Wednesday’s Word of the Week 3-21-2018


noun  pi·shogue

variants: or pishoge  \pə̇ˈshōg\ or pishrogue  \(ˈ)pi¦shrōg\


Magic, witchcraft; a spell, especially one designed to cause or cure illnesses to man or beast, or to increase or decrease the quantities of farm products such as butter or milk.

Witchcraft; incantation; charm.


I reached for it and rubbed it—even though I knew the talk of fairies was a lot of pishogue.
Secret of the Night Ponies

“Even though it’s pishogue, it won’t hurt to be cautious,” I agreed.
Secret of the Night Ponies

And when they were brought out to be burned the woman said, “Bring me out a bit of flax and I’ll show you a pishogue.”

Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland, Second Series Lady Gregory 


The word ‘pishogue’ comes from the Irish ‘piseogm,’ witchcraft.


Wednesday’s Word of the Week 3-14-2018





  1. A shelter made by hollowing out a pile of snow.

(This is in contrast to an igloo, which is built up from blocks of hard snow, and a snow cave, constructed by digging into the snow.)


Bidding goodnight to Francine, John and I set off in the dark to find both quinzhee and tent.
The Independent – Frontpage RSS Feed

John is all for sleeping in the quinzhee, but having seen how thin Regent’s sleeping bags are, I exert what is left of my parental authority and take up our host’s suggestion that we use a nearby tent which he has equipped with a log-burning stove.
The Independent – Frontpage RSS Feed



The word ‘quinzhee’ comes from a Slavey word meaning “in the shelter”. (Slavey is an Athabaskan language spoken among the Slavey and Sahtu people of Canada in the Northwest Territories.)

Word of the Week 2-6-2018


noun  ob·li·ves·cence  \ ˌäbləˈvesᵊn(t)s \


  1. the process of forgetting.


Even in reasoning, the gratifying confirmatory instance sticks in the mind, while the negative cases all go glimmering into oblivescence.

-H. L. Hollingworth, “The Oblivescence of the Disagreeable,” The Journal of Philosophy Psychology and Scientific Methods, Volume VII, January–December 1910

Would that our sins had built-in qualities of oblivescence such as our dreams have.

-Iris Murdoch, A Word Child197


Oblivescence dates from the late 19th century and is a later spelling of obliviscencewhichdates from the late 18th century. The spelling oblivescence arose by influence of the far more common suffix escenceThe English noun is a derivative of the Latin verb oblīviscī “to forget,” literally “towipe away, smooth over.” The Latin verb is composed of the prefix ob- “away,against” and the same root as the adjective lēvis “smooth.”

Word of the Week 1-26-2018





Idle talk; chatter


We know that our political sphere is healthy when, first, everyone who wants to be a “participant in government” can in fact have access to it; and second, when the talk that takes place there is viewed not as mere bavardage or spin, but as one of the chief and most valuable expressions of public liberty.
The Turn of the Screw (II)

Representative assemblies are often taunted by their enemies with being places of mere talk and bavardage.
Representative Government

Though bavardage accounted for much of the general knowledge of every one’s affairs, there was an uncanny mystery in the speed at which a particular secret spread.
Mystic Isles of the South Seas.

The sentimental bavardage of boys in love will be lost upon me.
Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal, No. 447 Volume 18, New Series, July 24, 1852

Philosophically speaking, this is what Kierkegaard called idle talk, snakke in Danish; what Heidegger called Gerede; what Sartre called bavardage.
The Wide Awakes

“P.S. To prevent bavardage, I prefer going in person to sending my servant with a letter.
Life of Lord Byron With His Letters And Journals


French, from bavarder to gossip, chatter (from Middle French, from bavard chatterbox, from bave slobber, from—assumed—Vulgar Latin bava) + -age

Word of the Week 1-16-2018





to withdraw one’s feelings of attachment from (a person, idea, or object), as in anticipation of a future loss


It is getting easier now for me to decathect from Eugene. ~Patricia Marx, Him Her Him Again The End of Him, 2007

He decathected from her in order to cope with her impending death.


Decathect is an extremely rare word in English, used only in Freudian psychology. It is formed from the common prefix de-, signifying privation or removal, and the very rare verb cathect “to invest emotional energy.” Cathect is a derivative of the adjective cathectic (from Greek kathektikόs “capable of holding or retaining”), from the noun káthexis “holding, possession, retention.” The English noun cathexis is an arcane translation or partial translation of Sigmund Freud’s Besetzung, a common, ordinary word in German meaning “(military) occupation, cast (of a play),” from the verb besetzen “to occupy, stock, fill.” Decathect entered English in the 20th century.

Word of the Week 1-9-2018




a year or period of travel, especially following one’s schooling and before practicing a profession.

(formerly) a year in which an apprentice traveled and improved his skills before settling down to the practice of his trade.


When your father finished college, he had his Wanderjahr, a fine year’s ramble up the Rhine and down the Loire, with a pretty girl on one arm and a good comrade on the other.  ~Walker Percy, The Moviegoer, 1961

She has to be bored by Billshe’s probably pleased with the daughterand increasingly worried about the son, as his Wanderjahr has become a Wander life. ~Michael Cunningham, By Nightfall, 2010


Wander-year, the English translation of German Wanderjahr, was first recorded in English about 1880. Its German original entered English about a dozen years later. Like the German noun, wander-years meant the period between one’s finishing artisanal training or graduation from university and the beginning of one’s career. German and English wander derive from the Proto-Indo-European root wendh- “to turn, weave,” the source of “wind” (the verb) and “wend,” whose past tense, “went,” now serves as the past tense of the verb “to go.” Year and Jahr derive from the Proto-Indo-European root yēr- “year, season,” source of Greek hṓrā “period, season,” adopted into Latin as hōra “hour” (of varying length), the source, through Old French of English “hour.”

Word of the Week 1-2-2018




1. something of little value or importance; a trifle.

2. a game played on a board having holes at one end into which balls are to be struck with a cue.

3. pinball.

4. a short and light musical composition, typically for the piano.


My horse was an excellent roadster; and I was expecting to do the fifty miles–a mere bagatelle to a South American steed–before sunset.  – Mayne Reid, The Finger of Fate1872


Bagatelle came to English from French, from Upper Italian bagat(t)ella, equivalent to bagatt(a) “small possession.” It entered English in the 1630s.