My Weekly Word Fix

Introducing all kinds of words, their uses and meanings, every Monday.


I read the phrase, “in a suddenly plangent voice,” and wondered what plangent meant and how a voice could suddenly become that. Plangent means beating with a loud or deep sound, loud or resonant, and, often, mournful-sounding. I was reading the book, The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer, when I came upon this phrase and wrote it down. However, going back over the book and not having noted the page, I couldn’t find the context of the phrase, i.e. who spoke in this manner or why. I suspect, though, that it was someone whose voice took on a melancholy tone in a noticeable, loud way, since their voice had become “suddenly plangent.” It stood out to me as I read, much like a voice that becomes suddenly plangent might.

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For some reason, I always want to spell ad nauseam, “ad nauseum,” as if it’s the singular of a plural. It’s interesting to reflect on the way words get caught up in our brains a certain way. I thought I was the only one who would suddenly look at a word I’ve just written and have it look foreign to me or like I’ve spelled it wrong. Then I learned that others sometimes experience this as well.

Not true, though, with ad nauseam. I actually was spelling it wrong. I also was unaware of the negativity inherent in its meaning. I thought it referred to too much of something, like using a phrase ad nauseam meant using it over and over again until it was annoying. But the meaning of ad nauseam is to the point of disgust; to a sickening extreme, which gives it a more extreme implication than I’ve been assigning to its use.

I will be applying the term ad nauseam much more judiciously now, and I’ll also be spelling it right.

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106. REDD

When I lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I became accustomed to a dialect I hadn’t experienced, before or since. I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania, went to college in central Pennsylvania, but Pittsburgh was different. And I lived in Butler, which was north of Pittsburgh and more rural. I had good friends there, they were down to earth people, who said they would leave Butler in a pine box. They were simple and proud of their town, and they weren’t going anywhere. They also referred to straightening up their house, or a room, or the kitchen, in that they needed to redd up the house, the room, or the kitchen. I’d never heard that expression and saw it in my mind as “rett” because that’s how they pronounced it. I left Butler twenty years ago and haven’t heard that expression since I left. So, lo and behold, I come across it while reading Jane Eyre!

“There, sir, you are redd up and made decent. Now I’ll leave you: I have been travelling these last three days, and I believe I am tired. Good-night.”

Jane says this to Mr. Rochester towards the very end of the book. The reader is directed to the back of the book to a note defining “redd” as “tidied (dialectal).” In the dictionary, redd is defined as to put in order, make (a place) tidy: usually [used] with up, a colloquialism that comes from North England and Scotland, and somehow made its way to Pittsburgh. I’m sure with enough research it could be explained.

Suffice it to say, I didn’t expect to come across the word not only used in Jane Eyre, but spoken by Jane herself. Kind of cool. As rural as Pittsburgh was, it had its classy aspects. Roots in Jane Eyre no less.

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I think my favorite words are those that sound like what they mean. Some words don’t sound anything like what they mean, and although they’re not my favorites, they could be seen as ironic I guess, and I like that aspect of them. But I still prefer onomatopoetic words. Some examples are tinkle, buzz, chickadee, even stomp (especially if you say that word loudly!).

So I came across the word refulgent, continuing in my reading of Jane Eyre. Mr. Rochester uses it as he describes a “refulgent dawn” in the most poignant chapter of the book. At least I believe it’s the best chapter of the book, since I couldn’t stop reading until I’d concluded it: Volume III Chapter 1. I can’t tell you what you find out or it would need a spoiler alert tag. And, word to the wise, if you get the Penguin Classics edition, don’t read the notes per chapter (at the end of the novel), because the editor seems to assume that you’ve already read the book or you don’t like being in suspense. (I do.)

Refulgent means shining, radiant, glowing. Mr. Rochester tells Jane about a “refulgent dawn” under which he walked, that awakened his senses and gave him renewed purpose. He was going to shoot himself due to how far he’d fallen, but as the “refulgent dawn of the tropics kindled round me – I reasoned thus, Jane – and now, listen; for it was true Wisdom that consoled me in that hour, and showed me the right path to follow” (347).

A synonym given in the dictionary for refulgent is resplendent. That’s the word I would have chosen to describe such a moment: in the midst of a resplendent dawn.


Now that’s a resplendent dawn! Maybe it’s the poet in me, but refulgent just doesn’t adequately describe such beauty.

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I’m reading Jane Eyre right now, the classic novel by Charlotte Bronte, and although I’ve stumbled over words here and there that I don’t know and have to look up, most of them are not frequently used today. One that I liked, though, that we don’t hear in common usage but that made me laugh as Jane described a visitor at Mr. Rochester’s estate was aquiline:

“For a handsome and not an unamiable-looking man, he repelled me exceedingly: there was no power in that smooth-skinned face of a full oval shape; no firmness in that aquiline nose, and small, cherry mouth; there was no thought on the low, even forehead; no command in that blank, brown eye.” (p. 215)

Basically dear Jane, with that mushy aquiline nose, he’s no Mr. Rochester, right? Isn’t that what you’re saying? Aquiline means of or like an eagle, curved or hooked like an eagle’s beak, and supposedly it’s meant as a compliment. I’m not sure how one can have “no firmness” in an aquiline nose, but Jane implies that she prefers a firm aquiline nose. Obviously, Mr. Rochester must have one.

According to Google, this is an aquiline nose, an “attractive” one:

aquiline nose

An aquiline nose seems to exude firmness. That unfortunate man just wasn’t Mr. Rochester, and Jane wasn’t having any of it, that’s for sure.

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I work as a Mental Health Rehabilitation Specialist (MHRS), a long-winded name for a mental health counselor. Today I was leading a group, Seeking Safety, and as clients were checking in using their feelings sheet as a guide, they were asking me what some of the terms meant. One that seemed optimal for clients to be able to check in with, for their own good, was equanimity. However, when I explained that it meant even-keeled, no one chose that term to describe how they were feeling in that moment. Equanimity, in my opinion, is what we should all strive to achieve: mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation. At my day job, I’m often striving for equanimity within myself to help those not as capable of it develop some sense of solace. It’s not easy!

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I have returned after a long reprieve from documenting words and their intricate meanings. Admittedly, I did not achieve what I’d set out to achieve during my break, but I did achieve many other endeavors and sadly was sidelined by a few obstacles. Still committed to the writing projects I’ve had on my docket for far too long, I’ve decided to come back to words, albeit one a week and not “almost daily.” Since it is the formidable week of much crapulous behavior, I’ve chosen crapulous, which is an adjective meaning characterized by excessive eating or drinking, or sick from excessive indulgence in drinking or eating, or bluntly and aptly, drunk. Happy New Year to you, and try not to be the most crapulous dude (or chick) at the party!! 🙂

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A hiatus is a break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series or action. It also means a missing part or gap. Since I’ve hit 100 words in this blog, I’ll be taking a hiatus from my “almost daily” word fix. I’ll give these 100 (+1) words some time to gestate for a while. I have several other projects that I’ve taken a hiatus from, and I need to get back to them and get them done! A novel, a screenplay, and an instruction guide to a book I’ve already published. When I come back, I’m sure I’ll have lots of words to share, since I’ll be working with an overabundance of words. But, I definitely will be back. 🙂

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100. WELT and WELTER

You would think that welt and welter would be related, but there is no direct relation between them with regard to meaning. Welter has shown up twice in Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton, and when I checked it out, I was surprised to see how different the two words are. Welt is a raised ridge on the skin by a slash or a blow, for example from a whip. That’s when it’s used as a noun. As a verb, it means to beat severely or thrash. That’s welt. Welter, as a verb, means to be completely involved, like to welter in work. It also means to be stained, soaked, or bathed, as in to welter in blood. It also means to tumble and toss about, like the sea. As a noun, welter means a tossing or tumbling, as of waves, or a confusion or turmoil. Sarton asks, “What other saving graces in the welter of things?” She then goes on to list those saving graces. She’s referring to Christmas, and the turmoil it creates in the preparation it requires. Interesting words, and interesting the lack of connection between them.

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Dipsomania is an abnormal and insatiable craving for alcoholic drinks. A dipsomaniac is, basically, an alcoholic. And believe it or not, dipso is another word for a dipsomaniac, albeit slang. Somewhat knowledgeable in the field of addiction, I know how difficult it is at times to convince people that addiction is a disease. But referring to someone as a dipsomaniac kind of sounds like it’s a person who suffers from mental illness and needs treatment. Maybe the term dipsomaniac should be used more frequently.

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