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#17220 - 01/26/01 06:59 PM what's the use?
tsuwm Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10508
Loc: this too shall pass
In my role as curator of the wwftd archives, I am often asked where I find these curiosities. The answer to this is as varied as the words themselves and involves a shelf full of resources, contributions from subscribers, and (yes) even perusing the occasional dictionary. But true reading pleasure comes with the discovery of a new, unusual word whilst reading ordinary(!) books. Some of my favorite sources over the years that I've been doing this include folks like William F. Buckley, whose English vocabulary may be the most prodigious of any person alive today (and he uses it bombastically and precisely, all at once); Vladamir Nabakov (the Russian-born novelist), who exhibits a similar aptitude for eloquence and an astonishing capacity for the English lexicon; Thomas Pynchon, who dredges up rarities and makes them his own (e.g., he makes wonderful use of 'musaceous' in "Gravity's Rainbow"); Gene Wolfe, who exhumes archaisms and obsolete words to make the settings of his science-fantasies (e.g., "Book of the New Sun") ring true; and James Joyce, who needs no further comment. I'm told that writers such as Borges and Anais Nin should be read in their original texts, but even the translations can be linguistically rewarding.

I'd like to hear from others... which writers move you (to the dictionary) in their use of language?


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#17221 - 01/26/01 07:18 PM Re: what's the use?
nikeblack Offline
journeyman

Registered: 01/19/01
Posts: 87
Loc: City of Brotherly Love, no not...
Colin Dexter of Inspector Morse fame. I once spent a frustrating and, in the end, useless hour hunting for a definition of some obscure word he'd used in one of his novels. Can't remember the word.
Other than that? I'll have to muse on that a bit more... Oh! Patrick O'Brian. Those durned nautical terms!


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#17222 - 01/26/01 09:15 PM Re: what's the use?
belMarduk Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/28/00
Posts: 2888
I don't have one author in particular. I recently, well, o.k. last year, re-read two books that were mandatory reads in high-school. W.O. Mitchell’s Who Has Seen the Wind and John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. I found I had to look up several words that had fallen out of use, like stook in Who Has Seen the Wind). The use of these words made the writing seem richer. If I could find a proper Hindi dictionary I would finally get to understand all those words Rudyard Kipling uses. I am going through a collection of his stories and he lobs in Hindi words left and right. Often I can glean what the word means by the surrounding sentence or paragraph, but sometimes not…it can be so frustrating.


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#17223 - 01/27/01 08:15 AM Re: what's the use?
Solamente, Doug. Offline
member

Registered: 12/16/00
Posts: 130
Loc: Virginia
Anthony Burgess really opened my eyes to tons (tonnes) of new words. Like so many, I started with A Clockwork Orange (and like so many, I read the whole thing without realizing their was a Nadsat glossary in the back!). I find it fascinating that so many of his invented words from that book have entered the language. In Earthly Powers, I'm convinced that he put at least one word that needed looking up on each page (sibilant and steatopygous immediately come to mind). A hell of a way to get through a book, but I muddled through, eventually. I owe him a great debt, as he was my first introduction to the amazing possibilities of language.


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#17224 - 01/27/01 11:00 AM Re: what's the use?
Rapunzel Offline
enthusiast

Registered: 01/18/01
Posts: 328
Loc: Eastern Pennsylvania
During my Freshman year in college, I discovered the work of a history writer named Simon Schama. There were a lot of words in his book Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution which I was not familiar with.
I was also driven to the dictionary several times while reading Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. The word I remember best is "callipygian," although I may never have the opportunity to use it in normal conversation.


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#17225 - 01/27/01 11:08 AM Re: what's the use?
wwh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 01/18/01
Posts: 13858
Dear Rapunzel: Did your long hair hide your callipygy? Wiping a palmprint off my cheek, Bill Hunt


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#17226 - 01/27/01 11:57 AM Re: what's the use?
Jackie Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11605
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
Wiping a palmprint off my cheek

Which one?!?!


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#17227 - 01/27/01 12:01 PM Re: what's the use?
Rapunzel Offline
enthusiast

Registered: 01/18/01
Posts: 328
Loc: Eastern Pennsylvania
Which one?!?!

Thanks, Jackie. I couldn't have said it better myself.


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#17228 - 01/27/01 02:29 PM Re: what's the use?
wwh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 01/18/01
Posts: 13858
Dear Rapunzel: Why, to that malar prominence to which you telekinetically administered it. You wouldn't hit below the belt, would you? wwh


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#17229 - 01/27/01 03:14 PM Re: what's the use?
Jackie Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11605
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
Rapunzel, shall we take turns?


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