Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wondrous Words Wednesday (July 15)

Wondrous Words Wednesday button
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. Feel free to join in the fun.

All my words this week are from The Condition by Jennifer Haigh (which is not a tough read, despite what these words make it sound like!).

Apoptosis – “Manning was a leader in the hot new field of apoptosis; he’d been an early proponent of the theory that, under specific conditions, cells committed suicide . . .” (p. 46).

Apoptosis means “the death of cells which occurs as a normal and controlled part of an organism’s growth or development.”*

Oncogeneticist/oncogene – “He was a traditional oncogeneticist; he’d made his reputation by discovering a specific oncogene, XNR, and its role in tumor-cell signaling” (p. 46).

I had a hard time finding a definition for oncogeneticist (or at least a definition that made sense to me!). However, according to WordNet, an oncogene is “a gene that disposes normal cells to change into cancerous tumor cells.” I presume an oncogeneticist is a geneticist who studies oncogenes...

Picayune – “Hanging over his shoulder, she had instructed him endlessly: so persnickety, so picayune, that he had lost his temper” (p. 89).

This is another one of those words I feel I should know (I’ve certainly come across it before), but I wasn’t sure of its definition. Picayune means “contemptible, petty, insignificant.”

Nulliparous – “No, because Turner females are nulliparous” (p. 164).

According to Wikipedia, nulliparous means “that has not given birth.”

Cichlid – “A school of bright cichlids engulfed them” (p. 202).

A cichlid is “any tropical freshwater fish of the family Cichlidae, especially the kind kept in aquariums.” According to Wikipedia, “there are at least 1300 scientifically described species [in the Cichlidae family], making it one of the largest vertebrate families.” Tilapia is a cichlid.

Dinoflagellate – “The water was speckled with dinoflagellates, tiny particles of iridescent green” (p. 205).

A dinoflagellate is “a unicellular aquatic organism with two flagella, of a group variously classes as algae and protozoa.” Of course, I then had to look up flagellum (plural: flagella), which is “a long lash-like appendage found especially on microscopic organisms.”

Comorbidity – “And there is comorbidity with ADHD” (p. 232).

According to Wikipedia, comorbidity means “the presence of one or more disorders (or diseases) in addition to a primary disease or disorder.”

Onion snow – “. . . far, far away from Gatwick, where an onion snow was falling on his mean little house” (p. 260).

According to, onion snow is “a snowfall in late spring; the last snow of the season.” This is a term used mostly in Pennsylvania, apparently.

What new words have you discovered lately? Share your Wondrous Words on Kathy’s blog.

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


  1. A great list. The only word I knew was picayune.

  2. I find picayune interesting because the newspaper in New Orleans is the Times-Picayune. I had no idea that's what it meant. I love the phrase onion snow, even though I've never heard it before. We rarely get middle of the winter snow, let alone onion snow. Thanks for participating!

  3. All these words & expressions are new to me, but then English is not my mother tongue. I love the expression onion snow!:)


  4. I didn't know any of these!!! :)

  5. Oh I just love this! We do what we call a Wordy Wednesday back at one of my blogs: Plaidy's Royal Intrigue. Come check what we wrote for today at:

  6. Apoptosis – “cells committed suicide . . .” LOL! Yes, that's what I learned in college biology.

    Oncogeneticist... I can't even say it...

    Here's another one I can't say: Dinoflagellate

    I have to cut the word up into syllables like in grade school.

    I like this meme. It makes me laugh and feel a little incompetent, lol. I might take part another time.

    Thanks. =)

    Oh, and I have something for you. =)