January 27, 2007


lim·ber·ly adv. in a limber manner [limber + -ly]

Bloggin John Comments:
Limberly does not come across as being exotic or arcane; it seems like an everyday word. But if your experience echos mine, we rarely hear limberly in our daily lives--much less in our every day lives. I agree with J. N. Hook that for "some reason limberly appears much less often than its companion, the adjective limber, yet it should be equally useful: 'Although he's in his fifties, he plays hardball vigorously and limberly'." [2]

Webster's Third Unabridged Dictionary is one of the rare lexicons to record that the adverb limberly exists and is worthy of definition. I will grant you that most readers of W3 do not really need a definition for limberly, for we intuit that such an adverb probably exists and probably means "in a limber manner." It's just inexplicably odd that such a comely, useful word is so infrequently invited into our Big Party of Words.

Sample sentence:
"I was impressed at how limberly and politely David Gregory responded to Tony Snow's accusation that Gregory had broken White House Press Room protocol by asking a question with an apparent partisan twist." --B'n' J'

What limberly needs:
Publicity! Maybe if there were a hit television sit-com about a circus acrobat named "Limberly Betty". . . .

[1] Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002. (28 Jan. 2007) .

[2] Hook, J. N. The Grand Pandrum. New York: McMillan, 1991, 250.


January 26, 2007


sniglet n. A made-up word for something without a name or concise description, based upon a pun or a clever combination of existing words. --Wickipedia.com

Musquirt is an example of a sniglet: it's that runny stuff that comes out of the mustard bottle before the mustard does.

The word is constructed by joining the clipped form of sniggle, meaning "a snicker," with the suffix -let (as in droplet or caplet).

[Sniglets] . . . are a popular subject of satire. Homer Simpson, a character on the animated series The Simpsons, suggests "Son of Sniglet" as a good book to name as a favorite and a life influence on a college application in the episode Homer Goes to College (he also suggests TV Guide and Katharine Hepburn's autobiography Me). Faux newspaper The Onion ran a fake story headlined "Man Won't Stop Coming Up With New Sniglets."---Wikipedia (jan. 26, 2007)

Sniglet is derived from an HBO show from the early 80s titled Not Necessarily the News. Sniglets was a segment on the show by Comedian Rich Hall.--John Ryan Byrd Dunbar, West Virginia Jun 17, 2005 in the Urban Dictionary.com.

Here are AlphaDictionary's Top 10 Sniglets of the 2006:
Crackberry—For those addicted to their Blackberry this word works nicely.
drainchild—Not all brainchildren work well so we need a word for a bright idea that drains resources without benefit.
boomerangst—The anxiety of the baby boomers about their future as well as that of the government in providing for them are both wrapped up in this word which also leaves the impression that it is a problem that has returned to bite us.
politicide— This word was added to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) this year so is it still a sniglet? We learned this year that bribe-taking and philandery have become forms of politicide.
politricks—This word, also added to the OED this year, is a good replacement for "political dirty tricks" of the Nixon years.
wingnut—We have left-wing nuts and right-wing nuts but what about extremists of both sides? Well, this word would work if we didn't already have extremist.
IMglish—We like this sniglet for the abbretiated language of instant messaging. IMing has already entered the language alongside IDing as an acronymic verb.
keypal—So what do you call a pen pal if you never use a pen to write him (or her)? Well, if you use a keyboard, this one will work.
moonbat—We really don't need another word for someone with bats in their belfry who bay at the moon but this one still has a nice ring about it.
truthiness—This is actually a legitimate word to the extent truthy, like filmy, syrupy, would mean "like the truth", it could mean "similarity to the truth". We don't need it for Colbert's meaning, "gut feeling", however, since George Orwell's bellyfeel from Nineteen Eighty-Four covers any semantic space gut feeling doesn't. We only include it because of its media popularity.

A competing term for sniglet is "liff," which is described in The Deeper Meaning of Liff: A Dictionary of Things There Aren't Any Words for Yet--But There Ought to Be by Douglas Adams, John Lloyd, first published in Britain in 1983, then in the USA in 1984.

After the early 1980s,"liff" has tended to stumble in popularity, while "sniglet" continues to skip along, whimsically cracking its jokes, with the help of the extensive exposure it has enjoyed on television.


January 25, 2007


The otiose bustle.


1 : being at leisure or ease : idle, unemployed

2 : without profit : sterile,

<otiose undertaking>

3 : lacking use or effect : functionless

<otiose letters in an alphabet>

<otiose lines in a play>

4. of a deity : remote and aloof : not concerned with the details of the world
—Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002. http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com

Definitions of
with example sentences

otiose 1.a. Of belief, principle, thought, etc.: having no practical result; unfruitful, sterile; futile, pointless.
Such stories..as require, on the part of the hearer, nothing more than an otiose assent.1794 W. PALEY Evidences (1827) I. II. i. 354.
As Lynne never read it, it was otiose to wonder whether she would have seen anything of herself in the character of Sheila Spindrift, erring wife.—1991 Wilson Q. Spring 122/1.
The ‘why’ of moral duty is not an otiose but a fruitful principle.1875 W. JACKSON Doctr. Retribution 49.

otiose b. Having no practical function; redundant; superfluous.

I doubt the opinion sometimes held, that there abound in Homer idle or ‘otiose’ epithets.—Primer of Homer xiii. 146.

Divorced from its dramatic context, much of the music here seems simply otiose and self-indulgent.—1993 Classic CD June 57/1.

otiose 2. At leisure; at rest; idle; inactive; indolent, lazy.

A malcontent by necessity, because otiose and resourceless.—1850 Tait's Mag. 17 732/2.

Our policy in Turkey has now dwindled into an otiose support of the Government.1865 Sat. Rev. 7 Jan. 24

OTIOSE describes that which is purposeless, profitless, or useless and is therefore at best superfluous and at worst encumbering and productive of unnecessary expense or difficulty.

VAIN describes that which is either absolutely lacking in value and worth or relatively insignificant and unavailing in comparison or contrast to other things vastly more significant, valuable, or powerful.



There are three ways to pronounce the word correctly: o.she.oze, od.ee.oze, ot.ee.oze. It would seem from its spelling otiose that that most American speakers might sound out "t" right after the initial "o." But not so. I don't have any numbers on the frequencies of the three pronunciations, but from my experience over the years in academic environments, the preferred pronunciation seems to be o.she.oze.

Otiose is part of the active speaking vocabulary of my mentor and former colleague, "J.S.": a stellar wit,
who, it might be mentioned in passing, studied at Harvard and Amherst, the latter of which—since we are talking about standard pronunciation— is enunciated by its graduates sans "h." It's "AM.erst." And to his credit, J.S. did not pick up the affectation of pronouncing Harvard "HA'-vuhd."
Try saying, at least in your imagination, the word otiose a few times with the she sound in the middle: o.she.oze, o.she.oze, o.she.oze.
Webster's Third notes that otiose and vain are synonyms, drawing the following differences:

• OTIOSE describes that which is purposeless, profitless, or useless and is therefore at best superfluous and at worst encumbering and productive of unnecessary expense or difficulty.

VAIN describes that which is either absolutely lacking in value and worth or relatively insignificant and unavailing in comparison or contrast to other things vastly more significant, valuable, or powerful.

Otiosity, noun
Front fender otiosities:
uick's functionless


If you've got some prime time to waste, check out <Otiose.org>, a website that advertises and delivers, in its own arch way, a truely "futile, idle, functionless," experience. Were I given to the otiose habit of punning, I might say the blog's writer has managed to create a unique on-line location-cum-void experience, one which we might call the "cypher-space" phenomenon (were we given to punning).


January 24, 2007


lethologica: the temporary inability to recall a word or name
--The Century Dictionary

Bloggin' John Comments:
Lethologica derives from two Greek roots:
The river of oblivion, one of the streams of Hades, the waters of which possessed the quality of causing those who drank of them to forget their former existence;
• In Greek mythology. the personification of oblivion, a daughter of Eris,
logos: that which is said or spoken, a word, saying, speech, also the power of the mind manifested in speech, reason, account, reference, analogy, proportion, ratio, condition, etc.
--The Century Dictionary

In short, lethologica: death of a word in memory.

From Paradise Lost:
Far off from these a slow and silent stream,
Lethe, the river of oblivion, rolls
Her watery labyrinth. Milton, P. L., ii. 583.


January 23, 2007

wet signature

wet signature n. An original signature written on a piece of paper, as opposed to a fax copy or to an agreement offered verbally or electronically.

"Insurers are working with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to
modernize and standardize troublesome state regulations. Many states, for example, have rules that require a 'wet' signature on a policy or physical delivery of the policy, thus preventing policy issuance via by the Internet."—Gene Linn, "Industry lags in Internet sales," The Journal of Commerce, July 8, 1999

Wet Signature -- technology doesn't just create new language to describe itself, it forces our vocabulary to recast what was. In that way, the existence of digital signatures--now legally binding--forces us to relook at the traditional inkstanined variety, and rename them wet signatures. "Give me a big wet one" may take on a whole new meaning.--Dictionary of the future:
The words, terms and trends that define the way we'll live, work and talk
, Faith Popcorn and Adam Hanft.

Bloggin' John Comments:
Wet signature is a neologism, a newly coined word or expression.

It is also a retronym, "a term consisting of a noun and a modifier which specifies the
original meaning of the noun." Example Sentence: When Bob asked Donna what a
retronym was, she looked around the room for an example and said "rotary phone."
--Merriam Webster Online

Wet signature is also an example--a very clever example--of the figure of speech called metonymy: the substitution of a word for a related word, such as cause for effect,
container for contained: "The pen is mightier than the sword."
--Figures of Speech: 60 Ways to Turn a Phrase, Arthur Quinn

Who ever invented wet signature, had the choice of using the name of the tool applied in writing a signature--the pen. Possible creations could have been "pen signature "or
"ink pen signature" or "pen and paper signature" (on the assumption that an electronic signature is made with a (dry) stylus).

Or the inventor could have used the fluid that leaves its mark in the signature: ink, as in, well, "ink signature."

Instead, the inventor chose to invent a metonymy by offering to the reader's imagination an image of a basic, physical quality of ink to look at--its
wetness. It's up to the reader to draw the ineluctable inference that the wetness involved is the wetness of ink--ink involved in the penning of a signature. This requisite inference brings the reader into close-in interpretive involvement with the word simply because with wet the reader has to do more work to do than with pen or ink if the verbal transaction is going to take place.

Beside interpretive involvement, there is the imaginative involvement that comes with the introduction of
the reflective trail of wet ink. From that close-in detail, the reader zooms out to an construct a larger image to include the other components of the picture--the guiding hand, the moving pen, the shapes of the letters, and the paper below it all. That's a lot of cognitive and imaginative action springing out a wee pip of a word: wet.

The following is for lagianappe (which see):
More examples of metonymy:
crown for royalty, mitre for bishop, wealth for rich people, brass for military officers,
forwine, pen for writers.--Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, Third Edition, Edward P. J. Corbett.


January 22, 2007


relume, v.t. To rekindle; light again. (re LOOM') [( OF. relumer, ( L. reluminare light up again).
relumine v. t. To light anew; rekindle. relumined, reluming.

Poet or patriot, rose but to restore
The faith and moral Nature gave before;
Relumed her ancient light, not kindled new.
Pope, Essay on Man, iii. 287.
--The Century Dictionary

Bloggin' John Comments
We talk about how after a break up, the love between two people can be rekindled, using a word derived from kindling, which is nothing more than "easily combustible small sticks or twigs used for starting a fire." We could talk, but thankfully we don't, about a "relit" relationship, which smacks too much of speed and spark and snap, as from a Zippo lighter.

Why not use a word that is cousin to "luminescence," a word rooted in "lumen"--light--and "escence"--a perduring existential state? Romantically defined, luminesent love glows softly from within, rising out of a person's essence. The light of lumescent love comes naturally, without need of an external heat source, without need of a jump start, without need of any kindling.
--Oxford American Dictionary, Electronic Version 1.0.1.(1.0.1)

Bloggin' John's Example:
Our long, past, sadly dimmed love has been, with this kiss, resplendently relumed.


January 21, 2007


• struthious Adj. Of, or relating to, or resembling an ostrich or a related bird.

ostrich n. One who tries to avoid disagreeable situations by refusing to face them
--The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Ed.

• ostrich
adj. Of or pertaining to an ostrich or ostriches; especially ostrichlike; based on self de-lusion; as an ostrich attitude.

• ostrichlike adj. Like an ostrich; esp. given to, or charaterized by, self-delusion into a sense of security by shutting the eyes.
--Webster's New International Dictionary Unabridged Second Edition

Bloggin' John Comments:

Just as canine is the adjectival form of the noun dog, and feline is for cat, so is struthious for ostrich.

And just as eagles can be used metaphorically to describe sharp human vision (she's an eagle-eyed supervisor), and snakes evil intent (with a viper in his bosom), so too can ostriches describe self-delusion (struthious generals toppled by visionary rebels).

At the Web-based Tilted Forum Project, forum participant JadziaDax posted struthious as the group's Word of the Day on August 5, 2003. In the post (below), Dax offered "A little more information about today's word," then concluded with sentences that illustrate struthious in action, one sentence from Hon. Bruce M. Selya, and five others from forum members.

Here is JadziaDax's posting on struthious:

08-05-2003, 03:52 AM
The Word of the Day for August 5 is:
struthious \STROO-thee-uss ("th" as in "thin" or as in "then")\ • (adjective) of or relating to the ostriches and related birds

A little more information about today’s word:
Paleontologists have found ostrich fossils that are 5 million years old, but "struthious" has only been strutting its stuff in English since the 18th century. "Ostrich" is much older. Anglo-French speakers created "ostriz" from Vulgar Latin "avis struthio" ("ostrich bird"); Middle English speakers made it "ostrich" in the 13th century. Scientists seeking a genus word for ostriches turned back to Latin, choosing "struthio." The related adjective "struthious" can be scientific and literal, or it can be figurative with the meaning "ostrich-like," as in our example sentence. The extended use suggests a tendency to bury one’s head in the sand like an ostrich. But do ostriches really do this? No—the bird’s habit of lying down and flattening its neck and head against the ground to escape detection gave rise to the misconception.

My [JadziaDax's] sentence:

"The law is not so struthious as to compel a judge . . . to divorce himself or herself from common sense or to ignore what is perfectly obvious."
-- Hon. Bruce M. Selya, U.S. v. Sklar, U.S. Court of Appeals, 1st Circuit

Based on Merriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary, 10th Edition.

Next sentence?

08-05-2003, 07:28 AM
Many people are struthious with their financial problems.

08-05-2003, 08:03 AM
The legislators were struthious when it came to considering the long term effect of the laws they were passing.

08-05-2003, 08:18 AM
Struthious is the most fun I’ve had with my clothes on!

08-05-2003, 10:40 AM
After tripping, the man stood in a struthious pose for a few moments, too embarrassed to move.

08-05-2003, 03:30 PM
When my ex-girlfriend passed by I acted as struthious as I could, hoping she wouldn't see me.
--Tilted Forum Project<www.tfproject.org/tfp/archive/index.php/t-20010.html>


Bloggin' John's Sentence:
struthious NeoCons in the Bush White House could not or would not see what their policies were doing to the people of Iraq.