Good morning and happy Monday! We’re starting the week off rainy and dreary here, so I hope yours is sunnier or at least warm if you too are surrounded by rain.

This week’s list of words covers perhaps the trickiest problem of language: deciding the usage, i.e. spelling and pronunciation. Here are a few examples from Wordsmith:

“What’s the letter b doing in the word debt? Well, it was stuffed in the word to make it look more like Latin (as in debitum). In French they still spell it dette.

Where did the r sound in the word colonel come from? In short, we borrowed (from French and Italian) two variants of the term: colonel and coronel. After a period of trying out both, we decided to keep spelling from one and pronunciation from the other version.

(While we are talking about colonels, a colonel is, literally, a little column, because he heads a column of soldiers.)”

So while the following words may seem misspelled, that is just their quirkiness confusing you. Have a great week!

gapeseed (GAYP-seed)

noun: 1. one who stares especially with an open mouth.
2. something that is an object of staring: anything unusual

From gape + seed, from Old Norse gapa (to open the mouth, stare) + Old English saed (seed). Earliest documented use: 1598

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“‘And you have not spoken to him since?’
‘Not a word. But that does not stop him from staring at me like a fool. He might be a wonder in Parliament, but here in Bath he looks the veriest gapeseed.’”
Catherine Blair; Athena’s Conquest; Zebra Regency Romance; 2001.

Notes (from Wordsmith)
The idiom “to sow gapeseed” means to gape at something (say, a fair) instead of doing some useful work (say, sowing wheat). This, and other idioms, hint at our agrarian roots:
-to sow wild oats
-to sow the seeds (of something)
-as you sow, so shall you reap, etc.

windrow (WIND-ro)

noun: 1. a row of raked hay laid to dry in the wind before being baled.
2. A row of leaves, dust, snow, or other material swept together
verb transitive: to arrange in a windrow

From wind + row, from Old English row + raew. Earliest documented use: 1523

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“If the crop was harvested, it should be placed in windrows up to 2.5m high and 6m wide.”
Pat Deavoll; Beet Success is All in the Preparation; Timaru Herald (New Zealand); Mar 28, 2015.

unwonted (un-WON-tid)

adjective: unusual or unaccustomed

From un- + Middle English woned, wont (accustomed), past participle of wonen (to be used to, to dwell). Ultimately from the Indo-European root wen- (to desire or to strive for), which is also the source of wish, win, Venus, overweening, venerate, venison, and banyan, venial, andween. Earliest documented use: 1553

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“[The play] looks at why the placid-seeming Howe was driven to such unwonted ferocity.”
Michael Billington; Dead Sheep Review; The Guardian(London, UK); Apr 6, 2015.

angor (ANG-guhr)

noun: extreme anguish or mental distress

If you’ve ever been so angry, or so anguished, that you felt choked you’ve personally experienced the origin of this term. It comes from Latin angor (strangling, suffocation, mental distress), from angere (to squeeze). Ultimately from the Indo-European root angh- (tight, suffocating, painful), which also gave us anger, anguish, anxious, angst, angina, and hangnail. Earliest documented use: 1440

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“But each word helps to create the tone of the story, set the mood, build the atmosphere, and illustrate the characters’ sense of angor.”
Anu Garg; Confessions of a Word Addict; Writer Magazine (Waukesha, Wisconsin); Dec 2003.

refect (ri-FEKT)

verb transitive: to refresh with food or drink

From Latin reficere (to renew or restore), from re- (back) + facere (to make). Earliest documented use: 1488

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“[I attempt] recipes that refect thrill-seeking appetites, and which can be served together like a spread-out picnic.”
Rose Prince; Spring Free; Telegraph Magazine (London, UK); Apr 4, 2015.

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