dog’s dinner

A poor job; a mess.

Editor’s note: In one of those moments of delightful synchronicity, shortly after looking up this phrase, I happened to see my colleague Rachel describe something as “a dog’s breakfast”, which turns out to be synonymous.

For some reason I am really charmed by these two phrases, especially since no one says “a dog’s lunch”. I’m adding these to the list of things to start saying — maybe they’ll catch on in the US?

The occupant looks to be in his early thirties, has a gelled mullet, an off-the-peg suit from a mid-range high-street outfitter, and is making a dog’s dinner of wrapping a big box of Scalextric.

Definition from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved. (via Wordnik)

involution

[EMBRYOLOGY] The ingrowth and curling inward of a group of cells.

This delightful word apparently also means “entanglement; a spiraling inwards; intricacy”.

“Not with the names initially tried; the only result was that symmetrical involutions appeared in the surface of the egg.

Definition from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition (via Wordnik)

gooseberry

[BRITISH] An additional person who is neither necessary nor wanted in a given situation; what we in the US would call a third wheel.

“We met girls, Hugo. One for CP, one for Olly, one for moi. Come and say hello.”

“You know how shy I am around women.”

He finds this too funny to laugh at. “Pants—on—fire.”

“Really, Fitz, no one loves a gooseberry. Who are they?”

Definition from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License (via Wordnik)

emprise

An undertaking; an enterprise; an adventure.

“Do you know the word ‘emprise’?” she asked.

I sighed, thought. “I don’t believe I do.”

“It means a dangerous undertaking.”

“Does it?”

“It does. Do you partake of dangerous undertakings, sir?”

I leant forward, my gaze going to one side then the other. “Am I partaking in one now?” I asked quietly.

Definition from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia (via Wordnik)

flaneur

n. One who strolls about aimlessly to savor the sights of a city.

v. To act like a flaneur.

Wikipedia has some fascinating depths here:

The flâneur was, first of all, a literary type from 19th century France, essential to any picture of the streets of Paris. The word carried a set of rich associations: the man of leisure, the idler, the urban explorer, the connoisseur of the street. Continue reading

farrago

A collection containing a confused variety of miscellaneous things.

Compare: salmagundi, panoply.

Forensics will have a proper farrago to disentangle by the time you’re found—especially if the triple murderer leaves the patio door ajar for the foxes, crows, stray cats … The mess!

Definition from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License (via Wordnik)