Deconstructing the Dictionary



Adj. (Re-frack-toh-re) 1. Stubborn or unmanageable. 2. Resistant to a process or stimulus.

"Have you heard from your nephew this week, Mrs. Wong?" asked her student, Janet Chin.

"Oh, you mean Joshua? No, he’s too busy speaking at rallies and dodging calls from the New York Times," came the response.

"Aren’t you worried about him? My grandma is calling these students the most refractory bunch since the protesters in Tiananmen Square all those years ago—and you know how that ended up,” said Janet, shaking her head.

"Actually, I had a cousin who was involved in those protests, and a couple of British activists in Hong Kong helped smuggle him out afterwards," said the professor. "It will be a sad turn of events now if Hong Kong becomes the place young idealists flee from, instead of to."


N. (eh-rook-tay-shun) 1. Belch; the matter vented from the stomach. 2. The act of belching.

"Hi Siri, how are you doing today?" said the internationally wanted fugitive.

“Hi, Edward. I’m fine today. How are you?”

“I’m good—mostly. Please send an email to Julian.”

“OK, what would you like it to say?”

“Dear Julian, thanks tremendously for the phone. However, I’m starting to worry that the NSA — brraaaap!” Slightly embarrassed at the unusually loud burp, Snowden wiped at his mouth.

“Would you like me to include that eructation in the email?” asked Siri.

“No!” snapped Snowden. “Continue: that the NSA has started to track me through my iPhone.” He paused to give air to a suspicious thought just beginning to form, then asked with alarm, “Hey Siri, since when do you interrupt people?”


N. (sef-all-uh-gee) The scientific study of elections.

C’mon Jillian, get off Facebook and let’s go to the party already!” said Cyndi as she finished applying her lipstick.
“I’m coming — just a couple more minutes,” came the reply from Cyndi’s Harvard classmate and best friend.
“What is taking you —” Cyndi groaned as she turned and saw her roommate hunched over a laptop. “Are you looking at that psephologist’s posts again? C’mon, the election’s over; it’ll be another four years before he has anything interesting to say.”

“You don’t understand — I’m totally changing my sociology thesis thanks to Nate Silver, and I had to get started right away.”

“To what?”

“What Darwin missed: How the sexy nerd is fundamentally changing the dynamics of sexual selection.”

“You’re such a geek!” Cyndi laughed. “Now grab your purse — let’s go find some math majors to flirt with.”


N. (spear-ah-cull) a small opening by which a confined space has communication with the outer air; an airhole or air-shaft. 2. an opening in the ground affording egress to subterranean vapors or fiery matter; a volcanic vent-hole. 3. a breathing hole or blowhole.

Chilean miners rescue

“What’s that noise, Luis?” said Claudio. “It sounds almost like a drill, but like hammering too.”

“Holy Jesus!” shouted Luis as a rain of rocks spattered down from the roof of the cavern, barely missing his head. “They’ve found us. We’re not going to die down here. It’s miracle.”

“Close, my friend Señor Urzúa, but not quite,” came the gentle correction from Señor Yanez as he inhaled deeply, taking in as much of the fresh air now flowing into their dank, half-mile-deep dungeon as his lungs could hold. “It’s a spiracle. If they can somehow get us out of here without collapsing the entire mine on top of us, now THAT would be a miracle.”


Sess-kwah-pih-day-lee-an. Adj. 1. Of words and expressions: of many syllables. 2. given to using long words.

"I’ll take two," said Jack, sliding the cards across the table to the man in the green eyeshade.

"I’ve seen that evil grin before, Nicholson," said Ben as he returned two cards face down. "I think it was in The Shining. But this time I don’t think it’s your hand that’s responsible for that leer.”

"Sheesh, I know what it is," said Brad as he knocked the table to show he was standing pat. "He can’t quite get over seeing J. Lo at the Lakers game last night in all her callipygian glory.”

The dealer’s face clouded over. “Oops, sorry Affleck,” backpedaled Brad, though the smirk on his face said something different — as did his next remark. “I meant booty-licious.”

As Jack licked his lips, Meryl jumped to Ben’s defense. “While Mr. Pitt may have become quite sesquipedalian since becoming a father, he obviously has not learned the first thing about playing poker,” she said, knocking twice and pushing her pile of chips to the center of the table. “I’m all in.”

“What’s that you’re calling me?” said Brad. “A Sasquatch-alien?” Ben just watched, having already folded, while Jack’s left eyebrow danced in amusement.

“No, my dear sir,” said Ms. Streep, as Jack folded and Brad matched her bet with his meager pile. “It was actually a compliment,” she continued, turning over four aces and a deuce, and watching her opponent’s face turn ashen. “Backhanded, though.”

Thanks to Daniel Bell, aka @sfsabre, for this word.


v. (ee-no-date) To free from knots; figuratively: to unravel, clear of difficulties.

Some cyclist dude

"What’s that, Lance?" whispered his lawyer.

"I said, are you free Saturday night?"

"What the —" started Myrna before she was interrupted by the judge.

"Excuse me, counselor, but do you have a statement to make to the court?" came the stern reprimand.

"Er, your honor, can I have one minute with my client?"

"Granted," snarled the judge. "One minute."

"What the hell are you doing, Lance?" hissed Myrna. "You’re facing prosecution for using banned substances. I’m trying to enodate the legal troubles from your life. And you’re hitting on me while I’m laying out my arguments to Judge Slammer? What in hell are you thinking? Have all those steroids left permanent testosterone imprints on your brain?”

"Uh, well, Myrna, I just thought — I mean, you just looked so hot in that suit …" the accused cyclist trailed off.

"Right," said Myrna. "That’s about what I thought. From now on, you let me do the thinking.

"Your honor," she turned to the judge, with one stern eye still on Lance. "We’re ready to proceed."


N. (gal-ih-maw-free) 1. A dish made by hashing up odds and ends of food; a hodge-podge; a ragout. 2. A heterogeneous mixture; a confused jumble; a ridiculous medley.

A gallimaufry of odds and ends."What are you doing here, Spotter?" snapped Professor Snake as he whirled around at the sound of the young man’s footfall.

Carey Spotter’s cheeks rouged and his eyes widened behind his round glasses, but he set his jaw and plowed ahead.

"Er, well, you see, Professor Mumblemore sent me," said the young Spotter, twisting his hands into the edges of his cape. "He said he was sure you’d have a hair from a unicorn’s tail somewhere in your gallimaufry of potions ingredients.”

"What in the devil does he want that for?" groaned Snake. "Doesn’t he know how exceedingly rare unicorn’s tail is? It took me a decade to build up the tiny stock I have."

"Sir, I believe he said it was the last ingredient he needed for the potion to revive Persephone."

"Ah, well, I suppose we can’t go on having her lying in the infirmary stiff as a board forever, now can we?" sighed Snake. "All right, just wait here; I’ll be back in a snap with that precious bit of tail."

Photo courtesy of Beth Evans Ramos, whose blog builds on her Salvage Studio experience at turning a gallimaufry of salvaged stuff into cool repurposed household and garden items.


Adj. (dell-ih-tess-unt) 1. Lying hid, latent, concealed. 2. The sudden disappearance of a lesion or of the signs and symptoms of a disease.

"Woo hoo — look at that! A beautiful royal blue, just like nature intended," said Robert Dudley, gesturing at the unblemished swath of the Gulf of Mexico the two BP executives could see from their yacht.

"Erm, well, Bob, I’m not sure it’s quite so simple. Just because we’ve got millions of barrels of delitescent oil doesn’t mean they’ve disappeared,” said Anthony Hayward.

"What do you mean, Tony?" said the newly appointed head honcho of the most hated company in the nation. "The American public is fickle as all get-out! With this spill out of sight, it’ll soon enough be completely out of their minds. Just you wait; you’ll see. No more photos of oil-soaked pelicans — no more outrage."

"Harumph!" harumphed the deposed CEO, nervously re-folding the parka sitting atop his suitcase. "You’re right — we’ll see. All I can suggest at this point is that you don’t make any rash wishes the BP genies have the power to grant by sending you to Siberia. Because then you’ll really wish you had your life back.”


V.i. (ess-tih-vayte) To spend the summer in a state of torpor.

"After that tennis game, I could use a martini," sighed Madge as she collapsed into the chair. "You just run me ragged every time, Rowena. Why don’t we play doubles with our daughters one of these days? With Caitlin on my team, I’d have a chance to finally get some revenge for all the torture you put me through."

"Ha!" snorted Rowena. "What I wouldn’t give to make that happen. Angie’s been estivating in front of the TV ever since school got out; I’m not even sure she’d budge if her idol Justin Bieber came to town.”

"That’s surprising; I never thought of her as a lazy girl," said Madge just as the waiter stepped up to their table. "But in her honor, I think we ought to split an order of the escargot for our appetizer today."

"Oh my," said Rowena. "That would absolutely be apropos."


V.t. (dih-spew-mate) 1. to take the scum off; skim. 2. to throw off as froth. V.i. to become rid of scum.

"With your examination of Lehman Brothers and your filing of fraud charges against Goldman Sachs, you appear to be priming the pump for the Obama administration’s financial "reform" bill, which will do nothing but undermine the free market. What do you say to that charge?" asked Rep. Scott Garrett.

"Well, sir, what I would say is that the SEC is doing its job," responded Commissioner Schapiro. "We are determined to use the lessons of experience to become a more effective regulator, and if we have to despumate Wall Street to do it, then that is what we will do.”

"Wait a minute — are you calling the titans of Wall Street scum?" Garrett shot back.

"Dammit!" whispered Schapiro over her shoulder to Ben Bernanke, who was also waiting to testify. "I was counting on the illiteracy cultivated by the New Jersey school system to keep his vocabulary smaller than mine."

Garrett cleared his throat. “Commissioner, you might be interested to know that our microphones are high-quality, multi-directional, and more importantly, they’re ON.”