Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I have been saving up a few odd words to share with you.

I particularly like words I might easily haul out of their resting place in my brain to use in the blog, or in conversation with some ordinary person – that is, not an egghead. I don’t want to seem pretentious when I use them so they need to be words that trip off my tongue without a big “to-do” and seem to be a comfortable resident in my existing vocabulary. I think these fit.

In case you too are one of the odd people for whom words provide a great source of fun, you can surely have fun with these.

The first one today is “horripilate,” which means to have your hair stand up on end (goose bumps) from cold or fear. “Look, ma, I’m horripilating!” Now I do think this is pretty much a eggheady kind of word, but I do like to know exactly what the hair on my arms is doing when I watch a scary movie, although I must admit I don’t watch those kinds of movies anymore. But if I ever do again, at least I can now talk intelligently and precisely about my physical reaction if anyone wants to know.

The next word I found and fell in love with is pelf. Now this word has been around a long time, but I’ve just become aware of it and once understanding what it means I find it all around our society:
late 14c., from Anglo-Fr. pelf, from O.Fr. pelfre "booty, spoils" (11c.), of unknown origin, related to pilfer (q.v.). Meaning "money, riches," with a pejorative overtone first recorded c.1500.

The TV and radio news lately has talked about WikiLeaks receiving, and possibly later making public, financial information about well-known personages around the world with Swiss bank accounts and who shelter their wealth to avoid taxes or whatever. I think it’s entirely possible this money could be considered pelf. But certainly the riches accumulated by all those sleezy guys at the top of the “pyramid” scams could be considered pelf.

Anyway, it’s good to know this word. I don’t think any of my friends have pelf, and I certainly don’t, but if I find any at least I’ll know what to call it.

The final word today is ort or more commonly, orts. If you do crossword puzzles you may have come across this word, which is where I first saw it. Scrabble is where you’ll find another use of this word. Orts simply means scraps of food.

When we had our dogs, there were rarely any orts left on our plates after dinner. When we ceased having dogs, Jerry stepped in and took over, until his doctor insisted he stay on his diabetic diet. That was about the same time we had to use a dictionary to discover what an “ort” was when we got stuck at a crossword puzzle. So now we are pretty much ortless; if you don’t cook too much you won’t eat too much, I learned.

I do find the definition of orts is not totally restricted to leftover food scraps. I find it is also used for leftover scraps of yarn and embroidery thread that those of us who do needlework end up with. I personally have lots of orts in my yarn storage box. Never give away an ort; the minute you do you’ll need it again.

So today I’m pleased to share with you three new words. “Horripilate,” “Pelf” and “Orts.”

You may not find a way to comfortably use them in the next few days, but you still can be very proud of yourself for adding these three new words to your storehouse of knowledge.


Olga said...

Orts does show up alot in the crossword puzzles. That's how I learned it. The other two, new to me.

marciamayo said...

I like your three words and will try to use them today. I'm a word lover too so this was fun. I just learned sobriquet the other day from a friend and have been trying to find a way to use that word.