November 09, 2011
Words for Victoria Regina
It is Wondrous Words Wednesday. I do love this meme, I have to admit. I just adore my native language, even if its spelling "system" resembles nothing so much as a drunken ramble through the vagaries of chaos theory. Believe me, I do know all the historical reasons behind this; that doesn't change the fact that we have perhaps the least one-to-one phoneme/grapheme correspondence of any language spoken by humans. (Bonus points for non-linguistics majors who can translate what I just said. :> Sorry; getting a degree in linguistics left me forever unable to speak like a normal, non-warped human being.)
ANYWAY, to bring myself back down to Earth with a decidedly humiliating *THUMP*, I have to confess that I had an embarrassing experience today. A word I THOUGHT I'd known the definition of for years turned out to mean something completely different. *Rolls eyes sheepishly at herself*
1. ferrule--is NOT the stick used to discipline naughty school children of yesteryear, as I believed. Rather, it is that metal endpiece on old-fashioned walking sticks that keeps gravel from biting into the wood. It is also the band that clamps down and keeps all the bristles from falling out of paint brushes. There are a few other, even less interesting uses, but those are the highlights. This naturally segues into my next term.
2. "Penang lawyer"--I could tell from the context of Dr. Watson's sentence that this was some kind of cane, so Wiktionary wasn't terribly helpful in adding nothing to that knowledge but the type of wood from which it is made. A picture would have been helpful. Oh, well; never mind.
3. dolichocephalic--Now THERE is a word you don't hear every day. As a matter-of-fact, I should be rather astonished if I ever run across it again, except maybe in another Victorian or Edwardian mystery featuring a doctor. According to Wiktionary, it literally means "long-headed," "having a head that is long from front to back." Good luck working THAT into ordinary conversation! Leave it to Holmes and Watson and their clients to come up with something like this.