Monday, August 13, 2012

Things I Find Fascinating: 12 Awesome Words That Start With "Z"

1)  Ziggurats:  These massive, pyramid-like structures were built in ancient Mesopotamia, a region in the Middle East that today includes Iran and Iraq. The Great Ziggurat of Ur (near Nasiriyah, Iraq) was restored in recent years, and is pictured below.

2)  Zabaione:  This popular Italian dessert, also called a zabajone or zabaglione, is made from egg yolks, sugar, a sweet wine (usually Marsala), and sometimes whole eggs. These ingredients combine to form a very light custard, which has been whipped to incorporate a large amount of air. Traditionally, zabaione is served with fresh figs, but in most Italian restaurants in the U.S. it's served with strawberries, blueberries, or peaches.

3)  Zombiism:  Pretty much what it sounds like, zombiism encompasses the beliefs and practices of the cult of the zombi (or zombie). Deriving from voodoo beliefs, zombi refers to the supernatural power that may enter into and reanimate a dead body.

4)  Zwieback:  This is a type of crisp, sweetened bread that's made with eggs and baked twice. The bread is sliced before it is baked the second time, which produces crisp, brittle slices that closely resemble melba toast. Zwieback has been commonly used to feed teething children, and as the first solid food given to patients with an upset stomach. The German word "zwieback" literally translates to "twice-baked."

5)  Zyzzyva:  The zyzzyva is a kind of tropical American weevil often found in association with palm trees. This yellowish-red weevil is a snouted beetle, and is no longer in size than an ant. The zyzzyva was named by Irishman Thomas Lincoln Casey, Jr., most likely as a practical joke to place it prominently at the end of most guides and manuals. The word "zyzzyva" also holds the distinction of being the last word listed in many English-language dictionaries.

6)  Zarzuela:  This Spanish lyric-dramatic genre alternates between spoken and sung scenes, the latter incorporating operatic and popular song, as well as dance. There are two main forms of zarzuela: Baroque zarzuela (the earliest style) and Romantic zarzuela (which can be divided into two sub-genres – género grande and género chico). Don't ask me the difference between the two (or the difference between the two sub-genres), because I don't know. I just like the word "zarzuela." A playbill for Dona Francisquita, apparently a popular zarzuela, is pictured below.

7)  Zeppola:  A zeppola, also known as a St. Joseph's Day cake, or a sfinge, is a popular pastry in Roman, Neopolitan, and peninsular Italian cuisine. A lightweight doughnut or fritter is topped with powdered sugar and filled with custard, jelly, cannoli-style pastry cream, or a butter-and-honey mixture. The zeppola's consistency ranges from light and puffy to bread or pasta-like. I'd eat that.

8)  Zloty:  The zloty is the standard monetary unit of Poland, and is divded into 100 groszy (whatever that means). The word "zloty" translates as "golden." If Poland's anything like it is here, the zloty is probably not worth its weight in gold. A 1,000-zloty note is pictured below.

9)  Zugzwang:  The word zugzwang (which is German for "compulsion to move") is a situation found usually in chess but also in other games, where one player is put at a disadvantage because they have to make a move when they would prefer to pass and make no move. The fact that the player must make a move means that their position will be significantly weaker than the hypothetical one in which it was their opponent's turn to move. All of that is a long way of saying this: A zugzwang is a "Catch 22" for game-players. Here's a visual aid for those of you who understand chess on more than a basic level (because I don't).

10)  Zaftig:  The word "zaftig" is a slang adjective used to describe someone (usually a woman) who has a pleasantly plump figure, or is full-bodied and/or well-proportioned. In today's the-more-anorexic-the-better culture, zaftig women are seemingly few and far between. They're there – it's just that nobody pays them any attention, unless it's to criticize their figures. British singer Adele (pictured below) is unapologetically zaftig and has gained quite a popular following, but she's an exception to the "rule."

11)  Zoysiagrass:  Also known as simply zoysia, zoysiagrass is a genus of creeping grasses native to Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Australasia. Often found in coastal areas or grasslands, zoysiagrass is widely used for lawns in temperate climates, as well as on golf courses to create fairways and teeing areas. Zoysiagrass is known to stop erosion on slopes, is excellent at repelling weeds throughout the year, resists disease, and holds up well under traffic.

12)  Zebroid:  Okay, are you ready for this one? A zebroid is the offspring of any cross between a zebra and any other equine – essentially, it's a zebra hybrid. In most cases, the sire is a zebra stallion. Offspring of a donkey sire and a zebra dam – called a zebra hinny, or a donkra – do exist, but are rare. A zorse is the offspring of a male zebra and a female horse. This cross is also called a zebrula, zebrule, zebra mule, or golden zebra. The rarer reverse pairing is sometimes called a horbra, hebra, zebrinny, or zebret. A zony is the offspring of a zebra stallion and a medium-sized pony mare. Zebras have also been crossed with smaller pony breeds such as the Shetland, resulting in so-called Zetlands. A zonkey is a cross between a zebra and a donkey – however, "zonkey" is not the technically correct name for such a cross. The most commonly accepted terms are zebonkey (or zebronkey), zebrass, zedonk (or zeedonk), and zebadonk. Seriously, you can't make this stuff up! Pictured below is a beautiful baby zebrass.

Kudos to for having all this great information ready for me to gleefully steal, thereby shortening my research time. Hats off to for its great list of words starting with "Z" which inspired this post in the first place. Finally, thank you, Internet, for all the pictures I shamelessly borrowed for today's post.

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