Words of the Week 3/26/2014

This week’s words:

befuddle v. to make confused, as by swift speech; to render unable to think clearly

fatuous adj. silly, pointless; foolish

taradiddle n. a petty lie

consternation n. anxiety or dismay, typically at something unexpected

meretricious adj. apparently attractive but having no value or integrity in reality

The sentences:

Isaac felt an increasing sense of consternation as the interrogation proceeded. He’d told a few taradiddles to the first officer that interviewed him– innocuous answers to seemingly fatuous questions. Then a second officer had entered the interrogation room, relieving the first, and now, as the questions poured swiftly at him out of order and circling back around in ambush, he felt guilty, even though he wasn’t. He could see this second officer was attempting to befuddle him and catch him in a lie– trying to find out who he was protecting. It wouldn’t work.

Now the second officer tried a new tactic. “Doughnut?” she said suddenly, smiling as she offered him a meretricious fruit-filled pastry.


Words of the Week 3/19/2014 — In which Julie discovers the dark side of an old nursery rhyme

This week’s words:

imputation n. an attribution, as of fault or crime; an accusation

perfunctory adj. performed out of routine; lacking enthusiasm; apathetic

litany n. a recital or repetitive series; a tedious, prolonged account

apéritif n. (French) a pre-dinner drink

placid n. tranquil; not easily upset or excited; peaceful

Now the composition. See if you can identify the well-known poem it alludes to:

For the old woman, a five o’clock apéritif was as perfunctory as the rhyming litany with which the neighbor kids teased her children. The gin and tonic made her placid, and at least numbed, if not impervious, to the chant’s subtle imputations about her chastity (or lack thereof) and rumors that her husband’s departure had made her an abusive matron.

Got it?

That’s right! I of course am referencing the old woman who lived in a shoe, a nursery rhyme of Mother Goose origins. Think I made it too dark? Well. It might interest you to know that at first I myself could only remember the initial two lines of this poem, “There was an old woman who lived in a shoe; / She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.” I wrote my vocab sentences with those in mind and then, out of curiosity, looked up the rest of the poem. As it turns out, it’s just two lines more:

She gave them some broth without any bread;

And whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

Uhhh…yeah. I’m pretty sure my copy of left those last ones out. The illustration in my childhood Mother Goose book was not unlike the one above: bright, colorful, featuring playing children, a gentle matron, and most importantly only the first two lines of the poem. But an illustration that portrays the complete nursery rhyme looks more like this:

I guess I see why the editor took a liberty or two (Can’t you just hear the lawsuits?).

Words of the Week 3/12/2014

This week’s words:

ineffectual adj. not producing the desired effect

apostate n. one who renounces a principle or belief; one who forsakes a cause

barbarous adj. savagely cruel, brutal; uncivilized (much as it sounds: barbaric)

dissimulation n. deception; disguising or concealing one’s true thoughts, motives, feelings, etc.

pullulating adj. swarming, teeming, sprouting with ~

In use (Hey! I made a short story this week!):

“Is it supposed to do that?” asked John, poking at his and Greg’s pullulating science project with a ruler.

Greg watched the Jello bubble and froth, beginning to panic. “‘Course it is,” he replied.

Thinking their strawberry lava volcano a failure, the pair had gone ahead and emptied the box of baking soda inside it. At first nothing happened; it appeared ineffectual.

Then the mass had started to swell.

“I don’t believe you,” said John, not fooled for a moment by his friend’s dissimulation.

Greg said nothing. The Jello was rising.

“Crap!” said John, and began to run in panicked circles as strawberry gelatin bubbled and spat. “Crap!” he said again. “My mom’s gonna kill me if it gets on the carpet!”

“Told you we should’ve done it in the garage,” said Greg.

“You did not!”

“Did so.”

John stopped spinning and clutched his head.

“Oh, stop,” said Greg. “It’s just Jello. Nothing a little Tide-To-Go can’t fix. Besides, you’re exaggerating. Your mom wouldn’t kill you over a carpet. A Persian rug is nicer than your average flooring, I’ll admit, but surely the gentle lady would not be so barbarous as t– “

“OH GOD,” said John, voice breaking as the Jello began to spurt out the volcano’s top.

Seeing no other option, he snatched the board it was mounted on and sprinted for the nearest door.

“Hey!” Greg yelled after him. “You’re messing up the results!”

“AHHHHH!” John replied, Jello spewing after him.

Apostate!” Greg called.

John didn’t answer.

Lame,” said Greg, sadly shaking his head at the globs of Jello strewn over the coffee table.

A rug! A rug! Their project for a rug!

Words of the Week 3/5/2014

This week’s words:

mummer n. a person who wears a mask or fantastic costume while merrymaking or participating in traditional masked mime

standoffish adj. distant and cold; unfriendly

vignette n. a brief evocative description, account, or episode

ribald adj. referring to sexual matters in an amusingly rude way

hurly burly n. a disturbance

This week I try the words in paragraph. Or even– if you will– in vignette:

There arose a great hurly burly in the streets as a mummer wearing a Guy Fawkes mask– wearing only a Guy Fawkes mask– streaked past the curbside café. The baker’s wife, a standoffish and notoriously conservative woman, gaped at the ribald display over her coffee and pretentious literary magazine.

Mardi Gras,” she huffed as the other patrons cheered and whistled. She buried herself pointedly in the vignette she’d been reading, though when no one was looking stole another private glance out from under it.

Words of the Week 2/26/2014

The week’s words:

sumptuous adj. luxurious; splendid and expensive-looking

vagary n. an unpredictable occurrence or behavior; caprice

complicity n. the state of being an accomplice; partnership or involvement in wrongdoing

nickelodeon n. a jukebox operated by nickels; an early theater where motion pictures or variety shows could be seen for a nickel

torpid adj. inactive or sluggish; dull; lethargic

The sentences:

  1. The summer heat made everyone torpid. Even the annoying neighbor kids lay panting in front of the air conditioner, and could not be bothered to get up for the ice cream truck.
  2. Being friends with Georgina was hazardous. Her vagaries took the girls everywhere from drugs to break-ins to late night taste-testing at McDonald’s.
  3. If I had a nickelodeon for every time my desired username was taken, I could sell my basement to American Pickers (and make a hell of a lot more than nickels).
  4. The Duchess of Frillia snobbishly refused all but the most sumptuous of clothes, decor, food, and suitors. If it wasn’t imported or didn’t come with diamonds it was promptly sent back where it came from.
  5. Serena was found guilty of complicity with Georgina for conspiring to steal the Duchess of Frillia’s black diamond Jimmy Choos.

Fancy a sentence? Have your own words this week? Share below!

Words of the Week 2/19/2014 – Divergent Edition!

Every week I draw five words from a vocab jar (words found in books, short stories, or other reading) and challenge myself to use them. Usually that means in sentences, but I like to keep things interesting.

This week I challenged myself to use all five words in sentences related to Veronica Roth’s Divergent, one of my current reads. Results below.

Warning: may contain spoilers!

The words:

hermetic adj. airtight; protected from outside influences

doughty adj. steadfastly courageous

impetus n. the force, energy, or momentum with which a body moves; the force that makes something happen or happen quickly

wig-wag v. to move back and forth; to wag steadily or rhythmically

congenial adj. pleasant; agreeable because suited to one’s own taste or interests

The sentences:

  1. When Tris observed that the lock was outside the Fence that ran around the city, she could not help but wonder: were its residents hermetic, or imprisoned?
  2. Tris may have been small, sheltered, and sorely lacking in muscle, but everyone’s expectation that she would fail instead became an impetus to succeed.
  3. Many of the sixteen-year-olds declaring their lifelong faction hesitated at the Choosing Ceremony, conflicted between two options, but at least no one physically wig-wagged between them.
  4. Generally the different factions got along, but there were some– a duplicitous Candor, for example– whom almost no one found congenial.
  5. Only the doughty could be Dauntless.

Words of the Week 2/12/2014

Having recently discovered Photoshop’s type mask tool, for this week’s edition of Words of the Week the spheres of art and language cross. Enjoy– and always, feel free to contribute your own sentences!

The words:

vesture n. clothing

vocab 2-12 vesture

bibulous adj. excessively fond of drinking alcohol

vocab 2-12 - bibulous

lurid adj. vivid in color; unpleasantly harsh

vocab 2-12 - lurid

emaciated adj. gaunt from disease, hunger, or cold

vocab 2-12 - emaciated

sidereal adj. of/related to the stars

vocab 2-12 - sidereal

In sentences (narrative style!):

Aunt Joan was an Olympic critic to begin with, but her bibulous tendencies made her penchant for complaining even worse. She found fault with everything.

“Those girls look emaciated,” she observed distastefully, frowning at the stars of Pretty Little Liars between glasses of pinot noir. “And what are they wearing? That one,” she said, jabbing a finger in accusation at a girl’s vesture, “What color is that? Vomit? Radiation? I’ve never seen anything so perfectly lurid.”

The girls she was minding looked in exasperation to the ceiling and sidereal elements beyond it, praying that Aunt Joan’s next glass would lull her to sleep.

Words of the Week 2/5/2014 – GIF Quiz Edition!

All right. This week’s draw of words from the jar lends itself quite nicely to ridiculous GIFs, so now we’re going to have some fun.

The words:

conciliatory adj. intended to pacify

keep something on the QT v. QT being “quiet.” I have always heard this as “keep something on the DL,” with DL being “down low.” Both seem to mean the same thing: keeping something discreet.

epicurean adj. having luxurious taste/excessive indulgence, especially in food and drink

haute couture n. French, directly translating as “high seam”; means high fashion

histrionic adj. overly theatrical/dramatic



Match the words above to one of the GIFs below. Play for fun or comment your answers. Bonus points for sentences and creative explanations!






Words of the Week 1/29/2014

Happy Wednesday! Here are this week’s words:

penitent (n.) a person who repents of sin/wrongdoings

abominable (adj.) causing moral revulsion; very unpleasant

equable (adj.) not easily disturbed; calm and even-tempered

depredation (n.) attack or robbery

auscultation (n.) listening to the heart, lungs, or other organs via stethoscope or other instruments

The sentences:

  1. Even villains can be redeemed if they are true penitents and make amends for their actions.
  2. Why is the yeti called the abominable snowman? Does it eat people? Is it not a penitent? Or is it simply such a sad, hairy excuse for a snowman that people are actually offended?
  3. Georgina was more equable than her brother; she watched the thunderstorm from the window, fascinated, while he hid under the kitchen table and clutched his Care Bear.
  4. Depredation had not been an issue since Nana took up jiu jitsu.
  5. Could music be composed using only sounds detected via auscultation? I sense a new Bjork album…

Gee, I’m really not so bad…

Words of the Week 1/22/2014

This week’s words are:

repose n. temporary rest

gendarme n. an armed police officer in France and other French-speaking countries

duly adverb. following procedure or what is appropriate; as might be expected

parsimony n. extreme unwillingness to spend money or use resources

alms n. money or food given to poor; anything given as charity

Those who practice parsimony are less likely to give alms to beggars on the street.

As his supervisor entered the office, the gendarme duly concluded his desktop repose and wiped croissant crumbs from his mustache.

Incidentally, Twin Peaks (pictured above) is one of my absolute favorite shows of all time.