With Thanks to Mr. Dickens

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.

Ta-da! Learning!

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