Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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First new-to-me word of 2020

I don’t encounter new words very often, excluding medical jargon and stuff like that — also excluding new slang. I mean real words that I just have never happened to bump into before.

I remember the first time someone said something was copacetic. I blinked and went off and looked it up and every now and then I probably use it. That was in the nineties sometime, I think.

CJ Cherryh introduced me to chatoyant. She used it in her Foreigner series. Fabulous word, which I have taken considerable pleasure in using occasionally ever since. Very suitable word for high fantasy.

I remember bumping into antepenultimate — was that just last year? What a great word.

One new word so far this year, which I encountered in some article or other online over the weekend:

Velleity.

Did you all know that one? I didn’t get it from context, but looked it up:

A wish or inclination not strong enough to lead to action. “The notion intrigued me, but remained a velleity.”

I like it! That’s actually a word I could imagine using in conversation. Certainly a familiar situation or state of mind. A wish not strong enough to lead to action! Not as poetic as chatoyant, but a good, useful word.

If any of you have happened across a new-to-you word lately, drop it in the comments! But such a thing probably doesn’t happen very often to anyone who comments here.

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8 Comments First new-to-me word of 2020

  1. Craig N.

    I’ve run into two new words this year, in a fantasy calendar with a whole lot of strangely-titled weeks.

    Unlike velleity, neither of them is at all likely to be useful:
    “glebe” – a plot of agricultural land assigned to support the parish church (archaic)
    “innascibility” – incapacity of being born; hence, self-existence. A technical term in Trinitarian theology, for a quality belonging solely to God the Father.

    The fantasy land in question isn’t remotely Christian, so it’s odd the words would turn up there; I think the author was letting his inner Jack Vance run wild.

  2. Hanneke

    I knew copacetic, antepenultimate and glebe from books though I’ve never used them myself.

    I’d seen chatoyant before too, also from CJ Cherryh, and guessed it meant lighting up like a cat’s eye in the dark, changing depending on lightfall; but looking it up it’s more focused on changing hues than that flash of light you get when a cat’s eyes catch the light at night. I tend to use the word changeant (of French origin) for that – it’s what I learned to use from my mom, for fabrics that have changing colors depending upon one’s angle of view, long before holographic prints became common – we saw a bolt of changeant silk in the fabric market, changing between green and orange in the pleats and folds of the cloth when we walked past, and it caught my eye.

    I’d never seen or heard of velleity. I don’t think many people will recognise that when you use it.
    Isn’t English wonderful? So many highly specific special words, a veritable treasure trove!

  3. Rachel

    I’d never seen “glebe,” and although I’m used to “grebe” and don’t mind it, “glebe” looks and sounds silly to me. I don’t think I would ever use it. I might use “velleity,” but I’m probably going to forget how to spell it and I bet autocorrect won’t help, so I may just let it go. It’s not as beautiful a word as “chatoyant” or as useful as “veritable.”

  4. Kathryn McConaughy

    I remember running into crepuscular back in the day. It was in a MG book, so I was really surprised that I didn’t know the word…

  5. charlotte Taylor

    Glebe Road is a major one in Arlington VA where I grew up, and was, in fact, the road associated with the glebe. So a nice bit of history preserved in the modern landscape for those who know the word!

    no new words for me this year, though….

  6. Rachel

    Well, Charlotte, the year is young, so who knows? Did you know “glebe?” If I saw a road named that, I’d assume it was named after somebody named Glebe; it wouldn’t occur to me it was an archaic English word.

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