Category Archives: Words

Paltry

Today’s word is one I’ve seen used a lot lately. I don’t use it often enough, so I thought I’d practice with it today.

paltry (adj.) – small or meager; trivial; inferior or petty; mean.

Example: She picked up her paltry wages after the day’s shift, hoping it would be enough to cover the rent that was already late this month.

It had been a paltry trick, letting him take the fall like that. Stepping into the bright sunlight from the shadow of the doorway, Gregor looked on the world with a new vigor. Things were going to be different for him now, he resolved.

He looked left, then right. There was nothing but road for miles. The sun beat down hard on the line of asphalt that stretched through the desert. The horizon even had those visible waves of heat that rippled through the air, like brush strokes left by God. It reminded him of some of the paintings he’d seen pictured in the magazines Sampson kept in the library. It was hot.

He rummaged in his pocket for the cash he’d come in with all those years ago, pulling out a paltry stash of coins, some lint, and a couple of dollar bills that looked like they’d been through the wash. Damn. This new life was already presenting some challenges, and it was only going to get harder from here. Well, no need to get down about things so soon. No one said this was going to be easy.

And with that in mind, he started walking. He wasn’t sure which direction the nearest town would be or what he’d do once he got there, but he was content to take things one step at a time for now – literally.

Gregor started humming to pass the time. He had never been much of a singer but he fancied himself a pretty good hummer, if there was such a thing. The tune of the moment was Folsom Prison Blues, by Johnny Cash. He’d thought it appropriate given the setting he’d just left. It was also pretty quick in tempo, which helped him keep a good walkin’ pace. After about an hour or so, the pep was gone from his step though and he started to wonder why he’d thought it a good idea to try to walk all this way. Sweat dripped from the forehead that was surely red by now. Only a paltry number of cars had passed and there hadn’t been so much as a mile marker to indicate he was actually making progress. It began to feel like it was just him, the dessert, and his songs. He considered trying to hitch, but who would stop to pick up someone like him?

Then, almost as if the Lord had heard this thought, a car passed, slowed, then stopped at the edge of the road. By the time Gregor reached it, the passenger side window was rolled down. He leaned down so the driver could see his cherry face and look of surprise, unsure of what to say.

The driver was a handsome man, in a pretty way. With his slim figure, neatly trimmed hair, clean shave and bright white smile he reminded Gregor of the men who’d served in World War II – back when all men seemed to be trim, dapper, and boyish. The man’s eyes seemed to actually twinkle as he smiled – must’ve been the heat.

“You look like you could use a ride, stranger!” the driver beamed.

Gregor nodded, adding with skepticism, “Just got out, though.” He thumbed over his shoulder in the direction of the prison he’d walked from, “You okay with takin’ an ex-convict?”

He prepared himself for the uneasy look of someone who didn’t want to be rude, but also valued their safety. Instead, he was met with the same unfaltering smile he’d seen before his honesty.

“Sir, I leave the judging up to the Lord… and I’d hate to hear what he’d think of me if I left a brother out in this heat to walk only He knows how far,” he leaned over to open the passenger’s door for Gregor. “Now, where ya headed?”

That was when Gregor met Hargrave – a day he’d not soon forget.

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Cogitating on Words

Oops! I made the commitment to learn a new word each week and write about it. Seems I’ve delayed doing that for a while, so this afternoon I made note to play catch up. That meant I needed a new word.

It’s easy to find new words when you read, so that’s precisely what I did. It had been a while since I’d gone through my WP Reader, which inevitably bounces me around, leading me to new blogs and new writers. Such fun! It wasn’t before long that I came across a new word – one that I don’t think I’ve ever heard before.

cogitate (v.) – to ponder or meditate on intently.
Example: After receiving such a wonderful response on his latest novel, he began to cogitate on the seedling of an idea he had for his next book.

Great word!! Love it.

Shortly thereafter, I came across another word I wanted to look up. It’s one of those I’d heard before and understood in context, but never been confident enough to use myself. Since it’s been a while, I figured why not do two? So the adventure began…

denigrate (v.) – to belittle or attack the reputation of; defame.

Example: That opinion piece in the paper denigrates everyone who participated in the event, implying they did not work very hard when in fact their efforts were crucial to the event’s success!

When I looked up ‘denigrate’, a little video began playing in the upper right corner of the Merriam-Webster website. It had yet another great word: defenestration. Not only was the woman in the video defining the word, but she was giving the history of it as well! The history, for the record, is fascinating.

defenestration (n.) – the act of throwing someone or something out a window.

Example: Protestants of Prague found two officials guilty of violating a decree that granted freedom of religious expression and sentenced them to defenestration, which was carried out shortly thereafter.

The video, I discovered, is part of a series called ‘Ask the Editor’. …Series, you say?

Immediately I bounced back to the cogitate page and discovered another ‘Ask the Editor’ segment that was equally as fascinating! It was titled “What Ironic really means” (and don’t we all want to know?). To be brief, we’ve been using the term more or less “incorrectly” for over one hundred years and true situational irony (the only context in which in the word may ‘properly’ be used) sometimes must be so specific it just takes the fun out of it all. After feeling justified in my recent uses of the word “ironic”, I scrolled down to yet another link: Top Ten Words for Unusual Colours.

Squee!!

I think it’s important to use synonyms in writing. Really, finding new and creative ways of saying the same old things is good practice in any case. So the new words for colours intrigued me, then educated me. Apparently, ‘puce’ is not the color I thought it was and ‘bittersweet’ describes more than chocolate.

Finally, since it’s hit 33*C today (low 90’s for you Fahrenheiters), I looked up some new words to describe today’s temperature sans air conditioning. (Thank the heavens for my trusty fan!)

Today it is hot. Not quite equivalent to anything you’d do in the kitchen, such as boiling or baking, roasting or sizzling – I don’t feel as though I’m cooking. It is, perhaps, fervid; and most definitely sweltering. Positively thermal, really. Though it’s too humid to be torrid, yet not enough to be tropical. At the peak of the day it was absolutely stifling, but the breeze has since carried that feeling away. Now I’d say the day is almost sultry… though I think that word would fit better if I lived someplace like New Orleans.

Aren’t words wondrous?

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Galactagogue (not short for galactic synagogue)

galactagogue (n.) – something that promotes lactation

example: Brewer’s yeast is a galactagogue, but nutritional yeast is not.

Of all the things I thought I might write about today, a word that directly relates to lactation would have been very far down on my list. I do not have children and I don’t intend to for a while yet, so anything to do with lactation, poo receptacles that we tie around tiny human waists or squeezing very large things out of normally tiny holes is not much on my agenda. But for several of my friends, this has become the case. The constantly-posted-to-Facebook case. I was able to maintain my distance from this world, getting by with only the obligatory cute-baby-photo likes when new ones popped out… until one came out of my very close friend. This is a woman who is the closest thing to a sister an only child can have. This new baby is the closest thing to a nephew I’ll ever have. The obligatory likes no longer suffice.

So when my friend confided that she’s having lactation problems and wants to make “lactation cookies”, I roped myself into helping her hunt down the ingredients. Not without first expressing my disgust at calling them “lactation cookies”, though. Fortunately they are cookies meant to help a new mother increase her breast milk supply, not cookies made of the stuff. The little treats themselves are galactagogues; which sound something more to us like an abbreviated word for “Galactic Synagogues”. (Wouldn’t those be interesting?)

I digress.

Most of the ingredients are your basic cookie-type things: butter, milk, sugar, eggs, etc. However, the key ingredient is something called Brewer’s Yeast. At first, my friend understood this to be yeast used in the process of making beer. On this assumption, I suggested we check a local home brewer’s supply shop. Fortunately, I thought to Google this first. As it turns out, Brewer’s Yeast is a by-product of the brewing process and entirely distinct from the active yeast used during brewing. It is also different from, and not to be confused with, Baker’s yeast and Nutritional yeast. Even though sometimes people call Brewer’s Yeast “Nutritional Brewer’s Yeast”. How confusing can they make this stuff?

Anyway… after more research than I ever expected to do on yeast and its relation to producing breast milk, we found the information we were looking for. While Baker’s and Nutritional yeasts would be just fine for baking cookies, they would not produce the desired effect: more milk. The reason being that Brewer’s Yeast is unique in the fact that it is a galactic synagogue galactagogue. New mothers make cookies with it because Brewer’s Yeast is, on its own, bitter. (Just a spoon full of sugar…) Many young women had been directed toward Nutritional Yeast at vitamin stores because, well, that seems logical when the purpose is baking cookies. Why would you want the bitter grossness to bake with? Nutritional Yeast is packed with nutritional things and isn’t disgusting! …but it will not improve your breast milk production.

Also, asparagus is apparently also a galactagogue.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever have cause to use the word ‘galactagogue’, but I’ve definitely added it to my repertoire. Perhaps I’ll give one of my future characters a lactation issue…

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Ubiquitous

ubiquitous  (adj.) : existing or being everywhere at the same time.

Example: Little flags with red and white stripes and blue squares dotted with stars are quite ubiquitous in America on the 4th of July.

Ubiquitous is a word that I’ve heard before and understood in context but it’s one of those that, if asked for an exact definition, I would find myself at a loss for words to describe. If I’ve used it before, either in speech or in writing, it’s because I’d only recently looked it up again. This time, I aim to remember it.

***

He awoke to the smell of tulips and a warm breeze caressing his skin. The window was open. Someone had been in his room. Slowly, he opened one eye. The room was bright with morning sunlight, but no one appeared to be in it now except for him. He stretched his sleep-stiff muscles, took in a deep breath of the morning air, and rubbed his eyes. Then he noticed it.

Sitting on the nightstand, the only other piece of furniture in the room aside from his bed, was a vase of bright yellow tulips. It had been Lottie who had opened the window, then. The sweet-smelling blooms that now dotted the house ubiquitously were Lottie’s doing. She insisted that they were good luck for weddings and had been adorning the house with them all week. A single petal was hardly creased or crumpled before the entire vase was replaced with another fresh, strong bouquet. All yellow; for that was the color that would bring happiness for the couple. For a color that was meant to bring happiness, it sure seemed to be bringing him more nausea than joy. Only a few more days until the ceremony, though. Surely he could hold out.

When he entered the breakfast salon he immediately lost his appetite. The long narrow table that held a buffet of fresh fruit, cheese, and pastries was covered in a floor-length yellow cloth. Lottie’s enthusiasm for weddings could apparently only be matched by her belief in superstition. He  only stayed long enough to cross the room, then exited through the door opposite whence he came.

Once in the hallway, he turned to head for the kitchen. A fresh cup of coffee from Eloise would suffice for breakfast this morning. Perhaps Trenmor would still be lingering, as well. He’d been meaning to ask him about the ubiquitous wanted signs hung around town. Maybe taking on a quick job before the big day would help put his mind at ease. The ladies of the house were taking care of everything and only seemed upset by any tasking he took upon himself. There was nothing he could do right for them and he was beginning to feel useless, bored, and anxious. A job would give him something to do and he would no doubt have it completed by the day of the ceremony.

He stood in the entryway of the kitchen for a few moments to inspect the surroundings. No flowers (Eloise wouldn’t allow them – they only took up precious counter space) and no yellow; a safe haven. Unfortunately, no Trenmor or Eloise either, but no matter. He sat at the old oak table and waited. Eloise did not like people poking around the kitchen, especially if they intended to feed themselves. He had learned this lesson the hard way and he found it almost endearing. Except for today.

Eloise soon returned to her post, but when she did so she was wheeling in a cart of lemony colored plates and dishes. Fortunately, they were stacked so high that she couldn’t seem him escape into the garden. In fact, she never knew he’d been there at all. The garden wasn’t safe, though. The kitchen hands were all out tending the herbs and vegetables, canary sashes tied around their straw bonnets; bundles of those ubiquitous yellow tulips were arriving via Trenmor and his cart; even the cat was adorned with a shimmering collar in that infuriating, nauseating color. As he turned on his heel to flee, he came face-to-face with none other than his betrothed. His bride to be… covered in that ubiquitous color. A yellow satin dress, complete with shoes and parasol, and a matching ribbon tied into her braid. He mumbled something, then ran.

He didn’t stop to rest until he’d made it to the small creek that ran across the far side of the garden. He let out a heavy sigh and leaned against the trunk of the great old oak that stretched lazily over the bubbling water, taking comfort in its shade. Violets dotted the grass across the creek – thank the gods – not tulips.

Don’t tell me you’re exhausted all ready. The day’s hardly begun, a soft voice chastised.

He had sensed her presence only moments before her words. He looked down to see the woman he had thought gone forever. She’d left the house weeks ago after a heated disagreement they’d had. How long had they been friends? Then suddenly she was gone, like someone had blown out the only candle in a dark room. He didn’t even remember what the fight was about. They had never fought, so whatever it had been about must have been important. He couldn’t bear to listen to whatever it was she had been saying, though. He’d been too stubborn. When he’d realized she was gone, he assumed that was it. His closest friend, gone, and for a reason he couldn’t even remember. Yet, here she was.

She was laying on a quilted blanket that had at one point in its life been white, ankles crossed with her head resting on the arms folded behind it. It was as if she didn’t have a care in the world. Her eyes were closed and a slight smile rested on her lips, the one that said I told you so. It was so familiar.

She wore a long blue dress, the color of a twilight sky, that cinched behind the neck.

Sorry I left, she sounded sincere. Her lashes fluttered, their eyes met. But you see it now, don’t you? All the yellow.

He remembered their fight. He remembered her accusations that something was not right. He didn’t want to listen – he was in love. And yes it was love, not the effect of coloration. It wasn’t even that much yellow…

Now he could see, though. And blue had never been so beautiful.

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