tahl-veg, -veyk ]


  1. a line, as drawn on a map, connecting the lowest points of a valley.
  2. Chiefly International Law. the middle of the main navigable channel of a waterway that serves as a boundary line between states.

Guyana claimed a thalweg boundary of the Courantyne River (probably inspired by the 1962 Dutch position), and a 35° line from the true North, from the mouth of the river. Suriname claimed sovereignty over the full width of the Courantyne and a 10° dividing line.

Wikipedia: Disputed border between Guyana and Suriname. Retrieved 2024-02-09

Reefing Sails

To reef a sail, roll it up on itself and bundle the material along a boom or mast. This reduces its effective area, which, apparently, proves useful in high winds. I learned of this word in the Friday NY Times Crossword Puzzle of December 1, 2023.

Reefing reduces the area of a sail, usually by folding or rolling one edge of the canvas in on itself and attaching the unused portion to a spar or a stay, as the primary measure to preserve a sailing vessel’s stability in strong winds. Restoring full sail area is termed shaking out a reef.

Wikipedia contributors, “Reefing,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed December 1, 2023).

George Will and Armor Against Evidence

His motives are frightening because they are pure: He has the scary sincerity of the unhinged whose delusions armor them against evidence.

Will, George. “Opinion | Why Mastriano’s candidacy presents a special danger to the nation.” The Washington Post. September 23, 2022. Accessed September 30, 2022.

Ahab and a Post-Decapitation Whale Head

“Speak, thou vast and venerable head,” muttered Ahab, “which, though ungarnished with a beard, yet here and there lookest hoary with mosses; speak, mighty head, and tell us the secret thing that is in thee. Of all divers, thou has dived the deepest. That head upon which the upper sun now gleams has moved amid the world’s foundations. Where unrecorded names and navies rust, and untold hopes and anchors rot; where in her murderous hold this frigate earth is ballasted with bones of millions of the drowned; there, in that awful water-land, there was thy most familiar home. Thou hast been where bell or diver never went; has slept by many a sailer’s side, where sleepless mothers would give their lives to lay them down. Thou saw’st the locked lovers when leaping from their flaming ship; heart to heart they sank beneath the exulting wave; true to each other, when heaven seemed false to them. Thou saw’st the murdered mate when tossed by pirates from the midnight deck; for hours he fell into the deeper midnight of the insatiate maw; and his murderers still sailed on unharmed — while swift lightnings shivered the neighboring ship that would have borne a righteous husband to outstretched, longing arms. O head! thou has seen enough to split the planets and make an infidel of Abraham, and not one syllable is thine!”

Melville, Herman, and Mead Schaeffer. Moby Dick. New York, Dodd, Mead and company, 1922. Pdf.

Ult, Inst, and Prox

Ultimo, Instant, and Proximo:

Ultimo means last month. Together with instant (the current month) and proximo (next month) it’s an example of an outdated commercial language.

Few businessmen would today begin a letter “With reference to yours of the 14th ultimo”, or “yours of the 23rd instant”, or “Please attend this office for interview on the 11th proximo”, but it was once standard and taught in the best books.

Ultimo | World Wide Words