Neural Flatus: Body Words

A crop of Carter’s Little Nerve Pills from Boston Public Library. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

It’s a twofer this morning. I had “lachrymose” and “sanguine” bumping around my noggin when I woke up earlier desired. But I already know the meaning of these words: lachrymose means tearful, from the Latin word for tear (the same root that gives us “lacrimal gland” or tear-producing glands). Sanguine, on the other hand, feels almost opposite in certain contexts. I tend to think of sanguine in its hopeful usage, but it’s referring to the flush, reddish color of blood (imagine the blood, or “color” draining from a hopeless face), and comes from the Latin for the same.

This got me thinking about other words derived from body parts that have emotional or behavioral meanings beyond their simple descriptive denotations. Take “bilious”, for example, which may refer simply to the digestive fluid produced by the liver. More colloquially, however, a bilious person is considered to be thoroughly unlikeable (see also the similarly used “splenetic” and “dyspeptic”).

The word nerd in me would LOVE to hear any other such body words. Share ’em if ya got ’em.

Neural Flatus: Perspicacious

This time it was “perspicacious”, rattling around my tired mind well before sunrise, after my intestines woke me for a ride in the porcelain bus.

Perspicacious sounds like something Foghorn Leghorn would toss out in one of his monologues, but it means essentially the ability to see through the surface to what’s real. Webster’s entry has a little too much fun differentiating between perspicacious and its synonyms, but it’s a nifty, not-so-little word that’s been around for a few hundred years.

Neural Flatus: “Bound for the Floor”

Music video for “Bound for the Floor” by Local H

Okay, so sometimes its not just a 3 dollar word that pops into my head. Sometimes its a song from 24 years ago. The video is unremarkable (though the kids are adorable), but the song still rocks pretty hard. I feel like ’96 was one of the last good years for “alternative” rock before it ceased to be an alternative to anything.

Neural Flatus: Rem Koolhaas

Seattle Public Library” by Luke Stearns. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

My weird brain is at it again. I think I heard the words “cool house” from some show my kids were watching. A few misfiring neurons later and I had “Rem Koolhaus” in my head. Was he a painter? Like a Dutch Master or some such? That sure sounded familiar, so off to Google where I found out my spelling (and pronunciation) were off. Rem Koolhaas is absolutely Dutch but is, in fact, a living architect. There’s a good chance you’ve at least seen photos of his CCTV Headquarters, Seattle Central Library, or Casa da Musica.

Neural Flatus: Marbury v. Madison

More days than not some word pops up in my head and floats around until I look it up. It’s usually something I heard or learned about long enough ago to forget what it means, but I always find it satisfying to learn it all over again. I’ve re-learned the difference between parsimonious (stingy with money) and pusillanimous (timid) at least 3 times.

Today I had “Marbury v. Madison” poking me in the brain right out of bed. What the hell is that? I was pretty sure it was one of those Supreme Court of the United States cases that I learned about in high school government class, and 2 seconds of research confirmed it.

According to the SCOTUS-centric law resource, Oyez, Marbury v. Madison established the concept of judicial review. This means, basically, that the Supreme Court can declare a law unconstitutional.

Okay! That’s out of my head. Maybe now I can focus on getting some work done before the weekend…