Monday, 27 July 2009

thicko interlude: word(s) of the day

With those ideal daily commutes and no exams or revision on the horizon, now is the perfect time for me for reading. As such a serendipitious life balance is rare for me, I took the opportunity to try to 'challenge' myself with more 'challenging' books. I was most recently lured in by William Faulker's The Wild Palms, perhaps by the presence of my favourite word on the blurb: 'a novel in which elemental danger is juxtaposed with fatal injuries of the spirit' - a word which I have written essays on and which thus makes me feel important and clever for understanding its meaning.

I didn't start off too badly, although perhaps the warning bells should have started to ring as soon as two 'challenging' adverbs were juxtaposed within the first sentence: 'The knocking sounded again, at once discreet and peremptory...'. Still, it was only once I entered the second chapter that the words I didn't recognise began to build like brambles and twigs on a forest floor, forcing me to pause, side-step the words, jump over the gaps, examine them for a familiar root.

I began to make a list, because the words were accumulating with such speed that I would have spent more time reading the dictionary than The Wild Palms if I tackled them one by one. At work, I discovered that is another rare website which is not blocked; I would work through the list, copying down the meanings next to the words, hoping that this would cement them in my memory. More often than not I come to the same word a chapter or so later, only to recognise it but find that I have forgotten its meaning.

Currently I am just under halfway through the book. In some ways I am proud of my journey; I am always looking to expand my vocabulary, even if I tend to prefer to do a word a day rather than twenty, and I definitely think that the words which Faulkner likes to use multiple times will remain in my personal vocabulary.

Examples of these repeat performances include: catafulque, skiff, abrogate, annealing, effigy, husbandry, incorrigble. I am serious; all the above words have appeared twice if not more within the first half of the novel. Some of the wonderfully wordy one-offs include: preprandial, adumbrate, obfuscation, equableness, apotheosis - words which if I ever see written down again I doubt I will do anything but feel that irritating sense of recognising, but not quite recalling, and reach for the nearest dictionary yet again.

Admit it: at least one of those had you stumped, right?


  1. I wish I could write a blog post for you with preprandial, adumbrate, obfuscation, equableness, and apotheosis all in it. I do think I use obfuscate on a intermittent basis. I always loved that tee shirt that said "eschew obfuscation."

    I will admit to not remembering the meaning of catafulque.I knew it meant something going up but what the something was I had no clue.

  2. Most of those had me stumped! Well done on challenging yourself! I would love to extend my vocab but more often than not it is easier to skip a word that investigate it. Lazy I know, perhaps I shall take up a word a day too?