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

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Words of the Day

I really am almost at the end of my List of Words to Look Up, but who am I kidding? As long as I am still reading living I will continue finding enough new words to do a Dictionary Day post occasionally.

Not my dad
1. Tonsure. From The Tooth Fairy. "Was that unfair of me, laddie? Not warning you about that, I mean. Not telling you not to buy a hairnet for your uncle's tonsure?" It must mean "bald head," but my dad has one of those and I've never heard it called a "tonsure." Webster says: The Roman Catholic or Eastern rite of admission to the clerical state by the clipping or shaving of a portion of the head; the shaven crown or patch worn by monks and other clerics; a bald spot resembling a tonsure. OK, so my dad doesn't have a tonsure; he's more like a cue ball. But I still get a point.

2. Specious. From One Day. "But in the years since leaving college this line of argument had come to seem so abstract and specious that she had finally succumbed to Dexter's nagging and got the damn things, realizing only too late that what she had really been avoiding all those years was that moment in the movies: the librarian removes her spectacles and shakes out her hair." Could it have anything to do with "species"? But how could something be abstract and specific? Webster says: Showy; having deceptive attraction or allure; having a false look of truth or genuineness; sophistic. I was way off! No points.

3. Bespoke. Also from One Day. "Something of an amateur DJ, Dexter had a wallful of CDs and rare vinyl in bespoke pine racks, two turntables and a microphone, all tax-deductible, and could often be spotted in record shops in Soho, wearing an immense pair of headphones like halved coconuts." The only other descriptor for pine I can think of is knotty, but I don't think that's right. Webster says: Custom-made. Well, I was right that I wasn't right, but that's not right enough for any points.

4. Picaresque. Sorry, I don't remember where I found this one. My mind wants it to be the same as "picturesqe." But . . . it can't be, because why would it be so similar but not exactly the same? Webster says: Of or relating to rogues or rascals; a type of fiction dealing with the episodic adventures of a roguish protagonist. Yeah, not exactly the same. Once again, no points.

5. Metafiction. This wasn't actually in a book--I think I saw it on a book blog. I have the idea that it refers to a book within a book, but since I'm not sure, I'll look it up. Webster says: Nothing. I guess that's what I get for using a dictionary that is more than twenty years old. Google to the rescue: Any work of fiction that takes either itself or some other work of fiction as its subject matter. Yay! I get another point, but I'll take a piece of chocolate instead.  That makes one point out of five, plus a piece of chocolate. I win!

Want to hear something sad? I almost put "fulminating" (from The Tooth Fairy) in this post, until I realized I'd already used that as a Word of the Day here. Obviously it didn't stick with me. I ought to subtract a point for that. But I won't.


Shelley said...

Thank you--I was wondering what metafiction was and hadn't looked it up yet. I notice that spell check doesn't even recognize it as a word!

Kathy said...

Why, you're welcome! I was just sure I was the only one who didn't know what that meant, so it's nice to know I wasn't alone. And now we're both smarter! :)

Anonymous said...

I've often thought about doing a post like this - or bringing a list like this to my book club meeting from a current book. I find that often I " kind of know" the meaning, but looking it up further refines my understanding. I may have got 2.5 of these. I vaguely remember tonsure so that's my .5 one. :-)

Kathy said...

I say go for it! I know what you mean about kind of knowing the meaning. And I feel like I should have known "tonsure," but if I'd been pressed I probably only could have come up with "monk haircut." :)