1. Valetudinarian. It's like cheating to include this word in my Dictionary Day post, because 1) I didn't come across it while reading a book, and 2) it was defined for me. I read it here. But I'm using it anyway, because I have read Emma before (though it's been years), and I wouldn't have remembered what it meant if Tracy hadn't told me--in fact, I don't remember even seeing it in the book. But here it is: a whining hypochondriac. Webster says: a person of a weak or sickly constitution; esp: one whose chief concern is his invalidism. I can't count this one for me, but Tracy gets one point.
2. Exigent. From Tom Wright's fourth book, which I hope to tell you about soon. "The killing clearly was not exigent, nor did it strike effectively at the illegitimate occupation forces of Washington, either of which might have justified the effort and risk of such an undertaking." I gotta tell you, I've got nothing. Unless "exigent" is related to "exiguous" which was one of my previous Words of the Day, meaning excessively scanty or inadequate, though that really doesn't fit the context. Webster says: requiring immediate aid or action; requiring or calling for much; demanding. So, basically, my kids. And nothing like exiguous (other than the first four letters). Dang. Zero points.
3. Parlous. From Anna Karenina. "Oblonsky's financial affairs were in a parlous state." Sounds to me like the redneck pronunciation of "perilous." And--would you believe it?--it kind of is. Webster says: full of danger or risk; hazardous. One point for me!
4. Concatenation. From What I Was. "The sea was oddly flat. There was always at least a gentle swell and fall, though more usually little white riffles and uneven waves. It looked eerie out there now, unnatural. Dead flat and motionless. A concatenation of signs." As much as I want that to be something about a country of felines, judging by the context I am sure it is more of a confluence or a "coming together." Webster says: Linked together. Yeah, I was close enough to get point number two.
5. Exeat. Also from What I Was. I'm a little annoyed at myself for not writing down the sentence, but I remember it referred to a note signed by a teacher allowing a student to leave the boarding school campus and make a trip to town. Webster doesn't know this word (so I should get two points for it, right?) but wikipedia tells me that "exeat" is used in Britain to describe weekend leave from a boarding school. Another interesting tidbit: the word is Latin for "he/she may leave." I guess I'll just take one point. Three points for me and at least one for Tracy.
I've got a bonus phrase for you today. It's not one we need to define, but it's one I was surprised to find in Anna Karenina. Oblonsky "was kept cooling his heels for two hours" in a waiting room. I would have guessed that people started cooling their heels in the 60s (and by this of course I am referring to the twentieth century, not the era of Tolstoy). I can't help but wonder if this is an anachronistic idiom or if the same phrase is found in the original Russian version. My brief search for the origin of "cool your heels" was unsuccessful, so if you have any information on this, please tell me. Otherwise, I will just content myself with this fact: at least Oblonsky didn't cool his jets instead.
Speaking of the era of Tolstoy, here's a fun parallel. Anna Karenina (written between 1873 and 1877) is a contemporary of Laura Ingalls Wilder (born in 1867). So the childhood we read about in the Little House series was taking place in America during the same time that Tolstoy was writing in Russia.
Now for something completely different…
4 days ago