Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wondrous Words Wednesday (March 18)

Kathy at Bermudaonion’s Weblog hosts this weekly meme in which she asks us to share new words we’ve come across in our reading. I’ve just finished reading Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos, so all my words are from that book:

Soubrettish – “Some look saucy and soubrettish” (p. 115).

A soubrette is“a pert maidservant or similar female character in a play, ballet or musical comedy, or an actress taking this part.”* Soubrettish is therefore someone who is acting like a soubrette, someone pert or vivacious.

Rogue – “If it’s any comfort, I know about detasseling and roguing corn” (p. 136).

To rogue is to “remove inferior or defective plants or seedlings from a crop.”

Catafalque – “No one would suspect that, in the next room, a dead man is lying draped in his coffin on a catafalque . . .” (p. 146).

A catafalque is “a decorated wooden framework for supporting the coffin of a distinguished person during a funeral or while lying in state.”

Fricative – “She loves them all, even the ones whose voices are less melodious: birds who sound like the unoiled hinges of porch screen doors, birds whose voices are metallic and fricative, like the ratchets the Labenz boys use to tighten car parts at the Texaco” (p. 168).

Fricative means “(of a consonant sound) produced by the friction of the airstream through a narrow opening in the mouth.”

Holochroal – “She opens the dictionary at random, sets her finger on the page, and finds ‘holochroal: having compound eyes with the visual area covered by an continuous cornea—used esp. of certain trilobites’” (p. 190).

OK, so this one is cheating a bit, considering the word is defined in the book, which is lucky since it isn’t in my dictionary!

Zwieback – “On the flip side, she hasn’t bitten anything, not even a zwieback” (p. 270).

A zwieback is “a sweet rich egg bread, sliced and baked again until crisp.” Of all the words I’ve defined in WWW posts, this is the only one where context gave me nothing to go on and I really had no idea what this could mean!

What new words have you discovered lately? Share your Wondrous Words.

*All definitions are from the Canadian Oxford Dictionary (2004).


  1. These are great words; thanks for sharing them.

    I particularly like Catafalque and Zwieback!

  2. Aren't Zwiebacks those teething biscuits that babies gnaw on? LOL.

    I keep a little pocket dictionary handy when I read but I think I need a new copy as there are a lot of new terms that are not in it.

  3. Great words! I actually knew rogue, but then I grew up on a farm and gardened a lot with my mom. My kids love Zwieback toast when they were teething, but Lordy it got so gross and gooey.

    I'd like to say I knew catafalque, but only because I found it too this week. What....a bier wasn't good enough for description by our two authors?

    As for the rest of your great words, I think I like fricative best. I just really like the way it sounds. It kind of sounds like what it means!

  4. I also knew rogue from gardening and zwiebacks from my baby days. The rest were very interesting.

  5. we used to give the kids zwieback when they were teething. Well, now, doesn't that date me? my kids are middle aged! of course, I am still 39! My post is here

  6. These are great words...I must say that you won't find any zwiebacks in my house! lol

  7. Well, I love a book that teaches (and a blog that does, too) and I thank you for adding a few new words to my forever dissipating vocabulary....

  8. I love soubrettish. It just sounds like it's definition.

  9. Zwieback sounds like it comes from German. Back, like bake, perhaps?

  10. Remember that poem, "Isabel Isabel..." from that book, "Poems children will sit still for"? And it finishes..."she nibbled the zwieback that she always fed off, then Isabel bit the giant's head off" or something like that.

  11. I used to give my babies zwieback, but oh my, what a drooling mess it made! Here's mine:

  12. Great words. I'm going to try to sneak fricative in at dinner tonight - Carl will probably think I'm cursing. Thanks for playing along.

  13. Never heard the word rogue used like that before! Guess that's what it used to be.

  14. Serena, according to, catafalque is pronounced "kat-uh-fawk" and zwieback is pronounced "zwahy-bak," which is not how I would have pronounced either of them, had I not looked them up! (Note that both words have alternate pronunciations too.)

    Apparently they are, Ti! Can you tell I haven't been around teething babies all that much?

    I agree, Kelly, fricative is definitely a good word! (I must sheepishly admit that I wasn't familiar with the word bier either!)

    Thanks, Margot, Kaye and Jo-Jo, for your comments!

    Beth, you're very welcome!

    I agree, Carol!

    Anonymous Child, you are totally right. The word comes from zwie, which means "twice" and backen, "to bake."

    Brogan, I can't say I remember that poem, but I looked it up and it's "The Adventures of Isabelle" by Ogden Nash. The lines you are thinking of are "She nibbled the zwieback that she always fed off, / And when it was gone, she cut the giant's head off." (You have a good memory!) It's a pretty strange poem.

    Smilingsal, so I gather!

    Kathy, I hadn't thought of that, but it does sound a bit like a euphemism for a swear word.

    Ladytink, you're probably right. I wonder which meaning came first though.