words are sexy

apocynthion

apocynthion (a-poh-SIN-thee-on) - n., the point in an orbit around the Earth's Moon that is most distant from that body.


The general term for the most distant point of an elliptical orbit is apoapsis, but orbits around some bodies have specialized terms, such as aphelion for our sun, apogee for the Earth, and this one. Contrast pericynthion, the point of the orbit closest to our Moon. So in this diagram,

apses of an orbit
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if 3 is our Moon, the apocynthion is 1. This is not the only name for this point, and there's no consensus on whether to call this the apocynthion, apolune, or aposelene. The roots here are Ancient Greek apo-, away (originally a preposition meaning from/away from) + Cynthia, an epithet of Artemis (after her birthplace on Mt. Cynthus on Delos), who was sometimes conflated with Selene, goddess of the Moon.


And that wraps up an undeclared theme week of posting the longest words in my queue, which was looking pretty backed up. (For what it's worth, this didn't work, as I've added far more than five words at the same time.) Next week will be a declared theme (you'll just have to wait to find out what).

---L.
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pogonotrophy

pogonotrophy (poh-guh-NA-troh-fee) - n., the act of cultivating or trimming a beard, mustache, sideburns, or other facial hair.


Beard-growing, literally. Not to be confused with pogonotomy, beard-cutting. This is generally only used humorously, dating back to the 1850s, but to my surprise it is not a 19th century coinage from Ancient Greek roots: the coinage was made by the ancient (or at least Hellenistic) Greeks, as pōgōnotrophia, which was used by Plutarch. The roots are pōgōn-, beard + -trophia, nourishing.

A cultivated beard
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---L.
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anfractuous

anfractuous (an-FRAK-choo-uhs) - adj., sinuous, twisty, winding, circuitous.


Tortuous, even. Most often used for physical things such as paths or (as originally) the auditory canal, but can also apply to thought processes or even plots. What I'm reminded of is Muley Twist Canyon (map on third page), which is a slot canyon so windy it was said it could twist the tail of a mule. Adopted around 1620 from Late Latin ānfrāctuōsus, from Latin ānfrāctus, winding/curved, from am(bi)-, around + frāctus, past participle of frangere, to break.

---L.
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boondoggle

boondoggle (BOON-dog-uhl, BOON-daw-guhl) - n., a braided leather cord worn by Boy Scout as a decoration; a cord of braided leather, fabric, or plastic strips made by a child as a project to keep busy; a wasteful and worthless project undertaken for political, corporate, or personal gain, typically a government project funded by taxpayers.


To give them in the order of evolution -- the last is the main sense today. The decoration -- which could be a neckerchief slide ("woggle"), hatband, or general braiding -- first appeared with that name in 1927 in the newspaper of a troop in Rochester, New York, with coinage attributed to scoutmaster Robert H. Link. The word entered wider use when one was presented to the Prince of Wales at the 1929 World Jamboree. The transference to wasteful government program was made via a 1935 article in the New York Times that claimed that there were wasteful New Deal programs that had people making boondoggles and other crafts. This boondoggle is a neckerchief slide:

leather neckerchief slide in the form of a turks head knot
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---L.
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quinquefarious

quinquefarious (kwin-kwi-FAER-ree-uhs) - (rare) adj., arranged in five rows, lines, or groups.


Some dictionaries specify in five vertical rows, but the word is most used in botanical settings where it's clear from context it describes a more general penta-partate thing. Some dictionaries also specify that this isn't just (rare) but (obs.), which I have no trouble believing. Some dictionaries specify this is merely a synonym for pentastichous, but as far as I can tell that's even more (rare) if not (obs.) than quinquefarious. Coined from Latin quīnque, five + ferō, carry/bear.

So, yay another word with two Qs, even if it's not as good as quaquaversal.

---L.
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thrawn

thrawn (THRAWN, THRAHN) - adj., twisted, crooked, misshapen; contrary, peevish, sullen.


Just generally unpleasant, either in physical form or in personality. This is pure Scots (the comparative form is mair thrawn), but it's so evocative I had to post it. It dates to Scots dialect Middle English as thrawin, from the past participle of Middle English thrawen, to twist.

(I've no idea whether Timothy Zahn knew this meaning when he named the Star Wars character.)

---L.
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judder

judder (JUHD-er) - v., to shake intensely or spasmodically. n., a rapid or spasmodic shaking.


Chiefly British usage per the dictionaries, but I've heard it enough in the wild here in the States -- often as "to judder to a stop" -- to note that rather include it in the entry. I associate it, with no good reason, with the motion of machines seizing up. Dates to the early 1930s, and is assumed to be a combination of j(olt) or perhaps j(erk) + (sh)udder, but there's no direct evidence.

---L.
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guddle

guddle (GUHD-l) - v., to catch (fish) by groping with the hands, as under stones or along a riverbank.


two boys guddling in a stream
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Originally Scottish but used enough in North America to not be marked as regional in most dictionaries. Guddling for catfish in the southeastern U.S. is sometimes called noodling, and guddling for trout in the U.K. is sometimes called trout tickling (including by Shakespeare). In origin it's Scots, as I said, but the etymology beyond that is obscure -- possibly onomatopoetic of splashing is one suggestion.

---L.
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padloper

padloper (PAD-lop-uhr) - n., any of five species of small land tortoises of South Africa.


And they really mean small -- most grow to no more than 4 inches in length, and the speckled padloper rarely breaks 3 inches and is the smallest species of tortoise. The five were all formerly in genus Homopus, but three have been split off into genus Chersobius -- all are also known generically as Cape tortoises. Their size makes them attractive in the pet trade, though some species are hard to care for due to their specialized diet. The name is from Afrikaans, literally "path-walker", due to their habit of making tiny pathways through vegetation. A common padloper:

wee tortoise, also called a beaked cape tortoise
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---L.
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kiskadee

kiskadee (KIS-kuh-dee) - n., either of two related American flycatchers with yellow bellies noted for their loud calls and aggressive nature.


The two being the greater kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus) and the lesser kiskadee (Philohydor lictor), formerly both in genus Pitangus. Despite the name, not related to chickadees. Range is from the southwestern U.S. to Argentina. Note that New World flycatchers are generally called tyrant flycatchers to distinguish them from the Old World family of flycatchers, called Old World flycatchers. Yeah, that could have been worded better. The name is supposedly onomatopoeia for its call, but that's rendered as BEE-tee-WEE in guides, and both the Portuguese and Spanish versions are more closely imitative, bem-te-vi ("I saw you well") and bien-te-veo ("I see you well") respectively -- so I'm counting that etymology as suspect. Greater kiskadee:

Kiskadee on a branch, looking yellow
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---L.
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