vertiginous (adjective) 

Something that’s vertiginous (ver-TIH-jih-nus) is unstable – marked by change that is so quick and/or frequent that it gives one the feeling of being disoriented, dizzy. As used by Rebecca Makkai in a NYT review of Spring by Ali Smith: “Is it possible, in this vertiginous moment, for a novel to be both timely and deep? Timeliness, these days, requires a quick trigger finger….”

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audacious (adjective) 

Audacious (aw-DAY-shus) means bold, daring, fearless. As I used it today: “I pick an audacious title – one that is likely to attract attention. Then I challenge myself to write something that measures up to it.”

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sine qua non (noun) 

Sine qua non (sih-NAY kwah NOWN) is Latin for “without which, not.” We use the term for something that is absolutely indispensable or essential. As I used it today: “The first of [life’s three essential skills] – thinking – is a sine qua non as far as being well educated is concerned.”

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galumph (verb) 

To galumph (guh-LUMF) – may be a blend of “gallop” and “triumph” – is to prance about in a clumsy, self-satisfied manner. This is one of many words coined by Lewis Carroll in the nonsense poem “Jabberwocky.” Here it is in the 5thstanza: “One, two! One, two! And through and through / The vorpal blade went snicker-snack! / He left it dead, and with its head / He went galumphing back.”

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feculent (adjective) 

Something that’s feculent (FEK-yuh-lunt) is disgusting, full of fetid, rotting, or putrid matter. As used in The New York Times to describe the play Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus: “Taylor Mac’s filthy, feculent salute to Shakespeare’s Roman tragedy.”

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wellspring (noun) 

A wellspring (WEL-spring) is a source or supply of anything, especially when it is inexhaustible. As used by Nikos Kazantzakis: “My principal anguish, and the wellspring of all my joys and sorrows, has been the incessant merciless battle between the spirit and the flesh.”

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decoct (verb) 

To decoct (dih-KAHKT) is to extract the essence of something by boiling it down, concentrating it. As used by William F. Buckley, Jr.: “Norman Mailer decocts matters of the first philosophical magnitude from an examination of his own ordure, and I am not talking about his books.”

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10-bagger (noun) 

A “10-bagger,” a term coined by Peter Lynch in his book One Up On Wall Street, is an investment that has the potential to return tenfold, if not more. As I used it today: “The coveted ‘10-bagger.’ What investor hasn’t dreamed of that?”

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gadabout (noun) 

A gadabout (GAD-uh-bout) is a person who frequently travels from place to place, especially for pleasure. As used by Leopold Throckmorton: “Author: A common gadabout who freely wanders over the landscape with wanton disregard. His days are spent picking up all the stray free words he can handle and squirreling them away for later use. Subsequently, (days, months, or years later) working by candlelight and hidden away in his dank, musty secluded lair, the rogue simply rearranges the collected words on yellowed bond with a sharpened quill ink pen fashioned from the tail feather of a bald-headed vulture. Once finished, the dastardly cur audaciously attempts to sell those assembled pages for fleeting fame and profit.”

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rutilant (adjective) 

Rutilant (ROOT-l-unt) means glowing or glittering with a reddish or golden light. As used by Ben Hecht in Fantazius Mallare: “Standing against the wall and blinking at the rutilant glare of the room, Goliath the dwarf waited nervously.”

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