October 30, 2008

ANATHEMA – n. 1 something that one vehemently dislikes: racism was anathema to her. 2 a formal curse of the Church, excommunicating a person or denouncing a doctrine.

Overall, I think this word is one that can and should become a more common part of vocabularies.  Even more so because our own dim-witted president George W. Bush has used it in some quote worth quoting on the internet somewhere: “As these milestones approach, we can expect there to be increasing violence from the terrorists, … They can’t stand elections. The thought of people voting is anathema to them.”  If he can use it, we should too!

For the religious take on anathema, you can check out the Wikipedia entry.  I didn’t think it was very interesting, though.

Anathema is the name of a band that I think is worth checking out.



October 29, 2008

ANACHRONISM – n. 1 a thing appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists. 2 the attribution of something to a period to which it does not belong.

This is a word you’ve probably heard before and you probably already know what it means but I like it so it’s getting included.  Plus I’m sure you all know how smart you feel when you’re watching a movie and you spot an anachronism and you know what to call it, too!

For some movie anachronisms, check out this guy’s blog.  If you ask me, he might be a bit picky, but an anachronism is an anachronism, right?

You know those renaissance fairs where people dress up all medieval-like and have sword fights and stuff?  Well, there’s a pretty good chance those people are part of the organization known as SCA, the Society for Creative Anachronism.  When I lived in Clinton, BC there was a SCA fair site about 5 minutes out of town and my friends and I would go every year.  And when the fair wasn’t going on we’d go play in the big wooden castle they have up there.  But I’ve grown out of that stuff since then, just in case you were wondering.  And just for interests sake, the SCA world is divided into kingdoms; my Canadian peeps in BC and Alberta are in the Kingdom of An Tir, and my Southern Californian peeps are in the Kingdom of Caid.


October 24, 2008

AMPHIBOLOGY – n. a phrase or sentence that is grammatically ambiguous.

The Wikipedia article contains some examples of amphibologies.  Some of them are pretty humorous.  Like this one from Groucho Marx: “I once shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I’ll never know.”  Here, the sentence beginning “I once shot…” is an amphibology.

With this new knowledge, the next time you’re proof-reading a paper for a friend they’ll be so impressed when you tell them that you found a few amphibologies that need to be clarified.


October 22, 2008

AMOK – adv. (in phrase: run amok) behave uncontrollably and disruptively.

I’m sure most of us have heard this one before, but I bet fewer of us know that Amok is the name of a psychological syndrome.  What is unique about Amok is that it is “culturally-bound,” meaning that the disorder only exists in certain cultural environments.  Amok has been observed principally in Malaysia, but also in Laos, the Phillippines, Polynesia, Papua New Guinea, and Puerto Rico.  The following is the description of Amok according to my Abnormal Psychology textbook:

“A disorder characterized by sudden, wild outbursts of violent aggression or homicidal behavior in which an afflicted person may kill or injure others.  This rage disorder is usually found in males who are rather withdrawn, quiet, brooding, and inoffensive prior to the onset of the disorder.  Episodes are often precipitated by a perceived slight or insult.  Several stages have been observed: Typically in the first stage the person the person becomes more withdrawn; then a period of brooding follows in which a loss of contact with reality is evident, ideas of persecution and anger predominate.  Finally, a phase of automatism or Amok occurs, in which the person jumps up, yells, grabs a knife, and stabs people or objects within reach.  Exhaustion and depression usually follow, with amnesia for the rage period.”

There is a company called Amok Edged Weapons Solutions that offers “responsible” training in knife combat.  Maybe they should try to tap the Malaysian market.

And for curiosity’s sake here’s a description of another culturally-bound psychological disorder that makes me laugh a little.  If you don’t like the word “penis” stop reading now!  It’s called Koro and it’s found in Southeast Asia and China (particularly Malaysia).  Those wacky Malaysians!

“Koro: A fear reaction or anxiety state in which a man fears that his penis will withdraw into his abdomen and he may die.  This reaction may appear after sexual overindulgence or excessive masturbation.  The anxiety is typically very intense and of sudden onset.  The condition is “treated” by having the penis held firmly by the patient or by family members or friends. Often the penis is clamped to a wooden box.”

And to cap this all off here is something almost completely random – the young fellow who made this video calls himself Amok.


October 21, 2008

Amenable – adj. responsive to suggestion. >(amenable to) capable of being acted on.

This is one of those words that I feel like I’ve seen fairly frequently but that I’ve never known exactly what it means.  There are some words you can get away with not entirely understanding because the larger context helps it make sense.  And that’s a travesty.  So this post is to help me understand this word more completely so that I can give it the appropriate respect the next time I encounter it.

There are amenable things everywhere!  For math lovers, there are amenable numbers and amenable groups.  Looking at that stuff is like looking at a foreign language.  

Amenable mortality is mortality that can theoretically be averted by good health care.  Did you know that the US has one of the highest amenable mortality rates in the developed world?  

And amenable cyanide appears to be used for waste water quality control.

I hope you’ve kept your minds amenable (I hope that’s a correct usage, haha) as you read this post, hopefully you’ve learned something new and gained new respect for this noble word.


October 20, 2008

AMBUSCADE – n. an ambush – v. archaic lie in wait; ambush



It’s interesting to see the variety of results that a search for Ambuscade produces.

This is a painting by Pamela Patrick White called Ambuscade.










Here’s an interesting Time article about some war stuff in 1952 entitled Ambuscade.

Ambuscade is the title of a short story by William Faulkner.

Undeclinable Ambuscade is the former name of the dutch melodic hardcore band The Undeclinables.  They’re sort of Offspring-esque.

And Eight Royal Navy ships have borne the name HMS Ambuscade, the oldest being from 1746.


October 17, 2008

AMBIT – n. the scope, extent, or bounds of something.

Rather disappointingly, most search results for ambit are information sites for the quasi-pyramid scheme electricity company Ambit Energy.  

Ambit Magazine

However, no good word is without its good uses, and ambit pops up in a few other interesting places as well.  For one, Ambit is a literary magazine published in the UK.  Ambit Gambit is a fairly interesting political blog.

For an example of usage, check out this quote from Samuel Alito:

“There is no categorical ‘harassment exception’ to the First Amendment’s free speech clause. There is of course no question that non-expressive, physically harassing conduct is entirely outside the ambit of the free speech clause. But there is also no question that the free speech clause protects a wide variety of speech that listeners may consider deeply offensive, including statements that impugn another’s race or national origin or that denigrate religious beliefs.”

A related term is the law term, ambit claim, which is “an extravagant initial demand made in expectation of an eventual counter-offer and compromise”.  I see this done all the time and now I finally know what to call it!  I’m gonna sound so smart!


October 15, 2008

AMBERGRIS – n. a wax-like secretion of the intestines of the sperm whale, found floating in tropical seas and used in perfume manufacture.

This one gets to be a word of the day because it’s so strange.  You might have heard about it before.  It seems weird to me to use a whale’s loogie to make you smell better.  But supposedly it smells good and is really rare and expensive.  One website sells Ambergris for 90 Euros per gram or 400 Euros per 5 grams

Looks great, eh? Don't you just want to rub that all over your body?


October 13, 2008

AMATORY – adj. relating to or induced by sexual love or desire.

I figure this would be a good word for making your sex-talks seem a little more classy.  eg. “amatory encounters” sounds classy, right?  😉

Aphra Behn
Aphra Behn

Amatory fiction is a literary genre that is said to be the predecessor of the modern romance novel.  One of the three best known writers of amatory fiction was Aphra Behn.  And it just so happens that I had to read Aphra Behn’s The Rover in my university english class.  So she gets to be part of this post because of that connection.  And also, did you know she worked as a spy during the second Anglo-Dutch war?  Read about it.






Searching this word brought up a lot of results for a Russian heavy metal band called Amatory.  Since I’m fairly certain that the readers of my blog aren’t big fans of heavy metal I won’t put up any of their music.  If you really want to learn more about them, check out their Myspace page.


October 10, 2008

ALOPECIA – n. Medecine the absence of hair from areas of the body where it normally grows.

Alopecia Areata
Alopecia Areata

Alopecia Areata is the name that the condition is also commonly known by.  There are three types of Alopecia Areata: Alopecia Areata Totalis, which is a total loss of hair on the scalp; Alopecia Areata Universalis, which is the loss of hair over the entire body; and simply Alopecia Areata, which is the loss of hair in round, smooth

Alopecia Areata Totalis

Alopecia Areata Totalis

patches.  It is the result of the body’s immune system attacking its own hair follicles.  Hair loss may be permanent or temporary.  Visit the National Alopecia Areata Foundation website for more information.  

Turns out NBA player Charlie Villanueva suffers from Alopecia Areata.

Powder (Alopecia Areata Universalis?)

Powder (Alopecia Areata Universalis?)

I think it’s interesting, but I sure hope it never happens to me.  I know some girls, though, who might go for a form of alopecia where they lose all the hair except on their heads.  And I just thought of this, do you remember Powder?  He must have had alopecia areata universalis!  Mystery solved.