Dispatches from Will Hunting University

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Barmy, with a Chance of Pulchritude: 3/20 Vocabulary.

Syndicalism - n. 1. a form or development of trade unionism, originating in France, that aims at the possession of the means of production and distribution, and ultimately at the control of society, by federated bodies of industrial workers, and that seeks to realize its purposes through general strikes, terrorism, sabotage, etc. 2. an economic system in which workers own and manage industry.

Hidebound - adj. 1. narrow and rigid in opinion; inflexible. 2. oriented toward or confined to the past; extremely conservative. 3. (of a horse, cow, etc.) having the back and ribs bound tightly by the hide.

Barmy - adj. 1. containing or resembling barm; frothy. 2. (British Slang) balmy.

Superannuated - adj. 1. retired because of age or infirmity. 2. too old for use, work, service, or a position. 3. antiquated or obsolete.

Pulchritude - n. physical beauty; comeliness.

Suborn - v. (used with object) 1. to bribe or induce (someone) unlawfully or secretly to perform some misdeed or to commit a crime. 2. (Law) a. to induce (a person, especially a witness) to give false testimony. b. to obtain (false testimony) from a witness.

Insinuate - v. (used with object) 1. to suggest or hint slyly. 2. to instill or infuse subtly or artfully, as into the mind. 3. to bring or introduce into a position or relation by indirect or artful methods. v. (used without object) 4. to make insinuations.

Venal - adj. 1. willing to sell one’s influence, especially in return for a bribe; open to bribery; mercenary. 2. able to be purchased, as by a bribe. 3. associated with or characterized by bribery.

Inveighing - v. (used without object) to protest strongly or attack vehemently with words; rail (usually followed by against).

Rebarbative - adj. causing annoyance, irritation, or aversion; repellent.

(Source: dictionary.com)

“I love the great despisers, because they are the great adorers, and arrows of longing for the other shore.”

—   Nietzsche’s Zarathustra (from Thus Spake Zarathustra)

Reprehensible Rapacity: 3/17 Vocabulary.

Reprehensible - adj. deserving of reproof, rebuke, or censure; blameworthy.

Rapacious - adj. 1. given to seizing for plunder or the satisfaction of greed. 2. inordinately greedy; predatory; extortionate. 3. (of animals) subsisting by the capture of living prey; predacious.

Nimbus - 1. (Classical Mythology) a shining cloud sometimes surrounding a deity when on earth. 2. a cloud, aura, atmosphere, etc., surrounding a person or thing. 3. halo. 4. the type of dense clouds or cloud mass with ragged edges, that yields rain or snow; a rain cloud.

Emetic - adj. 1. causing vomiting, as a medicinal substance. n. 2. an emetic medicine or agent.

Emollient - adj. 1. having the power of softening or relaxing, as a medicinal substance; soothing, especially to the skin. n. 2. an emollient medicine, lotion, salve, etc.

Aperçu - a hasty glance; a glimpse. 2. an immediate estimate or judgment; understanding; insight. 3. an outline or summary.

Saturnalia - 1. the festival of Saturn, celebrated in December in ancient Rome as a time of unrestrained merrymaking. 2. (lowercase) unrestrained revelry; orgy.

Abattoir - n. a slaughterhouse.

Claustration - 1. Shutting up or enclosing, usually referring to a religious cloister. 2. A method used by emperors to keep their harems and to guarantee their virginity.

Keening - n. 1. the act of a person who keens. 2. a wailing lament for the dead; keen.

(Source: dictionary.com)

Ineluctable Mewls! Exiguous Sarongs!: 3/14 Vocabulary.

Sumptuous - adj. 1. entailing great expense, as from choice materials, fine work, etc.; costly. 2. luxuriously fine or large; lavish; splendid.

Inspissate - v. to thicken, as by evaporation; make or become dense.

Numinous - adj. 1. of, pertaining to, or like a numen; spiritual or supernatural. 2. surpassing comprehension or understanding; mysterious. 3. arousing one’s elevated feelings of duty, honor, loyalty, etc.

Solecism - n.1. a nonstandard or ungrammatical usage, as ‘unflammable’ and ‘they was’. 2. a breach of good manners or etiquette. 3. any error, impropriety, or inconsistency.

Gelid - adj. very cold; icy.

Exiguous - adj. scanty; meager; small; slender.

Sarong - n. 1. a loose-fitting skirtlike garment formed by wrapping a strip of cloth around the lower part of the body, worn by both men and women in the Malay Archipelago and certain islands of the Pacific ocean. 2. a cloth for such garments.

Ineluctable - adj. incapable of being evaded; inescapable.

Mewl - v. to cry, as a baby, young child, or the like; whimper.

Trawl - n. 1. (Also called trawl net) a strong fishing net for dragging along the sea bottom. 2. (Also called trawl line) a buoyed line used in sea fishing, having numerous short lines with baited hooks attached at intervals. v. (used without object) 3. to fish with a net that drags along the sea bottom to catch the fish living there. 4. to fish with a trawl line. 5. to troll.

(Source: dictionary.com)

(Mostly) Words for “Losers”: 3/11 Vocabulary.

Penury - n. 1. extreme poverty; destitution. 2. scarcity; dearth; inadequacy; insufficiency.

Hagridden - adj. worried or tormented, as by a witch.

Aphasia - n. (Pathology) the loss of a previously held ability to speak or understand spoken or written language, due to disease or injury of the brain.

Obdurate - adj. 1. unmoved by persuasion, pity, or tender feelings; stubborn; unyielding. 2. stubbornly resistant to moral influence; persistently impenitent.

Risible - adj. 1. causing or capable of causing laughter; laughable; ludicrous. 2. having the ability, disposition, or readiness to laugh. 3. pertaining to or connected with laughing.

Demimonde - n.1. (especially during the last half of the 19th century) a class of women who have lost their standing in respectable society because of indiscreet behavior or sexual promiscuity. 2. prostitutes or courtesans in general. 3. a group whose activities are ethically or legally questionable. 4. a group characterized by lack of success or status.

Legerdemain - n. 1. sleight of hand. 2. trickery; deception. 3. any artful trick.

Shebeen - n. a tavern or house where liquor is sold illegally.

Tarpaulin - n. 1. a protective covering of canvas or other material waterproofed with tar, paint, or wax. 2. a hat, especially a sailor’s, made of or covered with such material. 3. (Rare) a sailor.

Crepuscular - adj. 1. of, pertaining to, or resembling twilight; dim; indistinct. 2. (Zoology) appearing or active in the twilight, as certain bats and insects.

(Source: dictionary.com)

Redolent of Burlesque: 3/10 Vocabulary.

Redolent - 1. having a pleasant odor; fragrant. 2. odorous or smelling (usually followed by of ) 3. suggestive; reminiscent (usually followed by of )

Sapient - having or showing great wisdom or sound judgment.

Burlesque - 1. an artistic composition, especially literary or dramatic, that, for the sake of laughter, vulgarizes lofty material or treats ordinary material with mock dignity. 2. any ludicrous parody or grotesque caricature. 3. a humorous and provocative stage show featuring slapstick humor, comic skits, bawdy songs, striptease acts, and a scantily clad female chorus.

Agog - adj. 1. highly excited by eagerness, curiosity, anticipation, etc. adv. 2. in a state of eager desire; excitedly.

Aerie - 1. the nest of a bird of prey, as an eagle or a hawk. 2. a lofty nest of any large bird. 3. a house, fortress, or the like, located high on a hill or mountain. 4. (Obsolete) the brood in a nest, especially of a bird of prey.

Callow - adj. 1. immature or inexperienced. 2. (of a young bird) featherless; unfledged. n. 3. a recently hatched worker ant.

Purlieu - 1. a place where one may range at large; confines or bounds. 2. a person’s haunt or resort. 3. an outlying district or region, as of a town or city. 4. a piece of land on the edge of a forest—originally land that, after having been included in a royal forest, was restored to private ownership, though still subject in some respects to the operation of the forest laws.

Portico - a structure consisting of a roof supported by columns or piers, usually attached to a building as a porch.

Incise - to cut into; cut marks, figures, etc., upon. 2. to make (marks, figures, etc.) by cutting; engrave; carve.

Taciturn - 1. inclined to silence; reserved in speech; reluctant to join in conversation. 2. dour, stern, and silent in expression and manner.

(Source: dictionary.com)

“A prince does not spend much on colonies, for with little or no expense he can send them out and keep them there, and he offends a minority only of the citizens from whom he takes lands and houses to give them to the new inhabitants; and those whom he offends, remaining poor and scattered, are never able to injure him; whilst the rest being uninjured are easily kept quiet, and at the same time are anxious not to err for fear it should happen to them as it has to those who have been despoiled.”


Nicolo Machiavelli, The Prince


Are you “poor and scattered” or “easily kept quiet”?

From TED.com:

We make important decisions every day — and we often rely on experts to help us decide. But, says economist Noreena Hertz, relying too much on experts can be limiting and even dangerous. She calls for us to start democratizing expertise — to listen not only to “surgeons and CEOs, but also to shop staff.”

A bright, eloquent and attractive expert on experts tells us to ignore experts? I’m smitten.

(Source: ted.com)


Biology Tangent: Dragon’s Blood Tree.
Dragons’ Blood Trees (Dracaena Cinnabari) can be seen near the foot of the Skund Mountains on the island of Socotra, Yemen. The trees are so named because any injury to their bark results in a deep red liquid excreting from the scar – compared in the past to the “Blood of Dragons”. Their branches spread out into the sky and appear to hover over the landscape like flying saucers. From below they have a distinct mushroom look.


Biology Tangent: Dragon’s Blood Tree.

Dragons’ Blood Trees (Dracaena Cinnabari) can be seen near the foot of the Skund Mountains on the island of Socotra, Yemen. The trees are so named because any injury to their bark results in a deep red liquid excreting from the scar – compared in the past to the “Blood of Dragons”. Their branches spread out into the sky and appear to hover over the landscape like flying saucers. From below they have a distinct mushroom look.

(Source: geidi-shakyamuni)

Via TED.com: “Bonnie Bassler studies how bacteria can communicate with one another, through chemical signals, to act as a unit. Her work could pave the way for new, more potent medicine.”


 Who knew bacteria “voted?” Is Bassler drawing this metaphor to make a political point?

(Source: ted.com)

Ignominious Hangdogs & Deleterious Eddies: Vocabulary from 2/2.

Cairn - n. A mound of stones erected as a memorial or marker.

Febrile - adj. Of, relating to, or characterized by fever; feverish.

Unctuous - adj. 1. Characterized by affected, exaggerated, or insincere earnestness. 2. Having the quality or characteristics of oil or ointment; slippery. 3. Containing or composed of oil or fat. 4. Abundant in organic materials; soft and rich.

Wheedle - v.tr. 1. To persuade or attempt to persuade by flattery or guile; cajole. 2. To obtain through the use of flattery or guile. v.intr. To use flattery or cajolery to achieve one’s ends.

Languid - adj. 1. Lacking energy or vitality; weak. 2. Showing little or no spirit or animation; listless. 3. Lacking vigor or force; slow.

Florid - adj. 1. Flushed with rosy color; ruddy. 2. Very ornate; flower. 3. (Archaic) Healthy. 4. (Obsolete) Abounding in or covered with flowers.

Hangdog - adj. 1. Shamefaced or guilty. 2. Downcast; intimidated. n. A sneaky or despicable person.

Capacious - adj. Capable of containing a large quantity; spacious or roomy.

Eddy - n. 1. A current, as of water or air, moving contrary to the direction of the main current, especially in a circular motion. 2. A drift or tendency that is counter to or separate from a main current, as of opinion, tradition, or history. v. To move in or as if in an eddy. v.tr. To cause to move in or as if in an eddy.

Mendicant - adj. Depending on alms for a living; practicing begging. n. 1. A beggar. 2. A member of an order of friars forbidden to own property in common, who work or beg for their living.

Urchin - n. 1. A playful or mischievous youngster; a scamp. 2. A sea urchin. 3. A hedgehog.

Brahmin - n 1. (Non-Christian Religions / Hinduism) the older spelling of Brahman (a Hindu priest) 2. (in the US) a highly intelligent or socially exclusive person, esp a member of one of the older New England families 3. an intellectual or social snob

Sortie - n. 1. An armed attack, especially one made from a place surrounded by enemy forces. 2. A flight of a combat aircraft on a mission. intr.v. To go on a sortie.

Hauteur - n. Haughtiness in bearing and attitude; arrogance.

Supercilious - adj. Displaying arrogant pride, scorn, or indifference.

Deliquesce - 1. a. To melt away. b. To disappear as if by melting. 2. Chemistry To dissolve and become liquid by absorbing moisture from the air. 3. Botany a. To branch out into numerous subdivisions that lack a main axis, as the stem of an elm. b. To become fluid or soft on maturing, as certain fungi.

Gelatinous - adj. 1. Resembling gelatin; viscous. 2. Of, relating to, or containing gelatin.

Trill - n. 1. A fluttering or tremulous sound, as that made by certain birds; a warble. 2. Music a. The rapid alternation of two tones either a whole or a half tone apart. b. A vibrato. 3. Linguistics a. A rapid vibration of one speech organ against another, as of the tongue against the alveolar ridge in Spanish rr. b. A speech sound pronounced with such a vibration. v.tr. 1. To sound, sing, or play with a trill. 2. To articulate (a sound) with a trill. v.intr. To produce or give forth a trill.

Deleterious - adj. Having a harmful effect; injurious.

Ignominious - adj. 1. Marked by shame or disgrace. 2. Deserving disgrace or shame; despicable. 3. Degrading; debasing

(Source: thefreedictionary.com)

Riffling through the Dictionary: Vocabulary from 2/1.

Obeah - n. 1. A form of religious belief of African origin, practiced in some parts of the West Indies, Jamaica, and nearby tropical America, involving sorcery. 2. An object, charm, or fetish used in the practice of this religion.

Extant - adj. 1. Still in existence; not destroyed, lost, or extinct. 2. (Archaic) Standing out; projecting.

Incontrovertible - adj. Impossible to dispute; unquestionable

Evanesce - To dissipate or disappear like vapor (n. evanescence)

Nonpareil - adj. Having no equal; peerless. n. 1. A person or thing that has no equal; a paragon. 2. A small, flat chocolate drop covered with white pellets of sugar.

Singlet - n. 1. (Chiefly British) A man’s jersey undershirt. 2. (Physics) A multiplet with a single member.

Massif - n. 1. A large mountain mass or compact group of connected mountains forming an independent portion of a range. 2. A large section or block of the earth’s crust that is more rigid than the surrounding rock and has been moved or displaced as a unit.

Bric-a-brac - n. Small, usually ornamental objects valued for their antiquity, rarity, originality, or sentimental associations.

Bowdlerize - To remove material that is considered offensive or objectionable from (a book, for example).

Reticence - n. 1. The state or quality of being reticent; reserve. 2. The state or quality of being reluctant; unwillingness. 3. An instance of being reticent.

Tsimmis (tsimmes) - n. 1. A stew of vegetables or fruits cooked slowly over very low heat. 2. (Informal) A state of confusion.

Celerity - n. Swiftness of action or motion; speed.

Hurtle - v.intr. To move with or as if with great speed and a rushing noise. To fling with great force; hurl.

Lummox - A clumsy or stupid person

Denude - 1. To divest of covering; make bare. 2. (Geology) To expose (rock strata) by erosion.

Dybbuk - In Jewish folklore, the wandering soul of a dead person that enters the body of a living person and controls his or her behavior.

Riffle - n. 1. a. A rocky shoal or sandbar lying just below the surface of a waterway. b. A stretch of choppy water caused by such a shoal or sandbar; a rapid. 2. a. In mining, the sectional stone or wood bottom lining of a sluice, arranged for trapping mineral particles, as of gold. b. A groove or block in such a lining. 3. Games The act or an instance of shuffling cards. v. 1. (Games) To shuffle (playing cards) by holding part of a deck in each hand and raising up the edges before releasing them to fall alternately in one stack. 2. To thumb through (the pages of a book, for example). v.intr. 1. Games To shuffle cards. 2. To become choppy, as water.

Couture - n. 1. The business of designing, making, and selling highly fashionable, usually custom-made clothing for women. 2. Dressmakers and fashion designers considered as a group. 3. The high-fashion clothing created by designers.

Proffer - tr.v. To offer for acceptance; tender. n. The act of proffering; an offer.

Dungarees - n. 1. A sturdy, often blue denim fabric. 2. dungarees Trousers or overalls made of sturdy denim fabric.

(Source: thefreedictionary.com)

A Variegated Farrago: Vocabulary from 1/31.

Foetid - (fetid) adj. Having an offensive odor.

Mulish - adj. Stubborn and intractable; recalcitrant

Variegated - adj. 1. Having streaks, marks, or patches of a different color or colors; varicolored. 2. Distinguished or characterized by variety; diversified.

Alacrity - n. 1. Cheerful willingness; eagerness. 2. Speed or quickness; celerity.

Dormer - n. 1. A window set vertically into a small gable projecting from a sloping roof. 2. The gable holding such a window.

Quotidian - adj. 1. Everyday; commonplace. 2. Recurring daily.

Moll - n. Slang 1. A woman companion of a gunman or gangster. 2. A woman prostitute.

Gestalt - A physical, biological, psychological, or symbolic configuration or pattern of elements so unified as a whole that its properties cannot be derived from a simple summation of its parts.

Argot - n (Linguistics) slang or jargon peculiar to a particular group, esp (formerly) a group of thieves

Apocryphal - adj. 1. Of questionable authorship or authenticity. 2. Erroneous; fictitious. 3. (Bible) Of or having to do with the Apocrypha.

Teuton - n. 1. A member of an ancient people, probably of Germanic or Celtic origin, who lived in Jutland until about 100 b.c. 2. A member of any of the peoples speaking a Germanic language, especially a German.

Quiff - 1. n. Chiefly British A tuft of hair, especially a forelock 2. A woman regarded as promiscuous.

Puce - n. A deep red to dark grayish purple

Armagnac - A historical region and former countship of southwest France in Gascony. Added to the French royal domain in 1607, the area is now noted for its viniculture. 2. A dry brandy.

Clavichord - n. An early keyboard instrument with a soft sound produced by small brass wedges striking horizontal strings.

Farrago - n. An assortment or a medley; a conglomeration

Arabesque - n. 1. A ballet position in which the dancer bends forward while standing on one straight leg with the arm extended forward and the other arm and leg extended backward. 2. A complex, ornate design of intertwined floral, foliate, and geometric figures. 3. Music An ornate, whimsical composition especially for piano. 4. An intricate or elaborate pattern or design. adj. In the fashion of or formed as an arabesque.

(Source: thefreedictionary.com)

Far From Prosy: Vocabulary from 1/30.

Detumescence - n. Reduction or lessening of a swelling, especially the restoration of a swollen organ or part to normal size.

Moue - n. A small grimace; a pout.

Commensurate - adj. 1. Of the same size, extent, or duration as another. 2. Corresponding in size or degree; proportionate. 3. Measurable by a common standard; commensurable.

Gossamer - n. 1. A soft sheer gauzy fabric. 2. Something delicate, light, or flimsy. 3. A fine film of cobwebs often seen floating in the air or caught on bushes or grass. adj. Sheer, light, delicate, or tenuous.

Hovel - n 1. a ramshackle dwelling place 2. (Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Agriculture) an open shed for livestock, carts, etc. 3. (Fine Arts & Visual Arts / Ceramics) the conical building enclosing a kiln.

Bonhomie - n. A pleasant and affable disposition; geniality.

Wont - adj. 1. Accustomed or used: “The poor man is wont to complain that this is a cold world” (Henry David Thoreau). 2. Likely: chaotic as holidays are wont to be. n. Customary practice; usage. v.tr. To make accustomed to. v.intr. To be in the habit of doing something.

Baleful - adj. 1. Portending evil; ominous. 2. Harmful or malignant in intent or effect.

Prosy - adj. 1. Matter-of-fact and dry; prosaic. 2. Dull; commonplace.

Depredation - n. 1. A predatory attack; a raid. 2. Damage or loss; ravage

(Source: thefreedictionary.com)

Assiduous Accrual: Vocabulary from 1/29.

Procrustean - adj. Producing or designed to produce strict conformity by ruthless or arbitrary means.

Execrable - adj.1. Deserving of execration; hateful. 2. Extremely inferior; very bad.

Minatory - adj. Of a menacing or threatening nature; minacious.

Homily - n. 1. A sermon, especially one intended to edify a congregation on a practical matter and not intended to be a theological discourse. 2. A tedious moralizing lecture or admonition. 3. An inspirational saying or platitude.

Lenticular - adj. 1. Shaped like a biconvex lens. 2. Of or relating to a lens.

Compere - n. The master of ceremonies, as of a television entertainment program or a variety show. v.tr. To serve as master of ceremonies for. v.intr. To serve as the master of ceremonies.

Rota - n. 1. Chiefly British A roll call or roster of names. 2. Chiefly British A round or rotation of duties. 3. Rota Roman Catholic Church A tribunal of prelates that serves as an ecclesiastical court.

Aggrieved - adj. 1. Feeling distress or affliction. 2. Treated wrongly; offended. 3. Law Treated unjustly, as by denial of or infringement upon one’s legal rights.

Assiduous - adj. 1. Constant in application or attention; diligent: an assiduous worker who strove for perfection. 2. Unceasing; persistent.

Perfunctory - adj. 1. Done routinely and with little interest or care. 2. Acting with indifference; showing little interest or care.

Tyro - n. A beginner in learning something.

(Source: thefreedictionary.com)