Being Taken Down a Peg by Pampooties

Although I have a bad habit when reading of not looking up words whose meanings I’m a little fuzzy on the nuances of, it’s rare for me to read a book that uses enough words I don’t know that I’m inclined to keep a running list to look up later. This week I read Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, and I recorded 170 words that sent me to the Kindle dictionary, many of which the Kindle couldn’t even define. Most of the words I flagged fall into one of these categories:

  • Words I’ve looked up many times but always forget outright or lose the nuance of (e.g. truculent, serried)
  • Words that I’ve never encountered and whose meanings are perfectly clear but that I recorded because I thought they were neat (pyrolatrous, querent, terra damnata)
  • Specialty words pertaining to things like guns, saddles, geology, landscape, and flora (loads of these, which I don’t feel so stupid for not knowing)
  • Non-specialty words that I just plain didn’t know
  • Spanish words, sometimes specialized or archaic

I’ve always thought I had a pretty good vocabulary, but boy did this book school me. I’ll have to go back to my kids now and tell them that in spite of past statements I’ve made (tongue in cheek and with false bravado, to my credit), I do not in fact know most of the words. Here’s the list, if you’re interested.

acequias
aguardiente
alcalde
alparejas
alpenstock
anchorite
apishamore
archimandrite
argosy
arrieros
artemisia
aubergines
azoteas
baize
bagnios
benjamin
bistre
bung-starter
burins
cantle
cantonment
cárcel
carreta
cassinette
catafalque
chaparral
charivari
chary
chines
cholla
chorines
ciboleros
ciborium
claymores
corbels
cordilleras
corrida
coulees
criada
cuartel
dace
dap
debouched
demiculverin
dogtown
dolmens
dorys
duledge
dunnage
escopetas
eskers
fard
felloes
frizzen
fulgurite
fusils
gadstine
galena
garraffa
guidon
guttapercha
hackamore
halms
helve
holothurians
huaraches
imbrium
jacal
javelina
jokin
jornadas
juzgado
keelsons
kivas
knacker’s
knappings
lanneret
lonbations
madstone
malabarista
malandered
malpais
manciple
matracas
merestone
monocline
morral
nacre
nopal
ocotillo
osnaburg
ossature
palmilla
paloverde
pampooties
panniers
pauldrons
parfleche
pelados
peltries
pitero
potsherds
pritchel
procrustean
purlieu
pyrolatrous
quena
querent
ramada
ratchel
reata
remuda
replevined
revetment
ribracks
ristras
rowels
sark
scantlin
scoria
scree
scrog
scurf
scurvid
serried
shacto
shakos
shirring
skelps
skifts
sleared
sloe-eyed
solpugas
sotols
spalls
spanceled
sprent
sprues
squailed
stobs
surbated
sutler
suttee
suzerain
swagged
swale
swapt
talus
tapaderos
tatterdemalion
tectites
terra damnata
thaumaturge
thews
thrapple
tonto
trapdykes
truculent
treeboles
vadose
videttes
vigas
vinegarroons
uncottered
welter
weskit
windrowed
whang
withers
withy

10 thoughts on “Being Taken Down a Peg by Pampooties

    • You’d think so, wouldn’t you? That’s Cormac for you. It’s set in the mid-1800s and chronicles the travels of a band of American-led thugs collecting scalps in Mexico to “help” with the Indian problem. Some of the diction seems reasonable enough, but I sometimes wanted to phone McCarthy up and tell him that it’s ok to use normal words when there’s not a particular need for the archaic one (that said, it was fun to run into so many I didn’t know).

  1. Wow. I only knew eight of them, and only because I spent a lot of time in the desert Southwest riding horses in cactus.

    (Embarrassed to say I didn’t know of this blog, Daryl. But now I do and I’ll try to pay better attention.)

    • Oh, it’s not a blog I’ve written much on in recent years (until very recently), and no hard feelings for your not knowing about it; I haven’t advertised it widely. 🙂

      Also: Glad I’m not alone in discovering that my vocabulary’s not all I had thought.

  2. Great list – but where on earth did you get the time from to compile it? 😀 Some of those words are english english, and others are in current everyday Spanish use, eg corrida (there is one in our pueblo) – but I can see me getting the two dictionaries out and looking up the others.

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