The Adventurer's Glossary is a word-nerd exploration of the theory and practice of all sorts of adventure

Illustration: Seth

In October, McGill-Queen's University Press released The Adventurer's Glossary, a word-nerd exploration of the theory and practice of all sorts of adventure by my old friend and frequent Boing Boing contributor Josh Glenn. It's his third collaboration with the philosopher Mark Kingwell (who contributes a rousing yet erudite introduction) and the incredible cartoonist Seth. Altogether it's a treat for the eyes and mind.

Here are five sample entries from the glossary's "A" section:

ADVENTURE: An adventure is a risky endeavor whose outcome is unknown. That last bit is crucial; every true adventure involves not merely action but a venturesome, hopeful X factor — a risk to be dared, a discovery to be made, a puzzle to be solved, a mystery to be cracked. Derived from the Latin advenire ("arrive"), the term developed the sense of "that which happens or befalls unexpectedly." Viewed through this lens, absurd coincidences and lucky occurrences are features, not bugs, of adventure stories.

To be agonistic is to be fiercely competitive, forever striving to overcome one's peers; the term is derived from the Greek for "contestant." Nietzsche, who believed that the excellence of ancient Greek civilization could be chalked up to its agonistic culture, claimed that one's best friend should also be one's worst – most challenging – enemy.

In aviation, the interaction between drag and airspeed can be plotted on a curve; to be ahead of the power curve is therefore to maintain good speed and altitude. In the 1920s, this technical jargon became a colloquialism meaning "better than predicted"; now, it's chiefly used in jargon-friendly business contexts, by those looking to anticipate developments.

While banging their weapons against their shields, ancient Greek hoplites (foot soldiers) would break into a full-throated battle cry of "Alala!" or "Eleleu!" as soon as they were within striking distance of their foes. The resulting din was demoralizing.

The French military phrase à l'herte – which means, literally, "standing on a height," i.e., from which superior vantage point one can remain vigilantly on the lookout – gave us alert, which is to say, "engaged in close observation of a situation, event, or one's surroundings." As a noun, the term means "an alarm from a real or threatened attack."

Looking for a gift for a word nerd and/or lover of adventure? Your quest ends here! Josh has kindly offered to let me run some excerpts from the book over the next several days so keep a sharp lookout, hear ye?