Tag Archives: Latin

Viscous

Standard

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*

Covey

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Covey \ˈkə-vē\

noun: a mature bird or pair of birds with a brood of young; also : a small flock; Company, group

I’ve been editing a lot lately (hence the less-than-usual number of posts), and in my editing I’ve found some absolutely lovely words–not all of which were meant to be written. But, of course, that makes them all the more fun to find! The best kind of typo is an amazing-vocabulary-inducing typo–and such was covey.

Covey really is a lovely word–it even sounds lovely, like a pet name shared amongst friends. C’mon, coveys, let’s go! And that is actually a pretty good false use of this word–it’s indicative of a cozy little grouping of birds, or people, with a close relationship.

Aw, how sweet.

So, how to use it? How about:

The covey of friends never used their superpowers for evil, only for good.

Or:

Exploring my barn the other day, I found a covey of pigeons holed up in one of the rafters–I just hope the cat doesn’t find them!

So this wonderful word, where did it come from? It’s still pretty true to its original, literal, meaning, as it turns out–it was first used in the 14th century, back when everyone spoke Middle English and it meant “brood of partridges,” but before that it was French, covee (brood), and before that Gall-Romanic, cubata (hatchling), and before that Latin, cubare–to sit, incubate, or hatch.

So it’s always been a bird word. But one that’s definitely worth using! Whether or not it’s done intentionally.

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!