by Debbie Harris — In two prior issues of The Foolish Times I have presented words given to me in the daily word-a-day vocabulary enrichments I receive, words I can’t see being used in present day. This month I continue this discussion and offer:
Sward—(pronounced sord)—a portion of ground covered with grass. Not to be confused with the knife-like stabbing kind. Consider: “My yard is getting out of control. This Saturday I’d better mow my sward.” You swashbuckler, you!
Progenitor—(pronounced pr?-JEN-n?-t?r)—an ancestor in the direct line; forefather. “Four score and seven years ago, our progenitors brought forth on this continent” . . . Nope. “For Christmas this year, our whole family is going to our progenitor’s house for a big celebration.” Sounds technical.
Nictitate—(pronounced NIK-tuh-tayt)—to close and open quickly; to shut one eye briefly; wink. Sounds like it should have something to do with cigarettes. Maybe it’s the way smokers open and close their eyes as they take in that first puff. “I thought she was flirting with me because she nictitated in my direction.”
Nosocomial—(pronounced nah-suh-KOH-mee-ul)—acquired or occurring in a hospital. When I first saw this word, it looked to me like it was saying, “not so comical.” Then I read the definition and the two fit. As far as I’m concerned, anything that happens in a hospital is “not so comical.”
Ambisinistrous—(pronounced am-bi-SIN-uh-struhs)—clumsy with both hands. Ah, so ambidextrous is the ability to use both hands with equal skill. As an incredibly right-handed person, I admire people for whom one hand isn’t considered just a back-up player. But now we must consider the poor ambisinistrous person. No glass dishes for this person.
Hoary—(pronounce Hor-ee)—gray or white with or as if with age; extremely old. “My grandmother has lived a long time and she sure is hoary.”
Thaumaturgy—(pronounced THAW-muh-ter-jee)—the performance of miracles. So the story of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan should be called “The Thaumaturgist?” Sounds like an antidote to cryotherapy.
Triptych—(pronounced TRIP-tik)—an ancient Roman writing tablet with three waxed leaves hinged together. Aside from the fact that this word sounds like something that happens before you fall, do any triptychs exist outside of a museum? Can we go on the Office Depot website and search for Roman writing tablets and get a selection of triptychs to choose from? Not likely.
Sylvan—(pronounced Sill-vun)—living or located in the woods or forest. Does this mean that the people who operate the Sylvan Learning Center take the children to the forest? Check the fine print, parents. Hansel and Gretel are the only children I know who went to the forest, but that had nothing to do with learning long division or conjugating verbs.
Maculate—(pronounced MAC-kye-let)—marked with spots, blotched. Well, immaculate means really clean, so it appears that maculate is sort of the opposite. Still, would Disney ever produce a move called “101 Maculated Canines?”
Mumpish—(pronounced MUHM-pish)—sullen, silent, depressed. This has to have come from the swollen glands ailment because that’s exactly the way I felt when I had the mumps!
Gormandize—(pronounced GOR-mun-dyze)—to eat greedily, gluttonously, or ravenously. Sounds gothic. “When we get together at my progenator’s house for Thanksgiving, we really gormandize.” Have a jousting match?
So take care of your hoary progenitors lest they acquire a nosocomial infection and become maculated and mumpish. And be sure to record any thaumaturgies on your triptych.