I’ve been turning my attention to the gorgeous illustrations in my new American Heritage Dictionary and in the process have acquired some new vocabulary items, which will stick with me better for having been learned with a visual reference; herewith a sample (with simplified definitions and links to online images):
umiak ‘large skin-on-wood boat’
tole ‘painted metalware’
mutton snapper ‘a snapper of the western Atlantic’
emergence ‘outgrowth of plant tissue, e.g. a thorn’
anoa ‘small Philippine buffalo’
sennit ‘braided cordage’ [etymology unknown, by the way]
Rayonism ‘a variant of Futurism, with rays’ (I like the fact that of the two actual Rayonists, AHD chooses to illustrate the less famous, Natalia Goncharova, rather than her boyfriend Larionov)
In every case, the illustration in the dictionary is better than anything I could find online. It’s that kind of book.
A side note: I was amused and mildly irritated to see the following adjacent entries, with pronunciations as noted:
Olekma (o-LEK-m@) (a river of eastern Russia)
Olenek (ol-en-YOK, @-l@-NYOK) (a river of northeast Russia)
Now, it’s never easy to decide how authentic to be in giving pronunciations of obscure foreign place names, but why give the correct -yo- for the last -e- of Olenek and not for the -e- of Olekma (@-LYOK-m@)?

Addendum. Maureen Brian informs me that this site gives an etymology “from seven and knit” for “sennit.” I suppose it can’t be relied on too heavily, since the word was originally “sinnet” and the OED simply says “A nautical term of obscure origin,” but it’s an interesting speculation. Thanks, Maureen!


  1. last -e- of olenek sounds like -yo-, first -e- of olenek sounds like -e- of olekma. in russian there are different letters for -e- and -yo-.

  2. I know that (although the different letters are often not used), but all my reference sources say that the -e- of Olekma is a -yo- (as it should be if it’s from Evenk olookhunai, but Pospelov calls that derivation unconvincing). Do you have information to the contrary?
    By the way, in case it’s not clear, I’m using @ for the schwa; the AHD uses a completely different system of notation which I can’t reproduce.

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