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Diabolically Arcane

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15 October, 2011

Over sixty entries to our Vocab Quest last week, seeking an esoteric word for a familiar thing. The winner of course will score a quirky book that covers the same topic: Thingamajigs & Whatchamacallits by Ron L Evans.

In the judging stakes, I worked on the principle of ‘Tell me something I don’t know, about something I thought I did.’ And in that regard, a tidy ten emerged, with our winner wrapping up the list:

GICLÉE PRINT –ink-jet reproduction. [From squirt, in French, and from Sam.]

SEA-PUSS – the seaward undercurrent created after waves have broken on the shore. [Weirder still, Geoff B’s cousin of backwash has Algonquin roots, not feline.]

GROYNE – low wall or sturdy timber barrier built on beach to minimise erosion [Groynes and sea-pusses…I’m moving on. Thanks RobT.]

BRUXISM – Habitual unconscious grinding of the teeth. [From Greek, via KM: to gnash]

IDEMPOTENT – Only working once. [Well, that’s the simple versions, RM. It’s a can of worms.]

HAPLOLOGY – Where a syllable which is identical (or very similar) to its neighbour is dropped from a word in order to make it easier to say. [Prob’ly had to be there, Em.]

WIPPEN – Piano mechanism which transmits the motion of the key to the hammer. [This went close, JD, even closer when I learnt there’s a wippen flange!]

ETAOIN SHRDLU – Linotype printing error [Which is not quite right, Sam. The input is a deliberate keyboard sweep to signal an error.]

GOBO – any shape, pattern or effect put directly in front of a camera so that the camera must shoot through it to the scene [Short for go-between, I discovered Em. Never heard the word, and I’m in the biz.]

HACHURE – map lines indicating a gradient – the denser they are, the steeper the slope. [Derr, Sam – you mean contour lines, right? Wrong – this is the fusion of topography and depiction, a rough and classic science.]

Hence hachure, in league with ‘meander line’ [map’s vague boundary between water and shore], plus a steady week of revelations, tips the scales in favour of our most inventive language sleuth, Sam. Congratulations. The book shall wing its way as soon as you zap me your snail address on the Email DA link. Thanks to all Tintins of the Tome – I learnt a bunch of stuff about lots of stuff. Hope you all did.

On that note, feel free to add more cute esoterica on this post. And look for a puzzle-leaning Storm next Tuesdee.


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Text-speak is creeping into Scrabble. Where do you sit?
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