Today’s quiz: Keen can mean: a. Play b. Repair c. Mourn d. Gallop

Here’s a troika of spiffy words meaning an inconsequential fuss or botheration: kerfuffle, contretemps and bow-wow. Certainly, for a spa to cancel a session would cause all of the above for their hedonist clients! Bow-wow also means gabble with a haughty tone akin to pontificating. “The boss’s bow-wow.”

Munificence may apply to generosity; also to extravagance, such as a sumptuous meal.

Earth science provides us with oodles of descriptive words to absorb and utilize. It has words for three different types of towers we observe in nature. A chimney spire is a cobble of rocks forming an outcropping on a mountainside. From the American West, a hoodoo is a swirling boulderstone, carved by erosion, that looks spooky — so the name fits! Hoodoo also means magic words, like a spell, or nonsense words. Then we have a sea stack which is a statuesque, craggy protrusion on the shoreline.

Try saying these words fast: swale, sward, swole. A swale is a marshy area between mountains. A sward is a cut strip of grass. But don’t confuse those two nature related words with the unrelated word swole, which means a trim, ripped human body.

A muskeg is a forest swamp in the upper U.S. and Canada. A firth is an estuary. A bayou is a river flowing from a swamp. A saddle is a slope between two mountains. A fells is a jagged sawtooth silhouette of mountains. Saddle River and Essex Fells are towns in New Jersey.

P.S. pronounce contretemps with a ‘tan’ sound for the last syllable because it’s a French word. Another Gallicism we’ve appropriated is comptroller, an official who quarterbacks finances. Pronounce it as controller, again since it’s a French word. Those are the most authoritative pronunciation recommendations I’ve uncovered in my research.

Bonus: Autochthonous biota is native.

Quiz answer: c. Mourn

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