Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Words of the Day and Miscellaneous Good Things

I found another new word this week in my current read, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Which, by the way, I am having a surprisingly difficult time of getting into and caring about, even though I have already read 69 pages. But I will persevere, because I have been promised excellence. And you will be happy to know I actually remember where I came across all but one of today's words!

1. Threnody. (As I said above, from The Sparrow.) "At dinner that first night with Emilio at the Edwardses' place, Jimmy kept them laughing with a comic threnody, listing the hazards life held for a regular guy in a world built by and for midgets." Maybe this is as simple as a "routine," as in "comedy routine? Whatever it is, I am sure it's something one uses with which to regale one's audience. Webster says: A song of lamentation for the dead; elegy. That has just about the complete opposite connotation from what I was thinking. Goose egg for me.

2. Benignant. This is the orphan word for the day, since I can't remember where I found it. But I am sure it has something to do with harmlessness. Webster says: Serenely mild and kindly; favorable, beneficial, benign. Yup, I get a point for this one, but I can't help but wonder why the author (whoever it was) didn't just use the word benign. Seems a little pretentious to turn it into a fancy word that I may or may not know the meaning of.

3. Prolix. From Joseph Heller's Catch-22. I marked "prolix" down on my list when I first read this book, which would have been during the First Saturday Book Club's heyday more than four years ago, but I'm kind of cheating by including this word because I'm pretty sure I looked it up when I re-read the book last summer. Anway, "He's the one who tipped me off that our prose was too prolix." It means verbose. Webster says: Unduly prolonged or drawn out; too long; marked by or using an excess of words; wordy. I'm up to two points!

4. Cantilevered. Also from Catch-22. I'm going to modify this quote somewhat, if you don't mind. "That was where he wanted to be if he had to be there at all, instead of hung out there in front like some [danged ol'] cantilevered goldfish in some [danged ol'] cantilevered goldfish bowl while the [danged ol'] foul black tiers of flak were bursting and booming and billowing all around and above and below him in a climbing, cracking, staggered, banging, phantasmagorical, cosmological wickedness that jarred and tossed and shivered, clattered and pierced, and threatened to annihilate them all in one splinter of a second in one vast flash of fire." If that's not a vivid sentence I don't know what is. OK, from bicycle brakes and pergola plans I have the idea that if something is "cantilevered" it sort of sticks out as if unsupported, but it really is supported because it's balanced just right, but I'm sure Webster can say it much more efficiently than I can. Webster says: A projecting beam or member supported at only one end. That's three points.

5. Phantasmagorical. Same quote as above. I think this means amazing, fantastic, and phantom-related. Webster says: An optical effect by which figures on a screen appear to dwindle into the distance or to rush toward the observer with enormous increase of size; a constantly shifting complex succession of things seen or imagined; a scene that constantly changes. Kathy says: Oops. Apparently "phantasm" and "phantasmagorical" aren't as similar as you would think.

6. We get a bonus word today: Cosmological (yes, again from the same quote). The study of the universe? Webster says: Finally I got one right! That makes four out of six.

On to the Miscellaneous Good Things. If you've had the chance to read many of my other posts, you would probably have the idea that one of my favorite authors is Sam Taylor (and you would be right). I left a comment on his blog a few days ago, and he was kind enough to reply to me with an email which pretty much just made my day.

The other Good Thing of the day is also Sam-Taylor-related. He lives in the south of France (the lucky dog!) and is hosting creative writing workshops! As much as I would love to go, I think my husband is still mad at me for my last trip to Europe, so I'm pretty sure Hud would not look too kindly on me taking a trip to the south of France, especially since I'm not exactly a writer. SO: your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go to the south of France and then tell me all about it so that I can live vicariously through you!


Cozy Book Nook (Lesa) said...

I read the Sparrow years ago after listening to a fascinating interview with the author on NPR. I love sci/fi but it was more difficult for me too-- darker than my usual reads but easier going after the characters arrive on the new planet. This book stayed on my mind long after I read it and it still pops into my mind at times. Looking forward to hearing what you think of it.

Kathy said...

Thank you for the encouragement on The Sparrow! Knowing it is a stick-with-you book makes it feel much more worthwhile. The characters haven't gotten to the other planet yet, so I'm hoping it will pick up a bit then, like you said.

SilverNeurotic said...

When I was younger, I used to jot down or underline words I didn't know with the intention of looking them up later.

A few months ago I started to reread one of those books (She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb) and I had a good chuckle over the underlined words...and quite happy to report that I had sense learned the meanings to just about everyone.

Kathy said...

It's funny you should mention that. I have found that, with a few exceptions, I have not learned any of the words on my list (which I wrote down between 5 and 10 years ago). Guess I'm learning them now, though!

Priya Parmar said...

i love that you have so much fun with words. i am so glad you write about this!

i have an award for you and your lovely blog at the plumbean!

BookQuoter said...

I agree that the Sparrow is definitely a stick-with-you book (did you come up with that word?). I thought about it for days!!!

Kathy said...

Thank you for the award, Priya!

BookQuoter, I'm not sure if I should take credit for "stick-with-you book" or if I'd already heard it elsewhere. If you think it sounds good, somebody else probably made it up first. If it sounds too goofy, well then, I'm sure it's my very own phrase. Either way, I'm glad to know it applies to The Sparrow. I like a book I can munch on for a while even after I've finished reading.