British words well used


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British words well used

  1. 1. center-5000502920British Words Well Used11000065000British Words Well Used-5000617220590005769610MAVERIC SYSTEMS LIMITEDFagun Mansion V Floor,74 Ethiraj Salai,Egmore,Chennai-600105+91-44-28207690.+91-44-282076914/29/20114950045000MAVERIC SYSTEMS LIMITEDFagun Mansion V Floor,74 Ethiraj Salai,Egmore,Chennai-600105+91-44-28207690.+91-44-282076914/29/2011445003559175590005769610Vivek VLink: 6050045000Vivek VLink: center5900057696101100004500075000582930049000492823500 <br />666751132840 Words:GenuflectObloquyChaucerianSturm und DrangAndroidQuintessenceShamanSanctimoniousAnodyneSchizoid ParoxysmSwivetDraconianPhantasmagoricPiquantUxoriousLiminalCanardBrobdingnagianInsipidFrissonChimeraFripperyRuminationsFathomingHubristic00 Words:GenuflectObloquyChaucerianSturm und DrangAndroidQuintessenceShamanSanctimoniousAnodyneSchizoid ParoxysmSwivetDraconianPhantasmagoricPiquantUxoriousLiminalCanardBrobdingnagianInsipidFrissonChimeraFripperyRuminationsFathomingHubristic<br />-47625771525 Words:IncarnateCoup de GrâceAudaciousQuotidianTectonicNadirBalkanizedMaudlinSepulchralImmureMacabreIrasciblePanjandrumDesaturateBehemothTendentiousBravuraIncandescentFecklessIncisiveInexorably00 Words:IncarnateCoup de GrâceAudaciousQuotidianTectonicNadirBalkanizedMaudlinSepulchralImmureMacabreIrasciblePanjandrumDesaturateBehemothTendentiousBravuraIncandescentFecklessIncisiveInexorably<br /> <br /> BRITISH WORDS WELL USED<br />"Genuflect"<br />right000From:An article on the U.S. media's obsession with the Royal weddingThe Use:"Perhaps this is all harmless fun, an aberration in a nation that otherwise genuflects to the notion of "patriot", a term in the US that originated in the rejection of the Brits." – Ros Coward,, April 25, 2011About the Word:Genuflect means "to touch the knee to the floor or ground especially in worship," and also "to be servilely obedient or respectful."Used here, it combines an image of the traditional respect shown to a royal with a playful dig at our Yankee pride.The word comes from the Latin genu ("knee") + flectere ("to bend")."Obloquy"right000From:A piece about the dangers faced by artists who challenge authoritarianismThe Use:"Not all writers or artists seek or ably perform a public role, and those who do risk obloquy and derision, even in free societies." – Salman Rushdie, New York Times, April 20, 2011About the Word:Obloquy means "harsh or critical statements about someone," and also "the condition of someone who lost the respect of other people" – both of which apply here.It's a word far more often written than spoken, with a formal tone that suits a serious issue.It comes from the Latin obloquy, "to speak against," from ob- "against" + loqui to "speak" (making it a relative of words like soliloquy and elocution)."Chaucerian"From:An article about advice columnist Dan SavageThe Use:"His columns answer a Chaucerian panorama of correspondents: gay Mormons, incestuous siblings, weight-gain fetishists, men yearning 2552700-129032000to be cuckolded, and otherwise ordinary Americans grappling with an extraordinary range of problems and proclivities." – Benjamin J. Dueholm, Washington Monthly, March/April 2011About the Word:Chaucerian refers to Geoffrey Chaucer, the English poet of the 1300s who wrote The Canterbury Tales.Used here, Chaucerian elevates Savage's columns by connecting them to the characters who populate The Canterbury Tales with eccentric and often bawdy life stories.Image: Detail of a Chaucer mural at the Library of Congress"Sturm und Drang"right000From:An opinion piece about "Remembering Martin Luther King as a man, not a saint"The Use:"Hollywood, uncertain how to deal with a saint, has only recently begun to grapple with the sturm und drang of his life story." – Hampton Sides, Washington Post, April 3, 2011About the Word:Sturm und drang translates literally as "storm and stress." It was originally the title of a German play in the 1700s.In English, as used here, it has come to mean "turmoil" – on an epic scale."Android"right000From:Commentary about Elizabeth Taylor and today’s female movie starsThe Use:"This is the standard starvation look that is now projected by Hollywood women stars – a skeletal, Pilates-honed, anorexic silhouette, which has nothing to do with females as most of the world understands them. There's something almost android about the depictions of women currently being projected by Hollywood." – Camille Paglia quoted in, March 23, 2011About the Word:Android refers to "a robot with a human – especially manlike – form."While many people have pointed out that Hollywood beauty is often unrealistic and artificial, the suggestion of masculinity adds something fresh to the argument.Android comes from a Greek word that means "manlike.""Quintessence"right000From:A description of the actress Catherine DeneuveThe Use:"She was impeccably coiffed, in a sweater, slacks and flats, sounding every bit the quintessence of Gallic womanhood." – Rebecca Keegan, Los Angeles Times, March 20, 2011About the Word:Quintessence means "the perfect example of something" or "the most important part of something."It comes from the Latin words quinta ("fifth") and essentia ("essence"). In ancient and medieval philosophy, the "fifth essence" came after fire, air, water, and earth. It was believed to permeate all matter and to be what the heavens are made of. In other words, it represented the spirit – the "essential" part that can't be seen – of any being or thing. <br />"Shaman"<br />right000From:An article about Steve Jobs and the future of AppleThe Use:"Although Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook is regarded as a very capable successor, many see Jobs like some sort of shaman, impossible to replace." – Eric Jackson, Bloomberg, March 9, 2011About the Word:A shaman is "a priest or priestess who uses magic for the purpose of curing the sick, divining the hidden, and controlling future events" – a description that might sound perfectly reasonable to the most faithful of Jobs' admirers.The word derives from the Sanskrit sramana, for "Buddhist monk."<br />"Sanctimonious"<br />right000From:An article about foodie culture and moralityThe Use:"Although culinary abstinence might sound downright depressing, if not sanctimonious in its own way, it's actually profoundly empowering." – James McWilliams, The Atlantic, March 1, 2011About the Word:Sanctimonious means "pretending to be morally better than other people," or "hypocritically pious or devout."Used properly, it's a subtle yet meaningful put-down, and there's no obvious synonym for it.It comes from sanctity, meaning "sacred."<br />"Anodyne"<br />right000From:An article discussing controversial policy decisions made by Indiana governor Mitch DanielsThe Use:"What did provoke ire were two moves the governor thought would be more anodyne. He pushed through uniform adoption of Daylight Savings Time, in place of a county-by-county patchwork, and he leased the Indiana Turnpike to a Spanish-Australian consortium for 75 years." – Neil King, Jr., Wall Street Journal, February 26, 2011About the Word:Anodyne means "not likely to offend or upset anyone."Another example usage is, "the otherwise anodyne comments sounded quite inflammatory when taken out of context."These uses suggest the word's modern sense: bland or soothing.Originally, anodyne had the more physical meaning of "serving to relieve pain." In Greek, an means "without," and odyne means "pain."<br />"Schizoid"<br />right000From:A review of the Broadway show "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark"The Use:"It's a schizoid experience, a combination of inspired technical accomplishment and narrative impoverishment, in which everything happening behind the actors is brilliant and everything happening between them is banal." – John Lahr, The New Yorker, February 28, 2011About the Word:With its sense of "changing frequently between contradictory or antagonistic states," schizoid is a less clinical-sounding alternative to schizophrenic.Schizophrenia – the label for a psychotic disorder – combines the Greek words schiz ("split") and phrenia ("mind"). It entered medical vocabulary in 1912 and popular use after that.<br />"Paroxysm"<br />right000From:An article about former British prime minister Tony BlairThe Use:Regarding the demise of Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milošević, Mullah Omar, and Charles Taylor:"How can anybody with a sense of history not grant Blair some portion of credit for this? And how can anybody with a tincture of moral sense go into a paroxysm and yell that it is he who is the war criminal?" – Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair, February 2011About the Word:A paroxysm is a sudden violent emotion or action, an outburst – as in "a paroxysm of rage."It comes from a Greek word that means "to stimulate." The oxy makes it a relative of oxygen.By the way: tincture, another word well used in the quotation above, means "trace."<br />"Swivet"<br />right000From:An article about snow damageThe Use:"Schools across the region have been evacuated because of concerns that their snow-laden roofs could give way. Officials said the evacuations were precautionary but some parents went into a swivet, demanding to know why the schools had not been checked when they were empty." – Katharine Q. Seelye, New York Times, February 8, 2011About the Word:Swivet means "a state of extreme agitation."Another use might be, "they're all in a swivet over the wedding planning."Swivet is a homespun term, coined in America in the late 19th century. Its origins beyond that are unknown, but something about the sound of the word (tasting notes, perhaps, of "snit," "swivel," and "tizzy"?) add to its effect.<br />"Draconian"<br />right000From:A report on the protests in EgyptThe Use:"A string of draconian measures enforced by authorities has fuelled the Egyptian uprising..." – Atul Aneja, The Hindu, January 28, 2011About the Word:Draconian means "very severe or cruel."The word comes from Draco, a lawmaker in Athens in the 7th century B.C.Draco reformed the legal system, outlawing personal revenge and replacing it with a code of justice. This sounds humane, except that Draco's laws were uniformly harsh: almost every transgression was punishable by death.(The name of the Harry Potter villain Draco Malfoy probably alludes to the same historical figure.)<br />"Phantasmagoric"<br />right000From:A review of a new biography of Frank SinatraThe Use:"... his real movie was his life, a spectacle whose excesses, emotional swings, casual cruelties, and hair-trigger outbursts went well beyond anything Hollywood was likely to attempt.... We find ourselves – not for the first time, and surely not the last – deep in the phantasmagoric realm of twentieth-century stardom, wandering among dream-fabricators whose own lives seem dreamed." -- Geoffrey O'Brien,About the Word:Phantasmagoric is a rich word without a simple definition.It refers to "a confusing or strange scene that is like a dream because it is always changing in an odd way," or "a constantly shifting complex succession of things seen or imagined."Rooted in a Greek word that means "to cause to appear to the mind," its relatives include phantom and fantastic.<br />"Piquant"<br />right000From:A description of the movie "Breaking Away," in a remembrance of the director Peter Yates who died on January 9The Use:"And as Dave's passion begins to rally his friends (a piquant ensemble of Dennis Quaid, Jackie Earle Haley, and Daniel Stern in his screen debut), so these unformed fellows begin to have more faith in their own worth." – Lisa Schartzbaum,, January 10, 2011About the Word:Piquant means "engagingly provocative," or "having a lively arch charm."(Arch, another handy word, means "mischievous" or "saucy").Piquant is more often used to mean "spicy" in descriptions of food. It comes from a French word that means "to prick or sting," which connects it to pike and pick (as in ice pick).<br />"Uxorious"<br />right000From:A husband's blog post about his wife's upcoming talkThe Use:"Come ... see someone I know to be a great speaker (my wife) talk about what I know to be a great book (her Dreaming in Chinese). I mention this both out of uxorious support and in a desire to be helpful..." – James Fallows,, January 8, 2011About the Word:Uxorious is a word that isn't seen much these days, likely because of its puzzling meaning: "excessively fond of or submissive to a wife."At what point does fondness for one's wife become "excessive"?Either way, used here with irony, the word allows the writer to lightly mock his own PR efforts.<br />"Liminal"<br />right000From:An article about the 3,000 birds that fell from the sky in Arkansas on New Year's EveThe Use:"In some cultures, birds are seen as souls occupying the liminal space between heaven and earth. In others, they are considered harbingers – often of doom." – Patrik Jonsson, Christian Science Monitor, Jan 3, 2011About the Word:Liminal refers to an intermediate or transitional state or condition – usually one with psychological or metaphysical significance.Another example, from the Merriam-Webster definition: "in the liminal state between life and death – Deborah Jowitt."It comes from the Latin word for "threshold."<br />"Canard"<br />right000From:Remarks by Hawaii's Governor about the conspiracy theorists who claim that President Obama wasn't born in the United States.The Use:"There's no reason on earth to have the memory of his parents insulted by people whose motivation is solely political," Mr. Abercrombie said. "Let's put this particular canard to rest." – Sheryl Gay Stolberg, New York Times, December 24, 2010About the Word:A canard is a false or fabricated report or story.The word means "duck" in French. It comes from an expression, "vendre des canards à moitié," meaning "to cheat," which literally translates as "to half-sell ducks."<br />"Brobdingnagian"<br />right000From:An article about holiday punchThe Use:"Quantity is chief among its special qualities. The bowl is the thing. (By this standard, Planter's Punch, properly served in a Collins glass, would not qualify as punch unless the Collins glass were four feet tall and accompanied by a Brobdingnagian ladle.)" – Troy Patterson,, December 17, 2010About the Word:Brobdingnagian, which means "marked by tremendous size," comes from Brobdingnag – an imaginary land of giants in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels.Used here, in the context of a barrel-sized Collins glass, this overblown word helps complete the image.Warning: this is probably a word best used (if at all) in writing rather than speech, and almost certainly not spoken after a few glasses of punch.<br />"Insipid"<br />right000From:One columnist's complaint that cooking has become "the art of our time," and "taste no longer affords pleasure on its own"The Use:"It is impossible to sit at table without analyzing, forkful by forkful, every flavor and if the experience will be incomprehensible and insipid without commentary." – Ingrid D. Rowland, The New York Review of Books, December 2, 2010About the Word:The two meanings of insipid mix together well here.The more familiar meaning, these days, is "lacking in qualities that interest, stimulate, or challenge."But the word's original meaning, appropriately, is food-specific: "lacking flavor."It comes from a Latin word that translates roughly as "not savory or tasty."<br />"Frisson"<br />right000From:An essay about the most recent WikiLeaks disclosuresThe Use:"After the first slight frisson of pleasure at the discomfiture of powerful people and those in authority has worn off ... the real significance of the greatest disclosure of official documents in the history of the world ... becomes apparent." – Theodore Dalrymple, City Journal, Autumn 2010About the Word:A frisson is a brief moment of emotional excitement, a shudder or thrill.The word has a somewhat formal tone that suits the context of diplomatic scandal.Frisson is the French word for "shiver," which comes from the Latin for "friction," and ultimately from the Latin for "to be cold."<br />"Chimera"<br />right000From:An article that discusses proposed technological fixes for global warmingThe Use:"The notion that science will save us is the chimera that allows the present generation to consume all the resources it wants, as if no generations will follow." – Kenneth Brower, The Atlantic, December 2010About the Word:A chimera (kye-MEER-uh) is an illusion or fabrication of the mind, an unrealizable dream.It comes from the Chimera of Greek mythology – a fire-breathing she-monster having a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail.Used here, with a fire-breathing she-monster lurking within the word, chimera suggests a fantasy both dangerous and unnatural.<br />"Frippery"<br />right000From:An article about Los Angeles restaurantsThe Use:"Although the city is often derided for a superficial fixation on physical beauty, its young restaurateurs and chefs are quick to trade away frippery and cosmetics and focus on the food." – Frank Bruni, New York Times, November 18, 2010About the Word:Frippery – a word whose sound alone suggests a lack of seriousness – means "something showy, frivolous, or nonessential."(Another example: "The design is simple and devoid of frippery.")It comes from a French word that means "old clothes."<br />"Ruminations"<br />right000From:A column about Beatles songs becoming available on iTunesThe Use:"That doesn't justify any media celebrations or heartfelt Baby Boomer ruminations over a band's decision to let its customers pay them." – Rob Pegoraro, Washington Post, November 16, 2010About the Word:A rumination is a thought that has been worked over in the mind repeatedly, often casually or slowly.The article suggests a sheep-like quality in those influenced by the "hype machinery" surrounding this event, which makes rumination an appropriate choice.The word comes from the Latin for "to chew the cud" – something animals called ruminants (sheep, cows, etc.) have to do as they digest their food.<br />"Fathoming"<br />right000From:A review of Simon Winchester's new book about the Atlantic OceanThe Use:"Though the Atlantic Ocean is millions of years old, we are still fathoming its complexity and influence." – Matthew Price, The Boston Globe, November 7, 2010About the Word:To fathom means "to penetrate and come to understand."The word works nicely here, because a fathom is a unit of length (six feet), used to measure the depth of water.In its earlier meaning, fathoming was something that sailors did, by lowering a sounding line overboard. Over time, the word's meaning came to include the probing of depths in a general sense.<br />"Hubristic"<br />right000From:A review of the first volume of Mark Twain's autobiography, which was recently publishedThe Use:"And now it turns out he also felt he'd reinvented modern autobiography – a favourite American genre, given its emphasis on hubristic individualism and self-invention..." – Sarah Churchwell, The Guardian, October 30, 2010About the Word:Hubristic means characterized by "exaggerated pride or self-confidence."Hubris is often used to explain someone's downfall, as in "his failure was brought on by his hubris."The word comes from the Greek hybris, meaning arrogance or insolence.<br />"Incarnate"<br />right000From:An article published on the anniversary of Dizzy Gillespie's birthdayThe Use:"With his trumpet and his profound cheeks ('Go on, just try to hate America,' those cheeks said), he was soft power incarnate.” – The Economist, October 21, 2010About the Word:Incarnate means "embodied," or "made manifest or comprehensible."The word more commonly appears in a negative sense (e.g. "evil incarnate"), so it's refreshing to see it used this way, describing the "soft power" in both cultural diplomacy and a trumpeter's face.Incarnate comes from the Latin for "in flesh." The same carn- also appears in words like carnival and carnal.<br />"Coup de Grâce"<br />right000From:An article about the demise of BlockbusterThe Use:"But, once Netflix came along, it became clear that you could have tremendous variety, keep movies as long as you liked, and, thanks to the Netflix recommendation engine, actually get some serviceable advice... Then Redbox delivered the coup de grâce, offering new Hollywood releases for just a dollar." – James Surowiecki, The New Yorker, October 18, 2010About the Word:Used here, this elegant-sounding word invites us to picture Redbox wielding an axe over a struggling retail chain.A coup de grâce is either a decisive finishing event , or – more to the point – a deathblow administered to end the suffering of one mortally wounded.Another example of the word: "The legislature's decision to cut funding has administered the coup de grâce to the governor's proposal."<br />"Audacious"<br />right000From:A report on the Chilean mine rescueThe Use:"Mr. Hall admitted there were times he did not think the audacious plan to drill the 625-metre rescue tunnel would work. Officials had at first estimated it would take until Christmas to complete." – Jude Webber, Financial Times, October 13, 2010About the Word:Audacious has a number of senses that fit this event: "distinguished by spirited fearless daring," "intrepidly adventurous," and "marked by originality and verve."Its Latin root can be traced back to a word that happens to apply, more than a little, to the miners below and their families above: "avidus," meaning "eager."<br />"Quotidian"<br />right000From:A response to a new book about how stress and health conditions in a pregnant woman's life affect fetal developmentThe Use:"Of course, we all want to know how more quotidian factors, like tough work deadlines or summer margaritas, might affect the little lima bean." – Amanda Schaffer,, September 26, 2010About the Word:Quotidian means commonplace, ordinary, or everyday.It comes from a Latin word that roughly translates as "many days.""Tectonic"right000From:An article about marriage trends in AmericaThe Use:"For the first time since the U.S. began tallying marriages, more Americans of prime marrying age have stayed single rather than tied the knot, the culmination of a tectonic shift in the role of marriage and relationships that began in the 1960s." – Conor Dougherty, Wall Street Journal, September 29, 2010About the Word:As it's used here, tectonic means "having a strong and widespread impact."The word's association with the geological term plate tectonics also gives it a sense of "earthshaking" and "upheaval."Tectonics comes from the Greek word for "builder," which makes it a relative of technical.<br />"Nadir"<br />right000From:A blog post about the effect of the Tea PartyThe Use:"Undoubtedly, in my view, they have done the party more good than harm over the past year and a half, bringing it back from what pundits assumed was the brink of irrelevance (but may instead just have been the nadir of a political cycle), to a position where they are poised to make electoral gains that could rival or exceed 1994." – Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight, September 15, 2010About the Word:Nadir means "the worst or lowest point of something."Another example sentence: "The relationship between the two countries reached its nadir in the 1920s."Rooted in an Arabic word for "opposite," nadir originally described a concept in astronomy. (For more information, please see our full definition.)<br />"Balkanized"<br />right000From:An article about Chicago mayor Richard M. DaleyThe Use:"[Daley's] successor better understand how he navigated an essentially weak mayor/strong City Council system and a nasty, balkanized Illinois political universe with sophisticated opponents and competing centers of power along the way exhibiting a sneaky and downright cosmopolitan intelligence." – James Warren, The Atlantic, September 8, 2010About the Word:Balkanized means "broken up (as a region or group) into smaller and often hostile units."It comes from the Balkan peninsula, a region that was carved up into smaller states during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.In the sentence above, the word helps suggest a depth and intensity of conflict that has often played a role in Chicago politics.<br />"Maudlin"<br />right000From:A review of the Clint Eastwood movie "Hereafter"The Use:"Whether it connects with a wide audience (or Academy Award voters) 'Hereafter' veers away from soft-glow answers or maudlin moments." – Geoff Boucher, Los Angeles Times, September 9, 2010About the Word:Maudlin means "weakly and effusively sentimental" or "tearfully emotional."Its list of synonyms can sound like the Seven Dwarfs gone wrong: corny, mushy, saccharine, schmaltzy, sappy, cloying and wet.Yet the word has a surprisingly somber origin. It comes from an alteration of Mary Magdalene – from the depiction of her as a grieving penitent. The original, now archaic, meaning of the word in English was "tearful" or "weeping."<br />"Sepulchral"<br />right000From:A blog post about layoffs at CBS NewsThe Use:"One person described the atmosphere inside the network as 'sepulchral.' The entire news business has contracted in recent years, as viewers and readers have fled, depending on their age, either to the Internet or to retirement homes." – Rebecca Dana, The Daily Beast, August 31, 2010About the Word:Sepulchral means gloomy, dismal or funereal – like a sepulcher, a tomb.Used here, the word suggests both the mood inside the office and the prospects of the business.Sepulchral comes from a Latin word that means to bury.<br />"Immure"<br />right000From:A newspaper column about the growing power of ChinaThe Use:"The ancient civilization became a byword for isolation and stagnation. China's decadent emperors were immured behind the Great Wall and inside the Forbidden City. Its vaunted invention of gunpowder had spluttered into firecrackers." – Piers Brendon, The New York Times, August 21, 2010About the Word:Immure means "to enclose within or as if within walls," or "to imprison."It's often used metaphorically, as in "scientists at the research station in Alaska are immured by the frozen wastelands that surround them."In the sentence about China, immure offers both a figurative sense – imprisonment within a stagnant culture – and a literal one, evoking images of the famous wall itself.<br />"Macabre"<br />right000From:On August 17, 2010, to commemorate the passing of Bobby Thomson, Deadspin reprinted a newspaper article from 1951 about the New York Giants beating the Brooklyn Dodgers with the most famous home run in history.The Use:As Giants batter Bobby Thomson comes up to bat, "Up in the press section, the [voice] came over the amplifiers announcing a macabre statistic: 'Thomson has now hit safely in fifteen consecutive games.'"About the Word:Macabre means "tending to produce horror in a beholder," "gruesome," or "involving death or violence in a way that is strange."That word, with its grim reaper implications, is particularly appropriate from the perspective of the Brooklyn Dodgers and their fans – forever scarred by the moment when Thomson hit his homer and the Giants won the pennant.<br />"Irascible"<br />right000From:A report on the death of former Alaska Senator Ted StevensThe Use:"Stevens was a colorful and irascible figure in the Senate, a blunt former World War II pilot who was known as 'Uncle Ted' in his home state and often wore an Incredible Hulk tie when he was preparing for a fierce debate on the Senate floor." – John Bresnahan and Manu Raju, Politico, August 10, 2010About the Word:Irascible means "marked by hot temper and easily provoked anger."The reference to Stevens' identification with the Incredible Hulk – a man who becomes a monster when he's angry – reinforces the word choice.Irascible's Latin root ira, meaning "anger," also gave us the words "ire" and "irate."<br />"Panjandrum"<br />right000From:A piece about the Naomi Campbell diamond affairThe Use:"In this faux-morality play, everyone has his assigned role: Cover-seeking panjandrums of the diamond industry..." – Jack Jolis, The Wall Street Journal, August 10, 2010About the Word:Panjandrum is a mocking term for a powerful person or pretentious official.Similar in meaning to pooh-bah or muckety-muck, panjandrum seems particularly appropriate in the context of a "faux-morality play" because it comes from the theater. Coined in the 1700s, it was originally a nonsense word designed to test the memory of an actor.<br />"Desaturate"<br />right000From:An article about video games The Use:"When you die, the image desaturates to black-and-white and there's a tactful moment of funereal bagpipery." – Nicholson Baker, The New Yorker, August 9, 2010About the Word:To desaturate is to remove the color from something.Born from the use of digital tools that remove the color from photos or video, desaturate is an emerging word that doesn't yet appear in standard dictionaries. Its meaning, however, can be tracked through the sense of saturation that means "color purity."Saturation comes from the Latin satur, or "well fed."<br />"Behemoth"<br />right000From:A story about the new bridge in MinneapolisThe Use:"Just about everyone who worked to build the new Interstate Highway 35W bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, knew that their project would never be 'just a bridge.' It would never occupy the same category as thousands of other concrete and steel behemoths that millions of American drivers thoughtlessly cross every day." – Thom Patterson,, July 31, 2010About the Word:Behemoth means something of oppressive or monstrous size, power, or appearance. Often it's used to describe a non-physical thing, such as a corporate behemoth.In contemporary use the word has a negative sense, but that wasn't originally the case. The word appears in the Bible, Job 40:15-24, referring to a mighty animal, probably a hippopotamus, as an example of the power of God.<br />"Tendentious"<br />right000From:A column about Shirley Sherrod's speechThe Use:"There is beauty in the speech, and bravery too... It's not a perfect speech – she's tendentious in her support for health care and takes cheap shots at Republicans. And it's not the poor versus the rich, it's the powerful helping the powerless. But it's good." – Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal, July 22, 2010About the Word:Tendentious means "biased."It's related to tendency – i.e. an inclination to move in a given direction, either literally or figuratively. Tendentious describes the tendency to support or promote only opinions and ideas coming from the same direction as your own.It's most often used to criticize someone's thinking or outlook, as in the sentence above.<br />"Bravura"<br />right000From:A review of the movie InceptionThe Use:"And bravura editing notwithstanding, the four-headed finale tends to undercut the impact of each of its components. It's one thing to marvel at a master juggler, but rather another to feel as if you are one of the balls." – Christopher Orr, The Atlantic, July 15, 2010About the Word:Bravura means "marked by dazzling skill" or "showy," and it is generally used to praise performances of one kind or another.Coming from an Old Italian verb meaning "to show off," bravura is related to both "brave" and "bravado."In this example, the writer uses bravura not only to express admiration for the filmmaker's dazzling skills but also to suggest that these skills have been used for superficial or showy effect.<br />"Incandescent"<br />right000From:A discussion about the late George SteinbrennerThe Use:"[George] Steinbrenner was, at least, colorful. He was, at least, New York. I've always been willing to forgive people like Steinbrenner and Bobby Knight and Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani a lot, because their incandescent competitiveness is so fascinating to watch." – David Brooks,, July 13, 2010About the Word:Incandescent can mean strikingly bright, radiant, fiery, or impassioned.It can describe a physical thing (like the glowing filament in a traditional incandescent lightbulb), but more often is used figuratively, to describe an emotional quality such as rage, beauty, or – in the example above – competitiveness.The word comes from the Latin candere (to glow), the same root that gave us candle.<br />"Feckless"<br />right000From:A column about the Federal ReserveThe Use:"[The Fed is] debating – with ponderous slowness – whether maybe, possibly, it should consider trying to do something about the situation, one of these days. The Fed's fecklessness is, to be sure, not unique." – Paul Krugman, The New York Times, July 12, 2010About the Word:Feckless means "weak," "ineffective," "worthless" or "irresponsible."The noun feck is a Scots term that comes from an alteration of the Middle English "effect." So something that is feckless is literally "without feck," or ineffective.<br />"Incisive"<br />right000From:An article about the final game of the FIFA World CupThe Use:"There is no question that the clever football, which involves interchanging of movement, people running off the ball and incisive passing, all of which has been the hallmark of Spain in the last couple of seasons, deserved to win football's greatest prize." – David Pleat, The Guardian, July 12, 2010About the Word:Incisive means "impressively direct and decisive."It comes from the Latin incisus, "to cut."Something incisive cuts through – for example through confusion, as in "an incisive question," or through a sports team's defense in the quotation above.<br />"Inexorably" <br />right000From:A piece about the Gulf oil spillThe Use:"In a calamity lasting so long and unfolding so inexorably, emotions swing from anger to sadness to grim acceptance. There's simply nothing to do except struggle to clean up the mess ... and pray for the day when it's over." – Carl Hiaasen, Miami Herald, June 26, 2010About the Word:Inexorably means "relentlessly," "unstoppably," or "inevitably."It's generally used to describe large forces – such as an oil spill, in the example above.Another typical example: "Will a change in negotiations lead inexorably to conflict?"At the root of this word is the Latin orare, "to speak," which is the same root that gives us oration (i.e., "a formal speech"). Originally, therefore, an inexorable person was someone who could not be moved or persuaded by speech.<br /> Save trees. Print Only When Necessary<br />