Call me old-fashioned, but I like it when books send me to the dictionary.
I didn’t always. In fact, it really used to bother me– I disliked anything that took away from the narrative flow of a book, especially if authors went out of their way to be convoluted. I could barely sit still in high school as it was; I had neither the attention span nor the patience for books whose language went too often beyond my grasp. Studying for the SATs was bad enough!
Even now I almost never actually stop in the middle of reading to look up a word I don’t know (though in the better writing I have seen, you often don’t need to because enough context is given to derive meaning). Instead I note words I don’t know on my bookmark. Then, when I finish the book (or when my scrap of paper fills up– whichever comes first) I’ll look up all of the words and print myself out a neat a little vocab sheet.
Recently I finished Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Have you read it?
If not, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Engaging, haunting, and humorous (dry as well as whimsical; wonderfully European), it is the Brit Lit to end all Brit Lits. As the blurb by Sir Philip Sidney above puts it,
A tale which holdeth children from play and old men from the chimney corner.
Read it. You won’t regret it.
But to the point. Thanks to Mr. Dickens, I add twenty-some words to my verbal arsenal:
antipode: (n.) a direct or exact opposite
bagatelle: (n.) a trifle; an easy task; a short piano piece
buxom: (adj.) [of a woman] plump, well-endowed
chary: (adj.) cautious, wary; cautious about the amount one reveals
connubial: (adj.) of or relating to marriage
contiguous: (adj.) sharing a common border; touching; next or together in a sequence
contumacious: (adj.) stubbornly disobedient to authority
despondent: (adj.) in low spirits from loss of courage or hope
diadem: (n.) a jeweled crown or headband worn as a symbol of sovereignty
disconsolate: (adj.) without comfort; unhappy; cheerless
kosher: (adj.) food prepared according to Jewish law
lurcher: (n.) a crossbred dog (collie or sheepdog + greyhound) usually used in hunting; a prowler, swindler, or petty thief
necromantic: (adj.) divining through alleged communication with the dead
ophthalmic: (adj.) of or relating to the eye and its diseases
paroxysm: (n.) a sudden attack or violent expression of a particular emotion or activity
plenipotentiary: (n.) a person (diplomat) invested with full power of independent action on behalf of their government (often in a foreign country)
pugilistic: (adj.) fist-fighting; boxing
rapacious: (adj.) aggressively greedy or grasping
rubicund: (adj.) having a ruddy [red] complexion; high-colored
sagacious: (adj.) shrewd; having keen mental discernment
sententious: (adj.) 1. abounding in aphorisms and maxims; 2. given to excessive moralizing
truant: (n.) a student who stays away from school without leave or explanation; wandering, straying; skipping out
truculent: (adj.) eager to fight or argue