Tag Archives: Classic Word of the Day

Mastering Doublethink

Classic Word of the Dayproletariat – n.  the lowest, working-class group in a society

Classical Usage:  The first time I stumbled across this word was Chapter IV of Book One.  It’s certainly possible that it appeared before this spot where we learn that the Ministry of Truth is responsible for supplying the “literature, music, drama, and entertainment” for the proletariats, and it’s even more possible that we encountered the term “proles.”  But Orwell’s term for 85% of the Oceania society didn’t click with me right away.  It’s almost as if I heard the word, and then instantly forgot it, and then forgot that I had anything to forget.

Classically Mad Usage:  There is no word to use.

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Posted by on November 7, 2013 in 1984


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Now You See It, Now You Don’t

Classic Word of the Daypalimpsest – n. writing material on which older writing has been erased and newer text written over

Classical Usage:  Gladly, Orwell handed me some pretty heavy context clues on this word from Chapter IV of Book One.  All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary.  In as much as it nearly sums up all of Ingsoc, this seems to be the perfect word for 1984.

Classically Mad Usage:  Don’t we call these dry erase boards?

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Posted by on November 3, 2013 in 1984


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Woof Down that Cantaloupe

Confession Time:  Pretty much all my life I have struggled with the meaning of two particular words:  melancholy and sparse.

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I don’t know why, it probably dates back to my melancholy childhood in a sparsely populated county.  No, wait, my non-melancholy youth in a non-sparse locale . . . no, no, no, um, my sparsely melancholy formative years in a melancholy sparse area.

I was happy, but there weren’t many people around.

Whew.  And I think both of the words mean their opposite.

Let’s just take melancholy.  What about that word sounds sad?  Nothing, that’s what.  I get pictures of long-faced, furry friends enjoying overflowing bowls of honeydew.  There’s nothing pensive about a fruit salad enjoyed by man’s best friend.

And it doesn’t help when the context clues are confusing combos like “beauty.”

Just as Daisy’s house had always seemed to him more mysterious and gay than other houses, so his idea of the city itself, even though she was gone from it, was pervaded with melancholy beauty.

I bet he was just upset because the city was so sparsely populated.

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Posted by on June 13, 2013 in The Great Gatsby


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Say what? Say what?

Classic Word of the Dayecholalia –  n.  immediate repetition of spoken language, typically associated with the childhood learning of speech, or psychiatric disorder

Classical Usage:  I knew Nick wasn’t crazy about Gatsby’s parties, but until I learned the meaning of this word I’d missed his little slam in Chapter III.  There was the boom of a bass drum, and the voice of the orchestra leader rang out suddenly above the echolalia of the garden.

Classically Mad Usage:  When we were children, my sister used to sing along with all the hymns, and yet never crack the hymnal.  What was her secret?  Studying ahead?  Screens in the front of the church?  Amazing eyesight?  Nope.  Echolalia.  She’d listen carefully, and sing the words just a tish behind the rest of the congregation, anticipating the rhymeHHo for a strong end-of-phrase finish.  Not a psychiatric disorder, just resourcefulness.  Nicely done, Stacy.

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Posted by on May 30, 2013 in The Blog, The Great Gatsby


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Who ya gonna call?

Classic Word of the Dayectoplasm –  n.  immaterial substance of a ghost

Classical Usage:  Nick’s not a drinker, but in Chapter II he hits the bottle pretty hard at Tom and Myrtle’s NY hide-away.  The entire event has an eerie, uncomfortable feel.  Even the decor, and Mr. McKee and his “artistic game” that created it, give an ominous edge to Nick’s afternoon.  I gathered later that he was a photographer and had made the dim enlargement of Mrs. Wilson’s mother which hovered like and ectoplasm on the wall.

Classically Mad Usage:  There’s no use denying it, I’ve always associated this word with disgusting amounts of green goo.  I suppose I’ll have to strip it of its Nickelodeon hue before reintroducing it into my vocabulary.

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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in The Great Gatsby


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Up Next: Holiday Inn Movie Marathon

Classic Word of the Dayrotogravure – n.  a magazine printed with a rotary press system and intaglio cylinders

Classical Usage:  You know that funny feeling when you think you know someone, but you just can’t place their face?  Nick had that for a bit when he met Jordan Baker in Chapter 1.  “I knew now why her face was familiar – its pleasing contemptuous expression had looked out at me from many rotogravure pictures of the sporting life at Asheville and Hot Springs and Palm Beach.”

Classically Mad Usage:  I’ve been using this word for years, decades even.  And although as I’ve happily lingered over Bing’s melodic cadence, I’ve never once given pause to consider the word’s meaning.  It’s going through your head now, right?
In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it . . .
On the avenue, fifth avenue, the photographers will snap us,
And you’ll find that you’re in the rotogravure.


Posted by on May 28, 2013 in The Great Gatsby


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From a Nebraska Girl

Classic Word of the DayIn our first House of Mirth check-in April mentioned that she’d come across ten unfamiliar words in the first chapter.  I’ve certainly fallen off the word-of-the-day bus as of late, but that didn’t keep me from needing to piece together a vocabulary rich sentence.

Many prigs think the sylvan life a desultory existence where palloured women and dryads sit around sniffing mignonette and playing bezique, but these bounders need to get their heads out of their girlfriend’s gigot sleeves and reject that axiom.

That’s right Edith, you could throw all of those words into one chapter, and that was impressive, but I put them in one sentence.  One.


Posted by on May 1, 2013 in The House of Mirth


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In chapter 2 Huck sneaks out of the Widow’s home to attend Tom’s first official gang meeting.  There are some questions about what business the gang is in.  They quickly decide that they are not burglars.  They are highwaymen who “stop stages and carriages on the road, with masks on, and kill the people and take their watches and money.”  Not everyone in the gang seems thrilled with the idea of murder.  Tom is firm.

…Some authorities think different, but mostly it’s considered best to kill them–except some that you bring to the cave here, and keep them till they’re ransomed.”

It seems that the gang has some deficiencies in their knowledge of vocabulary and that they could have benefited from Christina’s “Classic Word of the Day” posts.

“Ransomed?  What’s that?”
“I don’t know.  But that’s what they do.  I’ve seen it in books; and so of course that’s what we’ve got to do.”

Tom finally decides that “Ransomed” means keeping hostages until they are dead.  The other gang members see this as a lot of work.

“Now, that’s something like.  That’ll answer.  Why couldn’t you said that before?  We’ll keep them till they’re ransomed to death; and a bothersome lot they’ll be too–eating up everything, and always trying to get loose.”

“Why can’t a body take a club and ransom them as soon as they get here?”

Can you imagine if Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn or Jim took over “Classic Word of the Day”?


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Turns Out

Classic Word of the Dayaugur –  v.  to predict an outcome

Classical Usage:  After Isabel’s marriage Mrs. Touchett is no longer in close contact with that circle of Florence friends, including Osmond’s sister, Countess Gemini.  The Countess was less talked of in these days; but Mrs Touchett augured no good of that:  it only proved how she had been talked of before.

Classically Mad Usage:  Can you augur the end of POAL?  I can’t.

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Posted by on February 12, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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Squeezing In

Classic Word of the Dayinterstice – n.  a gap between closely spaced things

Classical Usgae:  At the beginning of Chapter XXI we catch up with Isabel after her jaunt around the world on which we were not invited.  James is describing the room in which she waits for a visitor.  The tall window was open, and though its green shutters were partly drawn the bright air of the garden had come in through a broad interstice and filled the room with warmth and perfume.  A broad interstice?  Isn’t that a little oxymoronic?

Classically Mad Usage:  I’m looking forward to the interstice between The Portrait of a Lady and Huckleberry Finn.  I hope I can sneak a fun book in there.  It may need to be a “broad interstice.”

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Posted by on February 11, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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