Tag Archive: words

Word for Thought: doldrums


What it means: a state of inactivity or stagnation; a dull, listless mood

This word comes from the region called “the doldrums,” also known as the equatorial calms, an area of light and changeable winds around the equator. This low-pressure zone can be found in parts of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. The low pressure is created as air rises, due to the heat at the equator, and then descends again as it hits the horse latitudes. The area affects the trades winds, and its instability can give rise to squalls and hurricanes.

Why I chose it: After using this descriptive word many times, I still appreciate its imagery and metaphor. Who hasn’t felt the ennui of drifting immobility and the tempestuous rage it sometimes can produce? Languorous and creative, all at once!


What it means: nautical term for a container with the day’s water supply in it; the modern connotation is gossip, news, or idle talk

The rumored (yup, pun intended) origin of how we use the word today is this:  In days of old, an open cask or keg (called a butt) would be placed on the deck of a ship at sea, near the hatch (skuttle).  Sailors would gather at this watering hole to chew the fat.  Sounds suspiciously like the office water-cooler.

Why I chose it: It rolls off the tongue, just like idle chatter.


They can be tantalizing, infuriating, colorful, and provocative. Sometimes I run across one that is particularly interesting, another that people often use in the wrong way, or one that’s newly entered the English lexicon, and I just want to share it!  So I will — here, under Word for Thought.

This won’t be a “word of the day” thing — some days may usher in more than one fascinating word, while we may go for weeks without a decent one … nah, that last part probably won’t happen.  It’s more likely that I won’t have time to post them all.  Allrighty then, here’s the inaugural word for thought:


What it means: contained in, carried on, or pertaining to letters (as in snail-mail); from the Latin epistolāris: of or belonging to a letter

Pen-pals have epistolary relationships.  A book composed of letters between characters is an epistolary novel. An epistle is a formal letter, like the apostolic letters in the New Testament.

Why I chose it: I had just posted a book review referring to the epistolary writing of author Steve Kluger, and I realized that some people might be scared away from his funny, observant, fast-read books by this five-syllable behemoth with the simple definition.

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