Thursday, June 30, 2005

Today's Word: Fulgurite


Lightning is one of nature's most dramatic displays of energy! It's fast, hot, powerful - and completely wild. Meteorological may claim to be able to track big storms, and it's certainly wise to have a lightning-rod on your house, but the fact is, you can't contain or control lighting. You might be able to provoke it, but lightning is unpredictable!

People have had a love affair with everything that lightning represents for as long as words have been recorded. It's beautiful to watch, but is incredibly dangerous!

Fulgurites are an amazing phenomenon. When lighting strikes the ground, it doesn't just go away! No! All of that energy is transferred into whatever the bolt hits...sometimes, that's metal, and the metal melts, but sometimes, it's sand! If lighting hits sand on the beach, something amazing happens! That sand is instantly transformed into a delicate glass column. The lighting's energy is captured in a three-dimensional portrait by the silica that makes up sand. The fulgurite branches and twists, just like the bolt of lightning that creates it!

You can find fulgurites, but you have to use the patience and caution of an archaeologist in order to avoid breaking the glass branches.

These rare and delicate glass formations are a testament to the power of nature and the ever-transitory essence of energy. This is serious stuff! All energy, even the most wild and intangible can be used to turn the mundane into the unexpected and beautiful.


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Today's Word: Fortean

Sometimes, the world is a strange and mercurial place.

You can't explain it.

Neither can I!

But that's ok, because we have words to describe even the bizarre! Fortean is an adjective that is used when referring to something that turns your world upside down.

For instance, the world lately has seen an upsurge of fortean politics. Machinations and trickery abound! Try to make sense of it and you'll get bombarded with conflicting stories from both sides!

Fortean can also be used to ascribe supernatural or mystical connotations to otherwise mundane things. Maybe you have a friend who has a fortean ability to gauge your mood and knows just how to make things right! That's a good friend to have! You should buy them a soda!


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Today's Word: Fangle

You might think you know about fangles, but you don't!

You probably have heard some disgruntled elderly person struggling with a shiny piece of electronics complaining about "new-fangled" toys and how things were better in the Good Old Days when men were Men and breakfast was a sit-down meal.

You probably snickered at their quaint colloquialism. But what you don't know is that the fangle has its roots in the bloodiest era of pirating and discord!

Fangle is actually another term for Pirate's booty! Yes! Fangle is the ill-gotten spoils of looting and riotous capture.

However, the original notion of fangling was far more sinister than even the fiercest hook-handed mutineer. Fangling was the term for misappropriation of the Holy Scriptures. And nothing, my friends, is more dangerous than changing words that are looked to by the masses for faith and direction. But it's been done, many times over - and if you look around you, it's probably happening right now. We should all be wary when people look to change or alter our most treasured documents - the Bible, the Constitution, or the text of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Something that is appropriated for your own devices, be it gold dubloons or ideas, is fangle.


Monday, June 27, 2005

Today's Word: Godet

Today's word is a cautionary-tale of extreme significance!

Many of our words find their roots in foreign languages...This is a natural and important part of the ever expanding world of words. But sometimes, if there is too much commingling, original meanings are lost!

The godet is a prime example of how words can take on entirely new meanings over time.

Godet's etymological parentage is a cultural feast - drawing both from the French word for a goblet and the Middle Dutch word for a wooden cylinder.

However, the word in English only adopts the concept of volume from its multi-ethic lineage - a godet is a triangular piece of fabric used to enhance the fullness of a garment. Next time you go shopping, you'll notice that many dresses use the godet to give distinct lines to otherwise plain clothes. The godet gives a skirt moxie!

See how quickly meaning can change?

Does this mean we should adopt a closed-door policy towards other languages? Should we close our linguistic borders for fear of dilution?


On the contrary, it is through these leaps of meaning that languages thrive and grow. To restrict the natural exchange of ideas across cultures is to condemn a language to a slow and stagnant DEATH.

Words are what tie communities together, and with proper use and understanding, they can unite the world. The more we draw from other cultures, and the more we share our understanding of the world, the healthier and more robust our relationships with each other will be.


Now Taking Requests!

I've never done this before! But it's important to test the borders of your new things! Try it!

I get emails all the time, asking for definitions, or clarification. Until now, I've opted to stick to form and have had to kindly decline. But as I reach more people, I can't turn a blind eye to other word-lovers!

I recently was sent this email:

Last night my lovely lifemate, in describing her friend Emily and her attitude towards entering a relationship, used the word "precautious."

I am familiar with "cautious" and "precaution." I am also familiar with "precocious."

However, "precautious" was a new one to me. In times past, I might have asked the definition then and there and thus subjected myself to giggles and ridicule ("he doesn't know what precautious means!").

No more.

Thanks to Mr Word, I know have a handy and personable research tool. Please Mister Word, tell me the meaning and etymology of "precautious."

Well, first off, you may be tempted to think that this word isn't a real word. It sounds like a clever combination - a fanciful creation intended to evoke the adorable boldness of a kitten stalking a pit bull. And if it were, I would undoubtedly tell you that cleverness does not equate to correctness.

As lovers of words, we have to bear the responsibility of preserving the fidelity of our language. The brash creation of faux-words is a dangerous and slippery path that leads almost inevitably towards confusion and chaos.

Happily, I can tell you that your lovely lifemate was using a very real word, and in a quite correct manner. Precautiousness is simply a tendency towards prudence.

While it is true that "precautious" is a semi-homophone (homophones are words that sound the same phonetically, but have different meanings: See/Sea), the fact is, it has nothing to do with the word "precocious".

Congratulate your significant other for having a fine and diverse vocabulary!


Sunday, June 26, 2005

Today's Word: Confuter


A Confuter is not, as one would think, a confusing computer, no!

A confuter is the cleverest kind of conversationalist. Confuters argue by way of disproof. They hold truth and accuracy in the highest regard. They refuse to allow fiction or fog to pass as fact, and are people who politicians should rightly fear!

We all argue with each other. But a confuter has a special style of debate. A confuter will use your words against you to undermine your credibility. Rather than pushing his own dogma, a confuter stays his course by disproving your own assertions - fundamentalists BEWARE!

These plucky people aren't trying to convert! They're trying to correct them! They use logic and relentless truth to beat down the wolves of misdirection.

Are you a confuter? Watch out!


Saturday, June 25, 2005

Today's Word: Stean

This one is important!

Ostensibly, a stean is a simple vessle, made from clay. But that's not all! No! a stean is meant to be a lining, a fortification, a protective barrier - and as we know, barriers have one of two purposes, to keep things in and to keep things out.

Steaning has since taken on the connotation of coating or protecting the inner walls of a well. It's not just an, it's a PROCESS. And in this new light, steaning isn't just about protecting or supporting, it's about adorning. The trick though, is that steaning is all about the INNER surface, not the exterior.

If you think this is all irrelevant, think again!

We are all but simple clay vessels...and if we want to stay sane in this world, we need to stean our spirits against the influences of an angry world. Let's face it, we're all doing our best to thrive and nourish our lives...but sometimes, outside influences will poison us and bring us down! Well, with a little work, you can not only fortify yourself against the tide - you can BEAUTIFY it, if only for your own personal satisfaction.

That my friends is why steaning is so important...its a process of building walls to support us and protect us...beautiful walls that no one else can see.


Friday, June 24, 2005

Today's Word: Footle

Footle is a noun that may best describe what you are doing RIGHT NOW but most certainly doesn't define what *I* am doing!

People who are accused of footling are guilty of the crime of flitting their day away! To footle is to make a poor use of your time, talking about nothing, accomplishing nothing, escaping from the everyday. Footling has a carefree connotation, probably because it has its roots in a dirty French word.

Wake up! Quit your footling!

It's an easy one today, just to get things started.

OK! Things are starting to shape up around here!

Words are great!

Thursday, June 23, 2005



I'm Mr. Word! For a few years now, I've run a word-of-the-day email list, and as of today, I'm opening it up to the world! It's not an insider's club anymore, so feel free to check in and share my love of the language!

For those of you that don't know, my passion for words started when I was a young man. I was injured in the Korean War, but due to where I was stationed, evacuation wasn't an immediate option. For just over three months, I was confined to a cot, with only a Webster's Dictionary to keep me sane! What began as a way to pass time flourished into a full fledged addiction to words. I started to memorize the dictionary, and made it all the way to Tennantite (a mineral named after Smithson Tennant, a tragic chemist who would ultimately meet his end by accidentally driving his horse off of an opened draw-bridge) before I was shipped home.

Ever since, words have been my focus. I was introduced to the internet by a neighbor who suggested that instead of just talking to her about words, I could share my excitement with the world.

So, here we are.