraction of Things. (L’attrait des choses: Fragments de vie oblique, 1985) Translated from the French by Rachel Careau (2016). New York: New Directions, 2016. p. 37.

tikkunista (back to top)

“To: The next generation of tikkunistas

From: A middle-aged fellow tikkunista

Subject: Unsolicited advice

Date: January 2011”

“A memo on the Arc of the Universe,” by Brian McLaren, Tikkun Magazine, Winter 2011, p. 57.

Thymotic (back to top)

Driven by a passionate desire for justice or for human rights.

“[Francis] Fukuyama (following the German philosopher Hegel) contends that our deepest need boils down to a hunger for recognition as human beings of dignity and worth, a passionate spirit that the ancient Greeks called “thymos,” tied up with basic emotions of pride versus shame. * * * Fukuyama also sees thymos in a craving for justice, not only for oneself but for others. * * * Thymotic assertiveness has been the central problem of politics, as it creates desires for domination over others, and the violence of the Hobbesian state of nature.”
Frank Robinson. The Case for Rational Optimism. New Brunswick, N.J. and London: Transaction Publishers, 2009. p. 239.

“For the revolutionary was one of the few thymotic men of the twentieth century. Thymotic man is like Sorel’s worker: he who risks his life for the sake of an improbable principle, who is unconcerned with his own material interests and cares only for honor, glory, and the values for which he fights.”
Corey Robin. The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Donald Trump (Second ed.). New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. p. 79.

“The dual fate of Heracles after death, dwelling simultaneously on high with the gods and below in Hades, reflects the Greek notion that we have two different kinds of soul. Thymos is warm, emotional and red-blooded; while psyche is colder, deeper and more impersonal. From thymos’ point of view, the Otherworld is the cold, grey, unsubstantial Hades full of ‘pottering shades, querulous beside the salt-pits/And mawkish in their wits’. From psyche’s perspective, it is our robust, red-blooded world which is unreal, while Hades who was called Plouton (Pluto), the Rich One, holds all the treasures of the imagination. The shades are not dim ghosts to psyche, but mythic images that erupt out of the Underworld like the laughing Sidhe, their silver eyes flashing.”
Patrick Harpur. The Philosopher’s Secret Fire: A History of the Imagination (2002). Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2003. p. 33.

“The ancient Greeks spoke of thymos, which has many potential meanings, but is often translated as a need for recognition. Such recognition was usually secured by becoming a leader, whether in battle, oratory, or politics.”
Brian Klaas. Corruptible: Who Gets Power and How It Changes Us. Scribner, 2021.

tollenone (back to top)

“The fifty tollenones, overlooking the battlements, thus surrounded Carthage like monstrous vultures…”

Gustave Flaubert. Salammbo. Translated by A. J. Krailsheimer. England: Penguin Books, 1977. (Originally published 1862.) p. 217.

topoanalysis (back to top)

“Topoanalysis, then, would be the systematic psychological study of the sites of our intimate lives. In the theater of the past that is constituted by memory, the stage setting maintains the characters in their dominant roles. At times we think we know ourselves in time, when all we know is a sequence of fixations in the spaces of the being’s stability–a being who does not want to melt away.”

Gaston Bachelard. The Poetics of Space (1969). Quoted in Susan Bordo. Twilight Zones: The Hidden Life of Cultural Images from Plato to O.J. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1997. p. 214.

totefolio (back to top)

A monogrammed briefcase that Fleet Credit Card Services wanted me to buy for an extra $9.95 to be sent in with my credit card bill.

Same meaning as “portfolio” (“portare,” Latin, also “to carry”) but transcontinental in origin. From “tote,” Bantu; from Kongo “tota” (to pick up) and Swahili “tuta” (to pile up, carry) and “folio,” Latin; leaf (of paper).

towzled (back to top)

At last the burly god fell out by his sheer weight, and his followers restored him to consciousness by taking him by the heels and dipping his towzled and bleeding head into a huge jar of wine and water.

Georg Ebers. Serapis. New York: William S. Gottsberger, 1885. p. 278.

treacertains (back to top)

“What use is it to invest all our treacertains if a fox is going to devour them?”

Waltenegus Dargie. The Eunuch and the King’s Daughter. Philadelphia, Pa.: Neshee, 2005. p. 97.

”The assembly included the King himself, all his nobles, the higher commanders, the division commanders, the heads of the King’s shepherds, the heads of the King’s farmers, the heads of the King’s beekeepers, the heads of the King’s treacertainrs, and many elders who were important in decision-making in times of war.”

Waltenegus Dargie. The Eunuch and the King’s Daughter. Philadelphia, Pa.: Neshee, 2005. p. 145.

truckle (back to top)

To behave submissively.

“…a health-care law that, okay, might be the most ambitious social legislation in 45 years, but didn’t create a single-payer system and was heralded by a truckling executive order on abortion.”

“Obama is No Liberal.” James Bennet. Editor, The Atlantic. July/August 2010. p. 42.

trumpery (back to top)

“It [art] is engaged in for the sake of creating something, i.e., it has an end, and the creating of it is regarded as something that one must do — it is a real end, not, as in play, a trumpery one.”

“Creative Art, Work, and Play.” C. J. Ducasse. Reprinted in Creativity in the Arts. ed. Vincent Tomas. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964. p. 73.

turpiloquium (back to top)

Sordid speech.

“When speaking of the ‘turpiloquium’ of the ‘Nights’ in his ‘Terminal Essay,’ he specially mentions the fact that the stories are told to men alone, and it was interesting and gratifying to know how true his statements were and still are.”

N. M. Penzer. An Annotated Bibliography of Sir Richard Francis Burton (1923). New York: Burt Franklin, 1970. p. 321.

tyro (back to top)

A novice. (From Latin tiro.)

“Almost alone among our codifiers, his [Maimonides’] style is such as to make his book a delight to read and easy to be understood by a mere tyro in the Hebrew language.”

E. N. Adler, from the introduction to Aspects of the Hebrew Genius, edited by Leon Simon. London: George Routledge and Sons, and New York: Block Publishing Co, 1910. p. xvi.

U (back to top)









uitlander (back to top)

A foreigner. (Related to “out” and “land”.)

“They [The Boers] hated all these uitlanders, who did not care for citizenship [in South Africa] but who needed and obtained British protection, thereby seemingly strengthening British government influence on the Cape.”

Hannah Arendt. The Burden of Our Time. London: Secker and Warburg, 1951. Published in the US as The Origins of Totalitarianism. p 198.

ukase (back to top)

“The situation in Russia, in 1869, seemed to call for renewed application of this principle; it was an ‘internal affair.’ The expulsion of the Jews was justified on the basis of a tsarist edict, a ukase, dating back to 1825, that barred Jews from living within seven and one half miles (fifty versts) of any of Russia’s borders.”

Jonathan D. Sarna. When General Grant Expelled the Jews. New York: Schocken, 2012. pp. 98-99.

undercroft (back to top)

“But if it [the manuscript] turns out not to be among those that are still uncatalogued, you will have lost very little since if it is in the undercroft, you won’t find it in the next day or two except by the merest accident.”

Charles Palliser. The Unburied. (a novel) New York: Farrar, Strous and Giroux, 1999. p 175.

unkickability (back to top)

“The pigskin’s omnipresent unkickability is the Sisyphean symbol for the whole of Charlie’s life and the pivotal metaphor behind why he matters so much to so many people. … He can’t resist kicking footballs.”

Chuck Klosterman. X: A Highly Specific, Defiantly Incomplete History of the Early 21st Century. New York: Blue Rider Press, 2017. p. 63.

unshriven (back to top)

“…my father also has died unshriven, and his soul is not with God, but burns in unceasing fire.”

Ambrose Bierce and G. A. Danziger. “The Monk and the Hangman’s Daughter.” (1906) Printed in The Monk and the Hangman’s Daughter, and Fantastic Fables. New York: Albert & Charles Boni, 1926. pp. 117.

unsquopped (back to top)

Uncovered (for game pieces in the game of tiddlywinks).

“Players also receive points if their winks are left uncovered (or “unsquopped”) by an opponent’s winks at the end of a match.”

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

upstander (back to top)

“In the online world, we can foster minority influence by becoming ‘upstanders’. To become an upstander means, instead of bystander apathy, we can post a positive comment for someone or report a bullying situation.”

“The price of shame,” a Ted Talk by Monica Lewinsky, March 2015.

uranography (back to top)

“In the time of Pompey, the senator Nigidius Figulus, who was an ardent occultist, expounded the barbarian uranography in Latin.”

Franz Cumont. The Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism. Authorized translation. Chicago: Open Court Publishing Company, 1911. p 164.

V (back to top)









Vitamin W


vaivode (back to top)

“The vaivode gave Boumeh a condescending smile.”

Amin Maalouf, Balthasar’s Odyssey (2000) Translated from the French by Barbara Bray. New York: Arcade, 2002. p. 115.

vambraces (back to top)

“‘Patros Athanasios,’ the serving woman said, gesturing to a young dark-haired man in full military uniform – chain-mail shirt, steel greaves, hard leather vambraces, and woolen cloak.”

E. E. Ottoman, Like Fire Through Bone. Tallahassee, Fla.: Dreamspinner Press, 2013.

vardonic (back to top)

A play on the word “sardonic,” as applied to golfer Harry Vardon.

“His concentration was so complete, he seldom spoke during a round and played with an enigmatic, perpetual half-smile on his face so central to his on-course behavior that one writer labeled it ‘vardonic.'”

Mark Frost. The Greatest Game Ever Played: Harry Vardon, Francis Ouimet, and the Birth of Modern Golf. New York: Hyperion, 2002. p. 28.

velleities (back to top)

“He was barely able to withdraw himself from memories, feelings, loose velleities that had escaped him during the week and now in these moments of silence and inner freedom were flowing back on him with urgency.”

Michael Novak, The Tiber Was Silver, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Co, 1961. p. 185.

vertiginous (back to top)

Spinning, or having or causing vertigo (a sense of spinning).

“There is a vertiginous feeling in knowing that the labyrinth repeats itself–with variations–endlessly.”

William Poundstone.  Labyrinths of Reason:  Paradox, Puzzles and the Frailty of Knowledge.  New York:  Anchor Books, 1988. p. 170.

”Lotto kissed the plum presses under her eyes, the freckles on her pale skin. He felt a vertiginous awe.”

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

veve (back to top)

“A veve is a design that represents the figure and power of an astral force.”

Dean Koontz. Frankenstein: City of Night (#2 of 5 in the Frankenstein series) New York: Bantam, 2005. p. 419.

vexatious (back to top)

Bothersome, concerning.

“Data are vexatious; theory is quite straightforward.”

“The clouds of unknowing.”  The Economist.  March 20, 2010.  p. 83.

villatic (back to top)

“tame villatic fowl”

John Milton. “Samson Agonistes,” line 1695. Paradise Lost and Other Poems. New York: Penguin, 1981. p. 397.

Vitamin W (back to top)

“He tries to get into Arafat’s army, but again, he doesn’t have the right connections. He doesn’t have “vitamin W.” (Vitamin W is an expression for wasta in Arabic, which refers to political, social, and personal connections.)”

Jessica Stern. Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill. New York: Ecco, 2004. p. 50.

voxel (back to top)

“Neuroscientists divvy up their fMRI scans into tens of thousands of small pieces, called voxels, each corresponding to a small region of the brain. When you scan a brain, even a cold dead fish brain, there’s certain amount of random noise coming through on each voxel.”

Jordan Ellenberg. How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking. New York: Penguin, 2014. p. 103.