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. 13Image result for goanna liniment

  • Goanna is a large Australian lizard, so I was concerned they were boiling the critters for liniment, but further investigation led me to http://www.grabthegoanna.com.au/goanna-products/goanna-rubs/goanna-oil-liniment/ which lists the ingredients for this well-loved Australian liniment as paraffin oils, eucalyptus, camphor, turpentine and pine oil. Not a lizard inside, but there’s one on the label.

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 Image result for john everett millais paintingsFisher 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.  Studying many of his works, there seems to be a wide variety of hand positions, but perhaps this is what it referenced:

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.  Since Phryne’s cover is blue,  not red, I’m going with the heavy weight fabric definition.

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 about 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.
 

camstairy coccygodynians August 27, 2012

I think my favorite line from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon might be in Drums of Autumn when Roger observes,

“Coccygodynians are camstairy by nature”

An English teacher, by nature, is thoroughly entertained by word play, and delighted with novel phraseology.  Gabaldon frequently provides such fun, and that quote is an example.  Roger and Bree are playing The Minister’s Cat, a word game where they work through the alphabet, labelling the poor cat with adjectives of increasing complexity.  They called this round a draw.

For your edification: coccygodynia is a pain in the region of the coccyx (tail bone), so Bree’s doctor mother identified the hospital administrators as coccygodynians,  i.e.  “pains in the butt.”  Camstairy is a little more layered.  It’s a Scot’s term that Roger claims means ‘quarrelsome,’ but assorted on-line dictionaries offer definitions of ‘unmanageable,’ ‘unruly,’ and ‘obstinate,’ which add some colourful possibilities!

I trust that your day will be free from camstairy coccygodynians! 😉

 

help guys! I need some male vocab! August 4, 2012

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 5:38 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I was once told, “Guys don’t say ‘cute.'”  That’s a problem, because I’m editing Grace Awakening Myth, and Ben thinks ‘cute’ and ‘adorable’ rather frequently.  If I need to kill the word cute, but somehow get the same idea across, what words should I use?

What do you say when the girl you adore is so uncoordinated around you she can barely walk?  When she blushes whenever she sees you?

When I was that girl, I remember a lot of knowing grins, and I’ve got that, but what word would be in his head to describe his affectionate amusement?

Help!  Please leave your suggestion in the comments below!  Thanks!

 

vocabulary lessons with Diana Gabaldon June 3, 2012

I am an avid reader and an English teacher, so I have a pretty good vocabulary.  However, reading Diana Gabaldon has introduced me to many new words.  This is an ongoing effort to identify words I discovered through her books.  I am noting them as I re-read or as Diana posts Daily Lines of the latest book in progress.  Feel free to add your own additions in the comments!

OUBLIETTE. (Voyager, used metaphorically) a top loading dungeon (a.k.a. a thieves’ hole).  I find it amusing that this word wasn’t used while Claire was actually inside the thieves’ hole in Cranesmuir which is arguably a real oubliette.  Jamie uses the word to refer to being below deck on a ship.  It shows up again in Drums of Autumn, and this time young William is in an ‘oubliette.’  In that instance, it’s particularly funny, because William has, in fact, fallen into the privy.  Note the French root : Oublier (to forget).  As in, they’ll toss you in the dungeon and forget about you…  Luckily, no one forgets William in the privy hole.

 AVUNCULAR. (Drums of Autumn, the postman winks avuncularly) uncle-like. Ian uses the noun form Avunculus when writing to Jamie in Latin. Something like,  “Ian salutas Avunculus Jacobus.”  (I’ll correct that when I come across it during the re-read). s Avunculus Jacobus meaning Uncle James, of course.

ALACRITY (throughout the series).  Claire (and others) frequently do things eagerly or in cheerful readiness, i.e.  ‘with alacrity.’  I suspect this one of DG’s favourite words, actually.  Whenever Davina Porter says it in my audio books, I always grin and repeat solemnly, “with alacrity!” 🙂  When we hosted Diana here at our writers’ conference I gave her a dish towel I’d hand embroidered with “Do it with alacrity!” as a joke.  🙂

SMOOR is always used in Outlander  in the sense of  ‘to smoor the fire.’  It means ‘to smother’ in Scots.  One smothers the fire so it continues to burn slowly throughout the night.   There’s an interesting article about historical usage on the Scots Language Centre website.  Click to listen to it said, the ‘oooo’ is long and the /r/ rolls.  A lovely word spoken!  Smoor can be used to mean killing a person by depriving them of air or to mean snow covering something.  My favorite use is from that link, quoting Robert Louis Stevenson, (Merry Men 1887)  “a mune smoored wi’ mist.”  Isn’t that a romantic image for a moon being smothered by fog!

FRESHET (from Drums of Autumn).  Claire sees  freshets when she gets stranded between the Muellers and Frasers’ Ridge.  It’s a sudden overflowing of a stream due to heavy rains or rapid melting.

BATHYSPHERE.  I kid you not.  This one comes from a daily lines posting (Jun 6, 2012) of book 8 in the series  called Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (aka MOBY).  A bathysphere is a spherical chamber for deep diving.  Claire leaves a tense situation “breathing as if I’d just escaped from a bathysphere.”  This might just be my favourite Gabaldon word yet.

EXCRESCENCE- Claire uses it to describe the mob cap she’s been given by Granny Bacon in The Fiery Cross.  An excrescence is an outgrowth that’s the result of disease or abnormality, or an unattractive or superfluous addition.   I confess, this is a much milder definition than the one I had presumed.

DISQUISITION- This one came from a Facebook posting from Diana, but it’s also a humorous  article on her blog about “Butt-cooties.”  Disquisition is just a long word for ‘essay.’  As an English teacher, I will definitely be able to stick this one into my every day vocabulary!

INIMICAL- From Echo in the Bone.  It means tending to harm.  There was a strange sense of… “something waiting among the trees, not inimical, but not welcoming either.”

Click here to read a blog about CAMSTAIRY COCCYGODYNIANS.  Those are two of my favourite Gabaldon vocabulary words.  They’re from Drums of Autumn.

ABSQUATULATE- 29-01-13 Diana posted a Daily Line from MOBY (aka Written in My Own Heart’s Blood) with the following hashtag: #absquatulatemeansjustwhatyouthinkitdoes  The context is “He and Fraser had absquatulated onto the roof and down a drain-pipe, leaving William, clearly reeling with the shock of revelation, alone in the upstairs hallway.”  This word makes me laugh and shake my head.  It means to leave quickly.  To be honest, I was imagining from the context that it meant climb or clamber.  So, Diana, you were wrong.  It doesn’t mean just what I thought it did!

OLEAGINOUS- 04-04-2014 Diana posted a daily line from MOBY that said the surface of the butter was oleaginous.  i.e. greasy.  I like that this word can also mean obsequious.  I would have thought that was a satisfying enough option, but oleaginous is just so much better.  The butter was literally oleaginous, unlike pandering underlings.  Someday I’m using this word in a story. 🙂

SOUGH 14-07-2016 Daily line from book 9 Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (aka GOBEE): “Together they stood listening, trying to still their pounding hearts and gasping breaths long enough to hear anything above the sough of the forest.”  Sough means moaning, rustling, or murmuring sound.  It rhymes with ‘cough.’

BEDIZENED 08-06-2017 Daily line from book 9 Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (aka GOBEE):“For Angelina, unable or unwilling to bend her bedizened head enough to look down, was about to collide with the little platform on which the sitter’s chair was perched.”  Bedizened means dressed up or decorated gaudily.  Sounds like a lot of grad hair do’s we see this time of year.

FROWARD 2018-07-23 Daily line from book 9 Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (aka GOBEE): “He’s Scottish,” I amended, with a sigh. “Which means stubborn. Also unreasonable, intolerant, contumelious, froward, pig-headed and a few other objectionable things.”  Dictionary says this is someone who is contrary and difficult to deal with.

CONTUMELIOUS 2018-07-23 Daily line from book 9 Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (aka GOBEE): “He’s Scottish,” I amended, with a sigh. “Which means stubborn. Also unreasonable, intolerant, contumelious, froward, pig-headed and a few other objectionable things.”  Dictionary says this refers to someone’s behaviour as being insulting and objectionable.

AMBSACE 2018-07-23 Daily line from book 9 Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (aka GOBEE): 

“Men don’t like to share a woman. Unless it’s an ambsace.”
“An ambsace?” I was beginning to wonder how I might extricate myself from this conversation with any sort of dignity. I was also beginning to feel rather alarmed.
“That’s just what Madge called it. When two men want to do things to a girl at the same time. It costs more than it would to have two girls, because they often damage her. Mostly just bruises,” she added fairly. “But still.”

By definition, ambsace is the ‘lowest roll in a game of dice: 2 ones’.  See above for the vernacular meaning in the 1700s!

 

 

 
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