Vaughan’s Vocabulary

Don Vaughan provides infrequently used words to strengthen your vocabulary.

Richard Nordquist’s article “The William F. Buckley

Vocabulary Quiz” pointed out that the former Firing Line host and seasoned

journalist was equipped with the vocabulary of a mischievous lexicographer and

delighted and often perplexed his readers with an arsenal of what he, Buckley,

called out of town words. Nordquist challenged logophiles to could come up with

a definition for each of “the sesquipedalian verba (long words)” which he

lifted from Buckley’s book “The Right Word.”

The following are four

of Mr. Buckley’s out of town words.

1. auto da fe (aw-toh-duh-FAY)

A. a defective automobile

B. the ritual accompanying the execution of a


C. face value

D. an act of faith

Auto da fa is a noun that comes from the Portuguese

language, spoken in Spain. An auto da fa was a ceremony that accompanied the

judgment passed on those in the courts of the Spanish Inquisition, and involved

burning heretics at the stake. Buckley wrote, “Here was a modern auto da fe:

not for counterfeiting heresy, but for denouncing it.”

2. Cartesian  (car-tea-zhuhn)

A. Machiavellian methods

B. doing a cartwheel technique

C. unconditional authority, full discretionary power

D. Of or pertaining to Rene Descartes, who specified

direct and logical forms of thought and analysis

Buckley wrote, “It required only a little Cartesian

gelandesprung to alight at the conclusion that is the responsibility of the

government to maintain monuments that are manmade, as well as those given us by

nature.” You’re right if you chose D. (By the way, C is a definition of carte blanche.

3. dithyrambic (dith-uh-RAM-bic)

A. a truly exaggerated exercise in praising somebody

or something

B. typical

C. atypical

D. keenly judgmental

The adjective dithyrambic came from dithyramb, a chant

of wild and irregular character to honor Dionysius or Bacchus. Any wildly or

enthusiastic speech or writing is a dithyramb. Anything dithyrambic is an

exaggerated exercise of praising someone or something. Example: Jan referred to

the pastor’s announcements as his “weekly dithyramb to certain ones in the


4. eremitical (AIR-uh-mi-ti-kul)

A. gregarious

B. characteristic of the hermit, far removed from

ordinary life and consideration

C. drinkable

D. edible

An eremite is a hermit. B is the answer.

Last week’s mystery word is palpable.

This week’s mystery word to solve is a noun you can use for a bland wish for something with no effort to obtain it. The first three letters of this word are the same first three letters in the last name of an artist who painted a well-known portrait of himself.