Wednesday Word Knowledge

Anomalous – An adjective that describes something deviating from what is standard, normal, or expected. Something anomalous can be good, such as an exciting new direction in music or art. But that anomalously low score on your math test? Not so good.
To find the origins of the word anomalous we can go back to the Greek anṓmalos, meaning “uneven or irregular.” Something that is anomalous is not just different; it is also unexpected, and may even be completely inconsistent with the norm. For example, the recent discovery of ice, and therefore water, on the moon was anomalous to all previous ideas that the moon was lifeless.
Desultory If you lack a definite plan or purpose and flit from one thing to another, your actions are desultory. Some people call such desultory wanderings spontaneous. Others call it “being lost.”

The adjective desultory comes from the word desultor, which was a circus rider who would leap from the back of one galloping horse onto another. From this literal sense of jumping from one thing to another, we get the modern meaning of desultory as jumping between things without a logical purpose. (I know I definitely have problem with doing this sometimes.)

Ethereal – Ethereal is something airy and insubstantial, such as a ghostly figure at the top of the stairs. It might also be something delicate and light, like a translucent fabric, or a singer’s delicate voice.

Ethereal comes from the Greek word for ether, which is a drug that makes you feel light headed and, in larger doses, causes you to lose consciousness. An ethereal substance or sound is one that carries the feeling of ether––something you might see in a vision, that might strike you as heavenly or supernatural.

Importunate – You know those people, who are so focused on what they want, that even when it is reasonable, their asking for it over and over gets really annoying? They, and their questions, can be called importunate.

Importunate rhymes with “unfortunate” and importunate questions, in their annoying persistence, are unfortunate indeed. You’ll see in importunate the Latin root port, which means “harbor.” An opportune wind helps you get into port safely; an importune one, unfortunately, doesn’t.

Dross – Things that are a total loss — really worthless or damaging — are dross. You could call that gunk between your teeth that comes out when you floss, dross. No one wants it, and it’s harmful if it stays.

While dross is a noun for stuff that’s physically left over or useless, like the nonmetallic stuff left when metal gets refined, it’s also used for people and forms of art. A really bad movie can be called dross, and a low or despicable person can be dross. Debris, or trash, is another form of dross. “Searching the backyard for unexploded fireworks — the dross of Chinese New Year celebrations — was a tradition for the kids and a safeguard for the dogs.”

Chasten – To chasten someone is to correct him or her, often with the use of some pretty steep punishment. Chasten can also mean “to restrain.” Either of these actions may be necessary when someone isn’t behaving like they’re supposed to.

The verb chasten is often used with the verb “to be” as in “be chastened.” If students are caught writing graffiti on the bathroom wall, you can expect them to “be chastened” by both the school and their parents. Chasten is related to the word chastise, meaning “to punish severely.” Both words can be traced back to the Latin root castus, meaning “morally pure.” So keep yourself on the straight and narrow when it comes to morality and you can avoid being chastened.

Spurn If you reject your mother’s offer to buy you a pair of lederhosen with a snort and eye roll, you are spurning her generosity. To spurn means to reject with disdain.

Originally, to spurn was to kick away. Though it’s not used in that context so often anymore, being spurned still feels like a kick in the gut. You can reject someone kindly, or let them down easily, but you can’t spurn someone with anything but malice.

Emphatic – Emphatic means forceful and clear. Nicole’s mother was emphatic when she told her not to come home late again.

When something is emphatic, it imparts emphasis. A sentence is made emphatic by adding an exclamation point, and the word carries with it the important and urgent feeling of that punctuation mark. If a baseball team defeats another by 10 runs, the victory is emphatic because like strong speech, the victory is clear and forceful.

Venerable To be venerable is to be admired and respected because of your status or age. You become venerable by achieving great things or just by living long enough.

The adjective venerable means “admired” and “respected” — it should describe how you feel about old folks and bosses, for example. It describes the wise old man at the top of the mountain who tells you the meaning of life. As a noun, the Venerable refers to someone high up in a religion, usually Christian. In fact, Saint Bede, who is sometimes called the Father of English History, is often referred to as the Bede the Venerable.

Codicil – A codicil is a supplement to a will. If your will is already written and you want to alter it, you add a codicil.
When your seemingly ancient neighbor marries a woman less than half his age, you might notice that his adult children suddenly stop coming to visit. This may be because he added a codicil to his will granting his new wife access to all his riches. Getting your inheritance in writing is a good idea, but a codicil can change everything.

 I gotta say I like this list today. There are a lot of good words up there, and I’m glad I put them on here for you and me. I am notorious for forgetting things like this, no matter how detrimental they are in my work as a writer, but thankfully, I have this gift of having the perfect word pop in my head at the right time. It’s funny, because sometimes the word that pops in my is unfamiliar to me, even though it sounds like it would fit perfectly with my sentence, and I have to look it up to make sure. Haha, it’s odd I know, but it hasn’t led me astray yet.

Write on!

~Sabrina -_^


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