The new year is upon us, and a new year calls for new words. Well, new to me, and new for now. Though I expect the recency illusion will do its magic soon enough.
My definition: Scattered, spent, shagged out after a long squawk.
First encountered: When used by a jetlagged and tweeting Stephen Fry: “I’m wandering about in a spaced-out daze, still banjaxed by the loss of Monday”. I’m going to borrow that, soon, and in the same context. I have a feeling that banjaxed is the perfect way to describe the state of one’s mind, having flown to the other side of the planet, arriving several hours before the departure time.
Liked because: As a word it is apt, yet somewhat goofy. Banjaxed. It rings with the stereotypical 1930s era from whence it came (streetcars, zoot suits and speakeasy slang).
Wiki definition: Solid material thrown into the air by volcanic eruption. An uncountable noun — like fish, sheep, etcetera (not fishes, sheeps, etceteras).
My definition: Not the liquid hot magma bit. More than just the ash, and not just the rock. Rather, all the rock and ash and pumice and dust and silt and ‘stuff’. Tephra is all the dangerous, damaging bits. Just ask Pompeii.
First encountered: In National Geographic Magazine, ‘Reuniting a River’, published December 2008, regarding the eruption of Mount Mazama, in Oregon, USA, 7700 years ago.
Liked because: Phoenetically, tephra is an airy word, with the swish of smoother-than-smooth teflon. But it is also homonymously affected by the potential gore of ‘nephrology’ (regarding the kidney); the ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti; and Nephrite Jade (used by the ancients as jewellerey, and by the Maoris for making fierce weapons). Tephra therefore sounds light and whimsical, exotic and dangerous all at the same time. It is strange, and therefore interesting.
Wiki definition: The warmth of the sun in winter.
My definition: If a word hasn’t been altered in any momentous manner since 1623, it must be because the definition was perfect from the beginning, and remains so. I’ll stick with “the warmness of the sun in winter”.
First encountered: Reading Reading The OED, by Ammon Shea. A book that I instantly lusted after, and instantly needed to buy. How could I resist this blurb?:
“I’m reading the OED so you don’t have to. If you are interested in vocabulary that is both spectacularly useful and beautifully useless, read on…”
So far, however, I have only found time to read as far as ‘A’. But it is at the top of my books-to-go list when I leave for the US/Canada on the 8th of January. I couldn’t possibly fit the entire Oxford English Dictionary in my carry-on luggage (20 volumes, weighing a total of 62.6 kilos might overburden the overhead compartment), but one tiny hardcover couldn’t hurt.
Liked because: Apricity sounds like ‘apricots’, and apricots provide the downy, blushing, coral-coloured tint to all my childhood summers. Also, while I confess to sclathing* under Sydney’s searing summer sol, the glowing warmth of a winter sun is infinitely rarer, and therefore far more appreciated. When it is -25°C in Banff, and the inside of my ski boots is icier than a fine martini, I will yearn for the tingle of some mid-winter apricity (with a snowstorm chaser, please).
* Can you BELIEVE that the word ‘sclathe’ turns up only 81 google hits, none of which contain the actual definition‽ ‘Define: Sclathe’ = zilch! Something must be done!