Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Weird Words

I just finished reading Charlotte Bronte's last novel, Villette. Would I recommend it? Not really. I much prefer Jane Austen's novels, all seven of which I just finished a couple of weeks ago. I did pick up some weird new vocabulary words from Villette, though. Here they are:
  • Hebdomadal, which means weekly, as in "Lucy hadn't had time for her hebdomadal bath. She wondered that Dr. Bretton declined her offer of tea." (I just made that one up; it's not a direct quote from the book. The book is much, much wordier.)

  • Contumacity. Merriam-Webster Online only had a definition for contumacy, which means stubborn resistance to authority. If I hadn't seen it in a novel written in the 1850s, I'd swear that one was invented to describe Kelly.

  • Condign, which means deserved or appropriate, as in "condign punishment". Why couldn't she just write "appropriate punishment"?

  • Collyrium, which means eyewash. Somehow, this word comes from the diminutive of kollyra, Greek for a roll of bread. How on earth did we ever get from breadroll to eyewash?

  • Palsp. I think this may have been a typo because I couldn't find it anywhere online. It's kind of a cool word, though - don't you think? It could mean the sound a cat makes when he's coughing up a hairball. "Kathie was startled awake by a palsp in the other room. Might Pork Chop have accidentally swallowed the new kitten? Che was nowhere to be found..." (Hey, believe me, that's as believable as the plot of Villette - maybe more so after this weekend's cat perch incident.)
There were more weird words, but I didn't start marking the pages - so I could go back and find them later - until I was more than half way through the book. I'm not rereading the first half to locate the ones I missed now. Someone else read it and let me know, ok?


Heather said...

I keep that book beside my bed for nights I have trouble falling asleep. It's been there for over two years and no, I haven't finished it. I've probably read a hundred other books, but Villette is my Unisom.

Sonnjea B said...

I enjoy reading books that stretch my vocabulary -- but only with useful words! I don't imagine I'll be using hebdomadal in a sentence, no matter how condign it may be.

Pat said...

Heather - Villette vs. Unisom...Villette wins by a nose.

Amen, Sonnjea!

Kappa no He said...

I always think I'll remember the word, the page, the usage, so that the next day I'll look the new words up. Ha ha. Now I sleep with a bunch of sticky notes by bed.

Now, I'm trying to think what book invariably puts me to sleep....