I learn or relearn new words almost every week. Then I post them here.

A cat with vivid green eyes staring at the camera. Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash.

Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash.

chatoyant, adj. Having a narrow luminous streak perpendicular to the direction of the fibers, as in tiger’s eye gemstones or the sheen off a spool of silk. From the French “chatoyer,” i.e. “to shine/reflect like a cat’s eye.”

The chatoyant gem shone at us from the bottom of the pool.

Landscape with Roman ruins by Paul Brill.

cicerone, n. (pl. cicerones). A guide who takes visitors to museums, galleries, ruins, and other places of interest, and explains the historical, cultural, scientific, or aesthetic significance of these sites. An old-fashioned word for “tour guide,” essentially. Since many of these guides like(d) the sound of their own voice, the word gently pokes fun at their gabbiness by tying them to a great Roman orator.

The word “cicerone” has taken on a new meaning in the past half-decade. The Cicerone Certification is for “hospitality professionals with proven experience in selecting, acquiring and serving today’s wide range of beers.” The exam might be taken by bartenders, brewers, or restaurant managers who want their beer selection to be a cut above the competition.  If you come across any sneering references to “draft beer lists designed by a cicerone,” they’re referring to someone who’s taken this certification, not a tour guide who likes to talk.

Greg became the cicerone of the group, expounding on the geological and historical significance of every rock face and ruin, until a church bell chimed right as he said that the “bells had not rung for over a hundred years.”

Louisa’s interest in culture began and ended with the cicerone-curated beer list at the Cupcake Brewery in Williamsburg..

A two-panel Aksaray kilim.

kilim, n. (pl. kilims). A flat tapestry-woven carpet or rug, made with the traditional flatweaving techniques practiced across Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Balkans, and North Africa.

Golden-hued wooden walls, large kilims, thick-piled rugs spread across the floor, and a roaring fireplace, all worked on Tom like a sedative.

lagniappe, n. (pl. lagniappes). A small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase, e.g. a small eraser with a purchase over $25. Adapted, by Louisiana French speakers, from the South American Spanish la yapa/ñapa for a free extra.

Burt’s Ice Cream’s newest lagniappe––a keychain pendant with orders of three or more cones––has driven business through the roof.

El Sarape Rojo by Alberto Garduño.

serape, n. (pl. serapes, also sarape/sarapes). A blanket-like shawl, with colorful patterns and fringed ends, traditionally worn by men in Mexico.

It wouldn’t be a Western without gunfire, buried treasure, and a few men facing each other in dusters and serapes.


Feature photo by Tim Bennett on Unsplash.

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