Sunday, July 6, 2008

249. A Bit on Vocabulary

Ken Phillips has an interesting post on "Proper English" with some links to phrase finder sites. Beware. You can easily lose track of time playing around on those.

I've been reading a lot of murder mysteries lately as part of my summer pseudo-vacation. (I'm still working every day. But it's summer and feels like I should be on vacation.) Some of the modern ones are pure claptrap, not really worth the time. But when you're vacationing, time isn't a concern, so I read on.

But one thin volume that I borrowed from Ruth Tighe was a decidedly British mystery, written in the early 1970's. An Awkward Lie, by the Scottish writer Michael Innes (a/k/a J.I.M. Stewart ), had me digging deep into my memory for words I haven't heard for a while, and in some cases had me reaching for my dictionary.

Here are some of the words and phrases I found interesting, refreshing, humorous, or just puzzling.

spinney
matutinal
saloon (used for a car)
callipygian

distinguo (I still don't have a good definition for this. I'm guessing it's latin or latinate, and just means "as distinguished from" or something like that.)

racemes
laved
pinnace
miching malicho
enfilading
apothegm
philologist
scrum-half
farouche
corvee
refection
tiro (more familiar to me as tyro)
tumuli
barrows (not the wheel kind)
vallums
sarsen
scragged
tump
Bunn (I still haven't found a satisfactory definition for this word, as used in the novel.)

and
collation

I'm sorry to say that, before dictionary, I only knew seven of these words. Ah, the joys of vacation reading.

3 comments:

bernard n. shull said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
KAP said...

Hey, thanks for the plug. I have fond memories of reading with a dictionary nearby.

That's not necessary any more: I use the computer.

For instance, I put a dictionary in another tab and worked through your vocabulary test.

rebecca said...

I'm such a fan of Michael Innes. I hope you'll make the effort to find more of his stuff. And he certainly does challenge the old vocabulary.
Even as I write this, I wonder at myself for having encouraged you to read more by this excellent author. it is none of my business, after all. But somehow it makes me happy to think of how much you will enjoy reading his books. On your quasi-vacation in Saipan.