Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wondrous Word Wednesday: Worst Book Ever Edition

Hosted by Bermuda Onion, the point of this meme is to share all the new words you came across this week. Yay!


I just finished Lord Foul's Bane, the first book in the series The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, and I really hated it. Nonetheless, these kinda neat words were in it, so I suppose all is not lost.

bonhomie -- good-natured, easy friendliness

The man had been Joan's lawyer at the divorce -- a short, fleshy individual full of the kind of bonhomie in which lawyers and ministers specialize.

preterite -- of, relating to, or being the verb tense that describes a past action or state

Beggars and fanatics, holy men, prophets of the apocalypse didn't belong on that street in that sunlight; the frowning, belittling eyes of the stone columns held no tolerance for such preterite exaltation.

(I dunno, this word still makes no sense to me here. I'm not sure what columns he's talking about either, or why they have eyes in the first place, much less belittling ones.)

chiaroscuro -- meaning "light-dark" in Italian, the use of contrast between light and dark in art

Covenant followed the red eyes upward, but he could see nothing there except the dizzy chiaroscuro of the cluttered stone spikes.

(This word's really cool, but he uses it about fifty times so that it stands out awkwardly and makes the book feel like an extended high school vocab assignment. He does the same with "incarnadine", which basically means red.)

atavism -- recurrence in an organism of a trait or character typical of an ancestral form and usually due to genetic recombination; recurrence of or reversion to a past style, manner, outlook, approach, or activity

Gradually, he grew aware of other things -- the tree shade bedizened with glints of declining sunlight, the aroma of pine, the wind murmuring, the grass thickly cradling his body, the sound of a tune, the irregular tingling that came and went from his palms like an atavism -- but the warmth of his cheek on Lena's lap seemed more important.

(Uh, ok, in the book the man used to have no feeling in his hands. They were numb because of a medical condition. So the tingle wasn't "like" an atavism, it "was" an atavism. A lot of his comparisons are like that. To make up a simpler example: "The scary monster that ate her family approached her, and she screamed, as if both grieving and terrified." That's not from the book. It's not from anything. Nobody would say that. But do you see what I mean?)

anodyne -- anything that calms, comforts, or soothes disturbed feelings

The swelling night seemed full of soft communications -- anodynes for the loneliness of the dark.

(You'll be happy to know I have nothing to say about this one. I actually find the usage quite lovely.)

eyot -- variant of ait; an islet, especially in a river

Beyond him, in the bottom of the hollow, stood a single copse like an eyot in a broad glade.


abnegate -- to deny oneself

Prothall's abnegate eyes did not waver.

(Abnegate is a verb, not an adjective. But this character is something like a high priest/scholar, so I suppose he did make some sacrifices. Why we're being reminded of it in the context of where this line is from is beyond me.)

Anyway sorry for all the little interjections, but as you can tell, I am NOT enamored with this book. I didn't realize the problems I had with his writing would come out so much in these examples. Anyway, I plan to talk about it more later today so come on back if you like hearing people complain about things on the internet!


  1. I love your interjections! I agree with you that overusing a word like chiaroscuro just doesn't come off well at all. All of your words are new to me, except bonhomie. Thanks for participating!

  2. Just looking at the few sentences used, I wouldn't be enamored with this book either. Still, you got a bunch of new words out of it, plus a post.

  3. I would hate the overuse of a word, too, no matter how wondrous the word is.

    I am new to this meme. Here's my link:


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