Archive for New-to-me Words


Standover tactics require a standover man. Or a standover woman, of course. A standover person of any kind. Or perhaps a standover kangaroo would do, I'm not sure about all of these antipodean nuances.


My dictionary says that shagreen is a kind of untanned leather (by which it presumably means rawhide), or “the rough skin of various sharks and rays.” Wikipedia says that shagreen is a kind of rawhide, from a horse or a shark or a ray. (I’m paraphrasing.) Both indicate that the word derives from the French […]


According to Wikipedia: “Corvée […] is a form of unpaid, unfree labour, which is intermittent in nature and which lasts limited periods of time: typically only a certain number of days’ work each year.”


According to Wikipedia: “Mokume-gane […] is a Japanese metalworking procedure which produces a mixed-metal laminate with distinctive layered patterns[…]. Mokume-gane translates […] to ‘wood grain metal’ [because metal so treated] takes on the appearance of natural wood grain.”

Limerick myths

Recently tried to search for the origin of the following limerick: The limerick, peculiar to English Is a verse form that's hard to extinguish Once Congress in session Decreed its suppression But people got around it by writing the last line without any rhyme or meter. Which led me to a page of Limerick Myths, […]


According to my dictionary (MW11), a bascule is “an apparatus or structure (such as a drawbridge) in which one end is counterbalanced by the other.” Apparently it’s from a French word for seesaw.


Yesterday, Sumana told me about Martin Van Buren’s anti-Harrison campaign song from the 1840 US presidential election. Harrison’s slogan and campaign song was, famously, “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” (because Harrison had been a military leader at the battle of Tippecanoe). Van Buren’s campaign song was to the tune of “Rockabye, Baby,” and the first verse […]

Letter turns

I made a three-point turn to turn my car around last night, and Jim told me that he’s recently been hearing that kind of turn called a K-turn. I had never heard that term before. Wikipedia adds that it’s also known as a Y-turn, which I’ve also never heard before. And coincidentally, this morning I […]

morfternoon and maen

A few weeks ago, I coined the word morfternoon, which refers to the period of time in a given day when it’s technically very late morning or even afternoon, but one is having such a slow start to one’s day that it’s effectively morning. Sadly, I see that others have also coined this term; there […]