Tony Leighton is a Canadian writer happily retired and attempting to help others feel the same.

Vocabuteria: abstemious


A fat word that evokes thinness, “abstemious” might be a little too uncommon to make common. It means “sparing or moderate in eating or drinking.” An abstemious diet is a miserly one, perhaps beans and rice and a few greens (with an eye cast covertly toward the savory short ribs about to be consumed by the immoderate carnivore at the next table).

Project Gutenberg is an online repository of 58,432 free e-books (when I last looked), many self-published and not terribly popular (one assumes), including Alcohol: A Dangerous and Unnecessary Medicine, How and Why by Martha Meir Allen, which contains this sentence:

My father was an abstemious man, and although invited to stop and liquor, declined doing so.

There’s a puritanical prickliness in that sentence that will henceforth make “abstemious” also seem sour to me, as if to be taken with lemon juice and admonishment.


If you develop one skill at this time of life, make it this one.

Everybody is doing the best they can. (Or are they?)