Lots you don’t know in dictionary

Published 11:03 pm Monday, October 27, 2014

Flip open the pages of a dictionary and you will probably find words you never heard before.

When I turned pages in the A section of one of my dictionaries, my eyes fell upon the word “apiary,” meaning a place where people keep bees. If you are a beekeeper or study insect life, you probably know all about an apiary. I didn’t.

A few pages over, I ran into “apposite,” meaning suitable and right for the occasion.

Then, there is a word defining any of a group of small animals, similar to insects but with four pairs of legs—if you said arachnid, you are right on the button. And it makes perfect sense that the word “arachnophobia,” listed just below arachnid, means fear of spiders.

Try this one: “argot.” I had no clue, but my dictionary says “Words and expressions used by small groups of people which are not easily understood by other people.”

Here is one that begins with B, “bombacaceous.” It relates to a family of tropical trees that have very thick stems, often with water-storing tissue. Another B word musicians might be familiar with is “bombardon.” This is a valved brass instrument resembling a tuba with a lower pitch. The secondary definition is a 16-ft. pedal reed stop on an organ.

I like this one, but had never heard of it before: brandy snap. It is a thin, hard biscuit rolled into a tube, then filled with something creamy like ice cream. I searched other sources a bit for this definition and actually found a recipe for brandy snaps.

Moving on to the C pages, I noticed “corncockle,” a tall weed with purple flowers and long pointed leaves that always grow opposite another leaf. Before the petals open, they are folded like flags.

Then I saw “corncrake,” a bird with a short bill that often looks for food in cornfields. The male’s call is a loud “krek krek.”

Lifting a few pages, I found myself in the Ds where I saw “depone,” which means to testify under oath.

Under the Es was a word I probably struggled with in my schooldays math—ellipsoid. It is defined as a solid of which every plane section is an ellipse or a circle.

Still in the Es was a picture of a monkey next to the word “entellus.” The entellus is an East Indian monkey with a short beard. It has so much hair on its head it looks like the creature is wearing a cap.

“Bamboo,” a slang word used for inside information, originated militarily in the 1940s. And I thought bamboo was the stuff that grew an inch a minute in our back yard. My husband, after battling its roots seemingly forever, speculated God made it to hold the earth up.