Category Archives: Word Wednesday


This morning, Bubo and I took a delightful hike up through the woods. With the fresh snow fall muffling sounds, I felt as though we were alone on the earth. Of course, the normally noisy forest inhabitants were quiet; my hiking companion is a great-horned owl, after all.

I feel so fortunate to have Great Great Uncle O. Underhill’s house to call my home. It fits me like a glove. Yes, perhaps because it is mysteriously the mirror image of my old house in Brooklyn. But there’s something more here. Which brings me to today’s word.

Hythe is a noun that means a small port or haven; sanctuary. The word is considered obsolete except in the names of towns like Rotherhithe, Queenhithe, and Lambeth. No one seems to know exactly how the word came about, and it can be found in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.

I find this house tucked into the woods in the Green Mountains quite a hythe.

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While coffee is a truly lovely elixir to inspire morning alertness, there is truly no substitute for finding a rather rotund field mouse in one’s slipper to snap one awake in the morn.

This is precisely how my morning started. Lucky for the little fellow, I am slow-moving in the morning, and was tentatively guiding my toes into my slippers when I detected minute whiskers and fur in the toe box of my old house shoes.

I know what you’re thinking: this would have made a nice gift for Bubo, it being the day before St. Valentine’s Day and all, but I am a bit of a softy in the morning and I thought the little rodent deserved a fighting chance. This house, for countless years, has not been a home for a fierce and sardonic owl. How was the mouse to know that a new resident would like to use his whiskers for dental floss?

I collected him (in the slipper) and took him out to the fields and set him free. My, but he bounded over the snow quickly. I’m sure he’ll be back, this time as a snack in Bubo’s beak. But he deserves a breath of gorgeous northern air before that! (The air here truly is invigorating. Makes me feel eons younger and more energized!)

Which brings me to today’s word.

Septentrional is an adjective meaning, quite simply, northern. Pronounced thusly: sep-TEN-tree-uh-nuhl.

It hails from the Latin word septentriones, which is what some call the seven stars in the Great Bear (Ursa Major) constellation that appears in the northern sky. Septentriones actually means seven ploughing oxen and itself comes from the Latin septem for seven plus triones for ploughing oxen.

Now that I abide in a septentrional home, away from the ambient light of the city, I expect I’ll be able to do quite a bit of star gazing.

Provided I keep my shoes clear of creatures.


Can you spot the mouse?

Can you spot the mouse?


Bounding towards freedom!

Bounding towards freedom!




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In the middle of a rousing pie tasting post Thanksgiving dinner, the boiler in the house decided to call it quits. It appears to have disintegrated instantaneously and is now a pile of rusty dust in the cellar. I have created a replacement boiler from leftover parts from the flying machine, but it will only hold for a few more weeks.

Thusly, the house has been rather chilly in the winter air. Yesterday’s “wintry mix”, which I believe is a modern meteorologist’s fancy term for “intermittent wet downfall”, exacerbated the bone-chill that has permeated the house. Hot mulled cider was had, and I once again appreciated my penchant for pogonotrophy.

Pogonotrophy is a noun which means, quite simply, the cultivation or growing of a beard.

The word hails from the Greek word pogon for beard  plus trophe  for nourishment, growth. Quite literally, pogonotrophy means beard feeding.

Incidentally, pogonology is the study of beards and pogonotomy is a delightfully fancy word for cutting a beard; shaving.

You’ll notice that many men in colder climes enjoy pogonotrophy, and I must say, my family is full of bearded men, and has been, from time immemorial. Some people consider a beard a sign of virility, and interestingly enough, most giants, gnomes, and satyrs are bearded.

Bubo’s favorite hunting tree has a poem carved in its trunk, and it seems an appropriate verse for today’s discussion:

The bearded man stands outside.

Why do you stand outside, bearded man?

Stay warm, m’dears. If you can, work on that pogonotrophy.

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Imagine my surprise this morning when I discovered that, once again, Mordecai has left mysteriously in the night.

That is sarcasm, oddlings. Mordecai is nothing if not consistent in his disappearances.

He and Charles have flown the coop and I can’t help but wonder what dastardly deed he perpetrated this time. He never leaves in the dead of night without good reason. There was the time he angered the minotaur my Uncle kept in the garden. There was the time he caused my Cousin Cate’s house to collapse into a sinkhole. So, naturally, I have not exhaled with relief, I am tiptoeing about the house wondering if it’s been lined with arcane explosives or if a poisonous strain of beetles is loose in the walls.

He did leave, perplexingly enough, a minikin mewling at the foot of the stairs. I’ve checked it’s teeth, and while they are sharp and numerous, they are also small. It is curled at my feet right now, in fact, snoring quietly as it naps in a boot.

A minikin is a small and dainty (and delicate) creature. Used as an adjective, minikin means diminutive or dainty. Some people will tell you that minikin also can mean a fine, mincing lass. Those people wouldn’t be entirely wrong.

The word comes from the Dutch minneken for darling, in turn from the Middle Dutch diminutive of minne for love. It is akin to the Old English word gemynd for mind, memory. Minneken is obsolete, and, some might argue, so is minikin.

The creature at my feet might be obsolete, but it is very real indeed. The day will be spent getting to know one another, I suppose, while Silas prepares pies for the Thanksgiving dinner we shall host tomorrow in the garden. I’m assuming this minikin will eat the food. I’m assuming it won’t become manic in the face of guests, a dinner table, or the garden. I’m assuming a lot today. I might break into that nice new bottle of Ruby Port sooner than Silas had hoped.

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