Category Archives: Adjective

Viscous

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Viscous \ˈvis-kəs\

adjective: having or characterized by viscosity

Yet another definition-by-hyperlink. Well, here’s viscosity:

: the quality or state of being viscous

Wait, what? Seriously? Well at least they also give us this:

: the property of resistance to flow in a fluid or semifluid

…or, to give me more what I want, I’ll just go ahead and take the Google.com definition:

: Having a thick, sticky consistency between solid and liquid; having a high viscosity.

Yes, that’s much better.

This is another of those editorial gems that I’ve picked up lately, and is probably my favorite I’ve yet seen: the author meant to write that a character was “vicious,” as in “horrible and mean and going to kill you”–but a slip of the hand resulted instead in “having a thick and sticky consistency.” Much better descriptor, in my book!

So, viscous. How to use it?

The substance was viscous like molasses, and as the thin string of goo reached its tendrils toward my brother’s neck, I wondered if I would soon regret what was about to happen…

Or, you could try:

I can’t stand regular pudding. Nope, give it to me nice and viscous–the closer to snot it looks, the better–or else I’m not touching it.

You know, on making these examples, I’m realizing that viscousis a word, like moist, that is near-impossible to use in a pleasant context. It’s really more in keeping with the sorts of words used to describe the sorts of things little boys tend to enjoy getting into messes with–though not by the boys themselves, of course, unless they happen to be little Shakespeares and Faulkners.

So, where did this come from? Well, it showed up in English around the 14th century, having come from Angl0-French roots,which I’m guessing has something to do with everyone who was anyone speaking French back then. Anyway, before that, it was Latinate, from viscosus (sticky) and viscum (anything sticky/birdlime made of mistletoe/anything made of mistletoe).

Sample 14th century dialogue:

That’s some pretty viscous birdlime you’ve got there, John!

Why thank you, Mary, I made it myself out of all the mistletoe out back. Only the most viscous viscum for our birds! Otherwise they get vicious!

*Shakes head at the absurdity*

Labyrinthine

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Labyrinthine \-ˈrin(t)-thən; -ˈrin-ˌthīn, -ˌthēn\

adjective: of, relating to, affecting, or originating in the inner ear

Wait, what? No, that can’t be it, it’s got to come from labyrinth, the maze in Greek mythology where the Minotaur lived! Right?

A Minotaur. NOT to be messed with–also, probably pretty sensitive about his ears…

*Further searching*

Ah, of course. Why, oh why did you send me to a medical definition first, eh, Merriam-Webster? Anyway, here’s the right entry:

adjective: of, relating to, or resembling a labyrinth : intricate, involved

Now that’s the labyrinthine I was thinking of. Today (and most of the time recently, as my general failure to blog reveals), my thoughts were labyrinthine as they swirled around the labyrinthine process of choosing where my life goes next: always hard to see where the Minotaur is lurking.

Anyway. How to use this word? Well, try:

Alice wandered through the labyrinthine halls of the box store for hours, searching beneath sales racks and behind masses of empty boxes, only to find it–and realize she had left her coupons at home.

Or, perhaps:

In her years as a government employee, Jane had learned all the secrets to maneuvering the labyrinthine paperwork involved in getting stuff done–but when they started putting literal red tape everywhere, even she thought they’d gone too far, and a real Minotaur might be waiting for her around the bend.

Or, if you want to go medical:

Joseph’s labyrinthine infection was too much for him to stand.

Yep, that last one’s pretty boring. And probably used incorrectly, too–I’m no doctor, after all. Feel free to correct me if you are!

I’ve already tipped my hand as to where this word comes from originally, but here we go again. It was first used in the 1630s, (1632, if Merriam-Webster, linked above, is to be believed), and it came, not surprisingly, from the word labyrinth, which was itself first used in English in the 1400s. Oh, and it came from the Greek, or some proto-Greek language.

So just remember: whenever you say something’s labyrinthine, you’re implying that there’s a huge half-bull monster lurking somewhere in the maze of that something. Adds a bit more excitement than a mere “complicated,” don’t you think?

Brobdingnagian

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Brobdingnagian \ˌbräb-diŋ-ˈna-gē-ən, -dig-ˈna-\

adjective: marked by tremendous size

My life just got so much better with the discovery of this Brobdingnagian word. And no, I’m not just saying “this (insert word) word,” I’m saying the word Brobdingnagian is, itself, Brobdingnagian, and that’s just amazing. Also, according to my oh-so-sophisticated-knowledge (*cough spell check cough*), Brobdingnagian must be capitalized to be correct. So, no, I’m not just copy-pasting it every time from the capitalized version because it’s faster than writing it. (Although…)

I’m absolutely positive I’m not the only one who discovered Brobdingnagian today. Why? Well, because I heard it from the inimitable Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) of The Big Bang Theory, which NBC was playing reruns of it for an hour in between local news and the start of the Olympics–an hour which just so happens to coincide with many peoples’ eat-dinner-in-front-of-the-TV time. And this scene happened. It was wonderful.

So, let’s get down to using this sucker!

The Brobdingnagian scale of the thing was jaw-dropping–who knew zits could get that big?

or:

Staring up at the mountain, its Brobdingnagian glaciers miraculously stuck to its granite walls, I couldn’t help but feel a bit like a Lilliputian lost in the human world.

So where did this lovely world come from? Well, the same place as Lilliputian. (See what I did there?) Brobdingnagian, unlike many words, has an origin which is insanely easy to pin down: Gulliver’s Travels, 1728. It springs from Jonathan Swift’s invented word Brobdingnag, which he used to describe a land where everything was gigantic. Cool!

I have a feeling Brobdingnagian is going to have a Brobdingnagian impact on my vocabulary. And, most likely, on that of a good number of of NBC’s Olympics-viewing audience.

Perspicuous

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Perspicuous  \pər-ˈspi-kyə-wəs\

Adjective: plain to the understanding especially because of clarity and precision of presentation

Up until now, the words I’ve posted have been favorites of mine, things I’ve thought of off-hand and thought would be wonderful to share with the world. Then there’s this word. I’m not gonna lie, when I first read this word (in the adverbial form) in Momma Be Thy Name’s recently Fresh-Pressed post, my first thought was that it was a snarky intentional mis-writing of “suspiciously”–but I wasn’t sure. So I looked it up.

And hey, look at that! Perspicuous! It’s a thing! And quite a cool one, too.  It’s like obvious or clear-cut or transparent. Only way more impressive sounding. Try these on for size:

No matter how hard she tried to hide it, it was perspicuous to all those watching that my niece had peed her pants.

or:

Even with 5 years of language training, written Chinese has never become perspicuous to me.

And, in the apparent interest of having a new linguistic origin for each posting, this word comes from the 15th century, from the Latin perspicuus, meaning transparent or clear, and sharing a root perspicere with the word perspective.

I’ve never been gladder to get a new perspective on a faux suspicious. It’s so perspicuous to me now!