Spartacus with a Pen


What do all bloggers have in common? We are all lovers of words.  Logophiles is the technical term.  We are so beholden to them that we are their slaves. . And we must conquer them in order to write well.  You may very well think of us as Spartacus.

Our obsession with words  often leads to collecting the  off-the-beaten-path, oddball, creaky  antiquary ones. It might even go so far as arranging  them on a sort of  evolutionary tree of life.  For words are analogous to living things; they are born, grow, change, have families, and  age into the  obsolete and archaic. Some wither and seem to  die. Only to be  resurrected and reincarnated for another generation.

My obsession started back in high school.  There were phalanxes  of new  words everywhere.   I wore out dictionaries trying to learn and remember their meanings.  I circled. I underlined. And rummaged their pages ferverishly. When I wasn't near a dictionary, I scribbled the  verbal critter  down wherever and whenever I could.  Later I inevitably looked them up. Many were easy to remember. Others only stuck  after looking them up ad infinitum.

After a while, I even  got to reading the dictionary itself. Tunneling into its columns, and mining its treasure. Through the years my searches expanded to  books about words and their  backstories. William Morris, Bergan Evans, Wilfred and Charles  Funk,  Paul Dickson and other lexicographers and etymologists became my mentors.  Not too long ago I came across one of my favorites: "Dimboxes, Epopts, and Other Quidams---Words to Describe Life's Indescribable People" by David Grambs. A dimbox, by the way, is probably not what you think. Take it from this quidam.

Which brings me to the subject of this blog.  I was going through my latest on-its-last-legs dictionary (Webster's Tenth Collegiate) and noticed a laundry list of  words that  I had highlighted with checks, circles, or nondescript marks of one sort or another . The thought came to is the making of a challenging quiz!    So, Good Reader,  test your word power.

Match the  numbered word with its corresponding definition by placing the letter of the definition next to the word. Good luck!  If you get even half right, you've earned your gladiator chops in mortal combat  with words. Don't peek at the answers below.

1. edaphic___  2. deracinate___  3. crambo___  4. eschatology___  5. banausic___  6. hosel___  7. skiffle___  8. petasos___  9. hypocorism___  10. maquette___

A. Jazz or folk music played on jugs or washboards.

B. Word game in which players rhyme words or lines of verse.

C. A small model of a building or sculpture.

D. Influenced by the soil rather than the climate.

E. A socket in the head of a golf club into which the shaft is inserted.

F. A pet name.

G. To uproot.

H. Concerned with earning a living (used pejoratively).

I  The winged hat of the Roman god Mercury.

J. Branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of mankind.

Answers: D, G, B, J, H, E, A, I, F, C.

Filed under: etymology, Movies, words

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