I had just finished eating lunch and putting the final “tittles” on the “roorback” about Obama when the “microseism” struck. I tried to call my local precinct to see if there was any damage, but the “ocotothorpe” was broken, so I couldn’t navigate the menu. By then the “wambles” got the better of me, so I went for coffee, but they were out of “zarfs,” so I settled for a close relationship with the “kick” of an Australian shiraz.br> br> And here are the definitions. All these words, believe it or not, are in the Oxford English Dictionary, among others.
By the end of the weekend, Irene had become a victim of “semantic satiation,” though it may have created a lot of “lagan.” The rain had been hammering the “muntins” all night. and I was ready to chew off my “aglets” from cabin fever. I grabbed an umbrella, but the “ferrule” was missing. Besides, the “crepuscular rays” said the worst was over. As I stepped outside, I could experience the full effect of the “petrichor.” What a week!
tittle: The dot over the letter “i” or “j.” The OED traces it to Middle English, and says it was first used in 1535.
roorback: A false or slanderous story devised purely for political effect. The OED says it was coined after an 1844 abolitionist newspaper published a supposed extract from a book, by (the fictional) Baron von Roorback, reporting that James K. Polk, then running for the presidency, had a coterie of branded slaves waiting to work in the South.
microseism: A small earth tremor. Technically, what the East experienced wasn’t a microseism, which, geologically speaking, is detectable only by seismometers and is not an actual earthquake. But it presents an opportunity for you to learn a new word!
octothorpe: The symbol “#” on telephones, also known as the “pound sign,” and, especially on Twitter, a “hashtag.” The OED says it may have been coined in 1966 by a Bell engineer, from the eight points of the symbol (“octo”) and the unique name from the runner Jim Thorpe. Pat O’Conner’s grammarphobia blog has a great explanation.
wambles: The queasy feeling or rumbles of an empty stomach.
zarf: The cardboard sleeve for a paper coffee cup, from the original meaning of an ornamental holder, usually made of metal, for a cup or glass without a handle. kick: The indentation at the bottom of a bottle or glass. It’s also called the “punt.”
semantic satiation: The repetition of a word or phrase to the point that it becomes unrecognizable or meaningless. This combination isn’t in the OED, but it’s a recognized psychological state.
lagan: Goods that end up at the bottom of the sea from a ship that has sunk. The OED says it was first used about 1200.
muntin: The dividers between panes of glass.
aglet: The plastic or metal end of a shoelace.
ferrule: The metal tip of an umbrella, and also the metal part of a pencil that holds the eraser.
crepuscular rays: Also known as “God’s rays,” the shafts of sunlight radiating from a central point behind a cloud.
petrichor: The fresh smell outside after a rain (unless the rain was torrential, in which case it probably smells more like a sewer). Merrill Perlman managed copy desks across the newsroom at The New York Times, where she worked for 25 years. Follow her on Twitter at @meperl.