Archive for New-to-me Words


According to Wikipedia: “A swazzle […] is a device made of two strips of metal bound around a cotton tape reed. The device is used to produce the distinctive harsh, rasping voice of Punch in a Punch and Judy show, and is held in the mouth by the professor (performer).”


Wikipedia says A paraprosdokian […] is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence, phrase, or larger discourse is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. […] Some paraprosdokians not only change the meaning of an early phrase, but […]

Hajnal line

According to Wikipedia: “The Hajnal line is a border that links Saint Petersburg, Russia and Trieste, Italy. In 1965, John Hajnal discovered it divides Europe into two areas characterized by different levels of nuptiality. To the west of the line, marriage rates and thus fertility were comparatively low and a significant minority of women married […]

plat and cadastral

According to Wikipedia: “In the United States, a plat […] is a map, drawn to scale, showing the divisions of a piece of land. […] City, town or village plats show subdivisions into blocks with streets and alleys.” That Wikipedia page also introduced me to the term cadastral, which my dictionary defines as “showing or […]


Long discussion of waits, posted a few years ago. Excerpt: Waits, or Waights, seem originally to have been a kind of musical watchmen, who, in order to prove their watchfulness, were required to pipe at stated hours of the night. The hautboy was also called a waight,—perhaps from being the pipe upon which they commonly […]

nosism and the majestic plural

We have long been familiar with the royal we and the editorial we, the use of plural pronouns to refer to a singular personage. But we had not heretofore been aware that the royal we is also known as the majestic plural, nor had we known that the majestic plural, the editorial we, and the […]