A Compliment that Complements

Dead_people_eat_brains_by_rebel_penguinHello, dear readers! It’s been quite a while, I know. Between work, family, turning 40, more work, pets, alien encounters, and more work, life has been a touch busier than normal, making it quite a challenge to get a coherent blog post written. But I’m here now to talk to you about something that came up in conversation sometime last week. Continue reading

X is for…


Warm greetings, my dear readers, from an unseasonably chilly Ottawa. Today, I’d like to present the next instalment in my Vocabulary Series, the lovely letter X. There aren’t a lot of words that begin with this letter, but there are certainly some interesting ones. So let’s have a look.

All three of the words I’ve chosen are adjectives, probably because they are the most fun. This first word will make you sound very fancy, especially if you use it the next time you’re at an art gallery.

Xanthic (adjective)

Etymology:   First documented in English in 1817. Comes from the French xanthique, which in turn comes from the Greek xanthos, meaning yellow.

Definition:    Yellowish.

Example:   After catching a glimpse of the zombie horde, Xander looked a little xanthic.


My second word choice is one I’d never heard before. Not only is its meaning pretty neat, but it’s also a lot of fun to say!

Xerophilous (adjective)

Etymology:   First appears in the 1860s, meaning drought-loving. Comes from combining the Greek words xero-, meaning dry or withered, and philous, meaning loving.

Definition:   Adapted to a very dry climate or habitat, or to conditions where moisture is scarce (used for both plants and animals).

Example:   Desert zombies are xerophilous, while swamp zombies prefer a much moister habitat.


And my final word choice is another fun word to say out loud. Plus it has a cool connection to the human body.

Xiphoid (adjective)

Etymology:   First appears in the 1740s. Comes from combining the Greek word xiphos, meaning sword, and the Latin suffix –oid, meaning like or like that. The suffix –oid comes from the Greek suffix –oeides, which comes from the word eidos, meaning form.

I chose this word because the xiphoid process is one of my favourite anatomical terms. It’s a piece of cartilage at the bottom of your sternum that plays the important role of anchoring a bunch of muscles, including your abdominal diaphragm, which is kind of important in helping you breathe. And, unsurprisingly, your xiphoid process is shaped like the tip of a sword.

Definition:   Sword-shaped.

Example:   Frantically, Xander searched the abandoned house for something sharp and xiphoid.


As always, etymological information and definitions come from a combination of the Oxford Dictionary of Etymological English, the Oxford Dictionaries Online, and the Online Etymology Dictionary.

Image credit:  byPiPa @ deviantART

W is for…

Wizard-warlockHappy July, my dear readers! If you celebrated your country’s birthday or independence or something similar in the last week or so, I hope you had a great time. My Canada Day celebrations began with a tornado warning and ended with fireworks, which I think sums up my country pretty nicely. Wild and beautiful.

Okay, so it’s time for the next instalment of my Vocabulary Series. Today, I warmly welcome the wise and the whatnot to allow the letter W to wash over your wonderfully whimsical selves.

This first word is a verb that makes me think of soft summer days at the beach.

Waft (verb)

Etymology:   First appears around 1500, meaning to move gently through the air. Likely comes from the Middle Dutch/Middle Low German word wachten, meaning to guard. It might also be related to the Scottish/Northern English word waff, meaning to make something move to and fro.

Definition:  To float or glide gently through the air (can also refer to scents).

Example:   Wanda the werepup wept as she watched her balloon waft away on the warm summer breeze.


My second word choice started out with one meaning and evolved to mean something a little different but a whole lot more interesting!

Warlock (noun)

Etymology:   First appears in the 1680s in Scotland, meaning the male equivalent of a witch. Comes from the Old English word wærloga, meaning traitor, liar, enemy, or devil. Wærloga comes from wær, which refers to faith and fidelity or an agreement or covenant, and in turn comes from the Proto-Germanic wera– and the Proto-Indo-European wereo-, meaning true or trustworthy. Loga comes from the early Old English word leogan, meaning to lie. Its use to describe someone in league with the devil dates to around 1300, while its use to describe a male witch or sorcerer appears in the 1560s.

Definition:   A man who practices witchcraft; a wizard or sorcerer.

Example:  The kindly neighbourhood warlock took pity on Wanda; with a wave of his wand, Wanda’s wayward balloon was returned to her waiting hands.


And my final word choice is one that is loaded with meaning, both socially and politically. I was pleasantly surprised to discover its innocuous origins.

Wife (noun)

Etymology:   Comes from the Old English word wif, meaning woman, female, lady, and occasionally wife. Wif comes from the Proto-Germanic wiban, a word with unknown origins that also means woman. A number of other old European languages have similar words for woman (Old Norse vif, Danish and Swedish viv, Middle Dutch wiif, Old High German wib, and the German Weib). One possible Proto-Indo-European root is weip-, meaning to twist, turn, or wrap, which could suggest a veiled person.

Wif evolved into wifman, which is where the modern English word woman comes from. The modern meaning to refer to a female spouse started to emerge in Old English, but the original meaning is still preserved in a number of other words, like midwife and fishwife—and also in expressions like old wives’ tale.

Definition:   A married woman, especially in relation to her spouse.

Example:  Once Wanda’s balloon was securely tied to her wrist, the warlock’s wife whisked Wanda home.


As always, etymological information and definitions come from a combination of the Oxford Dictionary of Etymological English, the Oxford Dictionaries Online, and the Online Etymology Dictionary.


Image credit:  Guro deviantART

V is for…


Holy moly! Can you believe it’s nearly June? Wasn’t I complaining about the snow and the cold not that long ago? Well, I’m not complaining now. My garden is in full swing and I’m off to Toronto next week to attend the annual Editors’ Association of Canada conference.

Today, I’d like to bring you the next instalment of my Vocabulary Series. I’m going to visit upon you a veritable variety of vexing and vainglorious vocabulary beginning with the letter V.

This first word is a fabulous verb that conjures visions of indecisive sea anemones. It kind of sounds like the action it describes, don’t you think?

Vacillate (verb)

Etymology:   First appears in the 1590s, meaning to sway unsteadily. Comes from the Latin word vacillatus, which is the past participle of vacillare, meaning to sway to and fro or to hesitate. Its more modern meaning to describe an inability to make up one’s mind was first documented in the 1620s.

Definition:    To waver between two different opinions, options, or actions; to be indecisive; to sway unsteadily.

Example:   Viktor vacillated; he didn’t know if he should pursue the voluptuous blonde running down the hill or her vainglorious lover, who was heading for the forest. He flipped a coin.


This next word is one of my favourite adjectives, in part because it’s so much fun to say. But it also makes a great insult!

Vacuous (adjective)

Etymology:   First appears in the 1640s, meaning empty. Comes from the Latin word vacuus, meaning empty, void, or free, which is related to the word vacare, meaning to be empty. Vacare likely comes from a translation of the Greek word kenon, which means that which is empty. Its more modern meaning to describe a person was first seen in the 1840s.

Definition:   Unintelligent or expressionless; lacking substance or content; empty.

Example:   With a disappointed sigh, Viktor cornered his dinner. The young man’s vacuous gaze meant Viktor was in for an especially bland meal.


Seeing as we’re at the letter V, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tell you about the origins of the words that describes one of my favourite monsters. Careful—the bonus word this week wants to suck your blood!

Vampire (noun)

Etymology:   First appears in the 1700s, referring to a spectral being in a human body who leaves the grave at night to drink the blood of the living while they sleep. Comes from the French word vampire, or the German Vampir, which is seen in 1732 in an account regarding Hungarian vampires. The French and German words come from the Hungarian vampir, which comes from the Old Church Slavonic word opiri. Similar words can be seen in the Bulgarian vapir and Ukranian uper. Franc Miklošič, an expert on Slavic languages, believed that the origins of vampire can be traced to the Kazan Tatar word, ubyr, meaning witch. However, Max Vasmer, who was an expert in the etymology of Indo-European, Finno-Ugric, and Turkic languages, disagreed.

The meaning that describes a person who preys on others—especially emotionally or psychologically—was first recorded in 1741.

Definition:   A reanimated corpse that leaves its grave at night to drink the blood of the living by biting their necks with abnormally long and pointed canine teeth; a person who preys ruthlessly on others.

Example:   As the sun began to rise, Viktor wished he wasn’t a vampire. He really missed eating pesto and sleeping in a bed.


As always, etymological information and definitions come from a combination of the Oxford Dictionary of Etymological English, the Oxford Dictionaries Online, and the Online Etymology Dictionary.

Linking up with this weekend’s moonshine
grid, over at yeah write.

Hey, if you’ve got a blog post that’s burning
a hole in your virtual pocket, you should
link up too!

Image credit: Depsycho @ deviantART

U is for…

zombie-fingersI’ve been a bit lax with my grammar and vocabulary posts lately, for which I apologize. To make it up to you, today I’m going to tackle the letter U, which is the next letter in my ongoing Vocabulary Series. I urge you to unwind as you undulate on the waves and let the unique U-words unfurl around you.

The first word I chose because of its unusual evolution from its original meaning to the meaning we ascribe to it today. Also, it’s a fun word to say out loud.

Umbrage (noun)

Etymology:   First appears in the early 1400s, meaning shadow or shade. Comes from ombrage, a Middle French word with the same meaning, which comes from the Latin word umbraticum, referring to something pertaining to shade or to being in retirement. Umbraticum comes from the root umbra, meaning shade or shadow, which likely comes from the Proto-Indo-European root andho-, meaning blind or dark. The modern meaning appeared in the early 1600s.

As a side note, you probably won’t be surprised to know that umbrella shares the same roots as umbrage.

Definition:  Offence or annoyance; a sense of slight or injury.

Example:  Harold the Zombie took umbrage at Bedelia’s remark about how bad he smelled; for crying out loud, he’d been in the shower when that other zombie bit him!


I chose this next word because it sounds just like what it describes and always makes me feel like I need to wash my hands.

Unctuous (adjective)

Etymology:   First appears in the late 1300s, meaning something that feels oily, greasy, or soapy when touched. Comes from the Old French word unctueus, which comes from the Medieval Latin word unctuosus, both meaning greasy. Unctuosus comes from the Latin unctus, which refers to the act of anointing. Its second meaning, to be overly ingratiating, was first recorded in 1742.

Definition:   Oily, or having a greasy or soapy feel; to be excessively flattering or ingratiating.

Example:   As Harold the Zombie ran a hand through his unctuous hair, he realized Bedelia might have been right.


The bonus word this week is all around us. We wouldn’t be here without it, even though we’re still not sure how it got here.

Universe (adjective)

Etymology:    First appears in the 1580s, meaning the cosmos or the totality of existing things. Comes from the Old French univers, which comes from the Latin universum, both meaning all things, all people, the whole world. Universum comes from universus, which means turned into one and is formed by combining unus, meaning one, with versus, meaning to turn.

Definition:  All existing matter and space as a whole; the cosmos; a particular sphere of interest, activity, or experience.

Example:   Harold the Zombie munched on Bedelia’s delicious brains and marvelled at the beauty of the universe.


As always, etymological information and definitions come from a combination of the Oxford Dictionary of Etymological English, the Oxford Dictionaries Online, and the Online Etymology Dictionary.


Image credit: Meiio @ deviantART