Thursday, July 14, 2011

Twelve Words From The Master Of Fantasy

In reading Martin's opus, A Dance With Dragons, I find myself having to look-up words. This is one thing I'm grateful for with the iPad e-reader (I would assume it is the same for others as well). I just highlight a word, select "dictionary", and it gives me the definition. I think my vocabulary is vast...but George owns me when it comes to words (another reason why he's clearly a better writer than I). Here's my list as of 7/14/2011. Test yourself to see how many you know:
  1. niello - (n.) a black metallic substance, consisting of silver, copper, lead, and sulfur, with which an incised design or ground is filled to produce an ornamental effect on metal. 
  2. ascetic - (adj.) exceedingly strict or severe in religious exercises or self-mortification.
  3. courser - (n.) a swift horse.
  4. anise - (n.) a Mediterranean plant, Pimpinella anisum, of the parsley family, having loose umbrels of small yellowish-white flowers that yield aniseed.
  5. garron - (n.) a small sturdy pony.
  6. merlons - (n.) in a battlement, the solid part between two crenels.
  7. hirsute - (adj.) hairy or shaggy in appearance.
  8. rectitude - (n.) rightness of principle or conduct.
  9. vair - (n.) A fur much used in the lining and trimming of garments in the 13th century.
  10. effusive - (adj.) pouring out or overflowing.
  11. genial - (adj.) warmly and pleasantly cheerful; cordial.
  12. roister - (v.) to act in a boisterous manner. 
  13. breechclouts - (n.) a loincloth.
It may sound odd that as I go along I keep track of words, but I think it helps me to learn them so that I can use them in my own writing. Do you think that's silly and how many of these did you know?


  1. No, I don't think it's silly. I think it's smart. And of the 13, I knew 8, but not well. (I've seen anise referenced in cooking, but I couldn't point it out if you gave me a really big hint.)

  2. I knew 5 (ascetic, rectitude, effusive, genial and roister). The rest I've never heard of.

    I read the dictionary sometimes, just to learn new words. Not many people do that, but as a writer you need to have a vast vocabulary, as well as a profound list of synonyms.

    It's never a bad thing to learn. Keep doing it!

  3. I think it's a clever way to expand your vocabulary.

    (I know 8)


  4. I knew ascetic and genial and hirsute was a vocabulary word of the day recently on Critique Circle. I don't usually bother looking words up if I can get the gist from the context.

  5. I love that you're keeping track of these. :) It's fun to see new words. I feel good though... I knew six of them.

  6. I don't think that's silly at all. I do the same thing.

    I knew 2, 4, 8, 10, and 11, so not quite half.

  7. Good for you for being willing to look. You know... I might like that option, too. I don't bother to go get a dictionary, so my patience hasn't been good if there are too many (I knew 5 of those 13, but there are probably a bunch YOU knew that I wouldn't), but I read Dracula a few years ago and there are cliff notes with definitions (and some historical context) and I really dug it, so I know it isn't that I don't want to learn, it's just that I don't want to go GET something and open a different book. The Kindle DOES have something like that, I believe... I am still learning.

  8. that should say footnotes... you know... the ones falling off the cliff at the bottom of the book *shifty*

  9. This post makes me want to say something funny about breechclouts, does that make me sophmoronic?

  10. I knew all except 1 and 9. I do look up words when I don't know them, although that doesn't happen often. Still, is one of my most used sites, but, usually, because I'm comparing definitions looking for the one word with the connotation that fits best. Because people don't really care about the denotation (that's not really true, but people act like it is).

  11. Oh, and my Super 8 review is up. It was really good. The movie, not the review. Not that the review isn't good, but... oh, nevermind.

  12. Andrew: Yeah I read it. I agree with most of what you say about Abrams. He does hide stuff behind his back. I still think he's a talented director though and I like him more than just about any of the other "modern" directors (ones that have made splashes in the last five years or so).

  13. Yeah, I think he's a great director. Great at setting mood and actually telling a story.
    Not to co-opt your thread or anything. :P

  14. Cool list! I knew a few of them. And not to be a brat, but the "umbrel" you have for the anise should just be "umbel". :) Definitely words keeping these in mind!

  15. Unless the word is really shiny, I don't bother looking them up. If the author's going to use a big word I expect the rest of the sentence to give me enough context to understand and move on.

    That said I knew five (courser,
    rectitude, anise, effusive, genial). Anise smells terrible fyi.

  16. As a teacher of reading it pains me when readers don't look up words they don't know. If the sentence does not imply meaning through context, then it's your DUTY as a reader to look up the word. The writer when out of his or her way to use that particular word to give that particular meaning, so if you care at all, you'll look it up. (Okay, that's a little heavy-handed. Sorry.)

    As far as the words you've had to look up, many of them seem to be archaic, or just useful to describe things in Martin's fantasy land. I still would want to know what they mean, but I don't feel bad for not knowing them.

  17. I knew 8.

    I love the dictionary feature on my Kindle.