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n. The pleasant loamy smell of rain on the ground, especially after a long dry spell.

I love this word.  I am at heart and soul an urbanite, and hold a strange fondness for the sweet, almost sickly, and supremely “city” smell of a late afternoon rain splattering against a steaming, mid-July concrete jungle.  Always loved the smell, never knew what to call it before the NYT’s review of Reading the OED illuminated its meaning and promptly earned Ammon Shea a place on my reading list.  Fast forward 3 years (which is how long its taken to work its way to the top of the stack), and here we are.

One might think a book about a guy reading a book to be a boring topic.  And it’s not just any book he’s reading; it’s the Oxford English Dictionary, all 20 bound volumes.  But Mr. Shea’s narration of the experience and recitation of his favorite words and the reasons therefor are delightful. 

His laments of the taxing physical symptoms of reading for 8-10 hours per day would be familiar to any lawyer – the cramped and hunched shoulders, waning and occasionally spotty or blurred vision, the delirium of discovering the perfect word for an obscure circumstance, or previously undiscovered error made by a worthy opponent, daily mid-afternoon migraines, and moments of absolute and unshakable boredom….  There were rare few words quoted in the book for which I knew (or could guess based on entomology) the meaning of, and discovered all manner of new words for the mundane and the extraordinary, including an old English 8-point list of words describing a drunkard, based on the seemingly animalitistic characteristics displayed when intoxicated (see, lion-drunke).

From his selected compilation, a summary list of my favorites.

all-overish (adj.) Feeling an undefined sense of unwell that extends to the whole body.  apricity (n.) The warmth of the sun in winter.  backfriend (n.) A fake friend; a secret enemy (the old school word for a frenemy).  conjubilant (adj.) Being jubilant or rejoicing with another; and its close relative, conjugalism (n.) The art of making a good marriage.  gastrophilanthropist (n.) A benevolent purveyor for the appetites of others.  jocoserious (adj.) Half serious and half in jest.  lion-drunke (adj.) “He flings the pots about the house, calls his Hostesse whore, breakes the glasse windows with his dagger, and is apt to quarrell with any man that speaks to him”.  obdormition (n.) The falling asleep of a limb; which can be eased by pandiculation (n.) The act of stretching and extending the limbs, in tiredness or waking.  philodox (n.) A person in love with his own opinion. sarcast (n.) A writer or speaker who is sarcastic.  unbepissed (adj.) Not having been urinated on; unwet with urine (which Ammon Shea appropriately points out is perhaps the weirdest adjective for a person to have occasion to use).  vicambulist (n.) One who walks about in the streets (not like a homeless person, like one who enjoys walking about in the streets of a city).

(NB: these words are so obscure that when I spell-checked this posting, every single one of them was unrecoginzed by WordPress’ dictionary.  Get with the (ye olde) times, WordPress!)

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To the woman who took a bath in floral perfume this morning and got on the 8:56 75 tram:

It is unacceptable to disturb the olfactory senses of 95 people packed into a tram when the stifling heat has already reached 39 degrees by 9 am, and there is zero air circulation. Seriously, can’t you see the beads of sweat on everyone’s faces? It’s 9 am. And it’s 39 freaking degrees!!

They make this thing called body spray. It’s light, refreshing even. A subtle smell, one that reminds the man sniffing your neck that you’re a lady, but doesn’t cause coughing spasms for persons unlucky enough to be in your general vicinity, or two blocks downwind. Or, cause me to get off the tram three stops early and walk to rest of the way in the sweltering heat, because the smell of you for 3 more minutes just might make me pass out.

Unacceptable.