Category Archives: word pictures


This is a word picture.

commensal. /kəˈmɛn səl/. adjective. 1. Sharing the same table. 2. Living in the same area as a different person, organism, or group without competition or harm. From Latin con ‘with’, ‘together’ + mensa ‘table’.


“There are monsters,” Kalan says as he chews his stew.

His grandfather raises an eyebrow. His grandmother smiles benignly. His father says “Don’t eat and talk at the same time.”

Kalan looks over at his friend Ethan, who is visiting them for supper. Ethan has red-sandy short hair and fine features. He’s sitting in front of the window, which has twelve panes. It looks out onto a front porch with powder blue square balusters and railing, and beyond that a tidy lawn, still green, still bearing the scuffs and rolling indents from the two boys’ play last hour. Kalan has dark hair and all the adults say to each other that he is a very good looking boy. Some say the girls had better watch out for him, and some say he had better watch out for the girls, and the rest don’t say that sort of thing. Behind Kalan on the wall is a framed reproduction of a Renoir restaurant scene, a lively litter of young men and women with tidy straw hats around a messy still life of a table featuring three half-empty wine bottles and plenty of messy white linen.

“That’s so dumb,” Lily says. Lily is four years older than Ethan and is, as her grandmother says, “budding.” In a half dozen years she could be in that painting, which is getting more of her gaze than her brother or his friend.

“I heard Ethan’s parents talking about them when I was over there,” Kalan says. Continue reading


loury, lowery

This is another word picture.

loury also spelled lowery. /laʊ(ə)ri/. adjective. Frowning, scowling, threatening, dull, gloomy; especially used of weather. From lour, lower, noun and verb, meaning ‘frown, scowl’.


It’s such a beautiful scene, such a fine picture: the sea-swell of the field, still early-summer green, smudged with sunlight, cut off at the top in an unsteady line to meet the blue and white and filthy grey of the sky. At the bottom it is fringed by ruffs of cattails and tickling prairie grass, and then a gravel road. Wind is coming, and everything tingles waiting to bend in it. Rain is coming, and all this will shine five shades darker.

Will this man walking along the edge of the road be in it when it comes? Continue reading


Today, another word picture.

rathe. [reɪð]. adverb. Quickly, rapidly, soon, early (as in the morning). From a Germanic etymon.


It’s so dark in the park, and the fountain so bright, you can’t see more than silhouettes. Silhouettes of the metal dogs vomiting water up into the tiers of the fountain. Silhouettes of trees coming into leaf. Silhouettes of three people: two standing together, facing the fountain, a tallish man and a shorter woman, she leaning slightly into him; a third one in profile, holding up his phone to take a picture of the same thing the couple are looking at. You can’t see what they’re focusing on. You can’t see a body face down in the water. Continue reading


Today, another word picture: a short fictional word-image fantasia tangential to the word of the day.

lutescent. adjective. Tending towards yellow. From the suffix escent (as in adolescent) plus Latin luteus (with a long first u), ‘yellow’, not to be confused with Latin luteus (with a short first u), ‘muddy, made of clay, worthless’.


Picture the end of summer, when the aching greens of spring have relaxed, diluted their efforts, headed towards retirement. The cicada-timers have almost run out. Leaves are thinking of leaving. Barbecue smoke smells nostalgic. Things have been won, loved, and lost. She’s looking for one of them.

She is this young woman. And this one. Two pictures. Two waving sets of yellow strands.

In one, you see a field of prairie grass and shrub, shifting in shade from Chartreuse to Chartreuse, and behind it protestant evergreens and a catholic blue river. A young woman with her brown hair knotted back is walking through it with purpose. Something was lost in the mud of the bank and she wants it back. Continue reading


Today’s word is part of what I intend to be an occasional series of word pictures: short fictional word-image fantasias tangential to the word of the day.

gudgeon. noun. 1. A shiny silvery freshwater fish, easily caught, often used for bait. By extension, a gullible person. From Latin gobio by way of French goujon, and don’t ask me how gobio became goujon. 2. A socket-like (“female”) metal fitting made to connect to a pin-like (“male”) fitting (the pintle) to form a pivot, as for a gate, bell, spindle, axle, or what have you. From Old French gojon, perhaps connected to French gond ‘hinge’ or perhaps even related to that fish I just mentioned. verb. To be a gudgeon (extended sense) or to make a gudgeon of someone else.


She’s the only one looking at you, and even she isn’t looking at you. Her eyes, swung over her shoulder as though drawn by her backpack, have already skipped past you to someone more interesting behind. That man persecuting his smartphone with his fingertip as he walks a lemniscate path? The lady happily pursing a pair of fresh free promotional lipsticks? The young fellow with an indeterminate goatee walking mismatched dogs in three directions at once?

She’s looking at someone who may not be there. It’s not you. And it’s not the man standing at her other shoulder, who is not looking at her, not now.

She’s standing on a planter for a better view, but she’s not looking where everyone else is. The crowd in front of her are thirsting for a famous face, but that’s not who she’s here for. She’s waiting for someone who’s coming to see the glittering. Continue reading