Sunday, May 27, 2007

DSC_0719 - Against a dark backgroundJust finished one book, just started another (neither is the ongoing Hardy). Below are excerpts from both; the former a list of words either unfamiliar or scarce-used (from only part of the book), the latter just a line or two. Can you guess which is the more enjoyable book?

A: Cumean Sybil, corpulent, Sisphyean, hauteur, frangible, mauvaise foi, lambent, foulards, nacreous, transubstantiation, antimony, pochéd, lentor, somnolent, adumbrated, intaglio, turpitude, threnody. It probably even had a Terpsichorean in there as well.

B: We headed along the bottom of a small dry creek towards the jumbled shape of a sprawling stone-and-log-built cabin, which looked like it owed something to Frank Lloyd Wright. Probably an apology.

A is from Edmund White's A Boy's Own Story, one of the Ozman collection (aka the Canberraite* and whatever else I've felt like calling him). Gloriously written yet perpetually detached. The language rather than the story or the character lingers longest, and infuriatingly I can't remember what half of the list means (despite knowing I've encountered some before, such as lambent, or understanding them in context).

* Hang on, it was the Alabama-ite and the Canberran, wasn't it? He. Him. Mr Omega. I really ought to have a Shakespearean list of players, along with their permanent blognames, rather than invariably oubliéing** and starting anew (thereby thriplicating** apparent levels of friendship).

** If EW can make up words where perfectly usable ones exist (lentor?) then so can I.

B is Iain Banks's The Business, gained cheaply in a charity shop. Glib, irreverent, surreal; never afraid of a good, or ghastly, pun. About the only failing is the now defunct reference to a mid-nineties Intel ad; that and the small lack of any emotional connection, but I'm still only on... oh, page 121, when it seems more like 31. I think that means it's readable.

But back to the slightly tacky (both senses) Boy thing: the words and roughly what the mean.

- Cum[a]ean Sybil: A prophetess who guided Aeneas to Hades (so an Equal Ops Charon then); a person who introduces another, darker, world.
- Corpulent: Fat, obese, consumed by flesh.
- Sisphyean: He of the rock, so insurmountable and perpetual.
- Hauteur: assumed highness; haughty or arrogant; Xier-than-thou.
- Frangible: Remember shatterproof rulers? A bit like those; think safety glass crumbling into glass gravel.
- Mauvaise foi: to deny potential; self-limiting (which is not at all what I thought it meant when I read it, but then I thought it was either to do with illness or fog). It can also mean to act inanimately, so acceptingly or affectedly. Laissez-faire for the person.
- Lambent: Bright, flickering or suffusing. Somehow makes me think of ceilings near swimming pools.
- Foulards: light, woven, possibly intricately printed, cloth, or articles thereof.
- Nacreous: Pearlescent (I know I could use pearly, but I read that as meaning like a pear).
- Transubstantiation: Jesus said "Bite me".
- Antimony: Unpaid alimony, or possibly a paradox between equals.
- Pochéd: poached a la pré-ton-sy-on. Can't remember where it was used, but this is another I didn't get from the context (I envisaged something between pocked and ruched [which apparently means bark-like])
- Lentor: Tenacity, viscosity, sluggishness (I thought it meant languid).
- Somnolent: Soporific or torpid.
- Adumbrated: to obscure or be obscured, possibly only partly, by shadow; vaguely suggest, foretell, forebode. It was a dark and stormy night probably uses at least three of the meanings.
- Intaglio: engraving, or a female/concave mould and the results thereof.
- Turpitude: base or depraved.
- Threnody: lament, dirge for the dead.
- Terpsichorean: now with added dancing (or music, joy, activity, chaos, etc).

Definitions paraphrased from,,, my battered Collins and my battered mind.

Now to work out which of the above can be applied to a cold, wet Whitsun. The sky is more knackered than nacreous, neither lambent or adumbrated, sulking in somnolent mauvaise foi, suffused in lentor and indulging in a Sisphyean threnody. It's so jolly I think I may go back to The Business, despite only featuring more ostentatiously French names than words.

That's about it for now, except to ask what words have you only recently encountered?


Had a brief argument yesterday about whether "hinterlistig" already exists in German (Google suggests I was right).

More to the point, your definition of "transubstatiation" is hilarious and excellent.
Hinterlistig? Hinter as in hinterland, so between or beyond, list as in list, and ig and as in this word's not long enough yet. So a chit of doom or something similar then?

Guess who Googled and could make no sense of it in German and less sense of it as automatically translated (other than suspecting it describes my chess playing strategy). So what does it mean?
Hmm. "Oologist". I'm still not sure what the hell that is, although I suppose it could be something to do with eggs?
Someone who studies the stupid things I say when I've just noticed something? Or just a zoologist on a motorbike?

Golly, was this that last thing I posted? Really must get on with the Paris post (possibly having just the one Paris post might be causing half the problem).
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