The final group of delectable words that I’m going to spotlight. One can, after all, have too much of even a delectable thing!
- Chapter 13 (Verfarkas): “The morning kept slipping out of view and the events of the previous night came rushing back like a sequence of images flickering through a praxinoscope.” So what’s a praxinoscope? And how does it differ from a zoetrope or a phenakistoscope? See for yourself!
- Chapter 23 (Damage Control): “Or perhaps tuck the earbobs into one of the mitts and use it as a cosh?” Okay, any Brits and denizens of former colonial outposts thereof probably think of a cosh as a wooden police truncheon. It’s also a short metal baton, covered with leather, aka a blackjack. In the 19th century, this variant was also known as a “life preserver,” indicating it’s use as a defensive weapon. For example, in Trollope’s Phineas Redux (where it figures as a murder weapon), Phineas is only one of several Parliamentary gentlemen who’ve taken to carrying a life preserver as protection when travelling London at night. In any case, the word “cosh” is surely an onomotopoedic nickname related to the sound of using such a weapon, a swoosh followed by a crack on the head. Claude, who’s been trained to fight dirty, is more likely to have said “cosh” than “life preserver.”
- Chapter 24 (Just Cause): “A ripple of anger disturbed her langour.” Another of those economical words. Languor conveys listlessness, but with a touch of elegance and grace. It would no doubt have been a symptom of what Carol Burnett used to call “old movie disease” (cough, cough!)