Vaughan’s Vocabulary

Don Vaughan provides infrequently used words to strengthen your vocabulary.

My favorite month is January, named after Janus, who, in Roman mythology, was a god with two faces that looked in opposite directions. One of Janus’s faces looked to the past; the other looked to the future. Typically, at the first part of January, we reflect on things from the past year and look ahead to things coming up. According to the World Book Encyclopedia, the mythological god’s name came from the Latin word “janua” meaning gate and served as the god of gates and doors and of entrances and exits. I see January as a gate to new opportunities.

Speaking of opportunities, I have a PDF of a list of 365 advanced words for us to use during 2014, each listed next to the 365 dates. For example, on Day 32, February 1 the word is voracious. E-mail me for your free copy.

1. PDF stands for

A. Pedagogical Document Format

B. Parisian-Dixionian Format

C. Portable Document Format

D. Parental Defender Format

I find it interesting that people from Dijon, France are called “Dixionians.” C is the correct response.

2. Janus-faced (JAN-us faced):

A. marked by deliberate deceptiveness especially by pretending one set of feelings and acting under the influence of another

B. having or concerned with polarities or contrasts

C. bi-polar, having two poles

D. All of the above

These definitions came from Free Online Dictionary. D is the answer. A person or thing that is Janus-faced has two contrasting aspects. Michael Quinion of Great Britain has reminded me that a word can be Janus-faced; the technical term is contronym, a word like cleave or sanction that has two opposing meanings.

3. Pecksniffian (PECK-sni-fee-en):

A. unctuously hypocritical

B. undesigning

C. overly optimistic about the new year

D. overly pessimistic about the new year

Pecksniffian came from the name of a character in a Charles Dickens novel. A is the answer.

4. Which one of the following novels has the character Seth Pecksniff?

A. Martin Chuzzlewit

B. Oliver Twist

C. The Haunted Man

D. Bleak House

E. A Tale of Two Cities

You’re right if you chose A.

Last week’s mystery word is lexicology.

This week’s mystery word to solve is an adjective that begins with the first four letters of a noun that means a long detailed account. The noun and the adjective, however, are not related.