If you missed Part 1 last week, you should maybe catch up on that first because it establishes some important ground rules.
In Cheat Sheet 2 we complete the alphabet from N – Z. (And even if you don’t play Scrabble, some of these are excellent for crosswords).
N: nephalist (n.) an abstainer. Temperance will not go unchallenged this time of year when everyone else is so spaced-out they are into nephology (the study of clouds), but a discreet word of advice: staying one glass behind the rest gives you a distinct Scrabble advantage. If necessary, discreetly empty your glass into the pot containing the disoriented rubber plant (remember to water it well, later).
O: obtundent (adj.) dulling – as in excessive bibulous indulgence to lessen the pain of losing an argument when attempting to obfuscate the issue and confusing yourself instead.
P: pawky (adj. Scot.) sagacious, wise, or, depending who is talking about you, cunning, and that other indispensable Scottish word, canny. Pawky players win at Scrabble.
Q: quidnunc (n.) an inquisitive person, or a ‘know-all’, and possibly a gossip monger. Intriguingly, Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable tells me that ‘Quidnuncs’ is also the name of a Cambridge University old-blues cricket club founded in 1851. If that is too much information, quaff your wine and move on.
R: recreant (n.) a renegade, recidivist miscreant, craven turncoat from the true Scrabble path of righteousness and safe rules, but such name-calling is risible, merely good-humoured raillery, so take a pinch of your rappee (rough-cut snuff) and join in the laughter.
S: salmagundi (n.) a mixture of minced veal, turkey, anchovies – and other seasoned, seasonal leftovers – served with oil and lemon juice as a salubrious Scrabble snack. (Be kind and helpful, be the one to go out into the freezing-cold kitchen, bring in the bowl of salmagundi and serve a portion to everyone – you will be rewarded with a peek at their racks as you pass behind them).
T: termagant (n.) a turbulent, quarrelsome person, originally a fictional Muslim deity in Christian morality plays. Previously applied especially to women, but the modern male form, ‘trump’, is now widely used. And either sex may employ thaumaturgy (an illusory feat or magical act of deception) to switch a couple of letters while the rest of the party is diverted by tiffin.
U: ullage (n.) the amount by which a container, e.g. a cask of wine, is short of being full – ullage will steadily increase during a wet winter’s evening of Scrabble, giving rise to that ancient Chinese proverb: ‘the wine bottles empty as the udometer (rain gauge) fills.’
V: vellicate (v.) to twitch and jerk in anticipation of your turn because you have a seven-letter word burning a hole in your rack and its spot on the board must NOT be taken before you can place it there. Roget becomes quite lyrical on this definition: ‘to jump like a parched pea’. Indeed, if you are bored – i. e. you have terrible letters and are clearly going to lose – you could try flicking dried peas across the Scrabble board to see how far they will go.
W: wambly (adj. Scot.) unsteady, shaky – when your 12-year-old wins the game and behaves like a termagant in challenging you to another. For this you need lots of wampum – strings of polished shells, prized by certain North American tribes not only as a medium of exchange but also for the magical strength they impart to the wearer, like the mighty Megissogwon in Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha: ‘Tall of stature, broad of shoulder/ Dark and terrible in aspect/Clad from head to foot in wampum/Armed with all his warlike weapons,’
X: xerophagy (n.) a diet of fasting, meagre fare, Shakespeare’s ‘lenten entertainment’ and not at all appropriate for the festive season. I quote it because I love ‘x’ words: xiphoid – swordfish shaped; xebec – three-mast sailing boat; xanthic – yellow coloured; xylomancy – divination through the medium of sticks and twigs. (I’m not sure if it would tell you what Scrabble tiles are in the bag, perhaps you would try it and let me know?)
Y: yammer (v.) whimper, lament, grizzle and whine – e.g. when picking two ‘u’ tiles to go with the three ‘e’ and two ‘i’ you already have. And as I love ‘y’ words, too, here are some more, all with strategic applications in the above situation: yoick – yell; yowl and yawl –howl; yawp –yelp or yap, and yarr (Scot.) – snarl and snipe.
Z: zenith (n.) 1. That part of outer space above our heads. 2. The highest point of achievement which is, of course, to win at Scrabble. That should be enough, but I will keep going for anyone contemplating the writers’ A – Z challenge in April. Zemstvo – local councils elected to oversee provincial districts in Tsarist Russia; zanana – rooms of a house in which women and girls are secluded; zetetic – questioning, as in interrogating the Scrabble Bible at every turn; ziganka – Russians again, this time, a folk dance; zoetic – alive and kicking, as I hope you are after following my hazardous recommendations on Scrabble.
If you love words, it’s a good bet that you love books, too. If so, there is ‘a book-lover’s book’ written and designed especially with you in mind: A Biography of Story, A Brief History of Humanity. You can read about it here.
If you are a writer, a wannabe writer, or an ought-to-be writer, and would like to confound a few readers with some of these words, do take a look at what Anne Stormont, reviewing in Words with JAM, describes as “An essential how-to manual for writers of every sort.”
Season’s Greetings and a Healthy, Successful New Year to you all!