Fastidious

Adjective

Being almost anal about details, meticulous, keeping everything neat and by the book.

“I had to count out each coin as the fastidious ten-year-old logged them in his notebook, five long minutes for a plastic cup of lemonade.”

Fastidious is frequently used to describe pedantic behavior. For example, if you’ve a very particular way of doing things that, if not abided, will cause mild distress.

“My husband was a fastidious critic of my dress, displeased with the slightest rumple or a color that did not match his shirt. Looking back, he might’ve been autistic.”

Laconic

Adjective

Concise to the point of sounding curt or stoic.

“He didn’t say much, and I couldn’t really tell what he wanted. He was laconic, dressed in a red tunic with a 9-foot swear-to-god spear and bronze shield. So I sidled out of the condiments aisle, abandoning the vinaigrette I’d been stocking.”

(Note: Laconic comes from the ancient Greek territory of Laconia, of which Sparta was the capital. Apparently the Spartans were known for being terse.)

Potato Chips

I’ve touched roses and smelled the sweet blossoms of spring. Naked in the summer moonshine. I’ve stood on the low-tide breakers at dawn, sun rise over the Caroline coast. Beauty, as you’d have it, golden leaves that drift to the lawn –I am no stranger: a come-home whiff of birch burning on a fire stove. The slow fall of snowflakes that christen the lawn. We’re children, in the comfort of the warmth indoors. Shake-out a cold sweater. Leave the dust for the motes. Wake for the burning sun.

The sun was soft for the graduation field. Black gowns and black caps. The rays down on the principal who spoke his peace: Love, economy, success. The wealth of nations, the burden of gods. Soak in the righteous face of a dollar. Stand up! This is your time to speak. The doctor is here to see you, he is the CEO. No more burning in a dark bed for you.

Hairstyles are timely. So are your jeans: the bum-warming leather of a luxury car seat.

Potato chips.

Desultory

Adjective

Not getting anywhere because you’re moving in arbitrary, haphazard directions.

“The idea had been Denver, but Neil was a desultory driver and we spent days in St. Louis before stopping in Memphis to call on Lisa.”

“Our desultory conversations hatched fantastic plans that had nothing to do with Denver and everything to do with not staying in one place for very long.”

(Note: Merriam-Webster lists “disappointing in progress, performance, or quality” as a third definition, but that’s shit usage for a great word. Consider this example:

“The first two games, desultory losses at Denver and Chicago, certainly validated the camp that feels the Seahawks’ era of dominance has ended.” (The Seattle Times)

Here, desultory means disappointing and gives the noun no new qualities. If you’re going to use a great word like desultory, use it in a way that connotes a new quality.)


Mendicant

Noun

A beggar.

“The mendicant needed shoes, 500 miles from Biloxi.”

Also used as an adjective: “High Street gets a lot of mendicant vagabonds in the summer.”

Note: Mendicant is often used to connote a sense of wandering and comes most directly from the Latin word for beggar. However, in the 14th century the word picked-up an association with religious groups that depended on alms, so that mendicant is acceptably applied to religious or spiritual devotees.

“The Bibles were common among mendicant Franciscans of the time who took vows of poverty and renounced all worldly possessions.” –from APNews.com

Febrile

Adjective

Having the symptoms of fever.

“He was wracked with febrile sweats most of the week.”

But fever, central to the definition of febrile, can also mean agitated and excited (Saturday Night Fever ain’t about the flu). This secondary definition of fever has informed our usage of febrile, making it acceptable to say:

“His frustration became a febrile anger.”

“The febrile crowd became a mob when they heard Ozzy wouldn’t be appearing.”

Abrogate

Verb, transitive

Ending something (usually a law) by official decree, law, or authority:

“The Republican-controlled Congress was unable to abrogate much of the ACA.”

Also, effectively ending something by ignoring it:

“Ever the optimist, Gerry thought he could abrogate the restraining order.”