Thursday, June 18, 2009

May I Have A Word? Updated: I Knew I'd Be Back

Gentlefolk, I am on page 22, (22!!) and already I've had to look up two words in A Judgement In Stone. Blast those clever Brits and their fancy vocabularies.

The first word was atavistic, which appeared on page 1 (page 1!!). Merriam-Webster says this: 1 a: recurrence in an organism of a trait or character typical of an ancestral form and usually due to genetic recombination b: recurrence of or reversion to a past style, manner, outlook, approach, or activity [architectural atavism].

How sad am I that I'm not entirely sure I understand definition a. Thankfully, M-W's suggests that "throwback" is a close synonym. Huzzah!

Here is the sentence in which it appeared, "She had the awful, practical sanity of the atavistic ape disguised as twentieth-century woman."

Do you think "throwback" really helps that sentence be more clear? The jury's still out for me.

OK, here's the second word, limpid. It's a word I've read a thousand times, and I've always gleaned a sort of definition from the context in which it was used. But since I was consulting old M-W for atavistic, I figured I might as well get straight on limpid.

1 a
: marked by transparency : pellucid <limpid streams> b: clear and simple in style <limpid prose> 2: absolutely serene and untroubled

And here's the sentence, "A limpid blue sky, pale green wheat growing, a cuckoo calling -- in May he sings all day -- an exultation of birds carolling their territorial claims from every tree."

Two words in 22 pages, the first word on page 1, and I'm not sure I helped myself understand the first sentence. I think I'll be back here for more before this book is over.

Updated 8:19 pm for phthisic,
the adjective version of phthises: a progressively wasting or consumptive condition ; especially : pulmonary tuberculosis

"In his fantasies Melinda even looked different, paler, thinner, rather phthisic, very much of another world."

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