Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wondrous Words Wednesday 16

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!

Wow, it has been ages since I have been able to do one of these. I have just started climbing out from the bus I got (metaphorically) thrown under and want to try to get back into the swing of things ...

This weeks words are going to be pretty random. I have been doing lots of re-reading comfort books.

From Murder with Peacocks by Donna Andrews ...

"I dropped by on the chance that either you or your mother would be here. She said you had found the jacquard and I should come by to pick it up. What is jacquard, and what am I supposed to do with it when I've got it ?"  

Jacquard (j k ärd , j -kärd , zhä-kär )
1 a :  the control mechanism of a Jacquard loom
b :  jacquard loom - a loom with an attachment for forming openings for the passage of the shuttle between the warp threads; used in weaving figured fabrics

2  a fabric of intricate variegated weave or pattern; a fabric in which the design is incorporated into the weave instead of being printed or dyed on

In the book you already know that they are talking about fabric, but I wasn't sure exactly what to picture, so here is an example of what Meg's mother was looking for. I would have probably called the fabric simply brocade.

"A what ?"

"E-p-e-r-g-n-e," Steven said.

"Oh, epergne," I said, correcting his pronunciation. "Eileen's aunt Louise sent it."

"Yes, I see, but what is it ?"

"What do you care ?" I said. "Just thank her for it."

Epergne pronounced ( iˈpərn, āˈpərn) [I would mess that up too]
  • An ornamental centerpiece for a dining table, typically used for holding fruit or flowers. 
  • An often ornate tiered centerpiece consisting typically of a frame of wrought metal (as silver or gold) bearing dishes, vases, or candle holders or a combination of these  
Origin: early 18th century, perhaps an altered form of French épargne 'saving, economy'. Supposedly the use of an epergne in the center of the table avoided waste because each guest could help him or herself from the main bowl, thus eliminating the disposal of expensive delicacies left on an individual's plate. Except the households that could afford these huge masses of silver also tended to have servants - so the guests didn't help themselves  - and also had massive tables which would make it awfully hard to actually reach anything in the bowls gracefully. It would have been horribly rude to reach over other people to get at an orange or something.  Maybe on a sideboard ? I don't know - I am tending towards urban myth with this origin story. 
Wikipedia's take is" Probably from the French "épargne" meaning "saving", the idea being that dinner guests were saved the trouble of passing dishes (although an epergne in French is called a surtout). In addition the word epergne in French can also mean "spare", another way of saying "to save", or a spare meaning "reserve or extra".


And two more quick ones:

Alfred Russel Wallace reportedly led a peripatetic life 

- Traveling from place to place, especially working or based in various places for relatively short periods. 
 - Aristotelian. [with reference to Aristotle's practice of walking to and fro while teaching]
Origin: late Middle English (denoting an Aristotelian philosopher): from Old French peripatetique, via Latin from Greek peripatētikos 'walking up and down', from the verb peripatein.

I also ran into the term tête-bêche in Wallace's notebook.

1. (Philately) philately (of an unseparated pair of stamps) printed so that one is inverted in relation to the other
[C19: from French, from tête head + bêche, from obsolete béchevet double-headed (originally of a bed)]
Except I don't remember Wallace talking about stamps, hummm.... 
I know that there are also tête-bêche books

... but that isn't helping me either. Now I have to find the bit in the book that uses the term to sort out what on Earth Wallace was talking about.


  1. I'm pretty sure I've looked up epergne before but I didn't remember it. I obviously run in a lower class crowd because I don't think I've ever seen one in person.

    1. Not my crowd either. I think I have seen one once at a wedding I was invited to.

  2. Epergne was a fun one, especially with the picture. I'd be asking "what is it?" too. (Glad you made it out from under the bus in one piece.)

  3. Learning a lot of new words today. Great words


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