Author Archives: Adrian


The good old OED defines Profane as not relating to or respectful of religious practice;  irreverent.

I think most people today would define Profane as a swear word, quite simply.  Especially if that person was a Belgian foreign minister reputed to have sent a message via Twitter about a former Canadian Prime Minister, with photo:

Profane Stephen Harper tweet sent from Belgian foreign minister’s hacked Twitter

Hmmm … very diplomatic, even if it has been disclaimed as belonging to the said Belgian minister!  How secular.

Now, of course, the word Profane should not be confused with the closely spelled Propane which of course is a gas that is highly flammable.

There again …!


Catatonic State Definition

I love the word Catatonic.  Not the catatonic state however,  The true catatonic state definition is “of or in an immobile or unresponsive stupor”.  So no laughing matter that’s for sure.  But just think of the word and you get a very different impression.

My definition of the word sound is the condition that owners or friends of feline companions get into when playing with their little treasures.  Or, the state of well-being that those little furry animals get into when being petted or just sleeping lazily when they should be working:


Catatonic should never be confused with GinaTonic which is a different pleasurable experience altogether, although I have known some people who manage to bring the two aspects together – one leading directly to the other.  Please be careful!


Elegant Sounding Words

Elegance is not only a visual concept but also aural.  Elegant sounding words have as much effect on one’s spirit as seeing a beautiful object or person,  Indeed, elegant words can conjure in one’s mind images far finer than those of the eye.

Take, for example, the word Décolletage.


Pronounced: deh – coll – et – ahj

Yes, I know, it is French, but it is very much a part of our English language now and a much more alluring and enchanting word than its more prosaic alternative of Cleavage.

And it gave me a wonderful opportunity to incorporate this photograph into the website.





The Color of Words (or for us non-Americans: The Colour of Words)

The Stroop Effect

Now, here’s a post with a difference.  It would seem that we are in fact so fluent in our language that word recognition is far stronger in us than color recognition.  Most people will recognize the meaning of the word before recognizing the color.

A Dr John Ridley Stroop devised a psychological test intended to measure the reaction time of people when faced with a situation that was out of their normal expectations or congruency.

See how you fare with the following which formed part of Stroop’s testing:

In the first following table, name the color of the word not what the word says:


Now, do that again – name the color of the word not the word itself:


How d’you go?

Do you notice it took longer to complete the second table test than the first?

The first test is easy because the color and meaning of the word are congruent. There is no conflict.  The second test is hard because the color and meaning of the word are incongruent. This creates a conflict that the brain has to resolve.  The brain has to suppress the wrong answer that interferes with the right answer, before the right answer comes through.

Good, eh?  And don’t you just love those two words:  congruent and incongruent?


Calvin & Hobbes


I have two brilliant Calvin & Hobbes cartoon strips that I so wanted to share with you.  I did the proper thing and located the publisher to seek permission but could not obtain consent.  The response was:

I cannot give permission for any image of Calvin & Hobbes to be used in anyway online or to be altered (i.e. text removed) in any way for any use.  Permissions Administrator, Universal Uclick

I have however been granted permission to describe the two strips to you and to link to the actual strips on GoComics.  These are located at the end of this post:

Please enjoy:

Scene:  Calvin and Hobbes walking outside, both wrapped up.  It is early February.

Calvin:  Hmm … Somebody’s having a fire.  I love the smell of a fire on a cold winter’s day.  Isn’t it strange how smells are so evocative, but we can’t describe them.

Hobbes:  Oh, I dunno, that fire has a snorky, brambish smell.

Calvin:   I should have known animals would have words for smells …

Hobbes:  It’s a little brunky, but the low humidity affects that.

Calvin:  You’re telling me that animals have their own words for specific smells?

Hobbes:  Well sure

Calvin:   OK, what’s the word for how wet leaves smell?

Hobbes:  “Snippid”

Calvin:   What’s the word for how I smell?

Hobbes:  “Terrible”.

Love it!

Here are the links:



My Laptop Was Stolen – But No Swear Words

LaptopPosts have been few and far between of late for the simple reason that my laptop was stolen from my house, as was my external back up drive.

Once the shock had worn off, despair kicked in quickly followed by anger and then frustrated impotence.  Yes police were notified, yes I had serial numbers recorded but I knew all my work had gone.  For good.  Yes, I know I should have been more protective of my work but you never think that it will be stolen – or rather I didn’t but do now!   So the business of trying to re-create all that had been lost began and with one or two exceptions I am happy to say that things are back to normal now.

Resuming my posts on this poor, neglected website I was tempted to delve into the bowels of urban terminology and spew forth words of vitriol and venom;  obscenities, profanities and blasphemous bile to cleanse myself of the feelings of being violated that having someone invade one’s home brings.

But no, one must rise above such feelings and in doing so I comforted myself with other words more attuned to these pages.  The worst name I allowed myself to use for this Thief was Scumbag, which I think apposite in the circumstances.

Tea-leaf is a great London (I hesitate to say Cockney) term which conjures up images of the endearing Artful Dodger in Mr Dickens’ wonderful novel, Oliver Twist, so not as strong a term in these circumstances.

I also love Brigand, but again it is a word which is not really applicable to my situation having connotations of mountain or forest robbers, a la Robin Hood and his Merry Men.

The word I have settled on to placate my fevered brow then is also not truly germane to my particular theft, in that it usually relates to the misappropriation of monies held by someone in authority, but, notwithstanding, I am going to satisfy myself with Defalcator.  Now that sounds like having the matter thoroughly dealt with and I feel much the better for it, thank you.





 The Taste of Words – Nice n Spicy

Indian Spices

I have always had a fascination for Eastern spices.  I mean just look at the colours of those in the picture above, absolutely fabulous. The names of them too enables one to create a wonderful taste of words.  There are so many that I could select, but like a good chef I choose those that have a certain piquancy and texture that compliments the composition of the spicy word.

So, I start with a little Saffron.  Made from the dried stigmas of the crocus flower though there is no disgrace or discredit in that, making this rich orange-red coloured flavouring.  It’s quite expensive so we’ll use only a pinch or two. Saffron Next we need to add a little Cardamom, an aromatic South East Asian plant, originating in India.  Believed to have health-promoting properties and can be used in the treatment of depression.  It has a pungency and its aroma suggests lemon, mint and smoke.  Besides that, it is a great word to say out loud! Cardamom

I would think just about everyone knows Ginger.  Included here because of its onomatopeaic qualities.  Even the name conjures up images of red- heads, ginger nut biscuits and ginger beer.  Even Second World War pilots with handle-bar moustaches and silk scarves.  Pit it looks pretty ugly in its root form. Ginger While Saffron is  lovely orange-red colour, Paprika is most definitely RED: Paprika Not surprising really, as it comes from the chilli pepper family.  Again, the taste is in its sound.  This is evident when when it is sprinkled over colourless dishes:  it improves the food’s appearance not its flavour.

Garam Masala.  Doesn’t that sound simply fabulous?  It sounds fascinatingly spicy.  Garam means “hot” and masala is a mixture of spices, and is highly aromatic, so whether you smell it, eat it or simply say it, there is much pleasure to be had from the words.Garam Masala

And finally, to round off our dip into spicy names comes Star Anise.  The name, its shape, its exoticism just abound in style.  Of all the spices it is visually the star and its aniseed flavour enhances slow-cooked Chinese dishes wonderfully well. Star Anise

Yummy.  I’m off for a curry!


Absurd English Spelling – Ghoti is Fish


It has been said that it was George Bernard Shaw that first suggested that phonetics (the study of speech sounds) provided for the absurd English spelling of many words in our common usage.  To prove his point he demonstrated that it would be possible to spell the word “fish” as ghoti.

How come?  Well, the “gh” is found in the word “rough”, so there is the “f” sound;  the “o” is that of “women”; with the suffix “-tion” ‘ti’ providing the the “sh” sound.  GHOTI.

That amuses me considerably.

I am however completely flummoxed, if not completely confounded and bewildered to have read that a certain Mr Lloyd James, expert in phonetics has calculated that the word scissors could be spelt in no fewer than 596,580 different ways!


I do not intend to attempt to find out.



Words That Sound Beautiful – Sibilants and Aspirates

Never mind what the word actually means for a moment, it is time to concentrate on its sound and what those sounds conjure up in your mind when your hear them.

This is nothing to do with brothers and sisters!  Sibilant words are those that are sounded with a hiss.  My favourite words that sound beautiful in this manner are:

Wasps – You have to say it to sense it.   That gentle sounding ..sps  is brilliant.  (I do apologise to anyone that has a serious lisp however because that would be extremely difficult to get to grips with and also makes those in close proximity to the lisper to quickly erect umbrellas or duck for cover!)

Lisp – As mentioned above, an impediment of speech that disenables the speaker from pronouncing the letter S.  Instead the word comes out sounding “th”.  I knew a woman called Mrs Ippey that had all sorts of problems saying her name.

Gossamer – Not only does this word sound soft but the mind’s eye can surely see that downy, spider web-like material, light, floaty, blown away by the gentlest breath.  Linger on the “ss” sound to get the best effect and the “… amer” just tails away into the air.


Aspirate words are those where the sound of one’s breath forms the sound of the word.  Think of the word “where” itself.  It isn’t pronounced “ware” but with an expirated “wha”.  So, “whhh..air”.  Try it.  It’s a much lovelier pronunciation.

My favourite aspirated word, though, is where it is combined with the sibilant to produce Whisper.  You must say this word quietly.  You have no choice.  The onomatopoeic effect and the word-sound leaves one quite in need of a sit down and a gentle cup of Earl Grey.  Golly, I can just feel the little shiver down my spine as someone whispers “whisper” in my ear.

whisper 7

I go all unnecessary!


Music Within Words – Symphonic Sounds

I Got The Music In Me, I Got The Music In Me

music 2

Now, I’m not talking of musical terms or song words, per se, but rather words which have a musical quality within them.  Words which resonate with music, where you can hear music within words.

We are almost back into the realms of Onomatopoeia with some, but not all,  of these sounds.  They all need to be sounded aloud vocally.  Go on, no-one’s listening:

Cadence & Cascade – sorry, my deference to King Crimson.  Who, you ask?  No, not The Who, King Crimson!  For those not old enough (and possibly English enough) to remember, they were a “Progressive Rock Band” of the late 60s/early 70s.

Clash – The sound of cymbals coming together

Ersatz – Yeah, that’s jazz, man.  Real meaning is subsititute or imitation but there ain’t no subsititute for jazz.

Euphemism – Undoubtedly it is the ‘euph” element that puts one in mind of a tuba or, more aptly, a euphonium.

tubaReally, a roundabout expression taking the place of a word that is too harsh or blunt, e.g. “pass away” for “die”.

Fanfare – The “fa-fah” of cornets heralding the start of something fantastical

Jejune – Pronounce the J as ‘dzjuh’, so ‘dzjeh dzjune’.  Soft brush on a snare drum.  Say it several times, gently.  Barren, poor, intellectually unsatisfying – I don’t think so!

Pizzicato -Can’t you just hear those violins being plucked with the fingers?

Syncopation – Fascinatin’ rhythm, bouncy.  Displaced beats.  Think ragtime:


Ukelele – Ukelele Lady, la la la.  If that ain’t musical I don’t know what is.


More words being added to the List.

Please check out the Word List page or leave your comment below.