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

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Words of the Day

It's as if Anna Karenina is reaching out from beyond the grave. I still have two more words from that book on my List of Words to Look Up.

1. Pellicle. Of course I wrote down that this word was on page 563, and of course I have already swapped my copy of Anna Karenina, so now I can't tell you what sentence it was used in. With no context, I can't even venture a good guess. But I can venture a bad one: a small pelican. Webster says: a thin skin or film. Zero points. Of course.

2. Nihilist. How did I make it out of college without a firm understanding of nihilism? Apparently Levin considers Oblonsky a nihilist, which causes Oblonsky to say that's like the pot calling the kettle black (though not in those words) since Levin has let nine years pass without "taking the sacrament." So I'm guessing a nihilist isn't overly religious. Webster says: a nihilist views traditional values and beliefs as unfounded, and existence as senseless and useless. Nihilism is a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth, especially moral truth. In 19th century Russia (ding!) nihilism was the program of a political party advocating revolutionary reform and using terrorism and assassination. Half a point for heading in the right direction but not quite grasping the scope.

3. Tenebrous. Oh, how I wish I knew where I found this word. All I know is that it referred to the way Pete's head creaked before it cracked (aren't you curious now too?) and I assumed it meant ominous. Webster says: Shut off from the light; dark, murky; hard to understand; obscure; causing gloom. Yeah, I can see how it might cause some gloom for Pete if his skull creaked until it cracked. But my guess was wrong. Which has caused me some gloom. No points.

4. Implacable. Orphan word. My old guess was that it meant "hard," but wouldn't it mean "unable to be placated," or "unsatisfied?" Webster says: not placable; not capable of being appeased, significantly changed, or mitigated. Finally I get a whole point!

5. Fulsome. Another orphan word. My guess was curvaceous. Webster says a lot: characterized by abundance; copious; offensive to the senses or to moral or aesthetic sensibility; disgusting; excessively complimentary or flattering; lavish; obsequious; exceeding the bounds of good taste; overdone; being completely developed; full, well-rounded. I'd started to worry, but there it is in the end. Another point!

Two and a half out of five. It's a little bit ridiculous how much fun this is for me, especially considering the fact that I'm not very good at it.

Once again I have a bonus phrase for you. I didn't note the entire sentence, but early in What I Was there was a reference to a "mackerel sky." This seemed a unique juxtaposition of words, although I wasn't quite sure what it could mean (pale and silvery, like a fish belly? Mottled greenish grey, like a mackerel's back?) so I looked it up. I was surprised to find that it refers to an actual meteorological phenomenon: a sky covered with rows of altocumulus or cirrocumulus clouds resembling the patterns on a mackerel's back.


Amanda said...

Small pelican, lol!

Now I am no wordsmith, but isn't curvaceous a physical trait? The definition of fulsome did not strike me as physical, but rather of character.

Kathy said...

I think you may be right. (Are you trying to suck my points away? I need all the help I can get!!) I thought the "completely developed/full, well-rounded" part of the definition could mean curvaceous, but maybe not. I wish I'd kept track of the sentence where I found it! Guess I will just have to keep my eye out for "fulsome." At least I know it has nothing to do with that prison Johnny Cash used to sing about.

Amanda said...

SORRY! I was ready to give you a point fatuities, in that it is very much like fatuous. So your overall score was still intact!

Who is the Word Nazi, one of your followers? I love when you give yourself partial points. I mean that is part of the fun, figuring if you were kind of in the ballpark!

Kathy said...

Haha! No, the Word Nazi isn't one of my followers, thank goodness. :) He's actually just imaginary. But I modeled him after the Soup Nazi. (No soup for you!)