Friday, May 18, 2007

Things Our Heroine Doesn't Know: The List is Long but Distinguished

even the cover looks smarter than me.So, I dropped The Iliad like a hot potato in favor of John Lukacs', A Thread of Years (I warned y'all I was like this, so no lip from BMT). The book's pretty dense, and it's non-fiction (yoiks!), so it's essentially mental bootcamp for me (for review/summary, click here).

What I want to share with y'all is that I'm not even a quarter of the way through reading, and I've had to develop an entire system around looking-up the words and references Lukacs uses for which I have no idea what he's talking about. A complete system, y'all, with rules, and such.

First, the system was simple. Whenever Lukacs used a word I didn't know, I walked to my desk and utilized the ol' Merriam-Webster as God intended. Life was good, for about 30 minutes, until I realized I was spending more time walking to and from my desk than I was reading the book. So I brought the dictionary to where I was reading and,voila! the process had been streamlined and life was good again, for about two chapters. Then I got frustrated because I was stopping to look up at least one word a page, not to mention that I still had to walk to my laptop and Wiki things that weren't definitions.

Eventually, after trial and error, I settled on the system I'm using now: as I read each chapter, I underline every word/reference I don't understand, but I don't look anything up immediately. Then, every three or four chapters, I bring the book with me to the computer and look up everything I've underlined. I write the definition in a Moleskine so that I (hopefully) memorize what I've just learned, permanently filling-in these gaping holes in my knowledge.

So far, here are some of the things I don't know:

  • Francois-Vincent Raspail

  • laic

  • emoluments

  • debouch

  • mugwumps

  • asseverated

  • coruscating

  • vernissages

  • Lebensraum (German)

  • Lothrop Stoddard

  • Madison Grant

  • the fashions of Poiret

  • aigrettes (French)

  • in floribus (Latin)

  • parvenu

  • Childe Hassam

  • Boni de Castellane

  • eclat

  • rubicund

  • paean

  • taxis (not what you think. so shut up.)

  • revanche

  • Gnadige Frau (German. Y'all, I had to email a German friend for this one, not even the interwebs could help me)

  • Mevrouw (Dutch. Sweet. cracker. sandwich, we're using Dutch now?)

  • Karl Kraus

  • Kriegesschuldfrage (German. Though admittedly very interesting once I learned what it was)

  • Dodona

  • Vorticism

  • Imagism

  • Legatee

  • Votary (What are you laughing about? He used the archaic meaning.)

  • Soapy (see note on taxis above)

  • Darkling

  • Goosey

  • Exceptionable (not exceptional, but exceptionable, so pipe down.)

  • huissier (French)

  • moiety

  • hegira

  • serried

  • mansard

Did I mention that I'm not even a quarter of the way through the book, and that this list is not exhaustive? I think it's obvious that either the American education system, or our heroine, has failed miserably in ensuring I have even a rudimentary grasp of the English language and Western history. And, since our heroine is a big believer in personal responsibility, I know I have only one person to blame, and that person is...Rich Achee. "Who is Rich Achee?" some of you may ask. Why, he's the football player who sat in front of me during most of my college English classes. I'm pretty sure he asked me to borrow a pen the day we covered "mansard," and a girl can't focus on two things at once. Not even our heroine, y'all.

P.S. RMK, if you write the definition for every item on my list in the comments section from out of your own head I will have to cut you. I'm just sayin'.


bpm said...

Oh my, that list is intimidating. I only knew mugwumps and mansard.
My MO is to skip such words, thus my early-onset Alzheimers (this happens when your brain gets no exercise).

To actually look them up and write them in a Moleskine? Our Heroine rules!

Nicole Genevieve said...

Usually, your MO is also my MO (I call it, the ostrich-with-head-in-sand method of reading) but with this book there were whole pages where I had no idea what I'd just read because of everything I'd skipped.

As far as the success of the Moleskin method? Er...what's a mugwump again?

Anonymous said...

Is the book actually interesting...or just a giant vocabulary lesson?

BMT said...

Sorry, that anonymous was me...

Nicole Genevieve said...

Oh, yes, very. If I wasn't enjoying it I would have abandoned it as too much work about 30 vocab words ago!