Thursday, March 21, 2013



This word means stubborn and rebellious and disobedient.  Other good words that mean the same as contumacious are willful, balky, contrary, wayward, and unruly.  Mom says I start acting contumacious any time she takes me out for a walk.  I tell her that I am just a creative and independent thinker.  Which is not the same thing, at least in my opinion.


In the old days, before everybody had electricity, people used candles to light their houses.  Sometimes they made their own candles at home, or sometimes they bought candles from the chandler, who was a person in the candle-making business.  And besides candles, a chandler might also make other things out of tallow or wax, such as soap.

The word chandler started being used in Middle English sometime between 1275 and 1325.  It came from the Old French chandelier, which meant somebody or something connected with candles.

After a while, a chandler became anybody who sold supplies or provisions.  Sometimes these supplies were of a special kind.  For example, a ship's chandler sold sails and ropes and other things that sailing ships needed.


Woman Crying II
by Fernando Botero
If you feel really sad and mournful, and you keep crying all the time, then you are what's called lachrymose.  People who are lachrymose might be depressed and emotional, and it seems like every little thing makes them start crying.

This word came from the Latin lacrimosus, and it's been used in English since at least 1655.  Nowadays, lachrymose people can take antidepressants to help them feel better, but in the old days, they couldn't do that, so the next best thing was to have a dog who could understand and sympathize when a person felt sad.


Sometimes people decide that we need a word for something, so they make one up.  That's what happened with petrichor, which was invented in 1964 by two Australian researchers named Bear and Thomas.  What petrichor describes is how rain smells when it falls on the earth after the weather has been warm and dry for a long time.  Two Greek words were used to make petrichor.  The first word is petra, which means "stone," and the second word is ichor, which is the fluid that the Greek gods of mythology had in their veins.

Researchers Bear and Thomas wrote an article for the journal Nature, and they explained why there is a special smell when the first rain happens.  They said that certain plants put out an oil during dry weather, and the oil soaks into clay soil and rocks.  Then the oil is released when it rains, along with a compound called geosmin, and so the wet soil has that special smell that the researchers named petrichor.

Later on, in 1965, these same two scientists wrote another paper that explained the reason why the plants made the oil when the weather was dry.  And the reason is that the oil keeps seeds from sprouting until there is more water to help them grow.

Frankly, I don't care about all this science stuff.  I just like the way everything smells when it rains.  Except that it's also a warning to me not to go outside because I might get my feet wet.  Luckily, since I have such a fine doggy nose, I can enjoy the scent of petrichor from inside the house, where I can stay nice and dry.


This is a Japanese word.  We don't have a word in English that means the same thing, so I guess we can just borrow this one, if we think we need it, but I hope we don't.  What karoshi means is death that happens when somebody works way too hard at their job and then dies because of the overwork.  Karoshi is made out of three Japanese words:  ka "excess" and  ro "labor" and shi "death."

In Japan, there is a tradition of obedience that is mostly the opposite of being contumacious.  So when all of these young white-collar workers are asked by their companies to put in tons of extra hours of hard work, they do it.  Until one day they suddenly drop dead from a heart attack or a stroke.  Another term for this is Salaryman's Sudden Death Syndrome.

I think it is a very bad thing that karoshi is happening to all those nice Japanese workers.  If I were over there in Japan, I would bite all the bosses on the ankle and tell them to let their employees have more vacations and make them work less overtime.  That way the workers can spend more time at home, playing with their dogs and their kids, and they won't feel so stressed.


Yuputka is another foreign word that would be very useful to have, if we borrowed it and made it part of English.  What it means is that creepy feeling you get when you imagine that something is crawling on your skin.  Whenever dogs get this feeling, we raise our hackles, and when humans get the feeling, the hair on the back of their necks stands up.

The word yuputka comes from the Ulwa language.  I had never heard of this language, so I did some research, and I found out that it is part of a family of languages spoken by native people on the east coast of Nicaragua.  Maybe they have a lot of spooky rain forests there, and that is why they are always feeling like something is crawling on them.


  1. Wonderful blog. Love the new words. Going to use yuputka from now on. Had a sense of yuputka last night while sleeping in fact and I worried it might be a spider crawling on me! Keep up the great work!

    1. Thank you for writing a comment about my blog. I'm really glad you like it. I meant to reply to your comment yesterday, but then I got busy napping, and I forgot! Yuputka is definitely a good and useful word. It's just a little hard to remember unless you go to creepy places or have creepy dreams all the time. Ha!