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

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Words of the Day

I only have about a dozen words left on my original List of Words to Look Up, but I seem to be coming across new ones at such a rate that I have no worries about ever coming to the end of my Dictionary Days. Or maybe I should say I am worried that I will never come to the end of them.

1. Expatiate. I am reading The Wind in the Willows to the kids at bedtime, about ten pages every night. In chapter five, Rat and Mole return to Mole's cozy little home, where Mole finds himself so happy to be. "His spirits finally quite restored, he must needs go and caress his possessions, and take a lamp and show off their points to his visitor and expatiate on them, quite forgetful of the supper they both so much needed." I guess this word probably means something like "to talk about," and a synonym might be "expound."

But guess what? I could have sworn this word was used in the audio version of Anna Karenina too! It sounded like it said, "That now, having expatiated his sin against the husband, he was bound to renounce her, and never in future to stand between her, with her repentance, and her husband." However, my print translation uses the phrase "atoned for" instead, which makes me think the word was not expatiated, but expiated. We will leave it up to the jury to decide whether I misheard or the reader misspoke. Either way, I got what I paid for. But back to expatiated--Webster says: To move about freely or at will; wander; to speak or write at length or in detail. Score one point for me!

2. Osiers. Also from The Wind in the Willows. Who would have thought there would be so many obscure words in this book? When Rat is enticed by Pan's flute-playing, Mole says, "I hear nothing myself . . . but the wind playing in the reeds and rushes and osiers." I am guessing an osier would be yet another plant that grows near water. Webster says: Any of various willows (esp. Salix viminalis) whose pliable twigs are used for furniture or basketry. Sounds just like the trees we used to swing on at the Duck Pond! Near water! Two for two. That's a good start.

3. Ossian. From Anna Karenina. Oblonsky the philanderer says, "You see, I suppose you must know the Ossian type of woman . . . the sort of woman one only sees in dreams." OK, so I'm assuming this type of woman is super hot and sexy, but thinking of an "ossuary" throws me off. Maybe he's talking about a nightmare. Perhaps there's a female skeleton who stalks him in his sleep. But . . . probably not. I am going to go with the guess that an "Ossian" woman is like Garth's Dreamwoman who always walks in slow motion with a wind machine and the song "Dream Weaver" in the background. Although I can't help but wonder, since it's capitalized, if maybe an Ossian woman comes from a certain part of the world. Is Ossian like Oriental and Occidental? Webster says: Ohhhh, Ossian was a person! Should I have known that? He was apparently a legendary Irish bard, authenticity debatable. Um, no points on this one. Especially since I still don't know what sort of woman would be described as Ossian. If you know, will you please tell me? I'll give you one point if you do.

4. Intransigent. From We Were The Mulvaneys. Corinne is comparing her boys, stubborn and strong-willed since birth, to her sweet and amiable baby girl. When the boys were babies "their intransigent male selves [were] assertive as their tiny, floppy penises." My guess: unassailable, indelible, unchangeable, undeniable. Webster says: Refusing to compromise or to abandon an extreme position or attitude; uncompromising; irreconcilable. So I guess it's more like obstinate than constant, but there are only shades of meaning between the two, so I'm taking the point.

5. Importunate. Also from Mulvaneys. "Dozens of geese and even killer swans honking, hissing, flapping their wings as these importunate strangers invaded their territory." I want it to mean "unfortunate," since you can make it into that word by changing only the first three letters, but I will guess it means someone or something that does not belong. Webster says: Troublesomely urgent; overly persistent in request or demand. Nope, I don't get any points for this one either. But I did manage to eke out a total of three points this time.

I will now treat you to a freebie of a historical nugget. In Anna Karenina, as he is totting up his debts, we learn that Vronsky has a sister-in-law who is "the daughter of a penniless Decembrist." I didn't bother trying to guess on this one, but I was curious as to the definition. Webster says: One taking part in the unsuccessful uprising against the Russian emperor Nicholas I in December 1825. Now, isn't that interesting! I never would have heard of that term without reading this book. But I really just wanted to mention it so I could tell you about a band called The Decemberists who have at least one really good song (you should check out "Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect." Thanks, Kugs!) Not surprisingly, though I didn't know this until just now, the band was named after The Decembrist revolt. TWELVE HUNDRED BONUS POINTS. No, not really. But don't you feel a little bit smarter?

2 comments:

Constance Reader said...

This was fun (and educational!) to read. :) How are you enjoying the Mulvaneys? It's one of my favorites of JCO's books. I'll have to check back here soon to read your review!

Kathy said...

Oh, but you don't have to wait! I finished it for my first book club meeting last Friday night and my review is here. I'm sorry to say I probably didn't like it as well as you did. I haven't read anything else by JCO and I almost hesitate to ask what else of hers you've read, since this one was your favorite . . . but do tell me if you feel any of her other books are must-reads!