Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wondrous Words Wednesday 8

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!"

How on Earth did it get to be Wednesday!  Good Grief!

 Well, I have a few words from Field Notes from A Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change by Elizabeth Kolbert...

talik - the technical term for thawed permafrost, from a Russian word meaning "not frozen"  та́лик

From Wikipedia "a layer of year-round unfrozen ground that lies in permafrost areas." Traditionally taliks occur in association with water bodies which have enough thermal inertia that they do not freeze, thus the soil underneath them doesn't freeze either (see the taliks under the lakes in the graphic below). Groundwater can also create localized zones of talik.

Due to climate changes, some permafrost regions have developed an unfrozen layer between the seasonal freeze/thaw active layer (the dark brown in the graphic) at the surface and the underlying permafrost (i.e. ground frozen for greater than a year). In this case, the ground that thawed in the summer doesn't completely re-freeze in the winter. This would be something like the closed talik in the picture (which was created by groundwater in the bog), but thinner and with a greater horizontal extent. 

This kind of stuff is a problem because when the ground thaws it becomes unstable and sink holes can form.

The author also introduced me to this concept ... ("Amplexus" is the term of art for an amphibian embrace.)

From Wikipedia "Amplexus (Latin "embrace") is a form of pseudocopulation found chiefly in amphibians and horseshoe crabs in which a male grasps a female with his front legs as part of the mating process." It looks more like a piggy back ride to me.
Well - now we know what the frogs have been doing all this time :)

Just as an interesting aside, since this is about words, the author mentions being at a meeting where she talked to an Inuit hunter who lived on Banks Island, five hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle. He said "a few years ago, for the first time, people began to see robins, a bird for which the Inuit in his region have no word."

Whoops - I am not trying to turn this into a lecture so I will switch books to Bridge of Birds by Barry Hugheart ...

From the British Museum
"Girls carried straw baskets up the hill to the monastery, and the bonzes lined them with yellow paper upon which they had drawn pictures of Lady Horsehead, and the abbot blessed the baskets and burned incense to the patron of sericulture." 

One sentence and two words that I wanted to sort out ...

Bonze, obsolete term used in Western languages for Buddhist clergy.
Origin of BONZE: French, from Portuguese bonzo, from Japanese bonsō

First Known Use: 1653
Sericulture, or silk farming, is the rearing of silkworms for the production of silk. 
This webpage has some cool historical images


  1. Great words and concepts. I learned so much from this post! That the Inuit have no native word for robin, even though they now see them, might be the one that sticks with me the longest.

  2. Not only did I learn new words, I learned that robins are flying way farther north than they should be. Great post today!

  3. This was an interesting post, especially the part about the robins.


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