Category Archives: Word of the Day Haiku

Oscitant – Friday’s Word of the Day Haiku

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Today’s Dictionary.com word of the day is “oscitant. It’s a rather matter-of-fact word, with little backstory or legend to be found in its etymology. I suppose we need a few to the point with no detour words so we don’t get completely confused. According to Dictionary.com oscitant is defined as:

1-drowsy or inattentive.
2-yawning, as with drowsiness; gaping.
3-dull, lazy, or negligent.

It originates from the Latin verb ōscitāre which means “to yawn, gape (of animals); “to turn toward the sun (of plants”; and by the extension “to be listless, drowsy, inactive, half asleep.” It entered the English language in the early 17th century.

“Surely there is something interesting to report on this word,” you might be thinking. But nope. What you see is pretty much what you get. Much like its definition, it is rather boring, yawn-inducing…oscitant in fact.

But I did become intrigued with a word very much related to oscitant. It is word yawn. Here are a few fun facts regarding yawns.

  • Commonly associated with tiredness, stress, sleepiness or even boredom and hunger, a yawn is in fact thought to have more to do with the cooling of one’s brain. (Who knew?!)
  • Yawning consists of the simultaneous inhalation of air and the stretching of the eardrums, followed by an exhalation of breath.
  • In some cultures yawning is considered an action that has spiritual significance. In this case an open mouth is associated with letting one’s soul out or allowing evil spirits in. It is believed that this may be why we have been trained to cover our mouths when we yawn, so as not to be vulnerable to losing one’s soul or becoming possessed by a demon!
  • Yawning “loudly” is considered the height of rudeness and in former societies could even lead to contempt of court charges.
  • Contagious Yawning is a real thing seen in humans and animals as an empathetic response or positive feedback.
  • Contagious Yawning may also be an instinctual herd instinct that has kept animals alert giving them an evolutionary advantage.
  • In primates, a yawn is a threat gesture and a way of maintaining social structure.
  • Humans can pass a contagious yawn to dogs.
  • Excessive yawning can be a symptom of disease such as multiple sclerosis or brain stem ischaemic stroke, particularly as they are related to neurological pathways and cortisol levels.
  • Other reasons why animals yawn include: Yawning as a part of courtship rituals (the ecstatic display of certain types of penguins), as a display of dominance or anger (as is the case for baboons, Siamese Fighting fish, guinea pigs), to realign their jaws after a meal (as demonstrated by snakes) and for respiratory reasons (fish in general due to a lack of oxygen).

Even when a word “is what it is”, leave it to me, I’ll find a way of making it interesting! 🙂

Have a great weekend! Here’s my Haiku.

Oscitant Haiku

a speaker’s nightmare,
more than forgetting one’s speech,
an oscitant crowd

kat ~17 February 2017


Whiffler – Friday’s Word of the Day Haiku

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Happy Friday! Today’s Dictionary.com Word of the Day is “Whiffler”. The pop up meme for today’s word defines whiffler as “a person who frequently shifts opinions, attitudes, interests, etc. You know, your basis politician!

But as is the case with most words, there is more to the story. Oh yeah, there definitely is. A quick survey of other dictionaries revealed a few more facets to this fun to say word.

Whiffler Definitions
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary

  1. Whiffler An officer who went before procession to clear the way by blowing a horn, or otherwise; hence, any person who marched at the head of a procession; a harbinger.”Which like a mighty whiffler ‘fore the king,
    Seems to prepare his way.”
  2. Whiffler One who plays on a whiffle; a fifer or piper.
  3. Whiffler One who whiffles, or frequently changes his opinion or course; one who uses shifts and evasions in argument; hence, a trifler.”Every whiffler in a laced coat who frequents the chocolate house shall talk of the constitution.”
  4. Whiffler(Zoöl) The golden-eye.

Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  1. n-whiffler A piper or fifer.
  2. n-whiffler A herald or usher; a person who leads the way, or prepares the way, for another: probably so called because the pipers (see piper,1) usually led the procession.
  3. n-whiffler One who whiffles; one who changes frequently his opinion or course; one who uses shifts and evasions in argument; a fickle or unsteady person.
  4. n-whiffler A puffer of tobacco; a whiffer.
  5. n-whiffler The whistlewing, or goldeneye duck.

I discovered that there are two different references relating to the origin of the word, depending on the definition applied. First, around 1530-40, a whiffler was defined as an armed attendant who cleared the way for a procession derived from the Old English wifle or wifel for spear or  battle-ax. Later, between 1600 – 1610 the moniker ‘Whiffler’ was applied to a person who frequently shifts opinions, vacillates or is evasive in an argument. Somewhere in the time between these two definitions, some suggest because whifflers who wielded flags or spears stirred up “whiffles of wind”, whiffle came to be defined  as  wind that blows in puffs or slight gusts, or veered or shifted about. This may explain how the definition morphed from armed attendant to bloviating bag of wind (aka one who is shifty or evasive, or a trifler), but there is more to the story of this word. It is also used synonymously with the word piper, as in one who plays a fife. Still more wind references.

I also happened upon the recollection of 20th century Thomas Ratcliffe, a contributor to Notes and Queries who wrote about the “art of the Whiffle-Waffler”. It was apparently a common art, or sport as I would call it, where boys and men would twirl sticks with their hands, around their bodies and heads, behind their backs, under their thighs and high up in the air, catching them with great precision. Uh…sounds a bit like baton twirling to me. 🙂 Apparently it was a classy “thing” back in the day and an art practiced exclusively by men. At any rate, the “art” of whiffle-waffling apparently died out in the mid 19th century. There is a sad story penned by George Borrow in his work The Romany Rye in 1857 that states, “The last of the whifflers hanged himself about a fortnight ago … from pure grief that there was no further demand for the exhibition of his art, there being no demand for whiffling since the discontinuance of Guildhall banquets.” 

The article I read on the topic also encouraged one to imagine the drum major or field commander of a marching band who leads with a baton or military mace. While not directly related, the author suggested that we can imagine the two side by side, an armed attendant leading a royal entourage and a baton wielding band leader leading a drum corps.

So there you have it. Whiffler and its many iterations and applications over the years…except for just one teeny, tiny, little thing. There’s more.

Whiffler can also be another name for the Goldeneye long-tailed duck or Whistlewing, so called because of the whistling sound that it makes when it flies. Ok…related to the wind…that fits. But what does a duck have to do with the original Dictionary.com definition? Except maybe to say… “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it is probably a duck.”

I better just get to my haiku’s (I have two of them for you today)…and wish you a happy weekend!

Whifflers

A shifty whiffler
spinning alternative facts
loves gullible fools

Some whifflers whiffle
while some others may waffle
unless they’re a duck

kat – 10 February 2017


Cloudland – Friday’s Word of the Day Haiku

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Hello Word Fans! You’re going to love today’s Dictionary.com Word of the Day. It is “Cloudland”. It literally means “the sky” or a region of unreality, imagination, etc.; dreamland.

“Hmmm. Okay Kat. I guess it is an oKAY word, but worthy of love? I think you might be stretching it a bit.” (I’m smiling as I play this imaginary conversation in my head.)

Well, you don’t think I would leave you with such a bland, blah, blah, blah definition without giving you some juicy rest of the story info to write home about, now…do you? That would just be mean. And besides, I guarantee you will learn to love this word! (not to mention it is February the month of LOVE! :))

Being a Gemini, an air sign, and a bit of a word nerd, I am often accused of living in Cloudland; not specifically of course, but in oh so many words. Ah but, I digress. I do that a lot, hence the Cloudland references. I do think I would love living there. In Cloudland, that is, because it is actually a real place in the upper Western corner of Georgia. You probably didn’t know that, unless of course you are a nature-loving, canyon-hiking, waterfall-scaping, spelunking, yurt enthusiast. Then you might know all about Cloudland Canyon. Here’s a LINK if you’d like to visit Cloudland one day. 🙂

Oh, but there is more! Cloudland entered the English language in the early 1800’s but it has a distant Greek cousin based on the word, Nephelokokkȳa, which means CloudCuckooLand. Its origin is traced to Aristophanes’ 414BC comedic play, The Birds, referring to the realm which separates the gods from mankind. It’s an interesting political allegory that includes such things as building walls, religion, power struggles, the creation of self-serving laws, and ultimately, the fact that a perfect world does not exist. In fact, it is said that anyone who is naïve enough to believe in such a place is a “Cloudcuckoolander”!

In the 20th and 21st Century cloudcuckooland has been used quite liberally by various politicians and big thinkers to include: Margaret Thatcher, Newt Gingrich, Paul Krugman, Imran Khan, a Pakistani sportsman turned politician, Henry Wallace, US Secretary of Agriculture in the 1930’s, and Yuri N. Maltsev, an Austrian economist and economic historian. Read more about it HERE.

So there you have it. I must admit I wouldn’t mind being a cloudlander myself, sans the “cuckoo” part. I’ve always fancied the idea of flying like the birds. I could use a bird’s eye view these days. The view from the ground lately rather cuckoo!

Dreams of Cloudland

In my wildest dreams
I sprout magnificent wings
and take to cloudland.

~kat – 3 February 2017

Have a happy weekend. 🙂


Shivoo – Friday’s Word of the Day Haiku – 27 January 2017

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Happy Friday and welcome to this week’s installment of Word of the Day Haiku based on dictionary.com’s word of the day. Today we have an Australian slang word to add to our growing vocabulary of obscure and unusual words…Shivoo. It means “a boisterous party or celebration” and showed up in daily discourse in the 19th century. Very little is known about its etymology (origin), which dictionary says is common for slang words and colloquialisms (by the way a colloquialism is a word that is considered colloquial or conversational, informal, referring to types of speech or to usages not on a formal level. Colloquial is often mistakenly used with a connotation of disapproval, as if it mean “vulgar” or “bad” or “incorrect” usage, whereas it is merely a familiar style used in speaking and writing.)

Of course, if you’ve been following my weekly dive into words…beautiful words… you know that I am seldom content to take one dictionary’s meaning at face value. I like to excavate other references when possible.

It did not take me long to find that Shivoo is also listed in baby name books. Its origin is Gujarati, Hindu, Indian. It means “Devotee of Lord Shiva”. My curiosity was peaked now. What is the meaning of Gujarati, I wondered…or more precisely, as I discovered, Gujarati “people”? Wikipedia answered my question with the click of a mouse:

Gujarati people or Gujaratis (Gujarati: ગુજરાતી) are an Indo-Aryan ethno-linguistic group of India that traditionally speaks Gujarati, an Indo-Iranian language. Famous Gujaratis include Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Morarji Desai, Sam Bahadur, Vikram Sarabhai, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Shyamji Krishna Varma, Muhammed Ali Jinnah, Freddie Mercury, Azim Premji, Dhirubhai Ambani, Narendra Modi and Jamsetji Tata. Gujaratis are very prominent in industry and key figures played an historic role in the introduction of the doctrine of Swaraj and the decisive victory of the 1947 Indian independence movement in British-ruled India.

…which caused me to wonder about the doctrine of Swaraj.  It is attributed to Gandhi. Here in Gandhi’s own words in 1946, the description of his vision:

“Independence begins at the bottom… A society must be built in which every village has to be self sustained and capable of managing its own affairs… It will be trained and prepared to perish in the attempt to defend itself against any onslaught from without… This does not exclude dependence on and willing help from neighbours or from the world. It will be a free and voluntary play of mutual forces… In this structure composed of innumerable villages, there will be ever widening, never ascending circles. Growth will not be a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom. But it will be an oceanic circle whose center will be the individual. Therefore the outermost circumference will not wield power to crush the inner circle but will give strength to all within and derive its own strength from it.”

Though Gandhi never realized this utopian model before he was assassinated, there is a reason he inspires us today. In my country we have our own “utopian” dream. It’s called “we the people”, which we too still struggle to realize in its beautiful fullness.

What was our word of the day again? Ah yes, Shivoo, which most dictionaries claim is an Australian slang word for a huge party. I am afraid I got carried away in google-land, but I hope you took away something you could use. As for me? This weekend poet and storyteller hopes for the day when the world reaches its utopian potential for peace, justice, love and compassion where everyone has a voice and everyone matters. Now that will be one amazing cause for a wild shivoo!

One more little tidbit I’d like to share with you in parting… just in case you think it slipped my attention. Did you happen to notice that Freddie Mercury is listed in the middle of the names of famous Gujaratis? I’ll give you a second to track back to the that section above. I’m not making it up! 🙂 I am suddenly transported into a rousing chorus of “We are the champions…”

And I’ll not apologize if you too are now stricken with this rousing earworm. I am a carrier of such things! 🙂

Peace my friends. ❤

Shivoo – the Haiku

Let the dreamers dream
utopia is a place
it’s one wild shivoo!

~kat – 27 January 2017


Asseverate – Friday’s Word Of The Day Haiku – 20 January 2016

I missed posting my Dictionary.com word of the day Haiku yesterday, but decided to post today because the word for Friday, Asseverate, is a very good and timely word. Asseverate is a verb that means means “to declare earnestly or solemnly; affirm positively; aver”. It is Latin in origin; “from asseverat-, the stem of assevērātus, the past participle of the Latin verb assevērāre “to act or speak seriously or in earnest.” (The Latin adjective sevērus means “serious, grave”), entering English in the 18th century, replacing the earlier verb assever.”

There has been quite a cacophony of asseverating going on this week; this past year for that matter. But much of the bloviating that we have been subjected to has been opinions, strongly asseverated, but opinions none the less. Opinions are not necessarily truth.

So what is a well-intentioned, thoughtful person to do? How do we discern what is right and real and true? I have found clarity in my own search for truth and light in the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

In these confusing times I guard my own heart by choosing to “think about such things.” All the rest is dross.

opposing voices
asseverate opinions
but what is the truth?

kat ~ 21 January 2017


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