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.
11 thoughts on “Being Taken Down a Peg by Pampooties”
I’m going to bookmark this, memorize these words, then kick some ass in words with friends!
Just looking at the words, the topic is 15th 16th century Spanish conquistadores?
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).
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.
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.
Took about a half hour to manually transfer my list of highlighted words from the Kindle to the web. You’ll notice that I didn’t go and fetch a dictionary listing for each word, though. 🙂
What’s a malabarista? A bad coffee-maker?
Hah! (And my Spanish-English dictionary says it’s a juggler, sneak, or thief.) Dang shifty jugglers.