Kilpatrick runs through some of the terrible words a reader sent to him. "One of my readers sat down recently to read a book. She kept getting up. After a while she wrote me a cranky letter. She wrote: 'I am disgusted and appalled by having to look up a word every fourth or fifth sentence.' She enclosed a partial list of words she had stumbled over before she was halfway through the book."
As you can imagine, I just had to see that book. It is River Horse, A Voyage Across America, by William Least Heat Moon, telling of the author's crossing of the United States almost entirely by riverboat.
The book is not bad as all that. Its hard words are nowhere near so thickly seeded in the text, and often they are clear from context or do not distract. This week we'll enjoy some of them, starting with two today
incarnadine – 1. of a fleshy pink color. 2. blood-red
anadromous – migrating up rivers from the sea, to spawn in fresh water
Compare catadromous – living in fresh water but migrating to marine waters to breed.
[from Gk., running up and running down respectively]
… the long efforts to reduce or eliminate filth [in the river[ are evident almost everywhere. Not long ago, most heeded state warnings and refused to eat anything from the river. Now many fish, particularly anadromous species spending most of their life in the Atlantic, are appearing again on tables.
Terrific find -- excellent example for the "nice distinctions" category.
Visit http://www.gma.org/Tidings/anacata.html for the sad tale of the eel.
Are there no "syndromous" fish, those who stay put, to avoid the eel's fate?
You missed my favorite use of the word incarnadine, oh wait, the only time I've really ever heard it before.
The multitudinous seas incardadine, making the green ones red
Indeed, the Macbeth is why any reasonably educated person should know 'incarnadine', as it instantly recalls that line.
So, anyone who cannot recall that line or who has not read Macbeth is not "reasonable educated?"
palliate – 1. to mitigate 2. to extenuate
[i.e., 1. to make (pain or disease) less severe 2. to make fault or crime seem less severe, with excuses and apologies. from L. meaning 'to cloak; to conceal']
cheval-de-frise (pl. chevaux de ~) – 1. an obstacle of jagged glass, spikes, etc. set into the top of a wall 2. orig. military: a defensive line of spikes, etc., to block advance of the enemy (e.g., cavalry)
[lit. horse of Friesland, because used there as a defense, compensating for lack of cavalry]
Our first two quotations illustrate these usages. Our third gives two more definitions, which are very interesting ("literary device"? "chastity belt"?), but I can't confirm them.
a tall hedge of cactus reinforced the crumbling wall with a cheval-de-frise of bristling thorns
– Bret Harte, The Crusade of the Excelsior, ch. viii
[review of a musical work titled Chevaux-de-frise:]
Gerald Barry's cheval-de-frise … A fence of sharpened stakes defending a stockade, a knotty verbal device to impede too rapid reading, a teasing buckle to protect the chastity of its wearer and defy him who would violate it - the title means all these, and Barry's response is a tour-de-force of sustained ferocity: menacing, yet exhilarating, even cheery.
– Robin Holloway, The Spectator, June 29, 2002
surreptitious – taken 'on the sly', secretly or furtively, with efforts to avoid detection
1. chiefly Brit; usu. contemptuous: a small shopkeeper selling provisions, groceries, etc.
2. a retailer of specified goods or lines [typ. nautical], as, a ship chandler
3. a candle-maker or candle-seller [Note: This sense is the earlier.]
chandlery – his shop
This definition combines several dictionaries plus my own thoughts. Readers, do you agree with me when I say 'chiefly Brit', 'usu. contemptuous', 'small' and 'typ. nautical'?
I have never thought of chandler as in any way contemptuous. I can't say that I've ever used it in the wider sense, and can only recall seeing it used in ship's chandler.
Nowadays small stores of that type are very few and far between.This message has been edited. Last edited by: arnie,
Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
Our author's odyssey cannot begin before spring thaws the rivers, and must be complete before the late fall freeze. As the author muses over the tight limit looming over him, he indulges in a truly obscure word.
. . ."Out of the way! I'll swat the nasty thing!" exclaimed Aunt Gertrude as she burst in brandishing a fly swatter.
. . ."No, don't kill it!" Frank protested. "It's an interesting specimen." "Interesting, my hat!" sniffed Aunt Gertrude. The boys smothered grins, and then Frank turned anxiously back to their mother. "It didn't sting you, did it?"
. . ."No but it frightened me out of my wits. When I opened the container, it crawled out on my hand! I had to shake it of in the sink."
. . ."From what I read in the encyclopedia," Frank said, "I've a hunch this is a whip scorpion called a vinegaroon, that's found in the southwestern United States and Mexico. It's called that because it emits a vinegary odor when aroused, just as this one's doing." The boys managed to corral the scorpion back into the plastic container and delivered it to their science teacher at Bayport High.
I've not heard chandler in that first sense either - that sort of small shop is what I would call a damn-it shop (apologies for the vocab). As in, "Damn it, we've run out of bread/milk/eggs"...