in Wacky Word Wednesday

Hello everybody! Welcome back to Simply CSOFT where we’ve prepared a brand new edition of Wacky Word Wednesday, a weekly celebration of the English language’s most interesting and unusual words. This week’s post blows the dust off a rather obscure word, hauled over from



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Pertaining to soot; sooty; dark; dusky.

quo botfuliginous

Of 16th century origin, fuliginous derives from the Latin fuligo, meaning ‘soot,’ a form of carbon dust created through incomplete combustion. Those who witnessed the Great Smog of London or those who live in present-day Beijing or other smog-plagued cities should be pretty familiar with all things fuliginous (think dense fogs, foul clouds, and chimney sweeps).

Recently, fuliginousness – the quality or state of being the color of soot – has gained some relevance in the Netherlands, as a centuries-old tradition became the focal point of an international debate, following accusations of racism made by a working group of the United Nations. The debate centers around one of the country’s most popular children’s festivals, whose protagonist Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas (who, by the way, served as the model for his more famous American spin-off Santa Claus), docks his present-packed steamer every year in the Netherlands, bringing joy to millions of Dutch children.

So far so good, you might say. The tradition keeps, however, that the bearded saint is accompanied by scores of jolly, red-lipped, black-faced helpers called Zwarte Pieten (literally ‘Black Petes’) that assist Sinterklaas in his endeavors. Some cry blatant racial stereotyping, while others, often full of fond childhood memories and unwilling to compromise on what they see as an intrinsically harmless family festival, insist that Sinterklaas’ assistants owe their dark skin to the fact that they have to climb through fuliginous chimneys to deliver presents to well-behaved children.

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The issue of Zwarte Piet aside, here are two examples of fuliginous used in a sentence:

  • London was a fuliginous city during the Industrial Revolution. (Merriam-Webster)
  • The piano, decrepit on its legs, though made of good wood painted black and gilded, was dirty, defaced, and scratched; and its keys, worn like the teeth of old horses, were yellowed with the fuliginous colors of the pipe. (A Daughter of Eve)

That’s all for now! We hope your week won’t be fuliginous in nature (like it is here in Beijing) and we look forward to seeing you again next week!

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