Category Archives: Words

Vocabulary, word play, and the grains of bigger ideas.

Dictionary Gloss: the E’s

ebullient exuberant, bubbling over with high spirits

Beware the fool, whose loud ebullient laugh
jumps back and forth, like a cracked phonograph.
It’s not a truly happy sign at all;
more like the echo of a cattle call.

éclat conspicuous success, general applause or acclaim, elaborate display

Most public piety, with grand éclat,
convinces fools, while real saints turn away.

ectoplasm a substance supposed to be exuded from a spiritual medium during a trance

we paid our fifty dollars for a reading,
but got no ectoplasm, despite pleading.

emolument a fee received, a salary

What great emolument my service earned
in living costs and taxes was soon burned.

encomium high praise given in speech or writing

Leave off encomium, my cheering thralls;
hard cash seems much more useful, after all.

endogenous growing or originating from within

true moral strength, they say,
must be endogenous;
receiving it through discipline,
it dodges us.

ennui boredom

If you would fight ennui, don’t overtire,
else you just bore yourself ’til you expire.

equivocal able to be interpreted in two ways, ambiguous

Yes, truth and guilt can often seem
equivocal – part fact, part scheme –
designed to trick us from both sides
and leave chaos where they collide.

ersatz serving as a substitute, especially of an inferior kind

Wise men and fools alike believe
themselves led by the truth in things.
One sees a world that cannot be,
while one accepts an ersatz king.

euphemism a mild or roundabout expression substituted for one considered improper or too harsh or blunt

Don’t shuffle on or pass away,
give up the ghost or fade to gray.
Let euphemisms such as these
just die, expire and soon decease.

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Dictionary Gloss: the D’s

declivity a downward slope

And so it seems, with very little fuss,
the future’s come: declivity and rust.

defalcation misappropriation of funds, a breach of trust concerning money

If you would find the truth in situations,
follow the money: seek for defalcation.

deleterious harmful to mind or body

His politics weren’t radical or serious,
but how he wielded them was deleterious.

demimonde the world of women of doubtful reputation and social standing

Where are these righteous men in secret found?
Out sneaking to some maligned demimonde.

demotic of ordinary people

It’s more difficult to be despotic
when your clay’s matériel demotic.

digress to depart from the main subject temporarily in speaking or writing

If you would pontificate progress,
stay on point; you’ll lose them with digress.

dissociate to separate in one’s thoughts

It is an easy thing to find support
among the throng who live for hunt as sport:
they disassociate themselves from what they seek,
imagining themselves the strong, not weak.

doctrinaire applying theories or principles without regard for practical considerations

So many think themselves bold doctrinaires,
defending with their dying breath ideals
whose goals are some great future bright and fair,
but need a path wrought out of blood and steel.

donnybrook a wild fight, a free for all

A duck, then a dodge, then a mighty left hook!
Broken chair, busted lip, a damn fine donnybrook.

dybbuk the evil spirit of a dead person that enters and controls a live person’s body

What darkness has the dybbuk found here seen
that fouls with discontent and hate the mind,
and would destroy that good the world has been
in some revenge for what it left behind?

10 FEB 2017

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To Be Ambrose Bierce for a Day

chaste, n.

The state of being pursued, but not yet within the grasp of the pursuer. For example, it could be said that one is chaste, or in fact chased, until they are caught or captured. Quite often the value placed upon chastity, which is of course the affliction associated with the quarry’s unnaturally extended ability to outrun its would-be captors, is determined by the perceived value of the quarry as a showpiece once it is mounted, or otherwise preserved as a trophy of some kind. Unfortunately, this measure of quality is too often determined only by the pursuer (i.e., beauty in the eye of the beholder) relative to the more or less flimsy, variable and/or whimsical tastes of its own society. As a result, being a worthy adversary with respect to said capture is prized when the object being hunted is pursued by someone else, and decried as unfair when pertaining to the object of one’s own inclinations. But then again, such are the characteristics of double standards, after all.

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Dictionary Gloss: the C’s

cabal a group of conspirators, a secret plot

Some think that Truth is hidden, and in all,
the private purview of their own cabal.
Well, look around the world, see what that’s wrought:
centuries of squabbles to define what Truth is not.

cacophony harsh, discordant sound : dissonance

If you would sing your own song in the world,
you mustn’t mind the world’s cacophony.
For it’s not fair that you alone are loud,
expecting others to sing silently.

callow immature and inexperienced

Some ponds appear quite deep and still,
while others are quite shallow.
Some fields are fit to yield great crops
while others must lie fallow.
What lies beneath the surface marks
the wise soul from the callow.

canard a false, unfounded, and misleading story

I would to war, except that I
hold truth in such regard;
and will not bow to jingo fears
based on a grand canard.
If weapons of destructive might
were found where they were claimed,
I might be of a different mind,
and of my land, not shamed.

casuistry subtle but misleading reasoning, esp. about moral principles

That one has leave to do a thing, implies the casuist,
it must be sanctioned by the heavens, else would not exist;
thus armed, their followers proceed with righteous presuppose,
and think their arm’s dominion swings where I dare put my nose.

catharsis purgation, especially of the bowels, emotional or psychological cleansing

The voting booth, ideally,
gives catharsis to a nation;
Without ideals, it cannot cure
politic constipation.

cenotaph a monument built in honor of a dead person whose remains are interred elsewhere

The polls reveal widespread support
for our brave nation’s path;
Let’s hope for freedom’s sake
Iraq is not its cenotaph.

claque a group of persons hired to applaud at a performance

Are they our representatives,
or just a Party claque?
Republican, or Democrat,
I’d like my country back.

clastic made up of fragments

Religion claims to stretch to fit
all times, through faith’s elastic,
neglecting to remind us that
the truth, at best, is clastic;
it cannot fit in just one mold,
nor neatly be confined.
It’s purpose is to make us seek
beyond set paradigms.

concrescence the growing together of related parts, as of the anatomy

As darkness fades away when faced
with growing luminescence,
so should our differences recede
as we accept concrescence:
the world becoming ever smaller
and our lives entwined
’til I agree your way as sacred
as I now claim mine.

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Toward More Colorful Newspeak

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’re aware that I am in the process of organizing my poetry using keyword tags. I’m only about a tenth of the way through all the poems in this journal, and already I’m a bit overwhelmed by the number and variety of tags that I’ve come up with. That’s what comes, I suppose, from letting a poet identify the themes in his own work. However, it started me thinking about the whole tagging process. The goal, I believe, is to create a set of tags by which similarities and common subjects in posts can be identified and grouped — so that if one is looking for entries related to George W. Bush, or blogging, entries with those tags will show up on a search list. However, one thing that I’ve noticed is that there is a great disparity in the way that people tag their entries. My own range of tags shows a level of nuance that probably will escape most people. But as an example, peace and calm are on some levels related, but in other respects, they represent completely different things. By that same token, to infer a level of Newspeak here, peace and war are not necessarily polar extremes. In other words, war is NOT unpeace. Likewise, alternatives are not necessarily choices. One might have an alternative lifestyle, propose alternatives for energy generation, or serve as an alternate juror. You wouldn’t necessarily say, however, that you make an alternative. You make a choice, by choosing an alternative. You see where I’m going with this?

My fear is that by limiting yourself to “popular” tags, or “common” tags, you are by definition limiting the range of your expression. Further, what is one’s perversion may be another’s entertainment or even alternative lifestyle. As my father used to say when working for the Detroit Department of Sanitation, “it may be shit to you, but it’s our bread and butter.”

So don’t let yourself be too duly influenced by the tags that other people assign to their entries. Sure, it would be nice to get a lot of hits based on a shared keyword, but if that keyword doesn’t really describe your zeitgeist, at the very least include additional tags that further define your vision.

Remember, illusion and disillusion may be related terms, but the experience of one is quite different from the other. The use of tags is more than an exercise in sharing common parameters. It should also be an opportunity for expanding the awareness and vocabulary of the community. Because, as George Orwell proposed in 1948, once a word disappears from your vocabulary, the concept it represents has a limited future in your culture. The goal should not be reduction to an “essential” set of tags, no matter how sage and seemingly well-intentioned the creator of that set may be. Because what is essential, to quote St. Exupery, is invisible to the eye. The power of any word, including social tags, lies in the connotations it brings to the table that stretch beyond its mere dictionary definition.

The tags that you use illustrate the breadth and depth of your experience. They represent the range of connotations, mythologies, experiences, tangents, references and frame of reference that makes up who you are. They are a convenience, for sure; but if they force you into a conformity that denies the essence of your variety, that convenience is not worth the price you’re paying.

To coin a phrase: Tag. You’re it.

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Dictionary gloss: the B’s

bacchanal a riotus or drunken festivity

When the self-righteous trip and fall
upon their own hypocrisy
lovers of truth, in bacchanal,
must not rejoice too mightily

backbite to speak spitefully or nastily about someone who is not present

If you would backbite at your foes
Beware those wearing a friend’s clothes
For the toothmarks you make in vain
May cause the biter loss and pain

badinage playful banter

In badinage, two friends may seem
to play at odds, to stranger’s eyes;
and often, that foreign esteem,
will read such things as tricks and lies.

bagatelle a trifle

The world is not a bagetelle
A worthless thing we buy and sell;
indeed, its whole is beyond price
and must not yield to avarice.

bathos a ludicrously abrupt shift from an elevated to a commonplace style; insincere or overly sentimental pathos

Hark! The lofty purpose seeks
conveyance in the grandest terms,
yet far too frequently, it speaks
in seeming bathos, just to worms.

bedizen to adorn or dress gaudily

To those who would bedizen truth
and seek to change how it is taken:
know this, once upon the tooth
its flavor cannot be mistaken.

belletrist a writer of literature regarded for its artistic rather than informative value

If you would be a belletrist,
take heed and shape your art
in a great vacuum, sealed and safe
where no ideas start.

benthos the bottom of a sea or lake; the organisms living there

The benthos in the calm, smooth sand
will often fail to understand
the turmoil up amidst the waves
and standing still, think themselves brave.

billingsgate foul, abusive language

The simple man will heap his foes
with endless billingsgate,
not reckonizing that the trowel
he uses seals his own sad fate.

bowdlerize to expurgate (a book) prudishly

Some seek to safely bowdlerize
the Constitution’s promise;
they say, ’tis safe to “modernize” —
to gut, would be more honest.

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Dictionary gloss: the A’s

So once again I’ve started reading, for pleasure, the dictionary. On an on-going basis, I’ll post ten words I discover (or rediscover) from each section that appeal to me, along with my interpretation of their “poetic” significance”. Here are the A’s:

aeropause the atmospheric elevation above which aircraft cannot fly In a poetic context, this could apply to Icarus or human efforts in general.

aphasia loss of the ability to speak or understand speech Besides its medical connotations, aphasia has poetic implications as well, particularly when looked at from the reverse side: perhaps it is a loss of the ability to speak or understand a language which no longer has purpose, or to communicate in such a way that is beyond language itself.

aphelion the point on a planetary orbit farthest from the sun Ah, the ramifications of this one are many: humankind’s distance from its spiritual origin(s), the darkest point in a personal history, that point at which epiphanies are discovered that lead to a return to the light.

apocrypha writings of questionable authenticity Perhaps documents indicating the presence of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of our once-allies and now conveniently enemies?

appurtenance something that belongs with or to another more important thing; an accessory The quality exuberated by George W. Bush in the presence of Dick Cheney?

arabesque an intricate design of innerwoven leaves, flowers, and geometric forms The warp and woof of the carpet of life.

arrogate to claim, take or assume for onself without right Arrogant self delegation; an assumption of powers beyond one’s comprehension; judgment of another’s way of life.

atheneum a library a beautiful word; the temple of Athena to signify a place to pay homage to knowledge.

augur a soothsayer or seer; to predict, especially from signs Of course, it all depends on who put up the signs, and in what language they are given.

auriferous containing gold, or gold-bearing To assume one’s path is auriferous is to seek within the lining within the grayest cloud for a mere glimmer of precious metal.

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