M: From Makatu to Memory

I searched the ten-page M-section of Foyle’s Philavery: A Treasury of Unusual Words (See my blog on Philavery here) to find a blog-suitable word.

Blog-suitable means that a word must glimmer, a concept I borrowed from my wife Amory’s experience at a worship service. The leader placed stones, stamped with words like tenderness, humor, guidance, and embrace, on an altar. She asked the participants to choose a word that glimmered, a word that seemed to contain a message for them.

We have both adopted glimmer as an indicator for word choices in writing. Amory says that some words shout, others whisper, some hide, others beckon.

I like a word that changes my expression, generating a tiny, but irrepressible smile. I like a word discovered late at night, one I can take to bed with me, and awake to in the morning with anticipation of what I might find out about it. I like a word that beckons.

As evening drew to a conclusion, I copied down sixteen words and their definitions from Mr. Foyle’s collection.

Makutu, n., coming from New Zealand and Polynesia, refers to a magic spell—just what I needed to advance my writing. Marc, n., besides being a possible Scrabble word, is the residue of left-over skins and stems from pressed grapes that can be used to make brandy—grape skin, an ingredient for alcohol, who knew?! Mendaciloquent, adj., refers to telling lies, speaking falsehoods—with multiple applications in the current political climate.

Then there was Murcous, adj., lacking a thumb with a story behind it. Murcous comes from the Latin murcus, meaning truncated or mutilated, and used to describe those who eliminated a thumb in order to avoid military service. Mneme, n. (the ability to retain a memory of past experiences…and to transmit them to future generations) got to me because of its weird pronunciation: the “m” is silent and the word, pronounced ‘nee-mee,’ sounds like ‘creamy.’

Any of these words could support an archeological dig into their lexicography, but in the morning I decided on a more common word, a simple word–a word not even on Foyle’s list, a word that did not glimmer, a worthy word, but not blog-worthy by my definition.

In his journal written in 1827, Sir Walter Scott described a person: “No dash or glimmer or shine about him, but great simplicity of manners and behavior.” I think his definition can apply to words too.

The word I will explore (but not here!)  is memory, a simple word having manners and good behavior. Memory is one of the 2017 Kumquat Challenge words. Every year since 2007, the Library at Whatcom Community College has sponsored a poetry-writing contest for Poetry Month. Tami Garrard, Sally Sheedy, Ara Taylor, and I, members of the library’s marketing committee, chose ten words and invited the campus community to use them in a poem. We produced a thin volume of 25 poems. Ara Taylor has again invited submissions from those connected to the college. For guidelines check here.

Looking back at the very first Kumquat Challenge, I was amused to find that one of the ten words was….glimmer. Despite the fact that I needed an M-Word for this column, glimmer was the word that beckoned.

2 thoughts on “M: From Makatu to Memory

  1. I enjoy your letter-a-day posts, Linda. One observation:  you wrote about “Mrs. Bryne,” but the book cover you show spells it “Byrne.” Our OED is the condensed two-volume edition that was offered as a Book-of-the-Month Club premium for many years.  I agree that it’s dangerous to open it — you look up one word and a half-hour later you’re still reading etymologies and finding new words.  Have you read “The Meaning of Everything” by Simon Wnchester? It’s about the creation of the OED. Nann  ###################################Nann Blaine HilyardLibrarian * Quiltmaker * VolunteerWinthrop Harbor, Illinoishttp://withstringsattached.blogspot.com

    From: Linda Q. Lambert To: nbhilyard@att.net Sent: Tuesday, April 18, 2017 1:12 AM Subject: [New post] M: From Makatu to Memory #yiv3189726595 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv3189726595 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv3189726595 a.yiv3189726595primaryactionlink:link, #yiv3189726595 a.yiv3189726595primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv3189726595 a.yiv3189726595primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv3189726595 a.yiv3189726595primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv3189726595 WordPress.com | lindaleelambert posted: “I searched the ten-page M-section of Foyle’s Philavery: A Treasury of Unusual Words (See my blog on Philavery here) to find a blog-suitable word.Blog-suitable means that a word must glimmer, a concept I borrowed from my wife Amory’s experience at a wors” | |


    1. Geez, that rearrangement of letters in Mrs. Byrne’s name is embarrassing. Thanks so much for catching it, Nann. I managed to misspell it throughout the blog. Yes, I loved Simon Winchester’s book. It was the first one I read about the history of the OED. Shea lists some others in his Further Reading section that I expect to read also. And there’s a new one listed on the OED site, but it’s $65 and none of the local libraries have it, even Western WA U.Thanks again for being a careful reader, Nann!


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