Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Wonderous Word Wednesday 5

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Kathy at the Bermuda Onion where you "can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love. Feel free to get creative!"

My biggest problem w/
The Disappearing Spoon
is that it kept making me think
of other books I want to read
I finally finished The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean !  Between that and Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger I have a few neat words to share.

"Newton, in his early fifties, just wanted a well-paying government post, but to his credit he didn't approach it as a sinecure."

/ˈsīnəˌkyo͝or / 
archaic :  an ecclesiastical benefice without cure of souls
2:  an office or position that requires little or no work but gives the holder status and/or provides an income
Medieval Latin sine cura without cure (of souls)
First Known Use: 1662


"the best explanation for Crookes's lapse into spiritualism is psychological: ruined by grief for his brother, the succumbed, avant la lettre, to a pathological science."

avant la lettre
: before the letter : before a (specified) name or entity existed (French)
:(idiomatic) Before the term was coined; used after a term applied anachronistically.

Now this one had me a little puzzled, but I think the author means that Crookes succumbed to pathological science before the term pathological science existed. In this case I think that the author is just showing off his vocabulary, because this observation does not add to the discussion - the chronology is already clear so there is no need to clarify that Crookes didn't know this term. He wouldn't have applied it to himself anyhow.


"Whenever pure tin tools or tin coins or tin toys got cold, a whitish rust began to creep over them like hoarfrost on a window in winter."

Close up of Hoar Frost, Picture by Idaho Editor (Source)
Definition - "Under clear frosty nights in winter soft ice crystals might form on vegetation or any object that has been chilled below freezing point by radiation cooling. This deposit of ice crystals is known as hoar frost and may sometimes be so thick that it might look like snow. The interlocking ice crystals become attached to branches of trees, leafs, hedgerows and grass blades and are one of the most prominent features of a typical 'winter wonderland' day. However, the fine 'feathers', 'needles' and 'spines' might also be found on any other object that is exposed to supersaturated air below freezing temperature." (Source)

I never knew this phenomenon had a special word. I always just called it frost.

The site also adds "Hoar frost must not be confused with rime, which derives from freezing fog or glaze which forms as a continuos thick layer of ice, rather than individual frozen droplets."

Well, okay then.

However, the author wasn't talking about actual hoarfrost, he was talking about the spontaneous conversion of elemental tin from one crystalline state to another that sometimes occurs at low temperatures, a phenomenon called tin blight (also been called tin disease, tin pest or tin leprosy). So I found this cool video !  

Right - now for some more fun words from Curtsies & Conspiracies ...

"Sophronia asked if if isinglass might be mixed with some of the poisons to turn them to jelly, allowing for less dispersal when hurled. 

Sister Mattie went into a long diatribe about how different toxins changed when gelatinous, which had them all standing around dumbly staring at her for a quarter of an hour." 

(/ˈaɪzɪŋɡlæs/ or /ˈaɪzɪŋɡlɑːs/)
Definition from Wikipedia "a substance obtained from the dried swim bladders of fish. It is a form of collagen used mainly for the clarification of wine and beer. It can also be cooked into a paste for specialized gluing purposes.

Swim bladder of a Ruddy (Scardinius erythrophthalmus)
Isinglass was originally made exclusively from sturgeon, especially Beluga sturgeon, until the 1795 invention by William Murdoch of a cheap substitute using cod. This was extensively used in Britain in place of Russian isinglass. The bladders, once removed from the fish, processed and dried, are formed into various shapes for use."

Okay - um - ick.  


So let's follow that up with food!

"There was a picnic of boiled beef, roast duck, braised pork pie, cold poached chicken in cream sauce, pickles and relishes, crusty French bread, and stewed fruit, accompanied by punch, which was followed by tea with pear turnovers, cabinet pudding, and apricot macaroons."

Right, so this is supposed to be an outdoor picnic, like on the grass - I didn't know if I should be hungry or vaguely appalled. I did know that I wanted to know what cabinet pudding was though.

"Cabinet Pudding, also known as Chancellor’s Pudding, is a traditional English steamed, sweet, moulded pudding made from some combination of bread or sponge cake or similar ingredients, with dried fruits such as raisins, served with some form of sweet sauce such as custard."

Another site says "Often described as being similar to bread and butter pudding. Cabinet pudding is formed in a basin and uses sponge cake in place of bread as well as fruit soaked in rum or madeira."

A third offers "1. (Cookery) a steamed suet pudding containing dried fruit"

Lovely, another argumentative dessert, sigh. Vintage Recipes has several variations from the 1800's and early 1900's if you are interested. As far as I can work out the unifying theme seems to be sponge cake, or lady fingers, pressed into a well buttered mold that is lined with citrus zest, raisins, currents or other dried fruit. You alternate layers of fruit and sponge until the mold is full. Then you pour a mixture of milk, egg yolks and sugar over the cake. The mold is then placed in a pot of cold water and then boiled until done - about a hour or so.  

Honestly, I think I prefer the Bakewell pudding from last week to this one.


  1. Lots of great words today! I know enough French to know that avant la lettre meant after the letter but I wasn't familiar with the term either. I think I've heard sinecure before (maybe in an audio book) but didn't know its meaning.

  2. Wow! Another fantastic post. I especially like the hoarfrost explanation (like you, I always called it frost) and the beautiful photo you found to go with it!

  3. I have come across sinecure and hoarfrost. That's a mega list you have there today :)

  4. I'm reading about Newton now, too. I really should be moving on to the next topic, but Newton and the Counterfeiter looks too fun to skip!

    That is a cool video. I didn't know that tin did that.

  5. I knew hoarfrost from watching many years of the weather reports on the news of freezes in the veggie/fruit fields where I live, The others were new to me. Isinglass...ewww! I'm surprised I didn't know that word since my husband is very informed to all things fish/nature.

  6. I've heard of hoarfrost before, but not the others.

  7. Super interesting post. I learned all sorts of new things here. I liked the video too. I had no idea that could happen.


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