words are sexy

sublunary

sublunary (SUHB-loo-ner-ee, suhb-LOO-nuh-ree) - adj., beneath the moon; situated between the earth and the moon; of the earth, terrestrial; mundane, worldly.


In Aristotelian cosmology, the heavenly sphere below the moon's, which includes the earth, is mutable, with the four elements intermixing and changing, while all the spheres above are unchangeable. Thus John Donne's use in "A Valediction: Forbidding Morning":
Dull sublunary lovers' love
    (Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
    Those things which elemented it.
The affections of all those mundane lovers are mutable, but ours is heavenly and permanent. Etymology is Latin, sub-, below + luna, moon + suffixes to make the grammar work out.

---L.
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eryngium

eryngium (i-RIN-jee-uhm) - n., any of numerous perennial umbelliferous plants (genus Eryngium) with distinctive spiny foliage, metallic blue flower heads, and bluish stems.


Also called eryngo and sea holly, the latter sometimes specifically referring to E. maritimum. Several species are grown as ornamentals. The name is the Latin form of Greek ērynggion, diminutive of ἤρυγγος, ēryngē, a species of thistle. Sea holly proper:

Quoth Falstaff: "Hail kissing-comfits and snow eringoes"
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---L.
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philamot / philomot / filemot / feuillemorte / feuille morte / feuillemort

philamot or philomot or filemot or feuillemorte or feuillemort or feuille morte (FIL-uh-mot) - adj., the color of a dead or faded leaf, a dull orangish brown.


This was a deeper rabbit hole than I realized. The word actually on my list was the first spelling above, and it took a while to click through all the entries that defined each spelling as an alternative form of the next. Or to put it another way, they're in reverse chronological order of development, from the original French, where it literally meant (and still does) "dead leaf". Honestly, the definition of "the color of a dead leaf" is not very helpful -- they come in so many hues.

a philamot feuille morte
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---L.
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flounder (n.)

flounder (FLOUN-der) - n., any of several distantly related, bottom-dwelling, marine flatfish (families Achiropsettidae, Bothidae, Pleuronectidae, Paralichthyidae, and Samaridae), esp. the European flounder (Platichthys flesus).


Pretty much any flatfish that's not a sole can and often is called a flounder, even if it has another name, such as the halibut. They are all born with eyes on either side of their heads, but as they develop, one eye migrates to the other side, so they can rest with one side on the bottom while still seeing with both eyes. Most of them are spotted or otherwise colored to blend in. The name dates to around 1400 as Middle English flowndre, from Anglo-Norman floundre, from Old Northern French flondre, from Old Norse flyðra -- compare modern Swedish flundra, Danish flynder, and German Flunder.

And since I didn't include one yesterday, a picture of Platichthys flesus:

Flounder not blending in as well as it might think
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---L.
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flounder (v.) and founder (v.)

Both these words have other meanings, but I'm focusing here just on the senses that connect them:


flounder (FLOUN-der) - v., to struggle with stumbling or plunging movements; to move clumsily or ineffectually.

founder (FOUN-der) - v., (of a vessel) to fill with water and sink; to fall or sink down, to fail; (of a horse) to go lame.


These are frequently confused, and have been ever since the first was coined in the 1570s from the second (combined with flounce or blunder or some similar word). The basic idea, though, is that you flounder while you are struggling and you founder when you fall or sink or otherwise fail. Founder itself dates to the early 14th century, from Middle French fondrer, send to the bottom, from Latin fundus, bottom.

(And no, I'm not including a picture of the fish.)

---L.
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doff and don

doff (DOF, DAWF) - v., to remove or take off, as clothing; to remove or tip (one's hat) as a sign of respect; to rid oneself of (something).

don (DON) - v., to put on, as clothing.


This pair dates to the late 14th century, both created around the same time using the same process: contractions of do off and do on -- or to be more precise and use the verb forms of the time, don off and don on. The metaphoric extension of doff dates to Shakespeare, when Juliet on the balcony urges, "Romeo, doff thy name". The two were of roughly equal popularity until the late 19th century, when don become more common, and remains so today.

---L.
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draggletailed

draggletailed or draggle-tailed (DRAG-uhl-tayld) - adj., (arch.) bedraggled, untidy, slovenly.


Formerly and formally, a more precise word than bedraggled, which is limp and dirty from being dragged on the ground -- though that's part of the root of this. The tail here is a skirt that's so long it drags, with an implication that this is the result of clothes being not neat. This used to be applied specifically to a certain type of woman, and that sense is marked as archaic in dictionaries, but I've seen it used essentially as an intensified form of bedraggled -- something lexicographers don't seem to have noticed yet.


And that's a week of dozens ... sort of. Today's word actually has 13 letters, but since that's a baker's dozen, I'm still calling it a dozen letters.

---L.
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merrythought

merrythought (MER-ee-thawt) - n., the wishbone or furcula of a bird.


This is the older term for the wishbone, and has survived more in British English than in America -- it dates to around 1600, while wishbone is an Americanism from the 1850s. Both names come from the custom, older than either (recorded mid-15th century), of two people pulling on either end, with the one with the larger half supposedly getting a wish.

Merrythought, now called wishbone, of a chicken
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---L.
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