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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in The Unusual Words Lovers' LiveJournal:

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Wednesday, May 4th, 2011
1:29 pm
A medical plaster; an alcoholic solution of soap (or oleic acid) and camphor with some added essential oils; soap liniment; (also) a preparation made from this, esp. by mixing with laudanum; now arch. In extended use: (U.S. regional) any medicine; alcohol. (OED)

I would have guessed that this attractive-sounding word (too much so for what it describes) must come from some indigenous American language, but the OED says it was coined by Paracelsus, who seems to have had a penchant for whimsical neologisms: other coinages of his include nostoc, synovia, sylph, alkahest, and maybe even gnome.
1:14 pm
Chastisement, corporal punishment. Also fig. and in phr. to get toco for yam. (OED)

From Hindi ṭhōko, imperative of ṭhoknā beat, thrash.

"The School leaders come up furious, and administer toco to the wretched fags nearest at hand." (Tom Brown's School Days)

"To embrace you thus, con fuoco, Would distinctly be no gioco, And for yam I should get toco." (The Mikado)
Thursday, February 3rd, 2011
7:25 am
hehiri-bikuni : fart-cut-nuns
In India, barefoot boys hold up parasols/umbrellas to keep the rain and sun off the women;
In Japan, the women hold up parasols/umbrellas for each other.

[...] Frois is not talking about women in general, but the women in Japan who have a similar social position to those served by others in India or in Europe (though not yet for umbrellas). Japanese ladies could do things for themselves. While some nobility did have help in Japan for almost every aspect of their lives, including "fart-cut-nuns" (hehiri-bikuni) who took the blame for their social indiscretions - i.e., the responsibility for their literal and figurative farts! (maybe I am fooled by fanciful literature on this, but it is too good not to mention!) - even such pampered courtesans = women living in court would usually fan themselves, something not true in much of the world. In Japan, only the Emperor's dog had someone to fan his flies away and put bits of ice in his mouth, according to A Diplomatist's Wife in Japan, Mrs. Frazer, who sighed "I wish some kind fairy would fan me all day and put bits of ice into my mouth!"

(Topsy-Turvy 1585. The famous tract by Luis Frois S.J., listing the 611 ways Europeans* & Japanese are contrary, translated and essayed by Robin D. Gill.) I really recommend this book. It's hilarious.
*The example above is the only one that compares Japan to India instead of Europe.
Thursday, December 30th, 2010
3:09 pm
hag-ridden adjective afflicted by nightmares or anxieties: he was hag-ridden by his early success.

Maybe not a very unusual word, but I didn't know it before yesterday, when I heard it on Stephen Fry's "QI", hocus pocus edition. Other Harry Potter related terms he explained to Daniel Radcliffe included muggle (originally: user of marijuana), dumbledore (bumblebee) and hogwart (a plant used to make alcohol taste disgusting).
Sunday, April 18th, 2010
12:36 am
grallatory, grallatorial
pertaining to wading birds. (Lat. gralla: stilts; gral[l]ator: one who walks on stilts)
Sunday, July 19th, 2009
2:02 am
rathe: [the lost positive of rather] appearing or ripening early in the year, as flowers or fruit.

In ward wary the watcher hearing come that man mildhearted eft rising with swire ywimpled to him her gate wide undid. Lo, levin leaping lightens in eyeblink Ireland's westward welkin. Full she drad that God the Wreaker all mankind would fordo with water for his evil sins. Christ's rood made she on breastbone and him drew that he would rathe infare under her thatch. That man her will wotting worthful went in Horne's house.

James Joyce, Ulysses
That passage imitates "The Wanderer," an Anglo-Saxon lament preserved in the Exeter Book, copied c. 975.

                           Pull down thy vanity,
Rathe to destroy, niggard in charity,

Ezra Pound, Canto LXXXI
Saturday, July 4th, 2009
10:45 pm
Saturday, June 20th, 2009
5:29 pm
asaroton: unswept
ten lapides varios lutulenta radere palma
What? sweep with dirty broom a floor inlaid - Horace, Satires 2. 4. 83.

asaroton: genre of mosaic, depicting left over food scraps in a trompe l'oeil manner.

celeberrimus fuit in hoc genere Sosus, qui Pergami stravit quem vocant asaroton oecon, quoniam purgamenta cenae in pavimentis quaeque everri solent velut relicta fecerat parvis e tessellis tinctisque in varios colores.

The most famous in that genre was Sosos who laid at Pergamon what is called the asarotos oikos or unswept room, because on the pavement were represented the débris of a meal, and those things which are normally swept away, as if they had been left there, made of small tesserae of many colours. - Pliny, Natural History 36.184.

Monday, May 18th, 2009
8:11 pm
leash: a set of three
Is this an unusual word?

Or Cerberus himself pronounce
A leash of languages at once.

(Hudibras I, 103f)

And where does this particular meaning come from? From something like this?

Saturday, March 7th, 2009
12:19 am
illiesm (n): the act of referring to oneself in the third person. illeist.

Sunday, March 1st, 2009
7:10 pm
This was bread prepared in a rather special way, women would knead the dough between their naked thighs before baking it; it was supposed to serve as a love-charm or aphrodisiac. Here is John Aubrey on the matter:

" Young wenches have a wanton sport which they call moulding of
Cockle-bread, viz. they get upon a table-board, and then gather up their
knees and their coates with their hands as high as they can, and then
they wabble to and fro, as if they were kneading of dowgh, and say
these words, viz.

My dame is sick and gonne to bed,
And Fie go mould my Cockle-bread.

I did imagine nothing to have been in this but meer wantonnesse of
youth. But I find in Burchardus, in his "Methodus Confitendi," printed
at Colon, 1549, (he lived before the Conquest,) one of the Articles (on
the VII. Commandment) of interrogating a young woman is, " If she
did ever, subigere panem clunibus and then bake it, and give it to
one she loved to eate, "ut in majorem modum exardesceret amor." So
here I find it to be a relique of naturall magick an unlawful philtrum.

White Kennet adds, in a side note, " In Oxfordshire, the Maids,
when they put themselves into the fit posture, sing thus,

My granny is sick, and now is dead,
And wee'l goe mould some Cockle Bread,
Up with my heels and down with my head,
And this is the way to mould Cockle-bread." "

It is mentioned in this poem by George Peele:

Fair maiden, white and red,
Comb me smooth, and stroke my head;
And thou shalt have some cockle bread.
Gently dip, but not too deep,
For fear thou make the golden beard to weep.
Fair maid, white and red,
Comb me smooth, and stroke my head;
And every hair a sheave shall be,
And every sheave a golden tree.
Wednesday, February 18th, 2009
7:57 pm
I stumbled across this word in a poem by Kipling, the Road-Song of the Bandar-Log (monkey-folk - 'Brother thy tail hangs down behind!'), which contains this line:
'Then join our leaping lines that scumfish through the pines'. Although the poem is familiar enough to me, I had not really noticed the word before. Since I cannot find it in the OED or any other dictionaries that I own, I present it simply as an unidentified species. Can anyone tell us anything more?
Tuesday, February 17th, 2009
5:59 pm
prostisciutto, n. nonce-wd. [Blend of PROSTITUTE adj. and PROSCIUTTO n.] A female prostitute regarded metaphorically as an item on a menu. Perhaps with allusion to MEAT and related slang metaphors. 1930 S. BECKETT Whoroscope 1, "What's that? A little green fry or a mushroomy one? Two lashed ovaries with prostisciutto?"
scientintically, adv. A burlesque nonce-word, formed by a blending of scientifically and tint. 1761 STERNE Tr. Shandy III. v, "He must have redden'd, pictorically and scientintically speaking, six whole tints and a half. . . above his natural colour."
cidentine, a. nonce-wd. (See quot.) 1653 URQUHART Rabelais II. xxxii, "As we have with us the countreys cisalpine and transalpine. . . so have they there the Countreys cidentine and tradentine, that is, behither and beyond the teeth."
disobstetricate, v. Obs. nonce-wd. trans. To reverse the office of a midwife concerning; to retard or hinder from child-birth. 1652 URQUHART Jewel Wks. (1834) 210, "With parturiencie for greater births, if a malevolent time disobstetricate not their enixibility."
epassyterotically, adv. [f. Gr. epassúteron, one upon another; cf. chaotically.] 1652 URQUHART Jewel Wks. (1834) 249, "He killed seven of them epassyterotically, that is, one after another."
hirquitalliency, n. Obs. nonce-wd. [f. L. hirquitallī-re (of infants) to acquire a strong voice (f. hircus he-goat) + -ENCY.] 1652 URQUHART Jewel 125, "To speak of her hirquitalliency."

This is from vunex's post On Neologism, Part Two, here: http://syndicated.livejournal.com/vunexfeed/1748.html
(I admit I'm really just promoting vunex's site, which I find sometimes wonderful.)
Tuesday, February 10th, 2009
7:39 pm
In Jean Paul F. Richter's "Flegeljahre" I read: "Er erstaunte über den Überfluß, worin er künftig schwimmen sollte. Denn es war noch eine Paphose da (er wußte gar nicht, was es war)."  (The hero finds in his chambre garnie a "Paphose" and doesn't know what it is.)

I didn't either. According to Larousse it's a "lit de jour ou canapé de la fin du XVIIIe s", a day bed or a kind of couch. Any etymological guesses?

He also finds a "schwarzen basaltenen Kaligula, der aus Brust-Mangel nicht mehr stehen konnte". (That's a "black Kaligula made of basalt, that couldn't stand any more because it lacked its breast.") I haven't got the slightest idea what that could be.

EDIT: You convinced me: Probably a broken bust.
Sunday, February 1st, 2009
12:38 pm
garvarry, n., ??
One of the quotations the OED gives for "God bless the mark" (section III.11 of the first entry for the noun 'mark') is:

1833 Dublin Penny Jrnl. 2 23/2 ‘An' they say’, remarked a third, ‘that if a body swears in the wrong wid that [sc. the garvarry] about his neck, his face'll be turned to the back of his head, God bless the mark!’

The parenthetical gloss seems to be the OED editor's, but 'garvarry' is not in the OED. Google only yields a few hits for Irish surnames and placenames (some spelled "Garvary"). Beyond the obvious assumption that it's something you wear around your neck, does any of our learned contributors have any thoughts on what a garvarry might be?
Wednesday, January 28th, 2009
11:31 pm
There are of course many unusual words connected with architecture, especially ecclesiastical architecture; one I particularly like is 'slype', meaning a covered passage, especially one leading from a cathedral or monastic church to the associated chapter-house. Here is a doorway leading into the slype at Gloucester Cathedral:

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009
11:42 am
A cat-lover (ailouros being a cat in ancient Greek). Perhaps not that unusual, but not widely familiar among non-ailurophiles. After all, it is much easier just to say cat-lover, and ailouros doesn't have a catty sound.
Sunday, January 25th, 2009
8:41 pm
I came across this in an anthology of bad verse, an extract from 'The Bride's Prelude' by D.G. Rossetti:

Against the haloed lattice-pains
The bridesmaid sunned her breast;
Then to the glass turned tall and free,
And braced and shifted daintily
Her loin-belt through her coat-hardie.

Can't you just picture it? According to the OED a cote-hardie or coat-hardy is 'a close-fitting garment with sleeves, formerly worn by both sexes'; apparently buttoned down the front and reaching to mid-thigh. Doubtless to be found in Pre-Raphaelite paintings of yearnful maidens.
Saturday, January 24th, 2009
2:21 pm
Friday, January 23rd, 2009
10:12 pm
A marble (as used in the game of marbles), especially a fancy one with streaks of colour inside or the like; of uncertain etymology.
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