Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Vocab Builder: C

Vocab Builder:  C, Language DayThis is the third in the 26-part series, Vocab Builder. Last week we covered the letter B which means this week we are covering the letter C. In fact today is European Language Day so I will be translating the words into different languages for you. I haven't just done European Languages as this blog is viewed by people outside Europe so I have done international languages I have even picked out words which have roots in languages that are more than just Latin. Of course many come back to Latin but have a nice route through French or Greek.

Using strong vocabulary is always a good idea. Note the use of 'strong' rather than 'large'. From an extension of George Orwell's quote we know we should strive for the right word, not the largest word. In fact to further extend this idea we could use the C word, circumlocution, meaning 'to use an unnecessarily large number of words to express an idea'. Why use loads of words when one, well chosen word can cover them all. For instance you don't need to tell someone, 'blimey, you use a lot of words to express that simple idea', you could just say, 'blimey, you use circumlocution a lot.'

So, without further ado let's start this list of 7 'C' words:


Meaning:  a trade/transport in coastal waters within a country (also airspace) and the right to engage in such an act.

Sentence:  The dragon skin was be transported daily between the two cities until the government tightened its restrictions on cabotage.

Origin:  French. Coasts were such an important part of Frech society they had to come up with a verb to describe sailing across it:  caboter. This lead to the noun cabotage.

Discussion:  The word is unusual. I hadn't heard of it until the 1st of May when it appeared on my 365 New Words a year calendar.For this reason I wouldn't go overboard with using it. In moderation, perhaps by a person knowledgeable in trade. And no, it does not mean secret agent cabbages with the intent of sabotaging an assassination attempt - though that would be a cool story!

Translation into Finnish:  kabotaasiliikenteen


Meaning:  Footwear/shoe (chaussures is plural)

Sentence:  Entering the witches lair I couldn't help notice the servants' strange chaussures. They all had weird web like sandals.

Origin:  French. The French word chausure comes from Old French, chaucier meaning toput on footwear which in turn comes from Latin calceare meaning shoe.

Discussion:  This word is essentially French. Search it on Google you'll get a load of French footwear websites. That said it is sometimes used in English. If I were to use it in writing the character would have to be French in origin.

Translation into Swahili:  kiatu

Meaning:  the art of mapping a region. Or, a description of said map.

Sentence:  The chorographer entered the building and set up the base from where he would map the town. A group of dancers looked at him confused, but ended up helping.

Origin:  Greek. The Greek 'chorographia' combines 'choros' meaning 'place' with 'graphia' meaning 'writing'.

Discussion:  Most people think of map making as cartography. However, that is for larger areas. If it concerns a region or district then it is chorography. I think this would work in any style of writing as the context would reduce the requirement for readers to fully understand the word. Also, remember to spell it correctly. It would be highly embarrassing to be in a serious scene then to introduce a choreographer to map the cave!

Translation unavailable.


Meaning:  the application of methods from other fields for the field of history.

Sentence:  The historian used cliometrics to analyse the data he had collected.

Origin:  Greek. 'Clio' is the Greek muse of history. '-metrics' means statistical method. The technique was developed in 1993 by Douglass North and Robert Fogel and was used to qualitatively study the past. They got a Nobel Prize in Economics for the work.

Discussion:  This is a fantastic word. It is really useful for the point I make at the top of these posts: use the right word. Cliometrics shrinks the sentence, 'the historian used a variety of techniques from statistics, economics, and data processing to analyse the historical data he had collected' from 21 words to 11 words, a 52% reduction.

Translation into Galician:  cliometria


Meaning:  distasteful/excessively sweet/sentimental through excess.

Sentence:  The fantastical banquet was highly enjoyable until the cloying deserts with way too much sugar were served.

Origin:  French. From the Frech, 'encloer' meaning 'cloy'. It once meant to 'prick a horse with a nail'. Honestly I have no idea how it got from horses to excessive sweetness, but there you go.

Discussion:  The word lends itself nicely to foody descriptions as in my example. But it can also describe characters. Personally, I like the word. It sounds like what it means.

Translation into Turkish:  iğrenç

Noun (capitalised)

Meaning:  imaginary land of luxury

Sentence:  The elves lived in a forest with luxurious tree houses and flowing streams, it was a Cockaigne

Origin:  French. The Middle French phrase 'pais de cacigne' means 'the land of plenty'. It was popularised in the 13th century with the poem "The Land of Cockaigne' in which 'the houses were made of barley sugar cakes'

Discussion:  Fantastic word. Perfect for describing utopian empires in sci-fi and fantasy.

Translation into yiddish:  קאָקקאַיגנע (pronounced Qʼáqqʼaygnʻ according to Google)


Meaning:  of or relating to those who eat together. Or, a relationship where one organism gets food from another

Sentence:  The fairies are a commensal race, choosing dinner time to discuss the days tooth picking.

Origin:  Latin. OK, I can't find another language this comes from but the Latin prefix 'com-' means 'with/together' and 'mensalis' means 'of the table'. Until 1870 is normally referred to people eating at the table together, but then biologists got hold of it and used it for organisms that eat together.

Discussion:  Sadly the word is almost always used scientifically. That said you could kick-start a revolution and get the word back into normal use. Perhaps a superior race could describe a lesser race as commensal to both mean eating together and animal-like.

Translation into Chinese (simplified):  共生 (pronounced Gòngshēng according to Google)

And that's it for another week. En dit is dit vir 'n ander week. (Afrikaans) და ეს არის ის მეორე კვირაში. (Georgian) A to je pro další týden. (Czech) Und das ist es für eine weitere Woche. (German) Et c'est tout pour une autre semaine. (French)

What do you think to the new format? Can you use all 7 words in paragraph? Let me know your thoughtsin the comments below.

Journée de la langue Happy!

Matt B


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