Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

VOCABULARY LESSONS WITH KERRY GREENWOOD IN DEATH BY WATER February 25, 2017

One of the most popular posts on my blog, still getting regular visits after several years is Vocabulary Lessons with Diana Gabaldon, which is a list of new words I discovered while reading Diana’s Outlander series.  When I began reading Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher books, I was finding all sorts of interesting words, but it was only after reading a dozen of the books that I finally managed to annotate vocab from one.  Better late than never?

The Phryne Fisher mystery series is set in 1920’s Australia, so some of the words and phrases are regional or archaic slang.  They’re still entertaining!  A note of interest- The Phryne Fisher books are published by Poisoned Pen Press- out of Phoenix.  I’ve visited The Poisoned Pen Bookstore, which is Diana Gabaldon’s local independent bookstore, as she lives nearby.

VOCABULARY FROM DEATH BY WATER  (2005)

These are words or phrases which are either new to me, or used in a new way.  I pulled the definitions off the first site Google took me to, usually their own definition box.

ANODYNE: “At this early hours the musical entertainment consisted of Mavis at the piano, playing anodyne pieces designed not to offend.” P. 74

  • A painkilling medicine
  • Something that will not cause offense

 

BORACIC LOTION: “ The boracic lotion had worked.  The inflammation had gone down.” P. 149

  • Boric acid lotion, a mild antiseptic and fungicide used as a wash for skin and eyes. Also relieves skin itching.

 

BORONIA: “I always did like boronia.” P. 185

  • Boronia is a genus of about 160 species of flowering plants in the citrus family Rutaceae, most are endemic in Australia with a few species in New Caledonia. (Where is this New Caledonia? British Columbia was called New Caledonia – there is College of New Caledonia in Prince George.)  Images show flowers with 4 or 5 petals with an eye shape in white, pink, or purple.

 

COCK-A-HOOP: “That policeman was cock-a-hoop,” p. 205

  • Extremely and obviously pleased about a success. It’s an old phrase- from the 17th century, apparently.  Is it still used commonly anywhere?

 

CONSTRUE: “Phryne gathered up her Chaucer and her glass of gin and tonic and began to construe.” P. 97

I know this word as something like ‘interpreted’ but that is obviously not how it’s used here. Either of these definitions could work.

  • Analyze syntax or study the grammar of something.
  • translate

 

DEPENDING: “Phryne caught the eye.  So did the sapphire, depending from its carefully securable collar.” P. 68  Phryne Fisher wore dark blue and a collar of sapphires, with the great stone depending to her porcelain bosom, which drew Mr. Forrester’s eyes.” P. 194

  • I’ve only used this to mean something relies on something else, but obviously in this instance it means hanging, or suspended. This is an archaic literary use.

 

EMBONPOINT: “Like many from poor hungry beginnings, she has considerable embonpoint and the temperament almost expected of opera singers.” P. 40

  • Plump or fleshy part of a person’s body, a woman’s bosom.

(This was not at all what I was expecting the word to mean!)

 

EXOGAMOUS: “’Because I bet the Maori are exogamous,” said Phryne, who had not waster her time since she left school. ‘Therefore fathers always come from outside the mother’s tribe.’” P 77

  • arrangement where couples marry outside their social group.

 

GALANTINE: “I thought keas were parrots,’ said Phryne, dissecting a delicious slice off her veal and chicken galantine and spearing it on a piece of cucumber.’” P. 107

  • de-boned chicken, stuffed, and poached. It is served cold.

 

GAS AND GAITERS: “Mind, tomorrow there might be some sore heads, but tonight all was gas and gaiters. P. 170

  • Interesting and thorough analysis of this phrase is here http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-gas1.htm
  • It means everything is going well, and originated as the ravings of a mad man in Dicken’s novel Nicholas Nickelby. (1839).

 

GOANNA: “It was heralded by a strong smell of goanna oil liniment.” P. 13

 

JAZZ COLOURS: “It was figured with Pierrot and Columbine in jazz colours of black, white and purple.” P.44

Several Phryne novels refer to “jazz colours” and I always wondered what they were.  In this novel, she spells it out at last!

LIANAS: The trees soared up out of sight, yards in diameter and hung with lianas and vines.” P. 114

  • A woody type of vine that uses trees for support on its way to reach the canopy of a rainforest (apparently up to 3000 feet, which is impressive).

 

MILLAIS POSE: “There was a silence while a newly renovated doctor stared at Phryne Fisher in her blue suit, her hands folded in her lap in that Millais pose, her eyes as sharp as emeralds.” P. 188

  • Millais was an English pre-Raphaelite painter

 

MISS SAYERS- There’s a question of whether a character prefers Miss Christie or Miss Sayer.  This refers to Dorothy L. Sayers.  Apparently PBS has Sayer Mystery movies, so now I have to hunt those down.

 

MORASS: “’Boy’s probably knee deep in a morass by now,’ said Mr. Aubrey.” P. 128

  • A boggy ground
  • A complicated situation

 

MOROCAIN: “Left alone, Dot stroked her bedspread, which was of rose patterned satin, and then sat down on Phryne’s bed, which was very springy and covered with dark blue morocain.” P. 11

  • Webster says it’s Moroccan red, but images elsewhere show a silk crepe fabric that seems to be quite heavy, though still flowy.

 

POEM: “Professor Applegate, wearing her other Molyneus evening gown, a slightly frayed poem in black cherry brocade, smiled.”  P. 149

  • I’ve hunted all over, and I can’t find anything that indicates there was any kind of garment or fabric called a poem, so I think Greenwood means it as a metaphor for something of unexpected beauty.

 

POULET Á LA REINE:  “They’re a bit tight lipped aobut their methods,’ said the professor, beginning on her poulet à la reine.”  P. 140

  • Chicken and spinach inside a puff pastry, served with a white sauce.

 

PRE-PRANDIAL: “‘Call for a small pre-prandial nip’ Phryne said, still laughing.’Gin for me.’” P 67

  • Before a meal

 

PUSSY’S BOW: “I reckon I’m about filled up with tea to pussy’s bow,” said Minton. P. 181

  • An Australian idiom referring to a bow tied at the neck.

 

REALISE: Mrs. Singer had decided to go home to Melbourne, realise Mr. Singer’s estate and buy a small house.” P. 219

  • Conversion of assets into cash; actualization

 

RECCE: “’A little recce,’ said Phryne and , taking Caroline by the arm, led her out and shut the door.” P. 87

  • Reconnaissance; a military term

 

RETAILING: Mr. Forrester, who had palmed Mrs. West off on an unoccupied officer, was telling stories of Paris and artist’s models, and Phryne was retailing how she had once found herself entirely naked and freezing, the only blanket in the atelier being used to cover the artist’s pet wolfhound, and decided at that point that being a model was not as glamorous as she had been led to believe.” P. 202-3

  • to recount or relate details of an event to someone

 

SENTENTIOUSLY: “’Handsome is as handsome does,’ said Phryne sententiously.” P 51

  • moralizing pompously

 

SHIKARS: “’I’ve been on a lot of shikars in my time, young man,’ he added to Jack Mason.” P. 106

  • big game hunt

 

SPIFFLICATE: “Needs to go and spifflicate himself on some cold rock.” P. 152

  • destroy; treat badly

 

SYBARITES: “It was too early for the real sybarites who never breakfasted but arose in good time for lunch.” P. 45

  • those who indulge in self-indulgent luxury

 

TANIWANA: “Some of the stokers said she was an evil taniwhara.” P. 52

  • spirits in New Zealand which take a human body, except they belong to places, similar to Greek naiads.
 

quote-wishes January 26, 2017

Filed under: Quotations — Shawn L. Bird @ 9:10 pm

How could I wish you ill?

Are you not the worst I could have wished for you?

Natalie Barney, Critical Studies

 

quote-telling the story August 4, 2016

Filed under: Poetry,Quotations — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:59 pm

“I am only responsible for my own choices.  I am choosing to tell my story.  Who listens to it is not my burden; telling it is.”

~Secrets of a Charmed Life

~Susan Meissner

 

quote-awakening June 13, 2016

Filed under: Grace Awakening,Grace Awakening Myth,Poetry,Quotations — Shawn L. Bird @ 9:06 pm

Every closure is an awakening,

and every awakening settles something.

~John Dewey (Art as Experience)

 

quote-teach April 25, 2016

Filed under: Poetry,Quotations,Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 9:19 pm
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“You can’t be an art teacher until you’re an artist.  Duh.”

~Annie Liebovitz

 

quote-choices April 24, 2016

Filed under: Poetry,Quotations — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:41 pm
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When a woman makes the choice to marry, to have children; in one way her life begins but in another way it stops. You build a life of details. You become a mother, a wife and you stop and stay steady so that your children can move. And when they leave they take your life of details with them. And then you’re expected move again only you don’t remember what moves you because no-one has asked in so long. Not even yourself. You never in your life think that love like this can happen to you.

~Francesca in Bridges of Madison County

by Robert James Waller.

It was hard to imagine what life would be once kids had grown and moved off to their own independent lives.  Some women have invested so much in their children that they have to dig deeply to find that they are no longer who they were before children, and it’s time to find a new identity.  It can bring depression and a sense of loss.

I confess, I was not one of those women.  For me, departure of the children was a celebration and an immediate flowering.  I started writing Grace Awakening a month after our kids moved out.  A new life began on the page and a new world enfolded before me as I began interacting with authors.  It made me thankful we’d had our kids so young. 🙂

 

poem-appealing February 6, 2016

Filed under: fun,OUTLANDERishness,Poetry,Quotations — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:21 pm
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“a man in a kilt will always be more appealing than anyone in lederhosen.”

~Diana Gabaldon

 

The appeal is likely the easier peeling?