Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Wondrous Words Wednesday (April 1)

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. These words come from Pathologies: A Life in Essays by Susan Olding:

Sybaritic – “By the late thirteenth century, the wealthy population had swelled to nearly two million, and the city was renowned for its sybaritic life” (p. 128).

A sybarite is “a person who is self-indulgent or devoted to sensuous luxury”*; the word originally meant an inhabitant of Sybaris , a 6th-century BC city noted for luxury located in what is now Southern Italy.

Proscenium – “Rows of red plastic chairs and gray Formica tables, bolted to the floor, faced a raised proscenium” (p. 139).

A prosceniums is “an arch that forms a frame at the front of a stage, or the part of the stage in front of the drop or curtain, usually with the enclosing arch.”

Hutong – “Stories about the abduction and sale of women circulate in the hutongs and on the news . . .” (p. 143).

Hutong is a Chinese word and obviously wasn’t in my dictionary. According to Wikipedia, hutongs “are narrow streets or alleys, most commonly associated with Beijing, China. In Beijing, hutongs are alleys formed by lines of siheyuan, traditional courtyard residences. Many neighbourhoods were formed by joining one siheyuan to another to form a hutong, and then joining one hutong to another. The word hutong is also used to refer to such neighbourhoods.”

Chalcedony – “Chalcedony. An agate. Soothes the mind and promotes balance” (p. 173).

Chalcedony is “a type of quartz occurring in several different forms, e.g. onyx, agate, tiger’s eye, etc.”

Panegyric – “Along with the panegyrics they permitted themselves a few little words like impatient and intense” (p. 187).

A panegyric is “a laudatory or praising discourse, speech, etc.”

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

*Unless otherwise noted, all definitions are from the Canadian Oxford Dictionary (2004).


  1. I like sybaritic and hutong. Hutongs I've read about in novels about Beijing. Nice choices!

  2. Hi, thanks for stopping by today for WWW. I think I read most of the posts from last week, but don't remember if anyone else used biloquist or perscutations. If they did, I'm glad to know I wasn't the only one the words were new to. you had some great ones today.

  3. I've found some of the best, most interesting words in essays!

  4. Sybarite I was familiar with, but the rest were new. Good words!

  5. I also like sybaritic. I've know people like that and now I can refer to them and sound rather intelligent. Of course I'll have to practice that for a while. Great, fun words.

  6. I have to say that I am unfamilair with all of those words. Thanks for the education.

  7. That books has some great words in it! I've seen chalcedony before but have never bothered to look it up. Thanks for playing along.

  8. Thanks, Book Bird Dog! I'm pretty sure I'd come across sybaritic in my reading before (though I wasn't 100% sure what it meant), but I don't think I'd seen the word hutong before.

    Kaye, it was Word Lily who mentioned those words last week! (I looked up biloquist in the Book Blogs Search Engine created by Fyrefly and found her post.)

    And one of these days, I'm going to write reviews for the essays I've read this year, Carrie!

    Thanks, Lisa!

    Margot, so far, I haven't had many opportunities to use the new words I've learned thanks to this meme... (I'm not sure how to pronounce half of them!)

    You're welcome, Lisa!

    Thanks, Kathy!