Learning in the “Wild”

Đề is reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed, a memoir on the journey of the author herself hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). PCT, a long distant hiking trail, is 2,663 mile long with one end is on the U.S border with Mexico, the other is on the U.S. border with Canada. Averagely, the full hike requires six months to thoroughly prepare and six more months to hike. She finished half of that. The trail crosses 25 national forests, 7 national parks and covers a wild range of tough weather. Needless to say, it was an ultimate challenge for a woman to even just think about it, let alone to hike by herself in such wilderness. Cheryl was having a hard time in the grief of her mother’s death and going through her divorce to the man she was still in love with, when she decided the hike the PCT. But that’s another story, this post is about its vocabulary. 

It was a well-written book and wasn’t too hard to read. Each page only has three to four words that are new to Đề, but that’s enough to make a good list of vocabulary to learn from the book. Considering her “amazing” memory which manages to forget almost everything that should be remembered, it is obvious to Đề that she won’t able to learn those words just by folding each page of the book with the page corner pointing exactly at the new word. Writing them down here and getting to know them more might be a better idea. 


The PCT passes the High Sierra trail which, at the time the author hiked, was experiencing a record snow storm, the worst in at least the last decade. Given very little of hike-in-snow experience and her not-so-right hiking equipments due to her poor preparation, the author decided to detour to avoid risking her life with such weather condition. On the new path that she had to take to bypass the snowy part, she crossed the Sierra city. While taking a break in a small convenient store by the road, she noticed a brochure that said this city was wiped out by an avalanche in 1852. Here comes the first word of this post. An avalanche is a massive and rapid flow of snow flow down a mountain side. Simply put, it is a snow-slide or a snow-slip. This reminds me of a viral event last year when Vietnamese social media was hit by a story of a mid-20 Vietnamese female hiker survived the Nepal blizzard and avalanche. 

Feline and Canine

Feline means relating to or resembling cats, so does Canine to dogs. These were used by the author to describe the fox she encountered in the forest, “it looked half feline, half canine”. In that morning while hiking on top of the snow, she suddenly realised a fox coming her way, soundlessly thanks to the snowy ground. It was right in front of her, about ten feet away, sniffing around. “He was barely knee-high, though his strength was irrefutable, his beauty dazzling, his superiority to me apparent down to his every prestige hair”. Her heart was racing, thinking if she should scramble to behind the tree to hide. But lucky for her that day, when the fox noticed her, it studied her for few seconds then turned and walked away. These words can be used as nouns too, feline is a cat and canine is a dog.


Due to the extreme hardship of the trail, not so many people hike it. Not only because people embark at different point of the trail, at different time but also their different hiking speed made it hard for them to come across each other. There were times that Cheryl had to hike through out days without seeing any human sight nor that of civilisation. That’s why when she walked down a jeep road and saw an SUV with stuffs of a modern life in the front seat like a hooded sweatshirt, a cardboard coffee cup or immaculate zip lock bags , she couldn’t help but feel reminiscent of her former life. Reminiscent means suggesting something by resemblance.


Cheryl has a tattoo of a horse on her shoulder. It was Lady, a dear horse of her mother. Cheryl’s mother was’t happy with her husband, Cheryl’s biological father, she was chronically violently abused by him. She lived a long time in pain before having the courage to finally getting away from him. Both mentally and physically weak, the mother needed something to hang on to and she, once a cowgirl, decided to get Lady, a beautiful horse to keep her company. But after she died from cancer, her at-the-time boyfriend started neglecting the horse. Furthermore, Lady was old and weak to the point that Cheryl and her brother believed it would be awful to let the horse die of nature. They had to euthanise Lady. Euthanise is to intentionally end a life to relieve if from suffering. Cheryl couldn’t afford to hire a veterinarian and she couldn’t let the horse to die in some stranger’s hands. Therefore, she and her brother had to take Lady down with a gun themselves.  


Because of the wild nature of such a long-distant hike, after days of hiking, Cheryl realised how much different her current life is from the past days, how her attention completely shifted and how she stopped concerning if she was “infinitesimally fatter or thinner than the day before”. All she could feel during the hike was the brutal pain on her shoulder while she had to carry the Monster, that’s how she named her back pack, which was so heavy that it was almost impossible for her to even lift it off the ground; and the agony that her feet had to bear. Her toes ripped off because she chose the wrong size of shoes. Again, if it wasn’t for her poor preparation, she could have had a lighter backpack and a fitter pair of shoes. Let’s have a closer look at the word infinitesimally. One can easily spot out the “infinite” part and would somewhat guess that this word refers to something infinite. And it’s natural to think of something infinitely large, or maybe just me. But in the contrary, this word comes from the modern Latin word infinitesimus which means infinite-th level in a defending scale. Thus, infinitesimal means unmeasurably small, but not yet to the point of none existence. 


p.s. Only few words have already made quite a post, Đề feels like she could write a whole other book just to talk about the vocabulary of a given book. 



Some of the words in Mọt Sách, our vocabulary list, have been used in Prison Break. When Đề heard them out, Đề couldn’t be happier.


When Scylla was stolen by Scofield and his gang, the Company’s leaders had an urgent and intense meeting in which one of the card holder questioning the General about his next plan. The General was beating around the bush trying to sell some promising statements when the card holder interrupted, “It is a yes or no question, General… We don’t need a soliloquy”.


The General to comment on the capability of Michael Scofield family “The Scofield-Burrows family would have been a formidable asset to the Company.”


The Company people trying to explain to Mike why his mom left him and his brother for so long: “She left you and your brother to save you. There were threats, you and Lincoln might be kidnapped. You were in imminent danger.”

The last two are words Đề learn from the series.

Jeopardize: to endanger

After breaking out of the River Fox, the convicts came after Charles’ treasure. They disguised as some electricity-water guys to have an excuse digging up the garage. Then Sucre and C-Note walked in with “flawless timing” and without proper “uniforms” on, Michael said “the two of you being here jeopardize everything”.

When Mike and Lincoln were fooled by the home-land security guy Don Self who got away with Scylla, Lincoln Burrows was abducted by Self’s boss and accused of breaking the deal, stealing Scylla and killing two government agents. He roared angrily “Stop thinking about us and focus on Self. Why would we jeopardize our freedom? That’s the only thing we care about.”

Conduit: a mean by which something is transmitted.

After Don Self double backed on his operation sponsors and Michael’s gang, he asked Gretchen for a new buyer of Scylla, Gretchen suggested a conduit, who acts as a middleman bringing them to a real buyer.

Dr.Q And Word Origins

First of all, Bồ would like to dedicate this second post to Dr.Q.

For over the years, Dr.Q has been a great source of academic inspiration. He is also a very knowledgeable and visionary mentor of mine.

I must accredit Dr.Q for the informative value of this entry. Not only for  all of these definitions (every single one of them) have I learned from him, but also for the explanations of their origins.

This entry is simply a revised narration of a conversation I once had with Dr.Q. As usual, Bồ asked Dr.Q for the definition of one word. And the question, after being thoroughly answered, triggered about ten more other terms.

The cue word of that day was maverick. And the story began…


The term maverick is used to refer to someone who is a social outcast, a rebel. Nonconformists who insist on doing things their ways are called mavericks. The story behind this word dated back to the 1800s, where a cattleman named Maverick, let his cows run unbranded without any identification mark. Since then, people used his name to address anyone that acts against social conventions. Maverick was a maverick because he did not follow common practice of herding his animal.

After taking care of the term maverick, I then asked,“Do all English words have interesting origins like maverick?” Here is the answer, maverick is an eponym. Then, the term eponym arose…


An eponym is a word that originates from a person’s name. An epic example is sandwich-that thing you ate this morning. It is named after the guy, who practically put the idea of eating two slices of bread filled with meat into actuality, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.

And so, the rest of the entry will be all eponyms.


I am pretty positive that most people have, at least one point in their lives, heard of the character Don Quixote (pronounced Don-kee-ho-teh). He is a fictional character from the Spanish novel “Don Quixote” who is overly idealistic to the point of impractical. The adjective quixotic, is used to direct to people, things, ideas that are unrealistic or implausible. A friend of mine believes that it is possible to completely wipe out all corruption and venality in our society; to obtain a sustainable utopia model of society where everything is pristine. He and his idea are quixotic.


A martinet is a very strict disciplinarian. He or she demands absolute conformity and adherence to rules and regulations with no flexibility, no room for tolerance. So if you have a teacher that won’t accept your homework to be written in anything other than pencil, she is a martinet. Or a boss who punctiliously cavils over trifling flaws; flaws that aren’t allowed in his book of rules. He is a martinet. Just like other words, martinet is coined after a French military officer named Martinet. He was (surprise!) a martinet.

There were about five more eponyms Dr.Q mentioned, but please pardon my limited memory. Those above are all I could remember.

Prison Break and Similar Word Pairs.

This is the first entry written by Bồ.

I’d like to thank Đề for taking her time creating this blog and frequently updating it.

The purpose of this blog is to study lexicon. Now, one productive way, to digest new words the minute we encounter them, is to associate words we learn with contexts we know. Since Bồ and Đề are both big fans of the TV show Prison Break, today Bồ will borrow events, circumstances and assumable facts from the show to demonstrate definitions of some words. The vocab in this entry are commonly confused pairs, thus I think it’d be more efficient to put them aside for perusing.

Vindicate vs Vindictive:

Vindicate is a verb. To vindicate someone is to free the person from his previous blame and justify him as innocent. The synonyms are exonerate and exculpate. Most people are familiar with exonerate. And you probably recognize the root <culp> in exculpate. Remember culpable, meaning guilty, or culprit -the person who is responsible for a crime/wrongdoing. Now we add the prefix <ex->, meaning “out of” to <culp>, thus we just exclude the person out of his blame. Veronica tried to convince the Supreme Court to vindicate Lincoln Burrows.

Vindictive is an adjective. A vindictive person is a revengeful person, who is always seeking for revenge and looking to retaliate for a wrong that has been done.
At one point in the show, Lincoln Burrows becomes vindictive after Mahone killed his father.

Ingenuous vs Ingenious:

Ingenious means artful, adroit, resourceful and clever. Especially when the subject of speak shows creativity and inventiveness. Michael Scofield would be an exemplar of this adjective. Michael, without qualification, put together ingenious ideas to blueprint elaborate plans, and, adeptly, broke out of prisons.

Ingenuous, on the other hand, means artless, innocent, trusting, guile, or simple. It could be used as a compliment or an insult. Regarding to the show, I honestly don’t think any character would fit in the definition of this word. Perhaps those little children who haphazardly show up here and there as potential preys of Theodore Bagwell.

The only difference between Ingenuous and Ingenious is the letter ‘u’ vs ‘i’. One mnemonic I came up with is to correlate the ‘i’ with inventive, and the ‘u’ with trusting. Doesn’t sound cogent enough to serve as an adequate mnemonic. Feel free to come up with your own.

Preemptive and Peremptory:

To act before someone else does is to act preemptively. There are a number of situations in Prison Break where actions are anticipated and taken preemptively. Alexander Mahone, despite being wise and prudent, is almost always one step behind Scofield. Just as he is about to catch up with the brothers, Michael has preemptively made his way out of town.

Peremptory means arrogant, bossy and overbearing. Just to be nice, I will ascribe this word to Bradly Bellick, although I feel like this adjective sounds way too classy for his temperament. Bradley Bellick, when was in authority, exercised the little power he had, consistently put Michael in precarious situations. And of course, he was extremely peremptory, to the point of obnoxious.


I am so determined to write an entry today, thou I haven’t finished what need to be done tonight and will have to wake up early tomorrow.

Looking at our growing list of vocabulary, I can’t wait to expand mine. The more I look at them and more new interesting words I find, the more ambitious I feel. I have always known the English vocabulary is an enormous universe that I can’t even fathom its vastness. Only this tiny list I have has been enough to overwhelm me. I look at them frequently everyday forcing to my brain to memorize one by one, but it seems that my mind is only interested in following my instructions.

I met “decipher” today. Despite the context, I squeezed my mind hardly only to figure out that I knew it. KNEW, not any more.

“De-” as in deduct, decode, decease, etc. That’s easy. But what is “cipher”? It sounds like a character name of some dark maverick sci-fi comic books in my childhood but I can’t remember. Well, as always, my brain is notorious for being oblivious.

So I use the omnipotent power of the giant Google. Turned out, cipher is the mathematical symbol for zero ( I swear I have learnt this somewhere that says cypher means nothing). It can also be understood as a secret message, a monogram, something like that, as what I understand.

Therefore, to decipher is to decode, interprete. Here we go.

I have been English tutoring my little brother recently and our focus is vocabulary. I realize that a new word needs to be extensively ruminated to actually be known and memorized. Five times a week is a moderate amount, just enough to remember the word. And one needs to actually repeatedly read them, meet them, confront them, look them up, use them in a sentence to make them familiar. And what’s better way than putting them in a blog entry? Need to write assiduously.

Story No. 1

The introduction of Weird Stories Category.

This is the section where Bồ and Đề learn English together by sitting down and writing stories. Due to the distance, we use Google Docs for this live activity since it allows simultaneously editing. In the early days of their friendship, Bồ and Đề have composed Mọt Sách, a vocabulary list that consists of all the new “big” words that they wish to learn. Each of them would write one sentence and be able to lead the story as they might. And while doing so, they would have to scroll up and down the list to use as many words from it as possible.

This is the first Weird Story.

I wake up in a prairie, standing not far away is a grotesque creature.

The creature doesn’t notice my presence, it is voraciously imbibing a peculiar muddy liquid.

Where is this place? What time is it? And what is this monster? I am completely oblivious of what’s happening.

Suddenly, the sky darkens, the sunny day has switched to night time in a blink. It must be night, just like how I feel at this very moment, benighted.

Not knowing if this monstrous thing is a friend or an enemy, I think this is an auspicious time to get lost.

In my attempt to escape, I clumsily step on a puddle; making my movement noticeable to the thing. The creature turns around and gives me a baleful look.

I knew it, I always jeopardize myself by being persistently reckless. But before I can blame myself more, its face turns into a warm smile and said to me: “Where’re you going, darling?”

Oh, you think you can just vanish like that? Lemme tell ya, this is my territory. Like, I am the god of this land, you know. Like, I am omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, whatever those words even mean. Like, you know, every little move of yours is in my, like, control.” The thing talks to me, in an extremely annoying high-pitch female or, worse, gay accent.

“The god of this land? I doubt that. Look at you! A sovereign would never have to labour so hard that have such indubitably callous shoulders and palms. Tell me, my dearest lord, what kind god you are? A slavery one?”

The monster demurs for a moment to ruminate my words. One second, two seconds passes. Then it bursts into tears and dashes into the forest. While I feel like I just survive a heart attack, I can hear it yells at me from the deep, “How can you talk to me in such an atrocious manner? I will seek for retaliation.”

What is going on? Who is this sensitive little creature? Despite its rough appearance, it doesn’t seem to be formidable at all, actually quite estimable and eminent instead. But never mind, I still need to find out who I am and where I belong. So I run. Toward the sun .

Then the monster comes back with a couple hundreds of its minions. They attack me and devour me.
The End.


It means people who is pleased to talk about any topic, according to Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary. It originates from the noun quodlibet, which is a phylosophical issue or a fine point in an formal argument.

The word seems to be a perfect title for our blog, since it is founded by two enthusiastic quodlibetarians who want to make this a place where we can talk about more than one oriented topic.

The knowing of this word was a total accident. Me, De, while trying to set up the blog and deciding its name, was looking out for words that will describe us best. I think about our common points, interests and habits. One sure thing is that we spent quite an amount of time chatting about any topics coming into our minds. So, I was thinking of some concepts like loquacious or babble or abracadabra, when I remembered the root “loqua” in loquacious means ” to speak”. I looked up to see what else this root can bring me to, but I mistakenly messed up and typed in quo instead. Anddd here we are.

To me, the word has an ancient English sound and image, reminds me of queen, quotient, librarian, etc. It feels vintage, knowledgeable, and somehow annoying. But I’m so pleased with what I found. It’s a bit long thou and I stumble sometimes reading it. Still, it’s just what I needed.

So yeah, that’s how I came up with the blog address. quodlibetarians.wordpress.com.

I also managed to register it as a gmail account. Feel free to contact us via quodlibetariansatgmaildotcom