Word of the Week - Archive page 6

Use the links below to navigate to the previous words of the week....

Words found on this page:


This weeks word of the week means to seek or go after external objects. It comes from extra (on the outside) + ire, itum (to go). An examples of this word could be:

"(author name) offers no extroitive proof that....." - Can be used to say that an author has not given evidence outwith their own work/opinions for a point/theory they are proposing.

Quote of the Week

"Their natures being almost wholly extroitive."
Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

This quote is from Coleridge, and is not often given in its full context. It turns out that it's a pretty insulting judgment on the nature of women. It comes from his work on the plays of Shakespeare in which he is discussing the motivation of the character Helena (in Midsummer Nights Dream) for committing "ungrateful treachery". He states that unfortunately, Helena's treachery gives a "true a picture of the lax hold which principles have on a woman's heart". He surmises that women, in themselves, are more concerned about outward consequences of their actions, like getting caught or loosing their reputation, than the morals of the situation. He reasons that this "true picture" is not often portrayed because it is "not poetical" since it is far from the ideal picture that we like to think of women. It sounds to me like Coleridge is either a misogynist, or just didn't meet the right women.

back to top


This weeks word is an adjective used to describe an an initial or early stage or something which is imperfectly formed or developed (like a vague inchoate idea for example). It can be used generally to describe something which is unfinished. In legal terms for example an inchoate contract is one which has not been executed by all the parties involved.

This word comes from the Latin inchotus, past participle of inchore - meaning to begin.

Quotes of the Week:

"Twentieth-century art may start with nothing, but it flourishes by virtue of its belief in itself, in the possibility of control over what seems essentially uncontrollable, in the coherence of the inchoate, and in its ability to create its own values."
T.S. Eliot, (American born English Editor, Playwright, Poet and Critic, 1888-1965)

"Man is ultimately not molded or shaped into humanness. The environment does not give him potentialities and capacities; he has them in inchoate or embryonic form, just exactly as he has embryonic arms and legs. And creativeness, spontaneity, selfhood"
Abraham Maslow American Philosopher and Psychologist, 1908-1970)

back to top


This week's word is used to mean a scam or a fraudulent business scheme. It comes from the verb to cozen, meaning to trick or deceive.

An example of a similar word, which you might be more familiar with, is the use of the word "quack" when referring to a doctor. This word originates from a historical practice of town-to-town cozenage! "Quack" is a shortening of the Dutch word Quacksalver meaning one who prattles on about his salves. The word was used during the sixteenth century to describe the traveling doctors and purveyors of miracles, but was shortened to "quack" in later years.

Amazing Examples of Cozenage!

A brilliant example of professional cozenage is found in Victor Lustig, the man who managed to sell the Eiffel Tower for scrap, not once but twice! In 1925, after WWI Paris was suffering from a lack of public funding and the cost of up keeping the Eiffel Tower was a serious drain on their limited resources. Lustig posed as a government official costing a secret plan to scrap the tower and invited gullible local scrap dealers to bid for the project, he then made off with the money and headed to Vienna. On the first occasion the man he tricked was so ashamed he didn't report it to the police. So Lustig returned a month later to try the same trick again. It was reported to the police this time but he still managed to escape with the cash.

Selling historical monuments isn't as uncommon as you might think. Another example of an enterprising conman is Scotsman Arthur Ferguson. In the early 1920s Ferguson found out that he could obtain a tidy profit by selling Americans visiting London such items as Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square (for the sum of 6,000 pounds), Big Ben (1,000 pounds for a down payment), and Buckingham Palace (2,000 pounds for a down payment).

Ferguson's success in suckering gullible American tourists suggested to him that America was indeed the land of opportunity, and so he emigrated there in 1925. He sold the White House to a rancher on the installment plan for yearly payments of $100,000 USD and tried to sell the Statue of Liberty to a visiting Australian, who went to the police. The authorities had been looking for the mysterious salesman of public landmarks, and Ferguson went to jail, to be released in 1930.

Quotes of the week:

"Necessity hath no law. Feigned necessities, imaginary necessities . . . are the greatest cozenage that men can put upon the Providence of God, and make pretences to break known rules by."
Oliver Cromwell

"They say this town is full of cozenage:
As nimble jugglers that deceive the eye,
Dark-working sorcerers that change the mind,
Soul-killing witches that deform the body,
Disguised cheaters, prating mountebanks,
And many such-like liberties of sin.

William Shakespeare

(From Antipholus of Syracuse, in The Comedy of Errors, act 1, sc. 2, l. 97-102. The reputation of Ephesus, where Antipholus has just arrived; mountebanks were quack doctors or charlatans)

back to top


This week's word of the week, apotropaeic, comes from the Greek apotropaios, (from apotrepein meaning to ward off : apo- + trepein, to turn). It is used to describe an object, symbol or act used to ward off evil or bad luck.

It is often hard to distinguish between items which ward off bad luck, and ones which attract good luck. In today's society we are perhaps a little less superstitious than in times past, which can perhaps be attributed to the scientific advances made over the centuries, but there are still plenty of modern examples of apotropaeic items. For example, how many people still have lucky rabbits feet? (not lucky if you are a rabbit!). Have you ever crossed your fingers or 'knocked on wood?' Upturned horseshoes and four leaf clovers are another two common examples. In Far Eastern culture the concept of Luck, and the protection of it is even more widely accepted so while this weeks word may have ancient origins it certainly has plenty of modern applications.

In researching this weeks word I found a fascinating website created by Brian Hoggard, an academic researching this history of public opinion about witchcraft throughout the period 1200-2005. In this period a great many apotropaeic items were used and have been excavated and studied. Included here is a little information from his site about some of these items. Please click here to visit his website and find out more.

Click on the links below to find out more.....

Witch Bottles

Witch bottles are usually pot-bellied stoneware bottles, containing various ritual ingredients and concealed beneath the hearth or thresholds of old houses. This practice appears to originate in the 16th century, and evidence suggests became less popular after the 17th. In the later periods glass bottles were also used.

The most common item found in these bottles were iron pins and nails (iron was believed to be a magical metal), the second was human hair and many tested positive for the presence of urine. Other items such as small bones, thorns, pieces of wood and, in a few cases, pieces of fabric cut into the shape of a heart are sometimes found.

The location of the bottles (hearth and doorways) are commonly entry and exit points for the building, the hearth being below the chimney which is always open is where most bottles are found.

It is believed that the witch bottle was used to ward off witches and protect the household from supernatural attack. By placing hair and urine in the bottle it is thought this was perhaps to fool the witch into thinking the bottle was the person, and attack that instead.

back to menu

Dried Cats and Other Animals

There are currently more than 100 recorded cases of dried or mummified cats found in buildings in the UK. The most common locations for these are in the walls, under floors, and sometimes in roof spaces.

In some cases it is unclear whether the animal died naturally within the space, but in many cases it is evident that the cats were deliberately placed there. After death some of the cats are posed to look like they are hunting. Some academics have theorised that that the cats were placed in that way to scare off supernatural attackers and witches familiars. In folklore the cat was regarded as having the sixth sense which might explain why these are the most commonly found type of animal.

back to menu

Written Charms

Not many of these have been found, perhaps due to their delicate nature. Of those that have been discovered most were found between gaps in masonry and timbers and involved invoking protection against evil spirits for buildings, livestock and people.

Here is an example from a charm found in Powys, Wales:

"Lord Jesus Christ be the preserver of William Pentrynant his cows, calves, milk, butter, cattle of all ages, mares, suckers, horses, of all ages yews, lambs, sheep of all ages, pigs, sows and prosper him on this farm to live luckily saved from all witchcraft and evil men or women spirits or wizards or hardness of heart amen."
[from Merrifield, The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic, 1987,Batsford, p151].

A lot of reference is made to the Latin rituals of the old Catholic church, which people of the time believed contained a great deal of power, the charms also contain astrological symbols.

back to menu

Horse Skulls and Animal Bones

Like cats, in ancient folklore the horse was believed to be an animal with the ability to see things that we can't. The practice of concealing horse skulls in buildings appears to have been particularly common, and they are most usually found in the walls.

In The Portway pub in Staunton-on-Wye (Herefordshire), 40 horse skulls were found screwed to the underside of the floor. There is also a church in Northumberland with 3 concealed in its bell turret. This is believed to be linked to the origin function of church bells: to scare away evil spirits before the congregation gathers.

back to menu

Concealed Shoes

By far the largest example of apotropaeic artifacts found in Britain are concealed shoes. Like the witch bottle it is thought that perhaps the shoe was meant to serve as a decoy for supernatural attack thus protecting the owner. The earliest reference for the use of shoes as a spirit trap comes from the 14th century when John Schorn from Buckinghamshire (one of England's unofficial saints) was said to have cast the devil into a boot. The shoes are most commonly found in or around the hearth, or on a shelf in the chimney suggesting that they also had a protective function.

back to menu

Other Common Examples of Apotropaeic Magic

  • Eyes - Eyes were painted/drawn to ward off the 'evil eye'. One Turkish budget airline has the symbol painted onto the tailfin of all its planes.
  • Gargoyles - Seen on buildings, and in particular on churches, these figures were carved to frighten away witches.
  • Pumpkin Lanterns - The grotesque lanterns carved at Halloween are meant to avert evil at a time when the souls of the dead and other dangerous spirits are believed to walk the earth. Apples are sometimes buried in the garden on this night as a food offering to the dead as they rise through the earth, with the idea that they will be pleased with you and leave you alone.
  • Magpies - In Britain magpies are thought to be bearers of ill luck and there are certain rhymes and salutations which are supposed to placate them.
  • Mirrors - and other shiny objects are through to deflect the evil eye.

back to top


This weeks word of the week is for all you cantankerous curmudgeons out there! Irascible means:

  1. Prone to outbursts of temper; easily angered.
  2. Characterized by or resulting from anger

It comes from the Latin irascibilis, "prone to anger," from ira, "anger," which is also the source of ire and irate. The BBC have had recent success with a programme called "Grumpy Old Men" in which a bunch of irascible Britishcelebs moaned about everything from Pop Idol (can't say I blame them) to mobile phones. It would seem that being grumpy does not stop one being likeable, particularly to British audiences. Over here characters like Victor Meldrew (from "One Foot in the Grave" fame) are very well loved (in fact 'Victor Meldrew' has become a well known phrase for a bitter and complaining old man) which makes me wonder why. What is it about the British that makes us love a good grump? I have no idea. Perhaps the only nation regarded as more irascible is France. So the quotes of the week include one taken from a famous (or should that be infamous?) Frenchman, the Marquis de Sade.

Quotes with this week's word:

"Imperious, choleric, irascible, extreme in everything, with a dissolute imagination the like of which has never been seen, atheistic to the point of fanaticism, there you have me in a nutshell.... Kill me again or take me as I am, for I shall not change."
— Marquis de Sade, Last Will and Testament

"I have never known anyone worth a damn who wasn't irascible."
— Ezra Pound (American Editor, Poet, Translator and Critic, 1885-1972)

back to top


The information for this weeks entry is taken from Wikipedia

  1. A ceding or surrendering, as of territory to another country by treaty.
  2. Something, such as territory, that is ceded.

This weeks word is a legal term for a surrender, relinquishment, or assignment of territory by one state or government to another. It can be used to describe lands/territory of a foreign government gained by the transfer of sovereignty. This word is also used to describe the act of relinquishing one's right to something. Importantly this word can only be used in cases where the relinquishment is voluntary. Taking land forcibly is known as annexation.

Historical examples of cession:

In one example, Maryland and Virginia both ceded land in 1790 to become the District of Columbia, specified in the U.S. Constitution of the previous year. The Virginia portion was given back in 1842, a process known as retrocession.

Territory can also be ceded for payment, such as in the Louisiana Purchase and Alaska Purchase. Even fraud can be involved, such as in the Treaty of New Echota, whereby lands already taken in 1832 by outright theft of the U.S. state of Georgia were later "ceded" by to the state by a Cherokee leader.

For more information about these important historical events see below.....

The Louisiana Purchase

The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 doubled the size of the United States, gave the country complete control of the port of New Orleans, and provided territory for westward expansion. The 828,000 square miles purchased from France formed completely or in part thirteen states: Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming. President Thomas Jefferson was unsure if the Constitution authorized the acquisition of land, but he found a way to justify the purchase.

France originally claimed the Louisiana Territory in the seventeenth century. In 1763 it ceded to Spain the province of Louisiana, which was about where the state of Louisiana is today. By the 1790s U.S. farmers who lived west of the Appalachian Mountains were shipping their surplus produce by boat down rivers that flowed into the Gulf of Mexico. In 1795 the United States negotiated a treaty with Spain that permitted U.S. merchants the right of deposit at New Orleans. This right allowed the merchants to store their goods in New Orleans without paying duty before they were exported.

In 1800 France, under the leadership of Napoléon, negotiated a secret treaty with Spain that ceded the province of Louisiana back to France. President Jefferson became concerned that France had control of the strategic port of New Orleans, and sought to purchase the port and West Florida. When France revoked the right of deposit for U.S. merchants in 1802, Jefferson sent James Monroe to Paris to help Robert R. Livingston convince the French government to complete the sale. These statesmen warned that the United States would ally itself with England against France if a plan were not devised that settled this issue.

Monroe and Livingston were authorized by Congress to offer up to $2 million to purchase the east bank of the Mississippi; Jefferson secretly advised them to offer over $9 million for Florida and New Orleans.

Napoléon initially resisted U.S. offers, but changed his mind in 1803. He knew that war with England was imminent, and realized that if France were tied down with a European war, the United States might annex the Louisiana Territory. He also took seriously the threat of a U.S.-English alliance. Therefore, in April 1803 he instructed his foreign minister, Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, to negotiate with Monroe and Livingston for the United States' purchase of the entire Louisiana Territory. Acting on their own, the U.S. negotiators agreed to the price of $15 million, with $12 million paid to France and $3 million paid to U.S. citizens who had outstanding claims against France. The purchase agreement, dated April 30, was signed May 2 and reached Washington, D.C., in July.

President Jefferson endorsed the purchase but believed that the Constitution did not provide the national government with the authority to make land acquisitions. He pondered whether a constitutional amendment might be needed to legalize the purchase. After consultations Jefferson concluded that the president's authority to make treaties could be used to justify the agreement. Therefore, the Louisiana Purchase was designated a treaty and submitted to the Senate for ratification. The Senate ratified the treaty October 20, 1803, and the United States took possession of the territory December 20, 1803.

The U.S. government borrowed money from English and Dutch banks to pay for the acquisition. Interest payments for the fifteen-year loans brought the total price to over $27 million. The vast expanse of land, running from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border, is the largest ever added to the United States at one time. The settling of the territory played a large part in the debate over slavery preceding the Civil War, as Congress grappled with the question of whether to allow slavery in new states, such as Missouri and Kansas.

back to top

Alaska Purchase

In 1866, the Russian government offered to sell Alaska to the United States. Russia had held the territory since 1741, but by the mid-nineteenth century, British and American settlers were pressing Alaska's southern border, increasing the likelihood of territorial quarrels. Furthermore, the Russian treasury was short of funds. Accordingly, Baron Edouard de Stoeckl, the Russian minister to the United States, was instructed in December 1866 to negotiate the sale. He and Secretary of State William H. Seward worked out a treaty under which the United States would purchase Alaska for $7.2 million in gold. Seward initially offered $5 million, an amount Stoeckl was empowered to accept. But Stoeckl correctly judged that the secretary would agree to a higher figure because of Seward's passionate commitment to American expansion as well as his wish to conclude the matter while Congress was still in session. Stoeckl received final approval of the treaty terms from his government on March 30, 1867.

When it became clear that the Senate would not debate the treaty before its adjournment on March 30, Seward persuaded President Andrew Johnson to call the Senate back into special session the next day. Many Radical Republicans scoffed at "Seward's folly," although their criticism appears to have been based less on the merits of the purchase than on their hostility to President Johnson and to Seward as Johnson's political ally. Seward mounted a vigorous campaign, however, and with support from Charles Sumner, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, won approval of the treaty on April 9 by a vote of 37-2.

For more than a year, as congressional relations with President Johnson worsened, the House refused to appropriate the necessary funds. But in June 1868, after Johnson's impeachment trial was over, Stoeckl and Seward revived the campaign for the Alaska purchase. Combining public appeals and private persuasion (including bribes to a number of key Republicans), they won a favorable vote on July 14. With the purchase of Alaska, the United States acquired an area twice as large as Texas, but it was not until the great Klondike gold strike in 1896 that Alaska came to be seen generally as a valuable addition to American territory.

back to top

Treaty of New Echota

The Treaty of New Echota was a removal treaty signed in New Echota, Georgia by officials of the United States government and several members of a faction within the Cherokee nation on December 29, 1835. In the treaty, the United States agreed to pay the Cherokee people $5 million, cover the costs of relocation, and give them land in Indian Territory (modern Oklahoma) in exchange for the Cherokee reservation land in Georgia and Alabama. While the treaty was ratified by the United States Senate and enforced upon the Cherokee people, it was never signed by any official representative of the Cherokee nation, and the Cherokee nation refused to recognize the validity of the treaty.

Treaty of New Echota - The Ridge Party

John Ross, the elected leader of the Cherokee, who never approved the Treaty of New EchotaBy the 1830s, the Cherokee had withstood a steady erosion of their ancestral lands into the hands of white settlers, despite the Cherokee's attempts to organize themselves (they had an elected tribal government) and their treaties with the United States. When the elected leader of the Cherokee, John Ross, refused the U.S. government's offer of money and land in Oklahoma in exchange for the land previously guaranteed to the Cherokee, the federal government simply chose to deal with a group of Cherokee who were willing to move to Oklahoma for the offer price. "The Ridge Party", as this faction came to be called, was led by Major Ridge, his son John Ridge, and his nephews Elias Boudinot and Stand Watie. The federal government sent its designated agents, General William Carroll and the Reverend John Schermerhorn, to draw up a treaty and convince the Ridges to sign it. By signing the treaty even though they were not elected representatives of the tribe, the Ridge Party actually violated Cherokee law - a law that in fact had been proposed by John Ridge himself several years earlier. Once the deal was approved, the Ridge Party was paid, and they began their journey west.

Treaty of New Echota - Objections from the Cherokee

After news of the treaty became public, the elected officials of the Cherokee nation instantly objected that they had not approved any treaty, and that the document was invalid. John Ross and the Cherokee tribal council begged the Senate not to ratify the treaty (failure to ratify would thereby invalidate it), but the measure passed in May of 1836 by one vote, thanks in part to President Andrew Jackson's support. Ross later drew up a petition asking Congress to void the treaty - a petition he delivered to Congress in the spring of 1838 with more than 15,000 signatures attached.

Treaty of New Echota - The result

The petition was disregarded by President Martin Van Buren, who soon thereafter directed General Winfield Scott to forcibly move those Cherokee who had not yet complied with the treaty and moved west. Scott's action is now commonly referred to as the Trail of Tears. After the Treaty of New Echota was enforced, the Cherokee people were almost entirely removed west of the Mississippi (a few purchased farmland in the area in order to remain near their ancestral lands). Upon arrival in Indian Territory, many of those who had been forcibly removed took their anger out on the Ridge Party - several signers of the treaty were killed, and the Cherokee nation endured 15 years of civil war.

back to top


Most of the information for this entry has been taken from Wikipedia.

Schadenfreude is a German term meaning "pleasure taken from someone else's misfortune". It is sometimes used as a loanword in English and other languages. In German, the word always carries a negative connotation.

Schadenfreude is usually believed to not have a direct English equivalent. For example, Harper Collins German-English Dictionary translates schadenfreude as "malicious glee or gloating." An apparent English equivalent is epicaricacy.

Schadenfreude across the globe

In Danish, the saying Egen lykke er at foretrække men andres ulykke er dog ikke at foragte translates to "(One's) own happiness should be preferred, but the misfortune of others should not be scorned."

In Thai, the phrase som nam na, can be interpreted as "you got what you deserved," "serves you right" or "I'm laughing at your bad luck."

In Korean, the phrase go so ha da, literally translated means "to smell sesame oil". Because the smell of sesame oil is regarded as very pleasant in Korea, this phrase is also used when one is pleased about a particular event. It is especially used when one is pleased about an event involving the misfortune of another.

In Japanese, the phrase tajin no fukou wa mitsu no aji, translates literally as "others' misfortune tastes of honey".

back to top

Other borrowed German words

In sports

Abseil (German spelling: abseilen, a verb)
Foosball (German spelling: Fußball, which refers to the game called soccer in the United States and Australia) - in US English, foosball refers exclusively to the tabletop soccer games found in bars and pubs, which are called Tischfußball, Wuzzler, Kicker or Krökeln in German, and simply table football in the UK.
Rucksack (more commonly called a backpack in US English)
Schuss (literally: shot - ski down a slope at high speed)

Everyday terms

Doppelganger (German spelling: Doppelgänger) - "double" or "replica"
Flak (Flugabwehrkanone - literally: aircraft-defense gun), for anti-aircraft guns or their shells, as in flak jacket; or in the figurative sense: "drawing flak" = being criticized
kaput (German spelling: kaputt)
Kindergarten, extremely common - literally: children's garden
Kitsch (also used in Yiddish, but derivative of German)
-meister, "Master" - in modern English used primarily with sarcastic intent
Schmooze (German schmusen, "to cuddle")
Poltergeist - 'rumbling ghost' cases of haunting involving spontaneous psychokinesis
Wanderlust the yearning to travel
Weltanschauung - World-view, underlying assumptions about reality.
Wunderkind, "wonder child", a prodigy
Zeitgeist "spirit of the times"
Zeppelin, type of airship named after its inventor

Food and Drink

Beergarden (German spelling: Biergarten)
Delicatessen (German spelling: Delikatessen; abbv. deli)
Lager (beer)
Muesli (German spelling: Müsli, Swiss German Müesli)
Pils, Pilsner, Pilsener
Schnapps (German spelling: Schnaps)
Spritzer (from the Austrian 'G'spritzter', commonly called "Schorle" or "Radler" in Germany)
Strudel (e. g. Apfelstrudel)

back to top

Just for fun

A little peek into the lighter side of life within the Heriot-Watt Waves & Fields group.

Word of the Week: