Word of the day: kvell

On Twitter today, Neil Gaiman posted this:

Neil Gaiman using the verb kvell on Twitter
Neil Gaiman using the verb kvell on Twitter

The verb kvell was unfamiliar to me. The dictionaries revealed that it is, unsurprisingly, of Yiddish origin, related to the German verb quellen, which can mean several things, among which well up. The OED’s notes it as “US slang” and gives the definition as “[ad. Yiddish kveln, ad. G. quellen to gush, well up.] ” while the dictionary that comes with OS X, which is based on the New Oxford American Dictionary, has “feel happy and proud”. The word is also on Wikipedia’s very useful List of English words of Yiddish origin (“to feel delighted and proud to the point of tears”)

So Neil was overjoyed to the point of tearing up about Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie figuring on the National Portrait Gallery’s picture of the month.

A beautiful word, which I’m sure to keep in mind.

Nudibranch and emperor

Malcolm Hey: Reclining emperor shrimp
Malcolm Hey: Reclining emperor shrimp

While I was looking through a stack of postcards, this image from London’s Natural History Museum jumped out, so I’ll be using it today to write to a friend. The picture was taken by Malcolm Hey, is entitled “Reclining emperor shrimp” and won a Wildlife Photographer of the Year award in 2005.

The textures, the colour, and generally the calm and sense of whimsy that emanates from it are what makes this piece of photography so attractive. But but what triggered my posting this right now is the explanatory paragraph on the back of the card, which starts as follows:

Twirling and whirling in a crimson leotard and white tutu, the Spanish dancer (a large nudibranch, or seaslug) emerges to feed at night. Sometimes it has a passive partner, an emperor shrimp, tucked in the frilly folds of its gills. The tiny shrimp (about a centimetre – 0.4 inches long) turns red to blend in with its host’s costume.

Nudibranch is a great word.

(So is seaslug.)