Wordnik word of the day: ruelle

Today’s word of the day is ruelle, which means “the space between a bed and the wall” or “a private circle or assembly at a private house; a circle.” A note by Henri Van Laun to the play Les Précieuses Ridicules (The Pretentious Young Ladies) in The Dramatic Works of Molière Vol. I describes how ruelle went from meaning “small street” or any narrow passage or space in French to describing a part of a room used in the company of précieuses, fashionable women who held salons to socialize and discuss the question of love: “The Précieuses at that time received their visitors lying dressed in a bed, which was placed in an alcove and upon a raised platform. Their fashionable friends (alcovistes) took their places between the bed and the wall, and thus the name ruelle came to be given to all fashionable assemblies.”

Wordnik word of the day: arenose

Today’s word of the day is arenose, an adjective meaning “full of sand” or “sandy.” It comes from the same Latin root as the word arena, which originally meant “a sandy place” and was often used to mean “a sand-strewn place of combat in an amphitheater.” It’s most often used to describe soil or land. James Bell in his Travels in the Great Desert of Sahara wrote in 1848, “The soil of the Fezzan oases is indeed mostly arenose, and the dates are nearly all impregnated with fine particles of sand, which takes place when they are ripe, and very much lowers their value.” Words that are approximateley synonymous with arenose include arenaceous, arenarious, arenilitic, and arenulous.

Wordnik word of the day: mirliton

Today’s word of the day is mirliton, noun, a kind of musical toy into which one sings, hums, or speaks, producing a coarse, reedy sound. It resembles a kazoo. The word mirliton comes to English through Louisiana French, from standard French, in which it can refer to anything from a reed pipe, a party whistle such as those used at Carnival time, or any kind of rudimentary instrument. It shares its name with a type of edible gourd, which goes not only by the name mirliton, but also by chayote, christophene, sayote, choko, and others. The Christian Science Monitor has an article about one man’s attempt to bring the mirliton back to New Orleans.