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I’m one of those people who look up the meaning of unfamiliar words, a concept that seems strange to my granddaughters who prefer to interpret meaning from context, or not worry about the meaning.  Be that as it may, however.  This blog is not a gripe about the youth of today: it’s about three unfamiliar words I encountered on today’s BBC website.  Here’s the first


In an article about the discovery of an ancient child sacrifice site in Peru, the word bioarchaeologist cropped up:

The children may have been sacrificed when sacrificing adults did nothing to ward off the adverse climate events, bioarchaeologist Haagen Klaus told National Geographic.

“What’s a bioarchaeologist,” I wondered, “and why isn’t it spelt with a hypen: bio-archaeologist?”

It turns out that a bioarchaeologist is someone who studies biological remains, such as bones and hair, found in ancient archaeological sites.  I suppose it’s obvious when you think about it.

The meaning of the next word wasn’t so obvious, however.


Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and problem fixer is currently under investigation by the FBI and, apparently, Trump is not best pleased.  Among other things, Cohen is involved with the alleged hush payment made to adult film actress, Stormy Daniels, who says she was paid $130,000 to keep her mouth shut (no double entendre intended) about her involvement with Donald Trump.  A recent FBI raid on Cohen’s office and hotel room was authorised by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, a position currently occupied by acting head, Geoffrey Berman.  It turns out that Trump recommended Berman for the United States Attorney position and Berman is waiting for Senate ratification of his new job.  Hence, Berman was put in a difficult position when asked to sanction the raid on someone who could become a liability to Trump.  Here’s what caught my eye:

Geoffrey Berman has served as the acting US attorney for the Southern District for more than a year after Mr Trump fired his predecessor, Preet Bharara. He’s a long-time Republican donor, including to Mr Trump’s presidential campaign, and has reportedly recused himself from the investigation.

“Is recuse like excuse?” I asked myself.  I was close.  It turns out that the verb to recuse means to excuse or withdraw yourself from a situation because of a potential conflict of interest or, possibly, an inability to remain impartial.  I didn’t know that!  I think Trump had Better Call Saul instead of Cohen!

Egg plaque

The third unfamiliar word, actually, a word combination, was egg plaque.  This combination occurred in an article about an infestation of Oak Processionary Moths (OPMs) in London detected by the eagle-eyed scouts of the Forestry Commission:

OPM  caterpillars were spotted emerging from egg plaques in mid-April, and trees were later treated on 23 April, the Forestry Commission added.

The hairs on OPMs are toxic and can cause asthmatic reactions, vomiting and skin rashes, and the article warned people to keep away if they come across the moth.  But, what’s an egg plaque, I mused.

Now, I know what an egg is and I know what a plaque is and a quick Google search revealed gift item plaques in the shape of an egg that could either be hung on a wall, or from ear lobes, or used as a mould to produce chocolate egg plaques as a form of Easter egg.  But moths don’t lay eggs on such plaques, do they?

Egg plaque moulds

It turns out that this particular moth lays its eggs, up to 300 of them, in rows along a branch and these rows are called egg plaques.  Here’s a picture:

OPM egg plaque

Neat, huh?   These words are now in my vocabulary.  When asked why I look for the meaning of unfamiliar words, my usual answer is, “It’s because I have logophilical, etymological and sesquipedalian tendencies!”  Go figure.