February 3, 2007


ambit n.
1. Compass or circuit; circumference; boundary:
• The ambit of a fortification of a country.
• Prodigious Hailstones whose
ambit reaches five, six, seven Inches.--Goad, Celestial Bodies, i. 3.b
• Within the
ambit of the ancient kingdom of Burgundy--Sir F. Palgrave, Norm. and Eng, I. 240.

2. Extent; sphere; scope.
•The ambit of words which a language possesses--Saturday Rev., Nov. 19, 1859.
--The Century Dictionary http://www.global-language.com/CENTURY/


"I'm happiest within the ambit of energy that my wonderful daughters, Dorigen and Emily, ineluctably create when they get together."--B'n J'n


February 2, 2007


feral adj.
1 a : suggestive of a beast of prey feral teeth; specifically : characterized by inhuman ferocity

• “the feral hostility of his fellow officers as they denounced and judged him -- Albert Hubbell”
b : being, characteristic of, or suggesting an animal in the state of nature
• “the human and
feral inhabitants of the forest” “as feral in her wariness as the fierce ... dogs that stalked the countryside -- Ann F. Wolfe”
c : lacking a human personality due to being reared in isolation from all or nearly all human contacts : not socialized
• “
children who had been adopted by wolves”

2 a : existing in a state of nature : not domesticated or cultivated feral and semidomestic animals”
b : having escaped from domestication and become wild “several species introduced by settlers soon became feral

Etymology: Medieval Latin feralis, from Latin fera wild animal (from feminine of ferus wild) + -alis -al--Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002 http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com (2 Feb. 2007).

In use:

The Writing Life, Ch. 3 (1989)
Annie Dillard (b. 1945), U.S. author.

A work in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild state overnight. It is barely domesticated, a mustang on which you one day fastened a halter, but which now you cannot catch. It is a lion you cage in your study. As the work grows, it gets harder to control; it is a lion growing in strength. You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room.


February 1, 2007


ensorcell vt. (en SOR' sul)
• Bewitch, enchant
--"she would not do him any hurt or ensorcell him" Sir Richard Burton;
• Broadly : to make rapt with delight or interest : fascinate --"the quiet beauty of the hill country will relax and ensorcell
en·sor·cell·ment \-rslmnt\ noun -s
--Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002. http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com (1 Feb. 2007).

ensorcel, v.t.
To bewitch; use sorcery upon.
[OF. ensorceler, bewitch, ca-q' soreeler, bewitch.]
--The Century Dictionary http://www.global-language.com/CENTURY/

In use:
"The Argyle General"
Maureen Dowd
New York Times
January 11, 2004

After General [Wesley] Clark's ill-fitting suits in his first few debates -- his collars seemed to be standing away from his body in a different part of the room -- a sudden infusion of dandified sweaters and duck boots just intensifies the impression that he's having a hard time adjusting to civilian life.

It's also a little alarming that he thinks the way to ensorcell women is to swaddle himself in woolly geometric shapes that conjure up images of Bing Crosby on the links or Fred MacMurray at the kitchen table.

A Comment:
Ensorcel: a charming
, magic verb for verbal magic charming. --B'n' J'n.


January 31, 2007


automagically adv.
1 : mysteriously and without human intervention

The problem resolved itself automagically.

2 : occurring or self-acting in an involuntary or spontaneous manner by seemingly supernatural or magical means
This computer has automagically rebooted.
The problem has automagically fixed itself.
Does he want me to just automagically figure this out?----Merriam-Webster's Open Dictionary

About Merriam-Webster's Open Dictionary:
M-W's Open Dictionary
is a feature on Merriam-Webster Online that allows word wits to submit found or invented neologisms, or, as the website puts it, "coinages and recent new-word discoveries."

According to its editor, "Open Dictionary now has received more than 7,000 submissions for all kinds of words, from slang to technical, playful to serious, and from fanciful coinages to words that may indeed find their way into regular dictionaries."--Merriam-Webster's Open Dictionary (31 Jan, 2007)

If you are a logophile with arch appreciations for trick-witted jokes and smack-smart japes, visit the Open Dictionary and you'll be automagically delighted.--B'n' J'n.


January 30, 2007


disambiguate: to remove the ambiguity from; make unambiguous
dis-am-big-yoo-eyt] –verb (used with object), -at·ed, -at·ing.

In order to disambiguate the sentence
“She lectured on the famous passenger ship,”
you'll have to write either
“lectured on board” or “lectured about.”

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 20

[Origin: 1960–65; DIS + AMBIGU(OUS) + ATE]
Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006. American Heritage Dictionary
dis·am·big·u·ate (dĭs'ām-bĭg'yōō-āt') tr.v. dis·am·big·u·at·ed, dis·am·big·u·at·ing, dis·am·big·u·ates
To establish a single grammatical or semantic interpretation for.

dis'am·big'u·a'tion n.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Bloggin' John Comments:
CNN has its "Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer, who who endeavors to maintain a neutral stance in his political reportage. Over at MSNBC we have Kieth Olberman, who unabashedly interprets public words and events, notably in his "Special Comments." Perhaps Olberman should speak from a place called the "Disambiguation Room."


January 29, 2007


desideratum: (dih sid uh RAY tum) n. A desideratum is something desired or needed, the lack of which is a matter of wide concern.
From the Latin verb desiderare (to desire).

Peace on earth is a desideratum; a cancer cure is a desideratum; racial harmony is a desideratum.

The related verb, to desiderate (something) is to feel (it) to be lacking, to regret (its) absence. [H. W.] Fowler gives us a warning about this word. He describes it as " . . .a useful word in its place, but . . . so often misplaced that we might be better without it. Readers . . . do not know the meaning of it, taking it for [a] pedantic or facetious form of desire . . . Writers . . . are ill-advised in using the word unless they are writing for readers as learned as themselves. . . ." What one desiderates is a desideratum. --Schur, Norman. 2000 Most Challenging and Obscure Words. New York: Galahad Books, 1994.

About H. W. Fowler
Henry Watson Fowler (1858-1933) is a legendary figure and his Dictionary of Modern English Usage (MEU), first published in 1926, is one of the most celebrated reference books of the twentieth century.
--Birchfield, R. W. "Preface to the Third Edition," The New Fowler's Modern English Usage, Third Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.


January 28, 2007

tertium quid

tertium quid n. Literally, "a third something"; a tertium quid is distinct from two other things but hard to name or classify:

"neither fish nor fowl but a tertium quid"
"In an either . . . or assertion, a defensible tertium quid can always be found."
Hook, J. N. The Grand Panjandrum. New York: MacMillan, 1980.

Pronunciation: ter'-shim-quid

Sample Sentences
"With a foot set firmly neither in the world of the whites nor that of the blacks and unable to claim full-fledged membership in Old World England or in New World Jamaica, [Francis] Williams was truly a tertium quid, a third thing.--Williams, Scott W., New York: The Mathematics Department of the State of New York at Buffalo, Mathematicians of the African Diaspora, "Francis Williams: Jamacian Freedman 1707-1770" (28 Jan. 2007).

Question on job application: "How do you describe yourself, as comedian, commentator, or tertium quid? Explain in under 200 words. --B'n' J.