John William Tuohy lives in Washington DC

Words you’ll probably never use: Elflock



MEANING:noun: A tangled lock of hair.

ETYMOLOGY: An elflock is a mass of hair supposedly tangled by elves, as a mother might explain to her daughter while untangling her snarled locks after a slumber. From Old English aelf. Ultimately from the Indo-European root albho- (white), which is also the source of oaf, albino, album, albumen, and albedo. Earliest documented use: 1596. 

miscible \MISS-uh-bul\
 Capable of being mixed; specifically : capable of mixing in any ratio without separation of two phases

 "Miscible" isn't simply a lesser-known synonym of "mixable"—it's also a cousin. It comes to us from the Medieval Latin adjective "miscibilis," which has the same meaning as "miscible" and which derives in turn from Latin "miscēre," meaning "to mix." "Miscēre" is also the ultimate source of our "mix"; its past participle "mixtus" (meaning "mixed") spawned "mixte" in Anglo-French and Middle English, and "mix" came about as a back-formation of "mixte." The suffix "-able" gives us "mixable," thereby completing its link to "miscible." "Miscible" turns up most frequently in scientific discussions where it is used especially to describe fluids that don't separate when they are combined.


PRONUNCIATION: (KWOT-uhr-ner-ee, kwuh-TUHR-nuh-ree) 

MEANING: 1. Of the fourth order.2. Consisting of or arranged in fours.

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin quattuor (four). Earliest documented use: 1450.

USAGE: "The patient referral system started at the primary, to secondary, to tertiary, and finally to the quaternary level of health care." Jane Kanchense; Zimbabwe's Child Brides; Trafford; 2011. 

Depone \dih-POHN\to assert under oath: testify

 "I, Maureen Watt, depone aat I wull be leal and bear ae full alleadgance tae Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth," swore the newly-elected Member of the Scottish Parliament in the dialect of the North-East of Scotland. (Translation: "I swear that I will be loyal and bear full allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.")

"Depone," a word used in Scots law for "testify" since the 15th century, is perfectly at home in the oath. The word originated from Latin "deponere," meaning "to put down."

 The related English verb "depose," referring to testimony, entered the language through the same root the following century. Though used less frequently in American English than "depose," "depone" is no stranger to the American court system.



MEANING:The error of placing something out of its proper place; also something placed erroneously.

ETYMOLOGY:From Greek ana- (against) + topos (place). Anatopism is to place what anachronism is to time. Earliest documented use: 1812. 



MEANING: Melted snow.

ETYMOLOGY: From Old English snaw (snow) + broth (broth). Earliest documented use: 1600. 


Tourbillion \toor-BIL-yun\Meaning a whirlwind,  a vortex especially of a whirlwind or whirlpool

"Tourbillion" (which can also be spelled "tourbillon" and pronounced "toor-bee-YAWNG") comes from the same root as "turbine"—namely, the Latin word "turbo," meaning "top" (as in a spinning object) or "whirlwind." "Tourbillion" has been used over time to refer to other spinning objects besides an actual whirlwind. Among watchmaking enthusiasts, "tourbillion" is the name of a kind of watch with a mechanism designed to compensate for the effects of gravity on its movement. Among pyrotechnics fans, a tourbillion is a kind of firework having a spiral flight. 


Orgulous \OR-gyuh-lus\Meaning proud, haughty

"In Troy, there lies the scene. From Isles of Greece
 The princes orgulous, their high blood chaf'd,
Have to the port of Athens sent their ships."

 Thus Shakespeare began the Trojan War tale Troilus and Cressida, employing "orgulous," a colorful word first adopted in the 13th century from Anglo-French "orguillus." After the Bard's day, "orgulous" dropped from sight for 200 years; there is no record of its use until it was rejuvenated by the pens of Robert Southey and Sir Walter Scott in the early 1800s. Twentieth-century authors (including James Joyce and W.H. Auden) continued its renaissance, and it remains an elegant (if infrequent) choice for today's writers.

Potemkin Village

MEANING:  An impressive showy facade designed to mask undesirable facts.

ETYMOLOGY: After Prince Grigory Potemkin, who erected cardboard villages to fool Empress Catherine II during her visit to Ukraine and Crimea in 1787. Earliest documented use: 1904.