lucubration, crenellate, valleity, chary, sybaritic

Occasionally, I post new-to-me words discovered via my reading rambles. I do this for my edification. If you happened to stumble across this post and you are a word nerd, you might enjoy these as well. Following each word is a short definition (sometimes with a thought interjected parenthetically), trailed by the context in which the word was found. 

  • lucubration: laborious cogitation, or, a solemn literary work that is the product of laborious cogitation | (I first stumbled upon this word in Pierre Hadot's extraordinary book on Marcus Aurelius, The Inner Citadel, but cannot now find the word in the text, even with the help of a Google Books search. Thankfully, I've stumbled across the word again in Henry Miller's essays).  "Since then, however, I have thought about it night and day. The result of my meditations and lucubrations I now offer to the world in the shape of this little treatise which, if it does not settle the problem once and for all, may at least unsettle it." - Henry Miller, "Money and How it Gets That Way" 
  • crenellate: supply with battlements | "Crenellated present ..." - René Char, Leaves of Hypnos ("Crenellated present ..." is the entire sentence and paragraph; there is no other context. Leaves of Hypnos was the poet René Char's reflections during the Nazi occupation of France. Part poetry, prose, and journal, the phrase "crenellated present" constitutes a substantial bearing in light of Char's desire to protect his emotional, psychical, and physical health).
  • valleity: a mere wish, unaccompanied by effort to obtain, volition in its weakest form | "Involuted velleities of self-erasure." - from the poem "Queer" by Frank Bidart, Metaphysical Dog Poems
  • chary: characterized by great caution and wariness | "She, like many of my parents's friends, had been full of enthusiasm about the book, and I found her no less so that day than when I'd seen her in New York some months before. But that didn't mean she wasn't chary." - Alexandra Styron, Reading My Father
  • sybaritic: displaying luxury and furnishing gratification to the senses | "But eventually, Paris and its bacchanalian pleasures began to wear on even my sybaritic father." - Alexandra Styron, Reading My Father | "Mario {Batali} had become the clown of the town - or at least its most sybaritic spokesman." - Heat, Bill Buford
A famous lucubration from antiquity is Marcus Aurelius's Meditations. Pictured: a photo I took of the Portrait Bust of Emperor Marcus Aurelius in the Chicago Museum of Art, circa 170-180 A. D.

A famous lucubration from antiquity is Marcus Aurelius's Meditations. Pictured: a photo I took of the Portrait Bust of Emperor Marcus Aurelius in the Chicago Museum of Art, circa 170-180 A. D.

fulgurous, defenestration, eudaemonic, benignant, autochthon

Occasionally, I post new-to-me words discovered via my reading rambles. I do this for my edification. If you happened to stumble across this post and you are a word nerd, you might enjoy discovering these as well. Following each word is a short definition (sometimes with a thought interjected parenthetically), trailed by the context in which the word was found. 

  • comport: behave well or properly | "He found it difficult to comport himself so that nothing in his expression, posture, or voice would reveal his peculiar fate or depression or illness to the young man, who was undoubtedly observing him closely." - Herman Hesse, The Glass Bead Game
  • fulgurous: amazingly impressive; suggestive of the flashing of lightening | "It took me some time to understand that the author of the Tropics never intended images to illuminate a subject; he used the subject to spawn a whole new generation of images. Language grows freely, swelling and foaming from ceaseless fulguration" - Brassaï, Henry Miller, The Paris Years
  • defenestration: the act of throwing someone or something out of a window | "The windows of Prague send a shiver down your spine; it is the capital of defenestrations. You look toward the long windows and see how they fall, killing themselves on the long and glistening stones of the Mala Strana and the Czernin Palace - the Hussite reformers and communists who have yet to find their century." - Carlos Fuentes, "The Other K," from Myself and Others
  • eudaemonic: producing happiness and well-being | "The eudaemonic approach draws on the Aristotelian concept of the good life, and appeals to the widely shared intuition that there is more to life than a favorable balance to pleasure and pain." - Daniel Kahnaman, "Living and thinking about it: two perspectives on life."
  • benignant: pleasant and beneficial in nature or influence | "It is simply a picturesque old house, in a fine park richly wooded; beautiful and benign: ‘O the solemn woods over which the light and shadow travelled swiftly, as if Heavenly wings were sweeping on benignant errands through the summer air.’" - Charles Dickens, Bleak House
  • autochthon: the earliest known inhabitants of a region | "The Iliad represent no creed or opinion, and we read it with a rare sense of freedom and responsibility, as if we trod on native ground and were autochthons of the soil." - Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers | "He wrote of his admiration for Homer, who in his profound grasp of his place made even modern day readers, far removed in time and geography, feel as if they were 'autochthones of the soil.'" - Frederick Turner, Spirit of Place
Photo taken near Lexington, Mass ... where Thoreau, too, felt an 'autochthon of the soil' and the winds whirl their benignant errands.

Photo taken near Lexington, Mass ... where Thoreau, too, felt an 'autochthon of the soil' and the winds whirl their benignant errands.

(Learn how I easily capture these definitions and why I started this series, here). 

diuturnity, autochthon, churlish, nonpareil, excrescence, vigorish

I occasionally post new-to-me words discovered via my literary rambles.  I do this for my own edification. If you happened to stumble across this post and you are a word nerd (like me), then you might enjoy discovering these as well. Following each word is a short definition, trailed by the context in which the word was found. (Learn how I easily capture these and why I started this series, here). 

  • diuturnity: the quality or state of being continuous or lasting | "But the path that leads to an understanding of concord as Carnac, says Throreau, necessarily takes you through a confrontation with and meditation on its very discrete facts - stone walls, those mossy monuments that to natives represent only some farmer’s lonely, back-breaking labor; the muddy, shallow river that unremarked runs through the fields and in flood time keeps the cattle out; the woods whose silent speech is of diuturnity - or was until they were cut down to feed the railroad: those very facts the writer had been patiently recording in his journals." - Frederick Turner, Spirit of Place
  • autochthon: the earliest known inhabitants of a region | "The very next day, perhaps still in the heat of that September 4 entry, he wrote of his admiration for readers, far removed in time and geography, feel as if they were ‘autochthones of the soil’". - Frederick Turner, Spirit of Place
  • churlish: having a bad disposition; surly | "With a sort of churlish consistency he refused opportunities for travel, entrees to the wider literary scene, lecture dates that would take him from Concord." - Frederick Turner, Spirit of Place
  • nonpareil: model of excellence or perfection of a kind; one having no equal | "I have followed that advice assiduously, and not only at home through 56 years of a marital partnership nonpareil." - "Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Advice for Living," The New York Times
  • excrescence: something that bulges out or is protuberant or projects from its surroundings  | "I believe that morning in the Bar Palermo was the only time he ever alluded, not jokingly but seriously, even dramatically, to what was undoubtedly a tragedy in life, even though he concealed it with such style and grace: the excrescence that made him a walking incitement to mockery and disgust, and must have affected all his relationships, especially with women." - The Storyteller, Mario Vargas Llosa | "Buildings are not excrescences on the face of the earth; they have become part of the landscape, baked into it by the synthesizing heat of the Provencal sun." - The Food of France, Waverly Root  | 
  • vigorish: an exorbitant or unlawful rate of interest | "He knows that loneliness is our craft, that death is God’s vigorish." - Jack Gilbert, “Prospero Without His Magic”

cicatrise, chatelaine, chimera, accoucheur, indite

I occasionally post new-to-me words discovered via my literary rambles.  I do this for my own edification. If you happened to stumble across this post and you are a word nerd (like me), then you might enjoy discovering these as well. Following each word is a short definition, trailed by the context in which the word was found. (Learn how I easily capture these and why I started this series, here). 

  • cicatrise: for a scar, after an injury | "One no longer cicatrized by such words, such action." - Philip Larkin, Collected Poems
  • chatelaine: the mistress of a chateau or a large country house | "Bjørnvig was a guest at Rungstedlund until Christmas, the lost traveler ripe for a mystic romance who enters the enchanted castle and falls under the spell of its lonely chatelaine." - Judith Thurman, Isak Dinesen, the Life of a Storyteller
  • chimera: a grotesque product of the imagination | (I have stumbled across this word so many times, and at each stumble, still have not retained its meaning). "You cling to the religious ideas that cause you such suffering, and I to the chimera of style, which consumes me body and soul." - The Letters of Gustave Flaubert, 1857-1880 | "Euripides had no patience for elevated language or the chimeras of nobility." - Thomas Cahill, Sailing the Wine Dark Sea | "For, all of your philosophy, what is it but a mere illusion and a Chimera?" - letter from Albert Burgh to Spinoza, World's Greatest Letters, Schuster 
  • accoucheur: a physician specializing in obstetrics | "To his work without flinching the accoucheur comes, I see the elder hand pressing receiving supporting." - Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
  • indite: produce a literary work | "There are many other examples of this connection - not necessarily a fear of death, as in Timor mortis conturbat me, but a definite concern with it - an intimation of transience, of evanescence, and thus of mortality, coupled with the urge to indite." - Margaret Atwood, Negotiating with the Dead

bonhomie, interregnum, traduce, cicerone, perfidious

I occasionally post new-to-me words discovered via my literary rambles.  I do this for my own edification. If you happened to stumble across this post and you are a word nerd (like me), then you might enjoy discovering these as well. Following each word is a short definition, trailed by the context in which the word was found. (Learn how I easily capture these and why I started this series, here). 

  • bonhomie: a disposition to be friendly and approachable (easy to talk to) | "Sam and Eddie Hart have certainly inherited at least one characteristic from their father Tim that is, I believe, essential for a restaurateur: each smiles with a genuine sense of bonhomie." - Nicholas Lander, The Art of the Restaurateur
  • interregnum: the time between two reigns, governments, etc. | "No friend who worried about Salinger's future should have let him publish 'Seymour an Introduction' in The New Yorker without daring to lose his friendship first by telling him how awful it was. Yet there was too much depending on Salinger's interregnum - he was so inoffensive, finally." - David Shields, Shane Salerno, Salinger | "We are in a period of interregnum, between a time when we had certainties and another when the old ways of doing things no longer work." - Zygmunt Bauman, Interview, EL PAIS
  • traduce: speak unfavorably about | "Someone must have traduced Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning." - Kafka, The Trial | "My traducer's lonely aerie was not easy to locate, though I had been there once before, on a similar journalistic errand." - John Updike (as Henry Bech), "Questions of Character: There's No Ego as Wounded as a Wounded Altar Ego"
  • cicerone: a guide who conducts and informs sightseers | "Both had ciceronal gifts, huh?" - Letter from Robert Phelps to James Salter, Memorable Days
  • perfidious: tending to betray; especially having a treacherous character as attributed to the Carthaginians by the Romans | "The attitude goes back to a long history of "perfidious" half-breeds, men who, by their nature, had to choose against one of their bloodlines." - William Least Heat-Moon, Blue Highways |  "I declare myself opposed to several matters in the constitution, particularly to the manner in which, what is called the Executive, is formed ... I also declare myself opposed to almost the whole of your administration; for I know it to have been deceitful if not even perfidious ... - Letter from Thomas Paine to George Washington

lambent, carapace, pogrom, salutary, elision

  • lambent: softly bright or radiant | "As in A Sport, you have an extraordinary nervous system: relaxed but quick, leisurely but alert, lambent but keen." - Memorable Days, The Selected Letters of James Salter and Robert Phelps
  • carapace: hard outer covering or case of certain organisms such as arthropods and turtles | "So the more that I’ve delved into this, the more I find that the carapace of the divinization of the Buddha, the metaphysical theories, begins to somehow fall away, and one recovers a deeply human setting, and a deeply human discourse." - Stephen Bachelor, in podcast interview from On Being
  • pogrom: organized persecution of an ethnic group (especially Jews) | "If not even an avowed socialist can be bothered to grapple with reparations, if the question really is that far beyond the pale, if Bernie Sanders truly believes that victims of the Tulsa pogrom deserved nothing, that the victims of contract lending deserve nothing, that the victims of debt peonage deserve nothing, that that political plunder of black communities entitle them to nothing, if this is the candidate of the radical left—then expect white supremacy in America to endure well beyond our lifetimes and lifetimes of our children." - "Why Precisely Is Bernie Sanders Against Reparations?", The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • salutary: tending to promote physical well-being; beneficial to health | "Writing Through the Narrow Gate, some twelve years later, was a salutary experience. It made me confront the past, and I learned a great deal." - Karen Armstrong, The Spiral Staircase
  • elision: a deliberate act of omission | "Instead, the documentary consistently leads its viewers to the conclusion that Avery was framed by the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department, and it contains striking elisions that bolster that theory." - Kathryn Schulz, "Dead Certainty", The New Yorker

Words is a weekly posting of new-to-me words I discover via my reading rambles (you can read more about how I capture these and why I started this series here).

parvenus, raison d'être, tendentious, apodictic

  • parvenus: a person who has suddenly risen to a higher economic status but has not gained social acceptance of others in that class | "Because what you're seeing here is the restoration of a capitalist society with everything cruel and stupid that involves, with the vulgarity of crooks and parvenus." - The Art of the Novel, Milan Kundera
  • raison d'être: reason for being | "Now, if the novel's raison d'être is to keep "the world of life" under a permanent light and to protect us from "the forgetting of being," is it not more than ever necessary today that the novel should exist?" - The Art of the Novel, Milan Kundera
  • tendentious: having or marked by a strong tendency especially a controversial one | "But the character of modern society hideously exacerbates this curse: it reduces man's life to its social function; the history of a people to a small set of events that are themselves reduced to a tendentious interpretation ... ". - The Art of the Novel, Milan Kundera
  • apodictic: of a proposition; necessarily true or logically certain | "The can cope with the novel only by translating its language and relativity and ambiguity into their own apodictic and dogmatic discourse." - The Art of the Novel, Milan Kundera

Words is an occassional posting of new-to-me words I discover via my literary rambles (you can read more about how I capture these and why I started this series here).

mullioned, sorrel, steppe, contrapuntal, amanuensis

  • Mullioned: of windows; divided by vertical bars or piers usually of stone | "The entire north end was a majestic mullioned window comparable to any in a Parisian atelier." - Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces
  • Sorrel: any of certain coarse weedy plants with long taproots, sometimes used as table greens or in folk medicine | "I put you piously in my mouth and felt on my tongue the long taste of sorrel and the moon" - Zbiegniew Herbert, The Collected Poems | Note: Sorrel was used to remove ink stains from linen, I am most familiar with it in context of the color of a horse (light brownish); not to be confused with Stendhal's Julian Sorel.
  • Steppe: extensive plain without trees | "factories smoke in the steppe trains across the tundra" - - Zbiegniew Herbert, The Collected Poems
  • Contrapuntal: relating to or characteristic of or according to the rules of counterpoint | When I researched this word in the WordBook app, I looked at the notes and realized that this was the third time I had looked up this word - apparently I have yet to comprehend its meaning. Here is the word in context, featuring the three sentences I read: "There is a contrapuntal air." - Agha Shahid Ali, Ravishing Disunities |  "It may nevertheless be the case that these small beings are singing not only to claim their stake in the pond, not only to attract a mate, but also out of spontaneous love and joy, a contrapuntal choral celebration of the coolness and wetness after weeks of desert fire, for love of their own existence, however brief it may be, and for joy in the common life." - Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire | "Surely he or she brings to the page not only what is already known but also the contrapuntal impulse of a permeable intention." - Jane Hirschfield, Ten Windows
  • Amanuensis: someone skilled in the transcription of speech (especially dictation) | "But how does the writer, poetry's amanuensis, rise to meet this yearning for increase?" - Jane Hirschfield, Ten Windows

Words is an occassional posting of new-to-me words I discover via my literary rambles (you can read more about how I capture these and why I started this series here).

anthroposophy, astigmatic, prehensile, pastiche, copse

  • Anthroposophy: a system of beliefs and practices based on the philosophy of Rudolph Steiner; it claims to integrate the practical and psychological in child-centered education | "There were the books, but I had to ask my friends the titles of them. I remembered a sentence from Rudolf Steiner, in his books on anthroposophy, which was the name he gave to his philosophy." Jorge Luis Borges, "Blindness", Selected Non-Fictions
  • Astigmatic: of or relating to a defect in the eye or in a lens caused by a deviation from spherical curvature which prevents light rays from meeting at a common focus and so results in distorted images | "We have even made the mistake of thinking of early photography as imperfect, slightly astigmatic, a primitive craft improved and modernized only recently." Paul Theroux, Sunrise with Sea Monsters
  • Prehensile: 1) adapted for grasping especially by wrapping an object around it 2) having a keen intellect 3) immoderately desirous of acquiring e.g. wealth | "Consider three words: "apprehend," "comprehend," "prehensile." There is, deep in the process of human knowing, a necessary and active reaching out - to understand is to grasp, to take in." - Jane Hirshfield, Ten Windows
  • Pastiche: a musical composition consisting of a series of songs or other musical pieces from various sources. | "And yet, now matter how magnificent, signed by a contemporary composer it would be laughable. At best its author would be applauded as a virtuoso of pastiche." - Milan Kundera, The Curtain
  • Copse: a dense growth of bushes | I've looked up this word three times (a testament to my terrible memory). First, I read it in Cormac McCarthy's Suttree: "stripped and rotting in its copse of trees by the river". Then, in John Kinsella's potent narrative poem "The Hunt" (Peripheral Light: Selected and New Poems): "copse surrounded by fluorescent green crops of wheat" and finally, Mary Oliver uses the word in her essay about the Jesuit poet (one of my favorites) Gerard Manley Hopkins: "His one escape from a life of self-restraint, labor, and humility was his feeling for the natural world—landscapes and waterways and copses, and especially the yearly gift of spring—in which he read the proof of God." (Winter Hours)

Words is an occassional posting of new-to-me words I discover via my literary rambles (you can read more about how I capture these and why I started this series here).

tergiversation, stertorous, patina, extirpate

  • Tergiversation: the act of abandoning a party for a cause | "The Impressionsists lived through a monarchy, an empire, two republics, and for a very short time, a Commune. These political tergiversations however were trivial compared with the basic chages in society which they disguised but did not control." | From Impressionism, The Painters and The Paintings by Bernard Denvir (a beautiful, extremely large coffee table book I picked up at an estate sale for $4). 
  • Stertorous: of breathing having a heavy snoring sound | "But along with the physical race they ran was another contest / in the heart of the girl, who wanted to win and not to win, / who could have passed him several times, could have left him / behind, / his stertorous gasping loud in his dry and desperate throat." | The Metamorphoses of Ovid, David R. Slavitt translation | While finishing up Marcus Aurelius's Meditations, I read a reference that led me to the poet Ovid and The Metamorphoses, particularly, the myth of Atalanta and Hippomenes
  • Patina: a fine coating of oxide on the surface of a metal | I've stumbled across this word so many times in my reading, in One Hundred Years of Solitude (Marquez), to Robert Fagles's translation of The Iliad, to Thomas Gunn's poetry and finally, this morning, I read it in William Gass's book of essays, A Temple of Texts: "The Homeric epics, based on tradition, acquire a patina of contemporary lore and custom." But Marquez's use of the word is the most elegant, using it to describe the adornment of the gypsy Melquiades, "He wore a large black hat that looked like a raven with widespread wings, and a velvet vest across which the patina of the centuries had skated." 
  • Extirpate: destroy completely as if down to the roots | From William Gass's book of essays, A Temple of Texts:  "Heresy needs to be punished and heretics extirpated. Between different, even warring religions, there are many silent secret connections." Also, Flaubert used the word in one of his letters, touching on the subject of suffering: "Nothing will extirpate suffering, nothing will eliminate it. Our purpose is not to dry it up, but to create outlets for it. If the sense of man's imperfection, of th meaninglessness of life, were to perish -as would follow from their premise- we would be more stupid than birds, who at least perch on trees." And finally, I stumbled across the word while reading chapter three of Gibbons Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Volume One): "Every barrier of the Roman constitution had been leveled by the vast ambition of the dictator; every fence had been extirpated by the cruel hand of the Triumvir." 

Words is an occassional posting of new-to-me words I discover via my literary rambles (you can read more about how I capture these and why I started this series here).

palaver, scrofulous, divagation, and dactylic

  • palaver: flattery intended to persuade | 'Through the trees there is the sound of the wind, palavering.' - Mary Oliver, from the poem 'Her Grave', New and Selected Poems
  • accretion: an increase by natural growth or addition | 'Like all the older children of Major Pentland she had, since her twentieth year, begun the slow accretion of land: from the savings of her small wage as teacher and book-agent, she had already purchased one or two pieces of earth.' - Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel
  • scrofulous: morally contaminated | ' ... one for the death of Greeley Pentland, aged twenty-six, congenial scrofulous tubercular ... ' - Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel
  • divagation: a message that departs from the main subject | 'She had a curious trick of pursing her lips reflectively before she spoke; she liked to take her time, and came to the point after interminable divagations down all the lane-ends of memory and overtone, feasting upon the golden pageant of all she had ever said, done, felt, thought, seen, or replied, with egocentric delight.' - Ibid.
  •  porcine: relating to or suggesting swine | 'I was forced to ride five days southwest to Scott's Bluff to meet with the new Director of Missions, a porcine reverend from Cincinnati ... ' - Dalva, Jim Harrison | 'She stood against Suttree and gave him a sidelong look of porcine lechery.' - Suttree, Cormac McCarthy | 'Then, amid their laughter, the door opened, and several of the others came in--Eliza's mother, a plain worn Scotchwoman, and Jim, a ruddy porcine young fellow ... ' - Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel
  • dactylic: of or consisting of dactyls (a metrical unit with stressed-unstressed-unstressed syllables) | 'All good and great books are long because they must be mumbled if not sung. 'Melanctha' took me the whole night the second time around, because that second reading was all sound. Where my finger -like a dactyl- was, when I went walking, was at Melanctha's name like a musical pause.' - William Gass, A Temple of Texts

Words is an occassional posting of new-to-me words I discover via my literary rambles (you can read more about how I capture these and why I started this series here).