Delectable Words (part 1)

I like words. You’ve probably noticed that. While I was proofreading The Upsilon Knot, I was tickled to notice some of the words I’d used in telling the story. I mean other than “goggles” or “aership,” both of which were to be expected. Words like”woad” and “castrato.” Over the last couple of months, I’ve been highlighting some of these on my Facebook page. For those who might have missed them, here are the first few:

  • In the opening of the book, when Domenic Soderini is led to Augustus’ secret temple: “His eyes adjusted to the darkness of the cryptoporticus.”  This perfectly reasonable architectural term tends not to come up in daily conversation. It refers to a kind of covered passage, often connecting ground level and subterranean spaces.
  • From Chapter 21: “There was scarcely enough time to avail themselves of the noisome waterfront privy before they were scrambling into the boat…”  I’ve always loved the economy of this word! It says “disgusting” so thoroughly that my nose wrinkles up just reading it.
  • Also from Chapter 21: “…he was taking them to a nearby street of small shops, where fans and shawls and other such elegant fripperies were said to be on offer.” A word that has delighted me since childhood. Since it doesn’t describe a sound, it’s not strictly onamatopoetic; but the music of this word suggests the surfeit and trivia it’s commonly employed to describe. I was fascinated to learn that the origins were French and Latin words meaning “rags” or “splinters.” I suppose modern usage must have begun with some 16th or 17th century version of “what, you mean this old thing?!”

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