What’s in your armamentarium?

Pre-septic medical instruments from the illustrated The Centennial Edition of American Armamentarium Chirurgicum (1889) George Tiemann & Co.

I had a very good teacher when I was 12 who instilled in me and many of my classmates a love of looking up words. That sounds odd if you’ve never been tagged by this particular passion, but dictionaries can be great fun, even for those of us who are not regular crossword players. And once you’ve caught the bug you don’t lose it. I still love paper dictionaries, a sign my age, but I think online ones are a great thing because their links actively encourage you to continue your pursuit of new information.

We had a beautiful tall wooden stand at the front of the classroom with a monstrously heavy dictionary that must have made a dent in this teacher’s budget, and at the end of every day she would have one of us open it and find a new word, any word, read it aloud and then we would try to come up with sentences using it. Any sentences. The goal was to stretch our minds a little at the dull end of the day, spark a bit of creativity and have some fun. We were often silly, but it usually took us off in new directions, since we would discuss the examples given in the dictionary, and look up unrelated information if the examples struck our fancy.

I just read a wonderful obituary in the Economist with a word that is new for me: armamentarium. The author’s sentence:

“It also marked the moment when maths began to slip away from being part of the armamentarium of any educated person and towards the dizzyingly abstruse field it has become today.”

Here’s the main definition from Princeton’s wordnetweb:

“the collection of equipment and methods used in the practice of medicine”

Merriam-Webster defines it more broadly:

“a collection of resources available or utilized for an undertaking or field of activity; especially : the equipment, methods, and pharmaceuticals used in medicine”

And then wordsdomination, a crossword dictionary, jumps in with these two before mentioning the doctor’s black bag:

So I’ve been off reading about melodic death metal music and how it differs from death metal, and I’ve been looking at Roman military equipment. All of this because someone writing about mathematics and fractals kept me reading and tossed a word at me that I didn’t know.


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