WordNerd strikes again: on beer, diamonds, and beauty

It makes sense to see the words “diamond” and “beauty” together, but what do they have to do with beer?

This post title reflects the way my mind has been working lately. It’s rambling all over the place. Several blog articles have been started, but none finished.

However, the word nerd section of my brain has been alert, and picked up several new words within a 24-hour period. The first word I want to write about here is Radler. Radler is not a new word for me, because last summer it became my favourite hot-weather beverage. To be precise, it was Steigl’s grapefruit Radler that I discovered, and despite fairly extensive sampling of other Radlers over the past few months, I still consider this one to be superior to the rest.

Radlers belong on the balcony on a summer evening.

Radlers belong on the balcony on a summer evening.

However, on Sunday August 23rd, I was excited to see a post about Radlers on the Wordlady’s blog. Wordlady is Katherine Barber, the Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary and an expert (as one would expect) on the English language. From her article (which you can read in full here), I learned that Radler is a German word derived from another German word, Fahrrad (bicycle). As Barber relates, Radlers were invented in the late 19th century when German cyclists discovered that rehydrating with their preferred drink (beer) interfered somewhat with their cycling ability, but when they diluted the beer half-and-half with water (and later refined this by replacing the water with lemon-lime soda) they could keep riding!

Barber also notes that the British call this drink a Shandy, and they make it with a mixture of beer and a citrus-flavoured soda like 7-Up or Sprite (which they call lemonade). Radler flavours have expanded from the original lemon-lime to include grapefruit or orange versions.

The next expression that piqued my curiosity during the same 24-hour period was marquise diamond. I like listening to 94.5 FM’s 90-minute workday kickoff (with Johnny, Holly, and Mira) when I’m driving around in the morning; I was between Mundy Park and the gym when they played Selena Gomez’ latest hit, “Good For You.” One of the lines repeated in the lyrics is “I’m a marquise diamond..”

Holly (or was it Mira) admitted that she had to look up what marquise diamond was. She reported that it’s a diamond shaped like an eye, except oriented vertically, with a rounder top end and a pointed bottom end to make a teardrop shape.

When I got home I looked it up in—where else?—the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. The only problem was, I thought I had heard the words “marquee diamond’” so that is what I looked up. CanOx had no entry for that expression, but there was an entry for the word “marquee” by itself. One of the definitions seemed apt:

b. (attributive) North Amer. popular enough to be listed on a marquee; famous (a marquee player, achieved marquee status)

Well, that kind of makes sense, I thought to myself. A “marquee diamond” is an extra-expensive kind of diamond that only famous and high-status people can afford to show off.

A marquise diamond

A marquise diamond.

Wrong. As I found out when I googled “marquee diamond,” and “marquise diamond” popped up instead. I learned that this name for a diamond comes from the Marquise de Pompadour. King Louis XV gave her this oval-shaped diamond to mimic what he thought was the perfect shape of her mouth.

The online sites I viewed described marquise diamonds as being symmetrical, so I don’t know where Holly got the idea that they are teardrop-shaped. They usually have 58 facets, and their shape gives the optical illusion that they are bigger than they are.

Cover of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot DiazDiamonds, beautiful in themselves, can be worn to enhance a woman’s pulchritude—that is, beauty. Why did I never know what that word meant? I finally got curious enough to look it up yesterday after encountering it several times in Junot Diaz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

The CanOx definition for pulchritude is simple:

noun literary beauty

I would never have guessed it. “Pulchritude” sounds ugly, not beautiful! (pulchritudinous). Maybe the sound of it reminds me of words that are ugly or have negative connotations: crude, vulgar, mulch, rude, puke.

Well, that’s the way a word nerd’s mind works. What is fascinating to me is the way I can learn from all kinds sources: popular (94.5 FM Virgin radio), high-brow (Diaz’s dazzling literary novel, with its abundant use of Spanish words that I can’t understand at all), and specialist-nerd (Wordlady’s blog). It’s just a matter of paying attention and being curious and letting my mind link everything in its own way.


About nancytinarirunswrites

I used to be known as a competitive runner, but now I have a new life as a professional writer and editor. I'm even more obsessive about reading, writing, and editing than I was about running. Running has had a huge influence on my life, though, and runner's high does fuel creativity. Maybe that's why this blog evolved into being 95% about running, but through blogging I'm also learning about writing and online communication. I'm fascinated by how the Internet has changed work, learning, and relationships. I love to connect in new and random ways!
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