An Interesting Word – Quixotic

‚ÄúFinally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind,” wrote Miguel de Cervantes in his completely true tale about knight errant Don Quixote of La Mancha. We’ve started listening to Don Quixote in the car this month, and we’ll probably be listening to it for a while as there are 35 CDs to the audio book! It’s beginning to seem like finishing Don Quixote is a quixotic quest in itself. Wait a minute, what does quixotic mean? Well, read on to find out! ūüôā

Quixotic is an adjective meaning¬†“hopeful or romantic in a way that is not practical.” Merriam-Webster further defines it as “foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals.” Impractical, unrealistic, and idealistic are good synonyms. Of course, quixotic comes from the last part of Don Quixote’s name,¬†and the meaning comes from Don Quixote’s foolish but romantic quest¬†to become¬†a knight errant who rights wrongs, fights monsters, and loves the beautiful Dulcinea.¬†The word was first used in 1791, according to It’s occasionally seen with a capital “Q” since it does come from Don Quixote’s name.

Here is a clip from the 1992 Spanish miniseries version of Don Quixote starring Fernando Rey. This is the scene where he attacks a group of windmills thinking they are giants.

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

Interesting Word – Pataflafla

I have just returned from an¬†epic quest! I was searching for an interesting word in the Enchanted Library of Knowledge (AKA Google). I looked through many lists, but nothing jumped out. Then, what luck! There, in front of me, was one of the most interesting words I’d ever seen: pataflafla!

What is a pataflafla? Technically, I’m not sure it’s even a word. It’s a descriptive name of a beat used in drumming. There¬†are¬†a lot of drumming websites that explain exactly what a pataflafla is.¬†However, I’m not a musician, so all those technical terms were lost on me.¬†So, to understand what a pataflafla is, I looked up a video of someone actually playing a pataflafla.¬†It sounds pretty cool!

This type of drum beat was originally used by the French military, and then by the Swiss. What I found out is that¬†a lot of these drumming rudiments’ names are based on how they sound, and pataflafla is no exception. According to, pataflafla got its name because “the first two strokes are singles (pa, ta) and the last two are flams (fla, fla), hence its name.”

Have you ever heard of this word? If so, comment below!

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

Interesting Word – Triskaidekaphobia

I remember very clearly the first time I heard this word. There was a kid’s game show I used to watch called Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman (I’d still be watching it if it wasn’t canceled!). Every week, the contestants were sent out on challenges, and the one week two of the kids had to write a rap song for Ruff’s grandma. What does this have to do with triskaidekaphobia? Well, the challenge included a list of words that had to be used in the rap. One of them was triskaidekaphobia. I have never ever forgotten this word or what it means!¬†What does triskaidekaphobia mean? Read on to find out!

Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13. It’s from the Greek words treiskaideka, meaning 13, and phobia, of course, meaning fear of. As I’m sure my readers know, 13 is considered an unlucky number, which is why some suffer from triskaidekaphobia. Why is 13 unlucky? No one knows for certain. Some believe it was because Judas was the 13th person to sit around the table when Jesus ate the Last Supper. There’s no Bibical proof for this, though. It’s also believed that the Vikings might have feared the number as Loki, god of mischief, was number 13 in the Norse pantheon. During the 1800s, Captain William Fowler decided he’d had enough of the¬†fear¬†of the number 13. He gathered together 12 friends and had dinner on Friday, January 13, 1882, at¬†8:13pm in Room 13. The guests walked into the room under a ladder and took their seats at a table¬†where there were spilled¬†salt cellars. This started a new sensation called Thirteen Clubs which four US presidents were part of. No triskaidekaphobia there!

I dug up the episode of Fetch where triskaidekaphobia was mentioned. It’s from season 2, and the episode is called “Tape Loops and Loop-the-loops.” You can hear the song at 21:00 if you don’t want to watch the whole episode. I actually still remember the grandma song pretty much word-for-word. I really loved this show growing up!

Have you ever heard of this word before? Did you ever watch Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman? Comment below and let me know! ūüôā

~ Kayla

An Interesting Word – Fractal

“Let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymore…” At this point I’m sure we all have heard the song “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen. I know I have it memorized. When I was listening to it for the umpteenth time, I realized there was a very interesting word buried in one of the lines. “My power flurries through the air into the ground; My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around…” What in the world is a fractal? Well, read on to find out!

According to, a¬†fractal is “a geometrical or physical structure having an irregular or fragmented shape at all scales of measurement between a greatest and smallest scale such that certain mathematical or physical properties of the structure, as the perimeter of a curve or the flow rate in a porous medium, behave as if the dimensions of the structure (fractal dimensions) are greater than the spatial dimensions.”¬†

In case you were as confused as I was after reading that definition,¬†a¬†more simple definition can be found¬† at They say “a fractal is a never-ending pattern. Fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales. They are created by repeating a simple process over and over in an ongoing feedback loop.” These “never-ending patterns”¬†were first discovered in 1975 by¬†Beno√ģt Mandelbrot. He discovered a set of numbers called the Mandelbrot Set. When the numbers belonging to this set were graphed,¬†they created a pattern.

The Mandelbrot Set Courtesy: "Mandel zoom 00 mandelbrot set". Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Mandelbrot Set
Courtesy: “Mandel zoom 00 mandelbrot set”. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

These beautiful, infinite patterns are called fractals. The word fractal was created by Mandelbrot and was derived from the Latin word “fractus” which meant “broken.”

Approximate fractals are found in nature. They’re called approximate since they don’t repeat infinitely like true fractals that are only found in math. Approximate fractals can be seen in heartbeats, pineapples, ferns, DNA, broccoli, lightning, and snowflakes.

In case you want to know more about fractals, here’s a short video about them.

If you want to know even more, here’s a video¬†from Dr. Jason Lisle talking about these beautiful patterns. It’s a little long, but if you have the time, it’s definitely worth it.

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla


An Interesting Word – Gyascutus

Imagine this: you’re taking a hike on a mountain trail. The trail wraps around the mountain, and¬†as you walk, you admire the beautiful striations in the rock beside you.¬†¬†The sky is blue, and there’s not a cloud in sight. Everything is perfect, and you can’t imagine the day being any better. Then, you hear a noise behind you. You turn around, but there’s nothing there. You relax, thinking it was just your imagination. Still, you can’t shake the feeling of dread that’s come over you. You continue on your hike, but¬†glance¬†back every few minutes, though you keep telling yourself you’re being silly. This time you turn around, knowing that you weren’t imagining the scratching sound behind you. It almost sounds like claws scrambling across the stones. That’s silly. There are no monsters on the mountain, you tell yourself. Forcing yourself to turn around and keep walking, you take shaky step after shaky step. Suddenly, a¬†roar sounds behind you,¬†and you spin around to find yourself face to face with a hideous monster hanging from the mountainside. Foam drips from the tips of its sharp teeth, and its long claws grip the side of the mountain. Its green eyes are wild and filled with rage. You take off running, your heart pounding¬†as the four-legged creature follows you, somehow running around the side of the mountain like a spider. Oh, no! What do you do?

Well, if you know¬†that this is a¬†gyascutus, you won’t be terribly worried.¬†According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, a gyascutus is the name of “an imaginary, large, four-legged¬†beast with legs on one side longer than those on the other, for walking on hillsides.” This crazy creature¬†is also called a sidehill gouger. They are depicted as living in burrows in the hillside and are herbivores, although that doesn’t mean they won’t attack. Wikipedia says, “When a clockwise gouger meets a counter-clockwise gouger, they have to fight to the death since they can only go in one direction.” The origin of the word gyascutus is unknown. It first appeared¬†in an 1840s American newspaper article by Frank C. Whitmore and Nicholas Hotton though legends of a creature similar to a gyascutus are¬†also found in¬†Europe.¬†There is a real life gyascutus, but it isn’t quite so big. It’s the genus name of a family of beetles.

Knowing what a gyascutus is, you quickly form a plan. You run as fast as you can along the mountain path, knowing there is a clearing up ahead. The gyascutus is right behind you, gnashing its teeth. You arrive in the clearing, and take a deep breath. Because the gyascutus’s legs are longer on one side than the other, if they come off the mountainside, they can’t walk. The gyascutus knows this and growls at you from¬†the mountain, and finally moves on. You’re safe! You continue on your hike, thankful your vocabulary has saved the day.

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

An Interesting Word – Tintinnabulation

I’m currently listening to The Taggerung by Brian Jacques, author of the Redwall series. The novel is read by the author himself, and Jacques has an amazing accent. One of my favorite things is when the story calls for the abbey bells to ring. Jacques always makes his voice sound like a ringing bell. In fact, it’s so good you probably couldn’t tell it from the real tintinnabulation of Matthias and Methuselah, Redwall Abbey’s twin bells. Hold it. Back up there. That’s a big word! What in the world¬†is tintinnabulation? Read on to find out!

Tintinnabulation is “the ringing and sounding of bells.” It comes from the Latin word tintinnabulum meaning bell. The word was supposed to sound like the ringing of bells. Edgar Allan Poe is sometimes cited as the creator of this word in his 1849 poem, The Bells. He seems to have¬†combined several different words, such as tintinnabulary,¬†that were similar to the Latin term. However, the word¬†is also¬†found in¬†Charles Dickens’s serial novel Dombey and Son¬†published from 1846-1848. So, it seems¬†that this word’s origins aren’t as clear as a bell.

Here is the word used in Poe’s poem:

“In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells –
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.”

You can find more about this word here:

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

An Interesting Word – Spanghew

If you are human, this word probably doesn’t stir up any feelings in you other than a bit of curiosity. If you are a frog or toad, however, this word produces an instinctive horror, a deep, dark terror from tales of long ago. This word¬†sends shivers down your spine, causes your cold blood to run even colder, and makes you hop away and hide. This word is what your nightmares are made of, and you pray that the word never becomes popular again.

Exactly why is this word so scary¬†if you happen to¬†be a frog or toad? According to Merriam-Webster spanghew means, “to throw violently into the air; especially, to throw (a frog) into the air from the end of a stick.” Yes, believe it or not, that is the real definition of spanghew. Now, spanghew can be defined more generally as¬†“to throw or jerk violently”¬†and used in a sentence like this: “The horse spanghewed its rider.” Usually though it’s definition involves amphibians. Where did this word come from? Well, “spang” comes from the Scottish word that means “to spring, leap, or throw.” However, no one is quite sure where “hew” came from.

I did a Google search on the word and found a paragraph in an 1846¬†book called A Glossary of North Country Words, with Their Etymology, and Affinity to Other Languages: And Occasional Notices of Local Customs and Popular Superstitions, Volume 2 by John Trotter Brockett and William Edward Brockett. In this book, there is a paragraph about how one goes about spanghewing. Apparently, a person would place a long wooden board on a stepping stone, place the frog or toad on one end of the board, and then, with a club, strike the free end of the¬†board sending the creature flying through the air to its doom. I’m not even sure what else to say after that, except to offer my apologies to frogs and toads everywhere.

I found a very short video of someone giving the definition and a sentence using the word:

Disclaimer: No frogs or toads were harmed in the writing of this post, and I definitely do not condone spanghewing any creature. ūüôā

~ Kayla

An Interesting Word – Oubliette

Yesterday, my Camp NaNo novel’s main character, Lark, found herself running from the palace guards who were trying to arrest her. The guards did manage to catch up with her after she ran smack dab into a Scottish guy (who is a future MC). Lark was taken to the castle, sedated, and today, she will wake up in Queen Alessandria’s palace. What does that have to do with the interesting word in the title¬†of the blog post? Well, knowing I would be putting Lark into a castle at some point, I checked out a book at the library: The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the Middle Ages: The British Isles from 500 to 1500. This book and the rest in the series¬†are great if you’re writing historical fiction or in my case, happen to need a list of castle terms. As Lark’s now trapped inside a castle, I thought it was a good time to pull out my handy-dandy castle term list and get my facts right!¬†Looking over the¬†list, I came across a lot of interesting words and¬†decided to share “oubliette” with my readers! ūüôā

An oubliette is a tiny dungeon where prisoners were kept, according to my Writer’s Guide book. It also says that “it was so small that the person stood hunched over and could neither sit nor move into a comfortable position.” It was typically a secret dungeon with¬†a trap door on the ceiling as an entrance, but it had no exit. The owner of the castle could throw a prisoner down there and completely forget about them. The word oubliette actually is derived from the old French term oublier which meant “to forget, show negligence” according to

I found a really interesting video on YouTube about an oubliette that they discovered at the Gallery of Justice.

Thankfully, the palace guards didn’t have any plans to lower Lark into an oubliette. I’m sure I can find some way to work this word into my story, though. It’s too interesting to be left unused! ūüôā

~ Kayla


An Interesting Word – Tomnoddy

“Quite apart from the stones no spider has ever liked being called Attercop, and Tomnoddy of course is insulting to anybody.” (The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, “Flies and Spiders”) When I first read that, I thought two things:¬†Bilbo better hurry up or the dwarves were going to be eaten by the spiders; and what in the world was a tomnoddy and why should I be offended by it? Well, today I decided to find out exactly what a tomnoddy is and share it with you.

According to, tomnoddy means “a fool; a dunce; a noddy.” In Scotland, it can also mean “a sea bird” or more specifically “a puffin.” I’m going to assume Tolkien’s intention was to call the spiders fools and not puffins. ūüėČ

This interesting word has an even more interesting etymology. According to,¬†tomnoddy was originally “dodman,” which meant “snail.” “Dodman” changed into “hodmadod” which meant “snail,” but it also came to mean “a deformed or clumsy person” which brings us one step closer to being¬†an¬†insult.¬†Since “hodmadod” just wasn’t strange enough, the word morphed into “hoddy-doddy” which also meant “snail,” as well as “a short and stout person” and “a fool, blockhead, or simpleton.” After “hoddy-doddy” came “hoddypoll.” This word had nothing to do with snails, thank goodness, and meant a “fumbling inept person.” Then came “noddypoll” which was shortened to “noddy,” which meant “stupid person.” Then noddy met Tom, and together, they became tomnoddy.¬†And of course, that brings us back to Tolkien.

The most famous quote using tomnoddy is from Tolkien. He uses it in the quote at the beginning of the post and also in the song that Bilbo sang, from the chapter “Flies and Spiders.”

Old Tomnoddy, all big body,

Old Tomnoddy can’t spy me!

Tom Noddy is also the stage name of an¬†American entertainer. He performs on TV¬†and all over the world. His “bubble magic” act involves clear and smoke bubbles, building structures with them, and creating cube bubbles.

I couldn’t find a video where someone actually said the word tomnoddy. But I did find a clip of the spider scene from The Desolation of Smaug. I think that was a wasted opportunity to have Martin Freeman sing the spider song from the book! ūüėČ

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

An Interesting Word – Snickersnee

It is the Council of Elrond. Frodo has just told the Council he will take the Ring to Mordor, and Gandalf has agreed to help him see it done. Suddenly, Aragorn stands up and says, “If by my life or death I can protect you, I will. You have my snickersnee!” Wait a minute. That’s not exactly what happened, is it? You, the viewer of all Middle Earth movies, would protest. What is Aragorn talking about? Is he speaking in Elvish? Aragorn could pledge his life, honor, or sword, but his snickersnee?

Well, it turns out that if Aragorn had pledged his snickersnee to protect Frodo, he would have been correct. A snickersnee, according to The Free Online Dictionary, is an archaic word that means “a knife resembling a sword” or “the act of fighting with knives.” According to, the term snickersnee¬†was first used in the 1690’s and comes from the term “snick-or-snee” which was in turn derived from the Dutch phrase “steken of snijden” meaning to stick and to cut.¬†

There’s a Louis Carroll poem, Jabberwocky,¬†that mentions something similar to snickersnee, a snicker-snack.

“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.”

There’s also¬†another quote that includes a snickersnee¬†from W. S. Gilbert in The Mikado.

“Oh, never shall I / Forget the cry, / Or the shriek that shrieked he, / As I gnashed my teeth, / When from its sheath / I drew my snickersnee!”

Here’s a video that includes the definitions of some other interesting words, including snickersnee:

Since you can’t have too much Lord of the Rings, I included the extended edition Council of Elrond scene. Just imagine Aragorn saying, “You have my snickersnee!.” ūüėČ

If you’d like to know more about this cool word, you can read about it here:

If you have a unquenchable desire to own a snickersnee, then I have great news for you! You can buy one off of Ebay!

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla