Word #9: “absquatulate” (v.)


1. intr. To abscond, make off. Also occas. trans. with it.

Origin: Perhaps formed within English, by compounding. Etymons: squat v., congratulate v., perambulate v., capitulate v.

Etymology: Perhaps humorously < ab- (compare ab- prefix and perhaps abscond v.) + squat v. (compare squat v. 9a) + -ulate (in e.g. congratulate v., perambulate v., capitulate v., etc.), in imitation of a word of Latin origin.




Word #8: “phyllotaxis” (n.)

noun. [Botany]

  1. The arrangement of leaves or other lateral members (e.g. the scales of a pine cone, the florets of a flower of the family Asteraceae ( Compositae), etc.) on an axis or stem; the geometrical principles of such arrangement.

Below are mathematical functions for variant phyllotaxis shapes found in organic structures, and, even more fantastically, their nomenclature.


Word #6: “Chicago” (n.)


  1. The name of the city in Illinois, U.S.A., used attrib. or in comb. in various special collocations.

The following passage is from Names on the Land, a history of how places in America got their names by the sci-fi-writing toponymist, George R. Stewart:

Almost at the southern tip of the Lake of the Illinois, also called Lake Michigan, a low and swampy plain stretched away between two small rivers. In early summer that plain was pink with the blossoms of the little wild onions growing there so the Algonquain-speaking Indians called it “onion-place.” To the French it became Chicagou, and they used it for the name of one of the rivers. In 1688, when there could hardly have been doubt about the meaning, a Frenchman wrote: “We arrived at etc place called Chicagou which, according to what can be learned about it, has taken this name from the amount of garlic grabbing wild in that vicinity.” Two other early French men also mentioned the onion or garlic in that region.

A great city took its name from this place and that river became fro a while very odorous,; so jokes were made about the origins of the name. It happens also that in the Algonquian language words related to that for onion and garlic apply also to the skunk, and certain kinds of bad-smelling filth. So some said that the city was really Skunk-town, or something worse.

Here’s to the baby bears from Onion-town!

Word #5: “verbalism” (n.)


  1. Predominance of what is merely verbal over reality or real significance.

Paulo Freire reads a more political dimension to this dampened significance of words:

An unauthentic word, one which is unable to transform reality, results when dichotomy is imposed upon its constitutive elements. When a word is deprived of its dimension of action, reflection automatically suffers as well; and the word is changed into idle chatter, into verbalism, into an alienated and alienating “blah.” It becomes an empty word, one which cannot denounce the world, for denunciation is impossible without a commitment to transform, and there is no transformation without action (Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 75-76).

Word #4: “esquisse” (n.)


  1. The first slight sketch of a picture, the first thought of a design drawn loosely with a crayon.

Scott Allan, in his recent essay on painter Théodore Rousseau, complicates OED’s entry:

Imperfectly translated as “sketch,” the word esquisse generally designated a preliminary compositional sketch in nineteenth-century parlance. The esquisse was typically smaller than the final tableau and could be treated in an informal, spontaneous manner that was understood to convey the energy of the artist’s initial inspiration. Unlike the analytical étude, in which the artist subordinated himself to the model, often with considerable attention to detail, the esquisse was conceived as a more creative, synthetic work that anticipated, in its emphasis on composition and coloring, the artful unity and overall pictorial effect of the tableau.

Such distinctions, however, were not easily maintained with regard to landscape. An esquisse could be a freely executed study after nature (that is, an étude) that concentrated on a landscape’s principal features or general atmospheric effect rather than its individual details. Likewise, if an étude was in some senses fragmentary, the source of raw material that was to be synthesized in the word of composition, it could equally be framed with an eye to the ensemble. And if the painter enlisted an étude as the basis for a definitive work, it became an esquisse by virtue of its new function. Esquisse and étude were overlapping categories: a landscape sketch might be an esquisse by virtue of its relationship to another artwork (real or potential) or an étude by virtue of its relationship to nature (Unruly Nature: The Landscapes of Théodore Rousseau, 26-27).