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

Monday, October 11, 2010

Words of the Day

I've only read a third of The Age of Innocence, and our book club meeting is Friday night. I'm not too worried (yet), but in the meantime I've found a wealth of words to look up.

1. Dilettante. "He had dawdled over his cigar because he was at heart a dilettante, and thinking over a pleasure to come often gave him a subtler satisfaction than its realisation." Maybe a "dilettante" is something like a minor hedonist. Webster says: An admirer or lover of the arts; a person having a superficial interest in an art or a branch of knowledge; a dabbler; an amateur. Word Nazi says: No points for you!

2. Vicegerent. "Few things seemed to Newland Archer more awful than an offense against 'Taste,' that far-off divinity of whom 'Form' was the mere visible representative and vicegerent." Vicegerent? I can't help but wonder if that's a misspelling for "vice-regent." Webster says: Vicegerent actually is a real word. It's an administrative deputy of a king or magistrate, whereas a "vice-regent" is a regent's deputy. So close . . . and yet so far away.

3. Fatuities. "The stockings were one of Beaufort's few fatuities" (referring to the silk stockings his footmen wore). I'm sure this is related to the word "fatuous," but I'm not sure what that means either. Though I'm pretty sure it has nothing to do with the word "fat." Webster says: something foolish or stupid. (Fatuous means complacently or inanely foolish; silly; simple.) Zero for three.

4. Apotheosis. "She disappeared in a kind of sulphurous apotheosis, and when a few years later Medora again came back to New York, subdued, impoverished, mourning a third husband, and in quest of a still smaller house, people wondered that her rich niece had not been able to do something for her." Maybe an "apotheosis" is a mystery. Or a cloud. Webster says: elevation to divine status; deification; the perfect example; quintessence. I should have guessed from the root "theos" that it might have something to do with God. Oh well.

5. Sedulously. "In this view they were sedulously abetted by their mothers, aunts and other elderly female relatives, who all shared Mrs. Archer's belief that when 'such things happened' it was undoubtedly foolish of the man, but somehow always criminal of the woman." I can't decide if it means "firmly" or "secretively." Webster says: accomplishing with careful perseverance; diligent in application or pursuit; busily. SO if I had guessed "assiduously" I might have earned one measly little point. But alas, it was not to be.

I have reached a new low, with zero points for this edition of Words of the Day. I hope you did better than I did! I would make myself feel better with the idea that at least I'm learning the words, but I have a confession to make. I came across one of my previous Words of the Day in this book. "He had been somewhat languidly drifting with events for the last fortnight, and letting May's fair looks and radiant nature obliterate the rather importunate pressure of the Mingott claims." The depressing thing? I had to look it up again. In case you need a refresher too, "importunate" means troublesomely urgent.


Kathmeista said...

I didn't know any of these words! Thanks for expanding my vocab - I love learning new words.

Amanda said...

I think you are getting harder on yourself. I would have given credit for number 3, no? For the first time I actually knew one of the words! Dilettante.

Kathy said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Kath! I can't imagine that we'll ever manage to use these words in conversation, but at least we'll know them if we come across them in another book. (Well . . . maybe in my case, not so much.) :P

Mandy--I think I would have come closer to giving myself credit for #2. I didn't really even guess for #3! But with that Word Nazi around, I didn't want to take any chances. (Oh, come on, quit rolling your eyes at me.) :)

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I've been meaning to read this one -- I finished The House of Mirth a couple of months ago and was absolutely in love with Wharton! I have a few of her books but wanted to tackle The Age of Innocence -- and these words are fun to read!

I'm sure you'll be all prepped for your book club meeting!!

Amanda said...

I agree, #2 is close, no partial points anymore??

Kathy said...

Natalie--I've not read the House of Mirth so I don't know how it compares, but I bet you would like this one. I'm really enjoying it. It's very Victorian (except in New York) with angst-causing propriety and unrequited love (so far).

Mandy--I think it was that nasty Word Nazi who kept me from partial points this time. He's very strict.