nescience

My dictionary defines nescience as “lack of knowledge or awareness.” It gives ignorance as a synonym. I encountered it in a Robert Anton Wilson book, where he was using it essentially as the opposite of omniscience.

Qtoscope

Saw an ad yesterday that showed a photo of a device, and overlaid on the photo was the word Qtoscope. I assumed that was the device’s brand name, and I was amused; I kinda thought that a Qtoscope should be what you use to look for cuteness. “I pointed my Qtoscope at this kitten; it […]

bitterant

According to Wikipedia: A bitterant […] is a chemical that is added to a product to make it smell or taste bitter. Bitterants are commonly used as aversive agents to discourage the inhalation or ingestion of toxic substances. This is one of those cases where the meaning was pretty obvious from context; I saw it […]

fleam

Another word I encountered recently in a Thurber essay is fleam. According to Wikipedia: A fleam, also flem, flew, flue, fleame, or phleam, was a handheld instrument used for bloodletting. For a great deal more on that topic, see also A Short History of the Fleam, by Kevin Goodman, who’s described as also being the […]

flagitious

My dictionary says that flagitious is a synonym for villainous. It’s been used in English since the 14th century, but I don’t think I’ve seen it before. (I encountered it recently in a Thurber essay.) World Wide Words gives more info, and notes that the word is related to flagellate but not to flagrant.

Stay Home

Stay Home: Letters from Home is a nicely soothing 11-minute video showing eight different “Professionals who work with letters,” each creating a letter to form the phrase Stay home. Audio is Pachelbel’s Canon in D; no words.

as who should say

Reading a Thurber essay about Henry James, I came across this phrase: James’s Renunciation Scene is managed, as who should say, rather more exquisitely than Hammett’s I hadn’t encountered the phrase as who should say before, so I mentally marked it to look up later, and I kept reading. On the next page, Thurber writes: […]

Misreading: sleep

In a recent TV episode, a character quotes Shakespeare: We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep. …Only I misread the caption and thought it said “rounded with a sheep.” Now I kinda want to see other lines from Shakespeare with a word replaced by […]

frontispiece

According to Wikipedia: The word [frontispiece] comes from the French frontispice, which derives from the late Latin frontispicium, composed of the Latin frons (‘forehead’) and specere (‘to look at’). […] In English, it was originally used as an architectural term, referring to the decorative facade of a building. In the 17th century, in other languages […]