Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wondrous Words Wednesday (March 11)

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 rereading Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott, so my first word comes from that book; all the other words are from Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos:

Shemozzle – “That was all a pretty big shemozzle, her getting better” (p. 347).

A shemozzle is “a brawl or commotion; a muddle,”* which I had gathered from the context, although I was not familiar with this word.

Cenotaph – “Cenotaphs are such a waste of real estate” (p. 20).

A cenotaph is “a tomb-like monument, especially a war memorial, to a person or persons whose bodies are interred elsewhere.”

Extemporized – “In a very short time, he must stand in front of a live camera and translate multiple columns of numbers into a concise, comprehensive, friendly, and wholly extemporized summary . . .” (p. 35).

To extemporize means to “compose or produce (music, a speech, etc.) without preparation; to improvise.” (I feel like I should have known what this word means!)

Caduceus – “He smoothed the passing of the caduceus (as he liked to say) in other ways as well” (p. 45).

A caduceus is “a staff with a winged top and two serpents coiled around it, especially as carried by Hermes or Mercury; this staff as a symbol of the medical profession.” This is a word I was vaguely familiar with, but wouldn’t have been able to define without looking it up.

Glassine – “So when Larken is required to visit the gallery, she takes comfort in the marble, its highly reflective surface, its glassine smoothness” (p. 58).

Glassine is “a glossy transparent paper.” Again, I was not familiar with this word, but could guess its meaning from the context.

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

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


  1. I love your new words, especially shemozzle! I'm going to try to remember that one. Thanks for playing along.

  2. The first two had me saying, "huh?". But the last three I knew, I'm always secretly tickled when I know one of the obscure words people find for this meme!

    But I think I like the ones I don't better! it! Sort of like a kerfuffle!!

  3. I like shemozzle as well. I'm going to fit that one into the conversations today.

  4. Shemozzle is my favorite too. That's just a great word!

  5. I like caduceous but I think I'm going to have trouble finding a way to use it!.

  6. Like the others, I love shemozzle - I think I'll use that with my kids!

  7. "Schemozzle"- that's great. I really like "cenotaph", what an interesting word- with a very specific application!

  8. Kathy, shemozzle is my favourite new word this week too! I'm really enjoying this meme; thanks for coming up with it!

    Kelly, I tend to feel a bit disappointed when I know other folks' words. Glad a few of mine were new to you!

    Margot, did you manage to use it in conversation?

    Meghan, Carrie and Anna, I like the way it sounds too!

    Fleurfisher, when I looked that one up I realized the symbol is very familiar to me of course, since it's used by so many pharmacies. I'm not sure how you'd slip it into casual conversation though!

    Jeane, yeah, I have a feeling I'm going to remember the definition of cenotaph for that very reason! (Plus since I'm interested in family history, it's a word I might actually have occasion to use.)

  9. I learned about Cenotaph recently when I interviewed Eric Pankey...its the title of one of his poetry collections.

  10. Interesting title for a poetry collection, Serena! I missed that interview somehow; I'll have to check it out.