Cahot and soul soles

Today’s word of the day is cahot, a rare word of French origin, referring to a bank or ridge of snow which has been heaped up across a road by passing sleighs, leaving a corresponding depression behind; hence, a surface-undulation or ridge-like inequality which, with the corresponding depression, is known in the United States as a thank-you-ma’am. Cahot is pronounced /kuh-HOE/ or /kuh-HOO/. John Barlett has more about cahot and thank-you-ma’am in his 1877 Dictionary of Americanisms.

Today’s list of the day is called “all animals are created equal.” It features animals matched with homophones: soul sole, bore boar, aunt ant, and so forth.

Wordnik word of the day: cicisbeo

Today’s word of the day is cicisbeo, used in Italy since the 1700s to mean a professed gallant and attendant of a married woman or “one who dangles about women.” Cicisbeism, then, is “the practice of acting as, or the custom of having, a cicisbeo; the practice of dangling about women.” J. Safford Fiske’s translation of Hippolyte Adolphe Tine’s A Tour through The Pyrenees describes such a fellow this way: “The cicisbeo is a bony cartilaginous gentleman, fixt perpendicularly on his saddle like a telegraph-pole.” The Century Dictionary posits that the word derives from the French chiche, meaning small or little (though perhaps “meager” or “paltry” would be more accurate), plus beau, meaning “beautiful.” In modern French, the word is sigisbée.

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.”