Tag Archives: Word Wednesday


This morning I was returning from my daily walk in the woods when I heard the distinct call of “Gardyloo” from the house. Naturally, I immediately took cover behind a tree and waited. It appears that Silas was merely tossing a hatful of ladybugs out the window towards the garden.

Gardyloo is an interjection meaning look out. It’s a warning cry that was specifically made popular by the Scottish in Edinburgh to warn pedestrians of slop water being thrown out of windows. If one was traversing the sidewalks of Edinburgh and heard from above “Gardyloo“, one would wisely move away from the potential trajectory of chamber pot refuse and what not raining down upon them.

It is believed that the word originates from the French garde à l’eau which means beware of water.

The word was still notably in use in the 1930s and 40s, when indoor plumbing was still not city-wide. Nowadays, gardyloo is often used as a general cry of warning, a “watch out” or “mind your head” type of holler.

In my house, it can mean so many things, so it behooves one to heed the cry and take cover. Today was ladybugs. Tomorrow could be something not nearly as sweet.

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It must be said, there is nothing like a nap beneath an apple tree in the Northeast. Mordecai and I are in Vermont, having tracked a couple of SpiderBots traversing the coast of Lake Champlain.

Having spent the bulk of today hiking through Camel’s Hump State Park, I am in need of a nap. I am not, strictly speaking, a young man.

As it is International Talk Like A Pirate Day, and as Mordecai is already asleep and I am awfully drowsy, I thought today’s word was rather appropriate.

Groggy is a noun that means dazed or staggering, as from exhaustion, blows, or drunkenness; weak and unsteady on the feet or in action.

Groggy originates from Grog, which is an alcoholic beverage – usually rum – mixed with water (and often served hot, mixed with lemon and sugar). Groggy first meant intoxicated, which clearly happens if one imbibes too much grog.

Pirates typically drank grog and I would venture to guess that if you mix your run with enough lemon juice, you can stave off boredom and scurvy in one gulp. Of course, I’d rather not be aboard a ship crewed by groggy pirates.

Apparently, grog comes from Old Grog, which was Edward Vernon’s nickname. Who was Edward Vernon, you ask? Why he was the 1757 English admiral responsible for diluting the sailors’ rum.

So now, if you’ll excuse me, this groggy old fellow (from exhaustion, not grog) will celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day by napping for a wink or two. Bubo will continue grumbling that pirates get a celebratory day while owls do not.

The Ticonderoga at The Shelburne Museum. Not, strictly speaking, a pirate ship.

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The Autumnal Equinox falls on the 22nd of September, over a week away. I already have numerous family members in this house, and as I’m sure happens at your house during the holidays, people are rubbing each other the wrong way.

There have been a few thrown mugs, one bout of fisticuffs, and plenty of harsh words. And that was just this morning before breakfast. Which brings me to today’s word.

Vituperate is a verb which means to rebuke or criticize harshly or abusively; berate; to find fault with; to scold; to overwhelm with wordy abuse; to censure severely or abusively.

It is derived from the Latin vituperatus (past participle of vituperare), which is from vitium meaning fault plus parare meaning to make, prepare.

First used in the early 1500’s, vituperate is synonymous with vilify, censure, and berate. One who vituperates is a vituperator and it must be said that there has been an enormous amount of vituperation in this house this week.

I just hope that this old home can withstand another week of familial unrest before the equinox. And I hope this old man can withstand it. I refuse to walk through my house with a helmet on. But safety first, my dears, safety first.


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It is surprising to me that even in this humidity (and a rain that turns on and off as though there is a faucet above me) Mordecai was able to set fire to the crab apple tree in the neighbor’s front yard.

Mordecai and our neighbor have been feuding for years, over what one can not be sure. This afternoon, while I was reading in the library, I heard Mordecai yell “You give blood-sucking insects a bad name!” Then there was a small explosion and the distinct smell of burning apple pie.

By the time I reached the front porch, Mordecai had a black eye and was stomping towards me, away from a fully-enflamed crab apple tree and a screaming angry neighbor. Mordecai was smiling.

This brings me to today’s word.

Opprobrium is a noun that means disgrace arising from exceedingly shameful conduct; ignominy or scornful reproach or contempt.

Opprobrium originates from the Latin opprobrareto reproach – which is from ob –  in the way of plus probrumreproach. It is also similar to the Latin proforward – and to the Latin ferreto carry, bring.

Obviously, this will not be the first time Mordecai enjoys public disgrace from conduct considered grossly wrong or vicious. Of course, he never considers these moments disgraceful.

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