Category Archives: english

More crossword vocabulary

The smallest unit of DNA was the clue. I ended up backing into the word. The dictionary definition includes a little more information, though.

muton: n. The smallest unit of DNA at which a mutation can occur; a nucleotide.

An ostrich-like bird? It ended up as “maa”. The definitions I found were not quite consistent with the clue, though. An abbreviation for Master-At-Arms; an ethnolinguistic group in Vietnam; macroaggregated albumin (???); and a common European gull. Unless European gulls are significantly larger than their American cousins, the “ostrich” clue seems a bit off.

Pali’s clue was a Sanskrit dialect. More specifically,

a dialect descended from Sanskrit, and like that, a dead language, except when used as the sacred language of the Buddhist religion in Farther India, etc.

Who knew that an echidna was an egg-laying mammal? Not I. Here’s a more precise definition:

Either of two nocturnal, burrowing, egg-laying mammals of the genera Tachyglossus and Zaglossus of Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea, having a spiny coat, slender snout, and an extensible sticky tongue used for catching insects. Also called spiny anteater.


Filed under english, language generally

Expanding my English

Sometimes I despair of being truly fluent in any language, including my native tongue. There are always words, phrases, colloquialisms that are new or old or just different.

Recently discovered words:

kapok, meaning the silky down that invests the seeds of a silk-cotton tree (kapok tree), Ceiba pentandra, of the East Indies, Africa, and tropical America: used for stuffing pillows, life jackets, etc., and for acoustical insulation.

Discovered via the crossword puzzle — it was spelled by default when I filled in the surrounding words, and I had to look it up to see if it was real.

hustings: (before 1872) the temporary platform on which candidates for the British Parliament stood when nominated and from which they addressed the electors

A character in a novel was standing near the hustings, and I couldn’t set the scene in my mind until I learned what that mean.

sador: a stringed Indian instrument.

Another crossword discovery. I wanted to wedge “sitar” in that spot, but the surrounding words didn’t make sense if I did so.

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Filed under english, language generally, vocabulary