Word of the day: shift

23 November 2010 Leave a comment

shift /ʃɪft/

–verb (used without object)
6. to manage to get along or succeed by oneself.
7. to get along by indirect methods; use any expediency, trick, or evasion to get along or succeed: He shifted through life.

–noun
22. an expedient; ingenious device.
23. an evasion, artifice, or trick.

Origin:
bef. 1000; (v.) ME shiften to arrange, OE sciftan; c. G schichten to arrange in order, ON skipta to divide; (n.) ME: contrivance, start, deriv. of the v.

—Synonyms
1. substitute. 22. contrivance, resource, resort. 23. wile, ruse, subterfuge, stratagem.

Source: Dictionary.com.

my companions forced me to land on this coast, and then left me to shift for my self.

Source: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.

paddling out of the reach of their darts (being a calm day) I made a shift to suck the wound, and dress it as well as I could.

Source: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.

Word of the day: caisson

22 November 2010 Leave a comment

cais·son /ˈkeɪsən, -sɒn/

–noun
1. a structure used in underwater work, consisting of an airtight chamber, open at the bottom and containing air under sufficient pressure to exclude the water.
2. a boatlike structure used as a gate for a dock or the like.
3. Nautical .
a. Also called camel, pontoon. a float for raising a sunken vessel, sunk beside the vessel, made fast to it, and then pumped out to make it buoyant.
b. a watertight structure built against a damaged area of a hull to render the hull watertight; cofferdam.
4. a two-wheeled wagon, used for carrying artillery ammunition.
5. an ammunition chest.
6. a wooden chest containing bombs or explosives, used formerly as a mine.
7. Architecture . coffer ( def. 4 ) .

Origin:
1695–1705; < F, MF < OPr, equiv. to caissa box ( see case 2 ) + –on aug. suffix

—Related forms
caissoned, adjective

Source: Dictionary.com.

(2) thoracic: the rusting shells of U-boats beached in the cove at Tsingtao, near the ruined German forts where the Chinese guides smeared bloody handprints on the caisson walls;

Source: The Atrocity Exhibition by J G Ballard.

Review of Black Trump edited by George R R Martin

22 November 2010 Leave a comment

None of the volumes in this internal trilogy within the long-running Wild Cards series compared well with ealier installments. This third book was probably the best of the three, however. Unlike the first two – which were presented as a series of interlinked short stories threaded together with one longer narrative, this one is a genuine ‘mosaic novel’ – all the narratives of the different characters and writers are set out as one seamless text (disregarding section breaks). In this case, the text is divided into long chapters counting down from Eight to the story’s climax at Zero.

One of the problems with the Card Sharks trilogy has been uneven character choice. In the first book, the main character was a pretty uninspiring arson investigator, a woman who wasn’t even a Wild Card victim. She is still present in the latter two books, but only as a minor character. In the middle book, a new character is introduced, and, in the context of that volume she’s pretty redundant, but in the final book she’s upgraded to main-character-hood. Unfortunately, she’s also quite whiny and her sections take up too much space.

I think maybe one deeper problem with the three books (apart from the fact that the basic premise of the story involves a partial reboot of Wild Cards alternate history) is that they seem to have been envisioned as a way of tying up a bunch of loose ends – in particular, the Jumpers – aces who can swap their consciousness into the body of another person – and Gregg Hartmann, the one-time presidential candidate and secret ace Puppetman. It also leaves a big loose end hanging at the end, with one of the main characters suddenly deciding to be evil. And the covers of the books are crappy; that’s not a major flaw, of course, but a book’s presentation does influence the way you think of it.

So now I’m faced with a quandary. The next book in the series, the sixteenth, is also the rarest, and will set me back about $100 to get hold of a copy. I’m not going to rush to buy it, but at the same time I do want to get up to date with the series, which appears to have found a new lease of life in the past few years.

Word of the day: gyve

21 November 2010 Leave a comment

gyve /dʒaɪv/
noun, verb, gyved, gyv·ing. Archaic.

–noun
1. Usually, gyves. a shackle, esp. for the leg; fetter.

–verb (used with object)
2. to shackle.

Origin:
1175–1225; ME give < ?

—Related forms
un·gyved, adjective

Source: Dictionary.com.

And he bade his smiths drive great iron staples into the wall, whereon he let hang up the Demons by their wrists and ankles fast to the staples with gyves of iron.

Source: The Worm Ouroboros by E R Eddison.

Word of the day: declivity

19 November 2010 Leave a comment

de·cliv·i·ty /dɪˈklɪvɪti/

–noun, plural -ties.
a downward slope, as of ground ( opposed to acclivity).

Origin:
1605–15; < L of dēclīvitās a slope, hill, equiv. to dēclīvi ( s ) sloping downward ( – de- + clīv ( us ) slope, hill + –is adj. suffix) + –tās -ty

Source: Dictionary.com.

The declivity was so small, that I walked near a mile before I got to the shore

Source: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.

Word of the day: zygomatic arch

16 November 2010 Leave a comment

–noun Anatomy.
the bony arch at the outer border of the eye socket, formed by the union of the cheekbone and the zygomatic process of the temporal bone.

Origin:
1815–25

Source: Dictionary.com.

‘They show (1) the left orbit and zygomatic arch of President Kennedy magnified from Zapruder frame 230’

Source: The Atrocity Exhibition by J G Ballard.

Word of the day: circumfuse

15 November 2010 2 comments

cir·cum·fuse /sɜrkəmˈfyuz/

–verb (used with object), -fused, -fus·ing.
1. to pour around; diffuse.
2. to surround as with a fluid; suffuse: An atmosphere of joy circumfused the celebration.

Origin:
1590–1600; < L circumfūsus (ptp. of circumfundere to pour around). See circum-, fuse 2

—Related forms
cir·cum·fu·sion  /ˌsɜrkəmˈfyuʒən/ Show Spelled, noun

Source: Dictionary.com.

Gormenghast, that, the main massing of the original stone, taken by itself would have displayed a certain ponderous architectural quality were it possible to have ignored the circumfusion of those mean dwellings that swarmed like an epidemic around its outer walls.

Source: Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake.