Monday, February 25, 2008

Let's Learn Our "One New Thing" for Today

I'm reading a series of books right now that has presented to me something I haven't seen in a long time - words I don't know. Now, I thought that I had a decent vocabulary. I am even known for being a bit wordy in some circles. These books have smacked me down.

The books are The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, by Steven R. Donaldson. I found the first trilogy a bit of a drag in that by the end, I could think of only two or three 'good' things that had happened. The rest of the books were nothing but anguish and pain and heartache. I just finished the first book of the second trilogy, and I'm finding these a bit easier to take. Not that they're all sunshine and light, either, mind. Maybe I'm just innured to the grief at this point.

But these are new words to me, and I like words. I don't really read any non-fiction (if you don't count blogs), so I love it when my novels give me something new to learn. In most cases, when I'm reading along, and come across a word for which I don't know the meaning, I'm most likely to get some idea of definition just through the context, the sentence, the story. But when I kept coming across more and more words that were new, I decided I couldn't just skim along the surface, assuming meanings. So I started to use my bookmark (one of my business cards - I don't meet so many people that I need them all) to jot down each new word and the page on which it's found. I need a bigger bookmark. I ran out of space after just over a hundred pages.

I know that I'm not the only one who likes stuff like this, so I thought I'd share this little list of mine.

For many of these words, I could have guessed at the meaning, but for the purposes of my list, I included each word that I couldn't say for certain that I knew the definition. Here we go:

knaggy - notty; rough; figuratively, rough in temper

incondign - (especially of punishment) inappropriate or disproportionate; be it excessively harsh or lenient.

auto-da-fé - Public announcement of the sentences imposed by the Inquisition.

geas - a solemn injunction, prohibition, or taboo; a moral obligation

gelid - Very cold; icy

coquelicot - the color of the wild poppy; a color nearly red, like orange mixed with scarlet

etiolated -To make weak by stunting the growth or development of

inchoate - In an initial or early stage; incipient. Imperfectly formed or developed

barranca - dry ravine or a steep depression between hills.

analystic - I couldn't find a definition online, but luckily, I wasn't the only one looking. Captain Maybe has delved deep enough to find a rather hilarious quote from the author himself.

It’s an obscure word that literally means, “pertaining to analysis; determining
the basic components”. But to make matters worse, I’ve used the word in an
obscure sense, as a reference to things to heal (by restoring the integrity of
basic components).
In retrospect, that may be a little too much obscurity,
even for me.

Source: Stephen R. Donaldson Official Website

chancrous - of the nature of chancre (gee, thanks).
chancre - classic painless ulcer of syphilis. The chancre forms in the first (primary) stage of syphilis.

sempiternal - having no known beginning and presumably no end (ooh, I like this one)

chryosprastic - An apple-green chalcedony used as a gemstone

roborant - Restoring vigor or strength

catafalque - a decorated platform or framework on which a coffin rests in state during a funeral

Okay, in starting to look up these definitions, I find that I am not alone with these books. As a matter of fact, most of my list already exists - and more, right here. And? When I look up many of these words, the search results bring me to passages from these books.

And just in case you are not fascinated by words and found this extremely boring, I include a sock WIP picture, to prove that I am, in fact, still knitting.

ETA - Strange things were happening with the template today, and I was already kind of unhappy with the way the header invaded the text area. So I've switched to something a bit less interesting, but more functional - for now.


Veronique said...

Great words!
I knew "coquelicot" since it is the french word for poppy, and "autodafe" is commonly used in french, usually meaning to burn someone at the stake (which is what the Inquisition did, right?). I feel very smart, knowing 2 words from your list!

Captain Maybe said...

Stephen Donaldson is one of my favourite authors, but even so I've never been quite so keen on the Thomas Covenant books. Mordant's Need and the Gap series are written in much more accessible styles (each is different; the latter is also pretty brutal in places). I recommend you check them out.

Brigitte said...

I knew coquelicot as well, french is my first language. Heh, it made me smile - it's not a word you would use everyday, and it made me think of schooldays...

Glad you're blogging again!