On Tuesdays I stretch my vocabulary skills by introducing you to five new words. Here are this week’s words to know:

This week, I was challenged by the formidable David Denby of The New Yorker. In his review of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, there were four words that I didn’t know.

Thanks Dave. You’re my vocabu-man of the month!

bounder (noun):

  1. an obtrusive, ill-bred man; a cad.
  2. a person or thing that bounds.

Word origin: 1535-45, from English, bound + er

Found in The New Yorker: The task that faces Holmes here isn’t merely to solve a murder mystery but to prevent a massacre led by a black-hearted villain who wants to tyrannize England and then take back the American colonies (the bounder!).

Use it in a sentence: Henry was such a bounder that embezzled money from his company to cheat on his wife.

perfervid (adjective): very fervent; extremely ardent; impassioned.

Word origin: 1856, as if from Latin perfervidus, from per- “completely” + fervidus

Found in The New Yorker: The plot is perfervid hokum pumped up to justify the movie’s portentous look, and, for extra juice, it has squeezed pop elements from martial-arts movies…

Use it in the sentence: The crew of the MV Steve Irwin are perfervid opponents of Japanese whaling.

portentous (adjective):

  1. of the nature of a portent; momentous.
  2. ominously significant or indicative.
  3. marvelous; amazing; prodigious.

Word origin: [for “portent”: 1555–65, from Latin portentum “sign” or “token,” n. use of neut. of portentus, ptp. of portendere to  portend]

Found in The New Yorker: The plot is perfervid hokum pumped up to justify the movie’s portentous look, and, for extra juice, it has squeezed pop elements from martial-arts movies…

Use it in the sentence: Colt McCoy gave a portentous wave to the sidelines after getting hit in the shoulder by Alabama’s linebacker.

ratiocination (noun): the process of logical reasoning

Word origin: “process of reasoning,” 1530, from Latin “ratiocincationem” “a reasoning,” from ratiocincatus, pp. of ratiocinare “to calculate, deliberate,” from ratio + -cinari, which probably is related to conari “to try.”

Found in The New Yorker: Holmes’s famous ratiocination is now at the service of a man of action.

Use it in a sentence: One of my students approached me with an elaborate ratiocination of why his grade should be better than it was; my ratiocination for why it shouldn’t be improved was better.

And in honor of my wonderful brother who was visiting last week:

ken:

–noun

  1. knowledge, understanding, or cognizance; mental perception.
  2. range of sight or vision.

–verb (used with object)

  1. Chiefly Scot.
    1. to know, have knowledge of or about, or be acquainted with (a person or thing).
    2. to understand or perceive (an idea or situation).
  2. Scots Law. to acknowledge as heir; recognize by a judicial act.
  3. Archaic. to see; descry; recognize.
  4. British Dialect Archaic.
    1. to declare, acknowledge, or confess (something).
    2. to teach, direct, or guide (someone).

–verb (used without object)

  1. British Dialect.
    1. to have knowledge of something.
    2. to understand.

Word origin: from Middle English kennen (influenced by Old Norse kenna, “to know”), from Old English cennan, “to declare”

Found in: My brother’s name!

Use it in a sentence: An understanding of deep time will forever be beyond my ken.

Note: Another archaic definition of this term is a “house where thieves meet” (1567), vagabonds’ slang, probably a shortening of kennel.

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