Sunday, March 7

Word quiz.

Here are 10 words for you to define. Ok, I will be extra nice this time and make it a matching game. However, in order not to make it too simple, don't count on the definitions to be in the same tense or form (noun, adjective, etc.) as the main word; the root word will match the basic sense of the definition, but that's all I can guarantee. Have fun!

01. irascible....... A. slavish attention to rules
02. cladistic....... B. minute particle or trace
03. pedantry........ C. taxonomically inclined
04. lugubrious...... D. ill-natured
05. contretemps..... E. sorrowful
06. aquiline........ F. eagle-like
07. portentous...... G. equal in lefts and rights
08. palimpsest...... H. parchment overwritten later
09. scintilla....... I. ominously significant
10. racemic......... J. embarrassing mischance

Ah, the joy of words!


Pia said...

I prefer quizes I know the answers to but it's interesting to learn new words. Will check back later for that.

I know and use only two of these words: pedantry (if like in being pedantic) and racemic (from chemistry). Think I know contretemps too since it's French, but can't say I use it.

Mandula said...

01. irascible.... J. embarrassing mischance
02. cladistic.... A. slavish attention to rules
03. pedantry..... G. equal in lefts and rights
04. lugubrious... C. taxonomically inclined
05. contretemps.. E. sorrowful
06. aquiline..... F. eagle-like
07. portentous... I. ominously significant
08. palimpsest... H. parchment overwritten later
09. scintilla.... B. minute particle or trace
10. racemic...... D. ill-natured

:) Zero from ten? :D

billybytedoc said...

01. irascible....... D. ill-natured. slavish attention to rules
02. cladistic....... F. eagle-like
03. pedantry........ C. taxonomically inclined
04. lugubrious...... J. embarrassing mischance
05. contretemps..... E. sorrowful
06. aquiline........ H. parchment overwritten later
07. portentous......I. ominously significant
08. palimpsest...... G. equal in lefts and rights
09. scintilla....... B. minute particle or trace
10. racemic......... J. embarrassing mischance

Mostly guesses!

Hans said...

embarrassed - me! my vocab stinks

best guesses


Metamatician said...

Well, I guess this was a hard quiz.


If you haven't taken the quiz yet but would still like to, by all means do, just don't look at the rest of my comment!

First, scores so far.
Pia - It's no fun to only takes quizzes you know the answers to, silly! Score = 0!

Mandula - Score = 4. Nice job.
BillyByte - Score = 3.
Hans - Score = 3. Not bad for a cat.

The correct definitions are:
01. irascible.... D. ill-natured
02. cladistic.... C. taxonomically inclined
03. pedantry..... A. slavish attention to rules
04. lugubrious... E. sorrowful
05. contretemps.. J. embarrassing mischance
06. aquiline..... F. eagle-like
07. portentous... I. ominously significant
08. palimpsest... H. parchment overwritten later
09. scintilla.... B. minute particle or trace
10. racemic...... G. equal in lefts and rights

Cladistics comes into use mostly in zoology, when one is arguing about how to group species and classes and so on. A cladist will tend to make more distinctions or categories, whereas a holist will emphasize that species evolve gradually, and may question the whole idea of taxonomy if he/she is extreme enough.

I always associate lugubrious with Eeyore from Winnie-the-Pooh. Apparently so does the zoologist and author Richard Dawkins, because he referred to Eeyore's "lugubrious" manner of speaker in his latest book!

Contretemps is indeed a French word, but also a borrowed word in English. It's something akin to a faux pas - an embarrasing situation.

In the Middle Ages especially, when parchment was expensive, scribes would often wash older parchments as best they could and then write afresh on them. With modern spectrographic techniques, we can often tease out the original, underlying text, and this has been great for such fields as historical literary study, as often these re-used manuscripts were pages from Bibles or works in Greek which are otherwise unknown presently, or known only in fragments or in later revisions.

Most of you got aquiline and portentous. 'Irascible' to me has always sounded like the angry buzzing of bees, which makes its definition as ill-tempered, annoyed, or irritated easy to remember.

Lastly, racemic, which no-one got, was probably too specalized. It's really only used in chemistry, where a "racemic mixture" is one in which, say, a broth of amino acids (or any protein) consists of a roughly equal mix of "left-handed" and "right-handed" varieties (proteins can be identical except for this mirrorlike property). On earth naturally, as opposed to in the lab, all biological proteins are left-handed, except for one which is not "handed" at all. The mystery of why this is so persists, for out in space (in comets, for instance), proteins and even simple amino acids exist, and they exist in both forms. For some reason on Earth, biological processed have favored left-handedness at the chemical level to the complete exclusion of right-handedness (but only in organic molecules). So if you're left-handed yourself, be proud!

Well, that was fun.

Next time I promise to make it much easier. I though Magdalene might come along and make a tottle of my quiz, so I was ready for her, but alas she hasn't shown yet.

Thank all of you for playing! I hope you'll come back to the site.


Metamatician said...


Yes, Pia, I know you knew racemic, but you didn't play the quiz, which is why I said no one got it.

Also, it seems I was wrong to restrict the concept to proteins; any molecules with chirality will do. See the following article if you're the pedantic type, and actually curious.

Racemic mixture (Wikipedia)

And finally I forgot to mention scintilla. I've always associated this one with scent, and as we all know a tiny trace of a scent (like perfume) can have a very noticeable effect, even in such dilute conditions. Or I suppose a shark might pick up on a scintilla of blood in the water half a mile away. Yikes!

Hans said...

next time i'll cheat if it's this hard. Rarrr!

Metamatician said...

I'll make it easier!

JOVIAN said...

Well, i know i screwed up but here it is anyway:

1 D
2 J
3 A
4 E
5 G
6 F
7 I
8 H
9 B
10 C

Metamatician said...

Well done, by Jove!

(Get it, by Jove? He doesn't get it, Mike. GET IT, BY JOVE? etc.)

JOVIAN has taken the lead from Mandula (sorry, Mandi) with a score of 7/10.

Good job. It was difficult.

Soul Survivor said...

I checked my own work.

Metamatician said...


Giusi said...

Too easy for people with Latin and some Greek in their background and three Romance languages in their foreground ;-)
Still, I did not know the words "racemic" and "cladistic", but I would have guessed right, knowing that "klados" means "branch".
"Scintilla" is also an Italian word and it means "spark". I like this word very much, even if you pronounce it in a different - wrong ;-) - way.
Weird enough, Italians use the word "palinsesto" - that is obviously "palimpsest" - also to define a TV channel schedule. But I can see why...
As to "portentous" ("portentoso" in my language), we use it mainly in the sense of "prodigous" and not really "ominous", but "portentu" in Latin is "omen".
"Lugubrious" is quite common in Italian ("lugubre") and, since you wrote what you associate it with, I can tell you my association as well: Bela Lugosi! I guess it's because of the consonance, but it's a perfect fit, don't you think? Lugosi knew how to choose his stage name!

Giusi said...

I meant "prodigious" of course...

Metamatician said...

Yep, you would get 10/10 on every language quiz I could think of. Maybe!

Thanks for coming by and humbling us all, Ms. Professional Translator :P

Giusi wins!

Seriously, thanks for posting! The more the merrier!

Giusi said...


But I did not know "racemic"!!! Too bad!

Raelha said...

I´m late again :( I jotted down 1D, 3A, 4E, 6F and 7I. The rest would be almost pure guesswork - I recognise most of the words themselves - that´s the easy part but am hard put to choose a definition. I´m going to cheat now - in the name of improving my vocab - and look at your answers

Metamatician said...

Ok, Rachel - glad you could make it. I know it's hard with no Internet at home.

Giusi, true, but then - how much chemistry did you take? And as you said you would have guessed it correctly by process of elimination.

One of these days I'm going to dig out some REALLY hard (English) words, and see which of Jovian, Giusi, or Raelha wins. And they may not all be of Latin-Greek origin, my Italian friend!

BTW, I always make these quizzes up myself and don't look anything up. It would be silly to expect my guests to define words I didn't even know. So in all my quizzes, I know all the answers or I would put the questions on there...

I may double-check a couple very rarely to make sure I don't make a fool of myself, but I haven't been wrong yet :)

Also apparently what we need in order to chop down some of these egos are MORE TOLKIEN QUIZZES. Just kidding.

Metamatician said...

*wouldn't put the answers in there...

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