Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Wondrous Words Wednesday 9

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!"

Last week Wednesday landed on me with no warning. This week has been even worse.  Sigh.  Still, I have been having lots of fun with this meme and don't want to miss a week until I have to.

Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart again (this has been one of my favorite books for years - it was probably my first exposure to fantasy in a non-European setting and I adored it. That said, this book was written in 1985 so it does have some aspects that might be considered problematic. There is also rather a lot of violence but still it is an amazing adventure) ...

"Having performed similar chores for Uncle Nung more times than I cared to count I judged it wiser to buy some food as well, and when I returned I had two small jars of wine, two small bowls of congee, and a valuable lesson in the buying power of copper coins."

(I have no idea why I keep fixating on food, I must read hungry or something)

Congee or conjee is a type of rice porridge popular in many Asian countries. Chinese congees, or jook, (Chinese: ; pinyin: zhōu) vary considerably by region but in one common version, white rice is boiled in many times its weight of water for a long time until the rice breaks down and becomes a fairly thick, white porridge. Besides being an everyday meal, congee is considered to be food therapy for infants, the sick or infirm.

"Every year there are well-meaning officials who attempt to ban the Sword Dance on the grounds that it kills or maims hundreds, if not thousands, and though the dance will continue as long as the great T'ang sits upon the throne (the Son of Heaven devotes an hour a day to practice with the swords) I suppose that I should explain a "barbaric ritual" that may someday become as obsolete as scapulimancy."

Adapted from Wikipedia
Scapulimancy (also spelled scapulomancy and scapulamancy, also termed omoplatoscopy ) is the practice of divination by use of scapulae (shoulder blades). In the context of the oracle bones of ancient China, which chiefly utilized both scapulae and the plastrons of turtle, scapulimancy is sometimes used in a very broad sense to jointly refer to both scapulimancy and plastromancy (similar divination using plastrons). 

In ancient China, mainly during the late Shang dynasty, diviners would submit questions to deities regarding future events, weather, crop planting, military endeavors, and similar topics. The questions were carved onto the bone (or shell) using a sharp tool. Intense heat was then applied with a metal rod until the bone or shell cracked. The diviner would then interpret the pattern of cracks and write the it on the bone. Oracle bones bear the earliest known significant corpus of ancient Chinese writing, and contain important historical information such as the complete royal genealogy of the Shang dynasty.

Then from Packing for Mars by Mary Roach I found ...

"Of the millions of pages of documents and reports generated by the first moon landing, none is more telling, to me anyway, than an eleven-page paper presented at the twenty-sixth annual meeting of the North American Vexillological Association."

Vexillology is the "scientific study of the history, symbolism and usage of flags or, by extension, any interest in flags in general"


  1. Those are all new to me! I'm curiouus about congee and wonder if it's similar to rice pudding.

    1. That is certainly what it sounds like. The regional variations seem to have to do with which type of rice you use, the exact proportions of rice to liquid and the kinds of things that you add for flavor or garnish. They seem to tend towards savory and add things like chicken stock, scallions, peanuts, Chung choi (salted preserved cabbage), Chinese parsley, pickled vegetables, sliced salted duck eggs, and/or chopped daikon.

      My favorite version of 'rice pudding' is Indian kheer - made from long grain boiled in milk (or coconut milk, though I prefer plain milk) and flavored with sugar, saffron, and cardamom- then garnished with pistachios (raisins are traditional to but I like pistachios better). Yum!

  2. Very interesting words. I have seen congee in my reading previously, but never took the time to look it up. I must have sort of figured out its meaning by the context. Scapulimancy and Vexillology are both new. I might remember scapulimancy because of scapulae, but vexillology I am not so sure about. Thanks for sharing.

  3. All your words are new to me. I love the sounds of them all.

  4. Great words. I've seen congee before but I didn't understand what it meant. I think I prefer more rice less well-cooked

  5. All new words for me and very interesting.

  6. I have heard of congee but the others are new. Scapulimacy - divination of shoulder blades I find that a bit spooky ;)


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