Serving or tending to irritate or repel.
Over the past couple of hours a lot of rebarbative, ulcerated and embittered people had been working hard at bedding their resentments down in sensory-deprivation tanks full of alcohol.
— Will Self, The Sweet Smell of Psychosis
I still think this true, yet can’t help regret the unretrievable hours lavished on so much rebarbative critical prose, convinced that the nearly impenetrable must be profound.
— Michael Dirda, “In which our intrepid columnist visits the Modern Language Association convention and reflects on what he found there”, Washington Post, January 28, 2001
2. sunder \SUN-dur\ , transitive verb:
1. To break apart; to separate; to divide; to sever.
1. To become parted, disunited, or severed.
As the issue of slavery threatened to sunder the United States, President Abraham Lincoln, using biblical language, warned that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”
— Morris B. Abraham, “Using the bully pulpit at the United Nations”, Minneapolis Star Tribune, January 20, 1997
Momentous business was at hand, as the last colonial ties with England were about to be sundered, and Madison was compelled to take his stand for both a separation from the mother country and the erection of a republican form of government.
— Robert A. Rutland, James Madison and the Search for Nationhood
Their romance was sundered by World War II, and she scarcely saw Tito again until 1953.
— “Tribute: For 40 Years Prima Ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn Created a Soaring Legend of Grace and Beauty”, People, March 11, 1991
3. lugubrious \lu-GOO-bree-us; -GYOO-\ , adjective:
Mournful, dismal, or gloomy, esp. in an affected, exaggerated, or unrelieved manner.
Oh yes, he says, and his lugubrious expression suggests that the loss afflicts him still.
— Mary Riddell, New Statesman, September 19, 1997
His patriarchy often seemed lugubrious; he would often have tears in his eyes when elucidating all my failings.
— Richard Elman, Namedropping: Mostly Literary Memoirs
Previous visits hadn’t yielded this art-after-death aura, which had everything to do with two installations on display, work so lugubrious it cast a pall over . . . well, just over me, but dark clouds hovered above the city, and the gloomy weather might as well have emanated from the art.
— Bernard Cooper, “The Uses of the Ghoulish”, Los Angeles Magazine, February 2001
4. wheedle \HWEE-d’l; WEE-d’l\ , transitive verb:
1. To entice by soft words or flattery; to coax.
2. To gain or get by flattery or guile.
1. To flatter; to use soft words.
Editors who wished to carry original work rather than reprints found it necessary towheedle contributions from readers by decrying inexperience as a reason for not taking up the pen and by offering prizes for submissions.
— Ronald Weber, Hired Pens
When Wayne and I first moved here, the settlers living within twenty miles were consumed with curiosity about our relationship, and one of ’em tried to wheedle a little matrimonial information out of me.
— Christine Wiltz, The Last Madam
He knew what it looked like to seduce, to intimidate, to wheedle, and to console; to strike a pose or preach a sermon.
— Simon Schama, Rembrandt’s Eyes
5. vehement \VEE-uh-muhnt\ , adjective:
1. Characterized by intensity of emotions or convictions, or forcefulness of expression.
2. Characterized by or acting with great force or energy; strong.
Vehement cries of “No! no! never!”
— “Mass Meeting of Merchants and Bankers”, New York Times, November 5, 1864
From their earliest days, much of the state police’s energy went to enforcing game laws, for landowner complaints about poachers were particularly vehement.
— Louis S. Warren, The Hunter’s Game
The struggle was long and vehement; but his sense of duty would not be stifled or enfeebled, and finally triumphed over every impediment.
— Charles Brockden Brown, Three Gothic Novels
6. celerity \suh-LAIR-uh-tee\ , noun:
Rapidity of motion or action; quickness; swiftness.
Though not in the best of physical form, he was capable of moving with celerity.
— Malachy McCourt, A Monk Swimming: A Memoir
Furthermore, as is well known, computer technology grows obsolete with amazingcelerity.
— Alan S. Blinder and Richard E. Quandt, “The Computer and the Economy”, The Atlantic, December 1997
The lightning celerity of his thought processes took you on a kind of helter-skelter ride of surreal non-sequiturs, sudden accesses of emotion and ribald asides, made all the more bizarre for being uttered in those honeyed tones by the impeccably elegant gent before you.
— “A life full of frolics”, The Guardian, May 19, 2001
7. unctuous \UNGK-choo-us\ , adjective:
1. Of the nature or quality of an unguent or ointment; fatty; oily; greasy.
2. Having a smooth, greasy feel, as certain minerals.
3. Insincerely or excessively suave or ingratiating in manner or speech; marked by a false or smug earnestness or agreeableness.
A warmed, crusty French roll arrives split, lightly smeared with unctuous chopped liver.
— John Kessler, “Meals To Go: Break from the routine with Hong”, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, October 22, 1998
She recalled being offended by the “phoniness” that stemmed from the contradiction between her mother’s charming, even unctuous public manner and her anger in private.
— Daniel Horowitz, Betty Friedan And the Making of ‘The Feminine Mystique’
He approached Sean wearing a smile so unctuous it seemed about to slide right off his face.
— Naeem Murr, The Boy
8. truculent \TRUCK-yuh-luhnt\ , adjective:
1. Fierce; savage; ferocious; barbarous.
2. Cruel; destructive; ruthless.
I ask whether impeachment will become still another arrow in the quiver of the warrior class of ever more truculent partisan politicians in Washington.
— “Former Watergate Prosecutors See Censure as Alternative in Clinton’s Case”,New York Times, December 9, 1998
Bitter and truculent when excited, I spoke as I felt, without reserve or softening.
— Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
Those bamboozled into believing palpable untruths that are recognized as such by the larger community are likely in time to develop an attitude of truculentresentment and outright paranoia rather than self-esteem.
— Thomas M. Disch, The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World
9. gimcrack \JIM-krak\ , noun:
1. A showy but useless or worthless object; a gewgaw.
1. Tastelessly showy; cheap; gaudy.
Yet the set is more than a collection of pretty gimcracks.
— Frank Rich, Hot Seat
In those cities most self-conscious about their claim to be part of English history, like Oxford or Bath, the shops where you could have bought a dozen nails, home-made cakes or had a suit run up, have shut down and been replaced with places selling teddy bears, T-shirts and gimcrack souvenirs.
— Jeremy Paxman, The English: A Portrait of a People
And as for coincidences in books — there’s something cheap and sentimental about the device; it can’t help always seeming aesthetically gimcrack.
— Peter Brooks, “Obsessed with the Hermit of Croisset”, New York Times, March 10, 1985
10. exculpate \EK-skuhl-payt; ek-SKUHL-payt\ , transitive verb:
To clear from alleged fault or guilt; to prove to be guiltless; to relieve of blame; to acquit.
Each member is determined to exculpate himself, to lay the blame elsewhere.
— Joseph Wood Krutch, “How Will Posterity Rank O’Neill?”, New York Times, October 21, 1956
At the same time, they said, representatives of the inspector general’s office at the CIA were generally protective of the intelligence agents involved in the matter, highlighting evidence that seemed to exculpate them.
— Tim Golden, “Guerrilla’s Asylum Analyzed Amid Contradictory Claims”, New York Times, December 12, 1996
He did so, having previously warned his friends and relations not to drink the water. ‘He also declared that none of his community could exculpate themselves from this accusation, as the plot was communicated to all and all were guilty of the above charges.’
— Philip Ziegler, Black Death