New words



It's one of those close and drizzle-filled autumn days when everything smells of damp and mould and fungus. I really like the slight freshness in the air that seems to intensify smells; in seasonal synchronicity even my damp woollen jacket's smell is complementary to the autumnal scent.
And then the always excellent Gaw goes and posts about the divine tasting and earthy smelling
Beetroot.

Which reminded me to post some utterly useless information to baffle your friends - you might like to know that a main component of the smell of Beetroot is the organic compound Geosmin

Geosmin is the compound that causes the very distinct smell of earthiness. I like it as an obscure word and also as a slightly obscure concept. But geosmin leads you to the even better fact that apparently there's a word for the amazing and mysterious smell of rain on hot dry earth, and the word is rather lovely and mysterious sounding too, it's Petrichor.

I do like being pleasantly surprised by my own language every now and then.

5 comments:

Gaw said...

What brilliant words - it's not often you get to learn two such high quality ones on the same day. It's all so genuinely exciting I've updated my post.

BTW I learnt another obscure word the other day, colocynthic: literally pertaining to a plant of the ancient world whose fruit had bitter, inedible seeds (coined by Fugitive Ink). I assume it would be used to describe something or someone whose seemingly reasonable product turns out to be unappealing. E.g. we might in a year or two describe the 'colocynthic Cameron'.

Bunny Smedley said...

These are indeed beautiful words - thanks for finding them! I wish I had known petrichor when growing up in a hot part of the world, but it would still be more than useful for London streets in summer.

As for 'colocynthic', the way I use it - although it wasn't my invention - refers to the medicinal use of the relevant gourd-type plant, which is a strong purgative. Thus, it means not just 'bitter' but 'bitter in a purgative, gut-wrenching but possibly beneficial sort of way'. Actually, if Cameron lived up to that billing, I'd be quite pleased!

Gaw said...

Bunny, thanks for putting me right - a purgative, even better. I haven't found it used anywhere else in this adjectival/adverbial form (I've found just 'colocynth') - so I gave you credit for it!

The fact that petrichor was what the Greek gods had running in their veins makes it an even richer word. I wonder how the coiners of this usage got from god's blood to that very distinct earthy smell...

Kevin Musgrove said...

Petrichor! Thank you.

worm said...

Bunny + Gaw, in germany they drink sauerkraut juice - from now on I shall know to refer to it as a colocynthic! many thanks!

I actually learnt another great word yesterday - a 'legomenon' - that being a word that only occurs once in the entire record of a written language...