cusp \kuhsp, noun:
1. a point or pointed end.
2. Anatomy, Zoology, Botany. a point, projection, or elevation, as on the crown of a tooth.
3. Also called spinode. Geometry. a point where two branches of a curve meet, end, and are tangent.
4. Architecture. a decorative device, used especially in Gothic architecture to vary the outlines of intradoses or to form architectural foils, consisting of a pair of curves tangent to the real or imaginary line defining the area decorated and meeting at a point within the area.
5. Astronomy. a point of a crescent, especially of the moon.
6. Astrology. a. the zodiacal degree that marks the beginning of a house or a sign. b. Informal. a person born on the first day of a sign.
7. a point that marks the beginning of a change: on the cusp of a new era.
From behind the cusp a figure had stepped out, entirely black, unfolding slowly, as though from a crouch.
— David Herter, Ceres Storm, 2000
"I have put your father into it! There are the initial letters W. C. let into the cusp of the York rose, and the date, three years before the battle of Bosworth, over the chimneypiece.”
— Baron Edward Bulwer-Lytton, The Caxtons: A Family Picture, 1849
Cusp came to English in the late 1500s from the Latin cuspis meaning “a point.”
ochlophobia \ok-luh-FOH-bee-uh, noun:
Psychiatry. an abnormal fear of crowds.
"The man’s got pedophobia, homichlophobia, dromophobia, xenophobia, ochlophobia, haphephobia, planomania, kleptophobia, thanatophobia, he’s an onychophagist, he’s got gerontophobia, but notice he has no dysphagia…”
— George Friel, Mr. Alfred, M.A., 1972
As the plane leveled her discomfort ebbed. Agoraphobia. Demophobia. Enochlophobia. Ochlophobia. She knew the terms but refused to label her condition a phobia.
— Rick Mofina, The Panic Zone, 2010
Ochlophobia entered English in the late 1800s from the Greek roots meaning “mob” and “fear.”
calorifacient \kuh-lawr-uh-FEY-shuhnt, -lor-, kal-er-uh-, adjective:
(of foods) producing heat.
The division of food into azotized and non-azotized is no doubt important, but the attempt to show that the first only is plastic or nutritive, while the second is simply calorifacient, or heat-producing, fails entirely in the face of the facts revealed by the study of man in different climates…
— Oliver Wendell Holmes, “Border Lines of Knowledge in Some Provinces of Medical Science,” 1861
It has been attempted on the basis of their supposed physiological destination, and thus they were divided into the histogenetic and the calorifacient substances; the one going, as was imagined, solely to the formation of tissue, and the other entirely to maintain the heat of the body.
— William Alexander Hammond, A Treatise on Hygiene, 1863
Calorifacient comes from the Latin calōrifacĕre meaning “to make heat.” It entered English in the mid-1800s.
hardihood \HAHR-dee-hood, noun:
1. boldness or daring; courage.
2. audacity or impudence.
3. strength; power; vigor: the hardihood of youth.
4. hardy spirit or character; determination to survive; fortitude: the hardihood of early settlers.
"…Make thee my knight? My knights are sworn to vows / Of utter hardihood, utter gentleness, / And, loving, utter faithfulness in love, / And uttermost obedience to the King.”
— Lord Alfred Tennyson, Idylls of the King, 1872
They had to do with a pride in a man’s courage and hardihood, courage and hardihood that could make of thefts, of murder, of crimes dimly guessed, wrongs no more reprehensible than a boy’s apple-stealing.
— Dashiell Hammett, “Ruffian’s Wife,” 1925
Hardihood came to English in the 1600s from the Old French hardir meaning “to harden” or “to make bold.” This ultimately comes from the Proto-Germanic hardjan meaning “to make hard.”
jocose \joh-KOHS, juh-, adjective:
given to or characterized by joking; jesting; humorous; playful: a jocose and amusing manner.
The jocose talk of hay-makers is best at a distance; like those clumsy bells round the cows’ necks, it has rather a coarse sound when it comes close, and may even grate on your ears painfully…
— George Eliot, Adam Bede, 1859
Lord Boardotrade was there, making semi-jocose speech, quite in the approved way for a cognate paterfamilias.
— Anthony Trollope, Ayala’s Angel, 1878
Jocose comes from the Latin jocōsus meaning “joking.” It entered English in the 1600s.
abiogenesis \ey-bahy-oh-JEN-uh-sis, ab-ee-oh-, noun:
Biology. the now discredited theory that living organisms can arise spontaneously from inanimate matter; spontaneous generation.
“Aristotle would have loved that.” Nancy was standing behind him. “Why Aristotle?” she asked. “He believed in abiogenesis, the idea that living creatures can arise from nonliving matter.”
— Tom Clancy, Games of State, 1996
Oberth, who accurately predicted rocket development on earth, suspects that the prerequisites for abiogenesis exist on other planets in the solar system.
— Erich von Daniken, translated by Michael Heron, Chariots of the Gods? Unsolved Mysteries of the Past, 1968
Coined by T. H. Huxley in 1870, abiogenesis comes from the Latin words meaning “birth” and “origin.”
Under your fingertips
You have to use the five senses when you write. Readers want to experience what your characters see, smell, hear, taste and touch. I find that touch is the sense that is most ignored by writers. I think it is often the most difficult to describe. Don’t leave it out. The sense of touch is so important because touch confirms that our eyes aren’t deceiving us. Readers identify with characters who engage with their worlds.
Description composed of sensory detail penetrates layers of consciousness, engaging your reader emotionally as well as intellectually… ~Rebecca McClanahan
Writing Tip: Beginner writers tend to confuse touch with feel. For example: I see the river, I hear the sirens, I feel confused. Should be: I see the river, I hear the sirens, I touch the jagged scar. Try and say touch whenever you can and you should avoid this problem.
Texture describes the way something feels when touched or eaten. It also describes the way something looks or feels because of the way in which it is made. For the purposes of this article, I want to concentrate on the first definition. I have put together a list of words that will help you describe what a character feels when he touches something with his fingertips or his skin.
slumgullion \sluhm-GUHL-yuhn, SLUHM-guhl-, noun:
1. a stew of meat, vegetables, potatoes, etc.
2. a beverage made weak or thin, as watery tea, coffee, or the like.
3. the refuse from processing whale carcasses.
4. a reddish, muddy deposit in mining sluices.
"…d’yever eat good old fashioned slumgullion boy, ‘taint nothin but scrambled eggs and potatoes all scrambled up together.”
— Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums, 1958
We could not eat the bread or the meat, nor drink the “slumgullion.”
— Mark Twain, Roughing It, 1872
Slumgullion is an Americanism dating back to the 1840s. It is perhaps related to the word cullion, which comes from the Latin term meaning “bag” or “testicle.”
largesse \lahr-JES, LAHR-jis, noun:
1. generous bestowal of gifts.
2. the gift or gifts, as of money, so bestowed.
3. Obsolete. generosity; liberality.
They subsisted by the bounty, or largesse, as it was called, of the princes whom they served, which was one great source of expense to those who embarked in war…
— Sir Walter Scott, “Feudal Chivalry,” Tales of a Grandfather, 1831
Largesse, in the form of odds and ends of cold cream and pomatum, and also of hairpins, was freely distributed among the attendants.
— Charles Dickens, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, 1870
Largesse comes from the Latin largus meaning “abundant.” It shares a root with the word large.
pokelogan \POHK-loh-guhn, noun:
Northeastern U.S. marshy or stagnant water that has branched off from a stream or lake.
They were particularly numerous where there was a small bay, or pokelogan, as it is called, bordered by a strip of meadow, or separated from the river by a low peninsula covered with coarse grass…
— Henry David Thoreau, The Maine Woods, 1864
He weighted their bodies into the black stagnant water of a marshy pokelogan and watched them sink below the surface, being the last man to ever see them alive or dead.
— Robert Olmstead, Soft Water, 1988
Pokelogan entered English in the 1840s and is of unknown origin.