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

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Words of the Day

Here I am squeezing just a few more words out of The Age of Innocence. I've had plenty of fiber today, so I'm ready to go!

1. Adipose. "She gave an adipose chuckle and patted his knee with her puff-ball hand." Doesn't "adipose" mean "fat"? As in, "adipose tissue"? Sure, Mrs. Manson Mingott (the owner of the "puff-ball hand") is impressively obese, but who knew even her chuckles could be chunky? Webster says: FAT. One portly point! 

2. Fulminated. "When he fulminated against fashionable society he always spoke of its 'trend'; and to Mrs. Archer it was terrifying and yet fascinating to feel herself part of a community that was trending." My guess is that "fulminate" means "preach" or "rail" (the verb, not the noun). Webster says: Uttered or sent out with denunciation; caused to explode (I'm guessing Wharton wasn't going for this denotation); sent forth censures or invectives; hurled denunciations or menaces. One point for "rail," minus a quarter because "preach" wasn't potent enough and because I didn't think to use "vituperate."

3. Vaticinations. "Archer had been wont to smile at these annual vaticinations of his mother's; but this year even he was obliged to acknowledge, as he listened to an enumeration of the changes, that the 'trend' was visible." Maybe a synonym could be pronouncements? At least I'm pretty sure this doesn't have anything to do with the Vatican, or vaccinations. Webster says: Prophecies or predictions. That's probably worth 85% of a point, even though I didn't grasp the idea that the future was involved.

4. Unwonted. "She looked paler than usual, but sparkling with an unwonted animation." I've often read the phrase "as s/he was wont to do" (see number three!), meaning something a character does regularly or is accustomed to, so I would assume "unwonted" would be the opposite. In other words, going against tendency or acting out of character. Webster says: Being out of the ordinary; rare, unusual; not accustomed by experience. How nice! Another full point. One might even say that was unwonted.

5. Impecunious. "Archer looked with a sort of vicarious envy at this eager impecunious young man who had fared so richly in his poverty." This might mean "poor," but somehow I don't think that's right. Webster says: Having very little or no money; penniless. Ha! Another point. Just ignore the part where I said I didn't think my guess was right. And I believe that makes about 4.6 points out of 5! That's a good Dictionary Day.

Hey Tracy, guess what? Wharton used "valetudinarian" in The Age of Innocence! "His eminence as a valetudinarian now made him an object of engrossing interest, and Mrs. Mingott issued an imperial summons to him to come and compare diets as soon as his temperature permitted." One point for Edith. (If you want, you can have another one too, Tracy.) Plus, Wharton used "sedulously" and "importunate" not once, but twice each in this book! I'm not giving her any more points, though. She should have gone for a little more variety.

Would you believe there are still a few more Age of Innocence Words of the Day words to come? I'm going to make you wait for them, though.

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