SHANE’S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS: Detritus, with a nod toward the charnel house.


Welcome to another installment of SHANE’S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS, a regular Wednesday feature at NA Confidential.

But why all these new words?

Why not the old, familiar, comforting words, like the ones you’re sure to hear being murmured inside the Bunker of Down-Low Governance just before its salaried inhabitants are beamed up to the Amphitheater for the annual July 3 fireworks and $10,000 Crashers show?

In case you were wondering how much it costs for the city to hire quality bands …

It’s because a healthy vocabulary isn’t about intimidation through erudition. Rather, it’s about selecting the right word and using it correctly, whatever one’s pay grade or station in life.

Even beak-wetting, bond-engorged municipal corporate attorneys can benefit from this enlightening expansion of personal horizons, and really, as we contemplate what they knew and when they knew it, all we have left is plenty of time — and the opportunity to learn something, if we’re so inclined.

Today’s word is detritus. Pay close attention to the pronunciation, which in the first instance I’ve adjusted from’s rendering.


[dih-try-tuh s]
[dih-trahy-tuh s]


1. rock in small particles or other material worn or broken away from a mass, as by the action of water or glacial ice.

2. any disintegrated material; debris.

Derived forms: detrital (adjective)

Origin of detritus: 1785-1795; < French détritus < Latin: a rubbing away, equivalent to dētrī-, variant stem of dēterere to wear down, rub off ( de- de- + terere to rub) + -tus suffix of v. action

The sample sentence was overheard while scanning YouTube for documentaries about architecture.

“Our world, like a charnel-house, is strewn with the detritus of dead epochs.”
― Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture

This begs a question, so let’s answer it:

A charnel house is a vault or building where human skeletal remains are stored. They are often built near churches for depositing bones that are unearthed while digging graves. The term can also be used more generally as a description of a place filled with death and destruction.