Vocabulary: Mellifluous

From Escape pod episode 435 (valentines day)

Made of Cats: A Love Story
by Judith Tarr

The covarubian’s chief negotiator was somewhat smaller, and somewhat deeper purple than the others, and it’s translator spoke in an especially mellifluous tone. “Indeed” it said. “Those who came before have been most generous with their gifts. Yet we believe none has given what you truly most desire. From our investigations we have discovered that there is one deep drive in every human organism. One thing that your species craves above all else.”

I expected the word to mean lilting or musical.  However the read made it sound more enthusiastic or excited.


  1. having a smooth rich flow <a mellifluous voice>
  2. filled with something (as honey) that sweetens

Gut instinct tells me that the 2nd definition was the original one and that use to describe the voice as analogy eventually became the more common use.  I also can’t help but notice the relationship to melon and mellow for definition 2, and “melody.”  for definition 1.  My reading also led me to the greek muse of tragedy “Melpomene” which literally means “songstress” for further melodious overlapping.  And this reminds me of my old theory that all Greek mythology is just a bunch of bad puns to the Greeks themselves.

etymology: from the Greek meli for “honey


Vocabulary: Gnomically

From Terry Pratchett‘s “Witches Abroad”

“What’d anyone want to do that for?” said Nanny.
“Practice” said Granny.
“Practice?  What for?” said Magrat.
“I expect we’ll find out presently.” said Granny gnomically.
From context, the readers are well aware that Granny and the antagonist know each other even though they other characters are at this point completely unaware of the antagonist.
On reading my initial assumption was that it meant something akin to predictively or presciently.  But since I lacked confidence I wrote the word and page number on my bookmark to look up later.

  • Expressed in or of the nature of short, pithy maxims or aphorisms:
  • Enigmatic; ambiguous:

I think the second definition is more appropriate to Pratchett’s use.

Now for my favorite part, etymology:

from Greek root of gignoskein “to come to know” and gnostos “knowable.”  Which gives us “gnostic” for one who believes in God, and “agnostic” for one who thinks it’s impossible to know for sure.

Once again, thanks to etymonline.

Vocabulary: Lugubrious

From Terry Pratchett‘s “Witches Abroad”

Two pale glows appeared at the edge of the lamplight.  Eventually they turned out to be the eyes of a small gray creature, vaguely froglike, paddling toward them on a log.

It reached the boat.  Long clammy fingers grabbed the side and a lugubrious face rose level with Nanny Ogg’s.

“ullo,” it said.  “It’sss my birthday.”

All three of them stared at it for a while and then Granny Weatherwax picked up an oar and hit it firmly over the head.


So what does it mean?  Context clues are “froglike” and “clammy.”  The froglike description, hissing speech and birthday reference bring to mind Gollum.  None of these things nailed it down.

Lugubrious– full of sadness or sorrow :  especially in an exaggerated or insincere way.

Why do they call them Saltines?

My lovely and curious wife asked, “Why do they call them Saltines, instead of just “Salted Crackers.”  My initial impulse was to say that it was a brand name, but no the brand name would be Nabisco… and in fact the saltines that she was looking at were generic “Wendy’s” crackers.  So then asked “what else ends in -ine?”

  • Saltine
  • Pristine
  • Machine
  • Latrine
  • Wine
  • Twine
  • Pine
  • Line
  • Dine
  • Fine
  • Brine
  • Nine
  • Sine
  • Cosine
  • Spine
  • Shine
  • Stein
  • Visine
  • Vaseline
  • Valvoline
  • Maybeline
  • Quarantine
  • Marine
  • Magazine
  • Ravine
  • Adrenaline
  • Amphetamine
  • Cocaine
  • Dopamine
  • Thorazine
  • Flourine
  • Iodine
  • Supine
  • Serpentine
  • Lupine
  • Porcine
  • Swine
  • Bovine
  • Ursine
  • Canine
  • Feline
  • Piceine
  • Recline
  • Decline
  • Incline
  • Refine
  • Praline
  • Thiotimoline

Pristine and machine came pretty quick and then we were stuck for a while and gave up.  An hour later my clever wife said “Wine” which led to a quick series of single syllable words which didn’t seem to bring us closer to solving the mystery at hand, but you never know which parts of brainstorming will lead to something fruitful.  If you did it wouldn’t be brainstorming it would just be thinking about something.

The main grammatic thrust of the suffix is either as a chemical ending, or for adjectiving an animal name (especially with the latin root).  Adjectiving an animal name is such a specific niche, but you don’t say purpline, and though you could get away with serpentish serpentine is definitely cooler.

The words that seemed to feel most close to Saltine were Vasoline, Visine, Praline.

My favorites were machine, marine, and magazine.

Now on to actual research:

Magazine came from the arabic makhzan (storehouse) and khazana (to store up).  The term was used in the military for an ammunitions depot and is now obsolete and is still in use in reference to a “clip” in an (semi)automatic weapon.  The term magazine for a periodical came from the first one, “Gentleman’s Magazine,” in 1731.  It borrowed it’s use from the inventory sheet of the weapons depot.

Mare is latin for sea, and machina is latin for device (though stolen from the greek maghana which derives from the word for power.  So both of these are following the Ursine rule.

Incline recline decline all come from klei (to lean)

Quarantine comes from the Italian (latin) for 40 and the medical definition derrives from the 40 days that ships suspected of carrying plague had to stay anchored in harbor before they would be allowed to dock in Venice.

Dopamine is named for a specific amino acid involved in the pleasure center in the brain.

Let me take this chance to tell everyone that etymonline is awesome.

According to Wikipedia, Saltine actually was a brand name back in 1876, which belonged to a company that eventually became merged with Nabisco in 1898.  The use of the word Saltine became too broad to refer to any “soda cracker” and they lost trademark control in 1907.  Which makes me realize how old somethings are.


I was walking the dog in the yard, when my mind wandered to the etymological link between “V for Vendetta” and “The Avengers.”  I’m sorry to report there was no better anecdote to lead in to this solo night shift phenome brain storming.

  • V for vendetta
  • Avengers
  • Revenge of the nerds
  • Adventures in babysitting
  • Event horizon
  • Se7en

and I lost the movie theme and went for the word list

  • Vengeance
  • Revenge
  • Avenge
  • Vendetta
  • Vends
  • Vendor
  • Vent
  • Ventilation
  • Venerated
  • Venison
  • Oven
  • Vinegar
  • Vincible
  • Venial
  • Convenient
  • Convene
  • Convention
  • Convent
  • Coven
  • Covenant
  • Invent
  • Advent
  • Adventure
  • Prevention
  • Preventative
  • Event
  • Eventually
  • Even
  • Seven
  • Steven
  • Craven
  • Raven
  • Maven
  • Haven
  • Heaven
  • Cloven
  • Proven
  • Driven
  • Riven
  • Shaven
  • Venus
  • Venereal
  • Venom
  • Venomous
  • Venn diagram

So now let’s try and untangle some of this.  Revenge comes from old French revengier, where vengier means to take revenge and re is just used for emphasis.  Vengier comes from the latin vindicare which means “to lay claim, avenge, punish.”  This path obviously gives us avenge, vengeance and vendetta.

I thought of revenge as a noun… something you got as opposed to something you did.  Apparently revenge is also something you can do and that is the older of the 2 meanings.  A usage note on avenge vs revenge.  Revenge carries with it tones of retaliation and hatred, where as avenge has more of a feeling of justice and third party impartiality.

So the latin “vindicare” is more closely related to vindicate/vindictive (which my list missed) than to revenge.  Here we finally see that “vin” probably comes from “vim” which means force and “dict” means word.  Vindication used to have a meaning much closer to avenge, but has since seperated itself to mean something more along the lines of “be proven right.”  Where as “vindictive” is still basically synonymous with “vengeful.”

Vend” means to sell in latin as clearly as it does in english which gives us hotdog vendors and vending machines.

And “vent” is similarly straight forward in it’s meaning of wind in ventilation, as well as the metaphorical emotional venting.  My gut instinct says this is directly related to “invent” the way that “inspire” is related to breath, but they say it’s related to “venir” which means to come, as if ideas just come to you without any work… a fallacial point of view which came about since there’s a time delay to hide the causal link between the work of learning and the moment when an idea comes…

Here it starts to get convoluted.  Venerated means worshipped, and comes from the goddess Venus.  Venus gave us love potions which gave us poison which gave us Venom. (What’s the difference between venom and poison?  Venom is injected.)

Raven is just a word

Heaven comes from old english hoefon which means heaven.  Haven is norse for harbor.  It’s phonic similarity to heaven led to the use of it as a place of safety.

Maven is a word that I’ve only ever heard used as a “fashion maven” and had never gleaned it’s meaning.  A maven is an expert or a connoisseur.  It’s yiddish and totally unrelated to anything else on the list.

Cloven is the adjective form of Cleave.  Driven is the adjective form of drive. Shaven is…

Craven comes from crevante which means defeated.  Meaning drifted from defeated to cowardly.

Convene means to meet or assemble, and derives from Con (with) and Venir (to come).  This gives us “convention” as in a group of people meeting, and from the decisions of those people come conventions as is the standard ways of doing things.  Covenant is another word that comes from people meeting.  This also led Convent which didn’t pick up exclusively female connotations until the 18th century.

Coven is a derivative of Convent.  Originally synonyms after convent which from general to religious to relegious + female, then the witchy use of coven started to crop up in Scotland.  This meaning became enshrined in Sir Walter Scott’s “Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft” (1830).

Advent is from Ad (toward) and Venir (to come) and means an important arrival… thus the advent calander to count down to Jesus’ arrival. Adventure uses the exact same etymology and evolved from “something about to happen” to “a chance occurance” through “risk/danger” to “a perilous undertaking” to “a novel/exciting incident.”

Venn diagrams (which are also euler circles) are named after John Venn (1834-1923).  The last name Venn is a place name derivative of the swampy lands in old english (the fenn).

Venison comes from Latin venatus “to hunt”


We were in the car after going to a disasterous trip to perkins in which my lovely wife’s food was made with moldy cheese (sent back, no substitution due to lost appetite), my salad and the little girl’s soup came out at the same time as the meal, they brought me the wrong burger (ate it anyway), the little girl cried so much I had to go spend 10 minutes in the car with her while we waited for the food, the manager grudgingly agreed not to charge my irritated wife for her inedible food, and tried to convince her that herb feta was supposed to look that way. We’re shell shocked sitting in the driveway and I say to my exhausted wife, “You should write a letter to Perkins headquarters to get them straightened out. You have a penchant for penning correspendance.”

And she replied “Yes, I will release my pent rage and get the manager suspended. Maybe I’ll even get compensated.”

Shortly after that the attempt to work the phenomes into sentences broke down and sheer listing began. It quickly became clear that this evening my clever wife’s brain was running in a far superior state than mine… I haven’t felt like that since trying to play scrabble in the 5th grade.

  • Pendulum
  • Pendulous
  • Pendant
  • Suspended
  • Suspenseful
  • Pensive
  • Pentagon
  • Pentagram
  • Pendragon
  • Pentacle
  • Pennacle
  • Open
  • Pent (up)
  • Pending
  • Dependant
  • Dependable
  • Independently
  • Repentant
  • Appendage
  • Appendix
  • Pennsylvania
  • Peninsula
  • Penalize
  • Penalty
  • Penal
  • Penile
  • Penis
  • Pens
  • Pen
  • Pencil

From latin “pendere” to hang clearly and easily gives us pendulum, pendant, and the literal version of suspend. This also gave us suspension as a disciplinary measure and emotional suspense.

Someone who is dependent hangs on and someone who is independent stands alone. An appendix is section attached at the end.

An appendage is a bit that hangs off, and a peninsula is a bit that hangs in the water (except that’s not right. We should call them pendinsula because it makes sense… in truth peninsula comes from “paene” which means almost).

Penalize comes from threat of hanging and a Penis hangs between your legs (in truth penal-repent comes from the greek “poine” which means a fine or punishment, and penis comes from latin “penis” which means tail).

Correspondence worked verbally but is more awkward in print.


*My lovely wife had just given that girl of mine a bath.  She brought her into the bedroom, with the toddler wrapped in a towel.  Clean and cute and dappled with water.  I was laying on the bed reading a book. I looked over and smiled, thankful for my wonderful life.  I went back to reading.  And my dangerous wife said “how about some GENITALS!” and the naked baby girl was straddling my neck.  Since I value my youngling’s safety I couldn’t easily escape, for fear of knocking her off the bed.  Shortly my devious wife had lifted the baby off of me and I scrambled away.  As I turned towards my impish wife she was brandishing a GENerous serving of opposite GENder cross GENerational GENITALS at my visage.  Everyone agreed this was hilarious.

*(Though this story is true in the way that all great myths carry universal truths, every detail of it is ficticious)


  • Gene
  • Genetic
  • Generation
  • Genitals
  • Genus
  • Gender
  • Regenerate
  • Progeny
  • Antigen
  • Pathogen


  • Generate
  • Generator
  • Generation
  • Engine
  • Engineer
  • Oxygen
  • Hydrogen
  • Nitrogen


  • Gentle
  • General
  • Generic
  • Genius
  • Genie
  • Genuine
  • Engender
  • Genesis
  • Gentrified
  • Genial
  • Agent
  • Tangent
  • Generous
  • Gentile


  • Unguent
  • Pungent
  • Urgent
  • Emergency
  • Arrogant
  • Pageant
  • Ginseng
  • …and tonic
  • Pigeon

So went the phoneme game

My incredible wife, while awash in genital puns, came to the (correct) conclusion that GEN was from the latin for “to produce” which led to the mechanical family of words (Generate, Engineer) as well as the biological (Genetics, Progeny, Genitals).  Genius is a producer of ideas.  Genie is a producer of wishes. (this is a case of failed etymological reverse engineering… Genie is a bastardization of Djinn which is Arabic not Latin)

At this point I proposed that the word evolution went from Genital to Gentle, because of how it’s best to handle those things, which led to Gentlemen and Gentry because they’re all a bunch of twats.

Turns out Gentile is the key for going from “to produce” to Gentle.  My only exposure to the word Gentile meant non-jew from my early catholic brain washing religious classes.  So Gentile comes from Gentis for “race or class” similar to Genus/Species.  Gentile is actually used for “non-jew” (goyim) “non-christian” “heathen” “race-clan” and “of noble rank or birth” over the course of the 12th to 14thcenturies.  That last meaning led to Gentry and Gentlemen, and Gentle came from there.

I also feel I should mention that the german word for hydrogen is wasserstoff, which is really funny since the english word for hydrogen is latin for “producer of water.”

Special thanks to Mrs. Utley my HS etymology teacher, and http://www.etymonline.com/

Flavors of Mint

  • De
  • Fo
  • La
  • Mo
  • Dor
  • Ele
  • Tor
  • Com
  • Pay
  • Var
  • Orna
  • Fila
  • Testa
  • Argu
  • Tene
  • Detri
  • Docu
  • Pave
  • Move
  • Tourna
  • Experi
  • Accoutra
  • Compart
  • Depart
  • Apart
  • Adorn
  • Abate
  • Atone
  • Appoint
  • Entitle
  • Endanger
  • Govern
  • Adjourn
  • Adjust
  • Resent
  • Punish
  • Comport
  • Disillusion

Honorable mintions:

  • Pepper
  • Spear
  • Wintergreen

So this is a word game that I play with my lovely and clever wife.  It’s usually me that starts it, with some root or syllable or phoneme.  And from there we see where it fits into other words.  Sometimes the goal is an etymological exploration of root with a hope of insight as to it’s meaning.  More often it’s about divergent thinking and showing eachother how smart we are and patting eachother on the back.   I play a solo version of this game in the control room to pass a slow shift.  I tried to play it to while away a long mid-watch in the Navy, but had poor luck getting paired with someone of the right temperaMINT

This particular game came about while making a hard mint watermelon for dessert, and remembering a product called testamints.


Only available in the bible belt.

The suffix –ment serves basically the same purpose as the suffix –tion.  They both noun a verb.

Refine                   Refinement

Educate                Education

Atone                   Atonement

Supplicate           Supplication

Another example of redundancy in the english language.  Is this an effect of different root languages?  Or is it something aesthetic related to the “ate” ending vs other endings?

And in closing: