Re: Book Recommendation Bleg, With A Twist!

1

What I want to recommend is anything written in the 19th century or before. But if it must be modern, what about some Jack Vance? I remember The Dying Earth as nicely sesquipedalian.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:04 PM
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And no, little bitches, the dictionary doesn't count.

In that case, I've got just the book for you.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:04 PM
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From memory, since I'm not going to go through them looking for big words, I'd suggest Anthony Powell's Music of Time sequence. The problem is that the first and last of the twelve books are by far the worst, but you need to read the first one to get a grip on the characters. From there on in, it's genius.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:05 PM
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The Road.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:06 PM
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They have books written with this very purpose in mind.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:07 PM
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I'd recommend Kinglake, but that's probably a bit arcane for now.

Fiction or non?

I've read a lot more of the latter relatively.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:08 PM
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Winter's Tale, by Mark Helprin.


Posted by: NCProsecutor | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:08 PM
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SparkNotes has a whole series as well.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:09 PM
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I also don't want to be insulted, Matt F.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:10 PM
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(1900 and later, say)

Art Since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism by Bois, Cuchloh, Foster, Krauss.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:10 PM
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9: What's the blog for, then?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:11 PM
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Salman Rushdie, Robertson Davies, Anthony Burgess.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:12 PM
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Stephen Fry, The Hippopotamus. If you like it, try anything else by him.


Posted by: Mary | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:13 PM
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Anything by the historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, but especially Millennium. He has a notably florid writing style.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:15 PM
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Vikram Seth? It's funny -- I'm having a hard time trying to estimate vocabulary levels for books I've read. Anything from pre-1900 is going to have more SAT-words than anything later, so that's a rule of thumb, but I'm just guessing that Seth has a broad vocabulary because A Suitable Boy was long and dense and sophisticated.

Dorothy Sayers?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:16 PM
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Anything by Gene Wolfe.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:17 PM
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Anything by John Crowley. Somewhere in 99 Novels Burgess describes a book like this. Naturally I can't recall what it's called. It was by a guy. From the latter half of the century. Oh well.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:18 PM
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Oh, fiction? Augie March is dense and full of rich language, though I don't know that it expanded my vocabulary, and the book case is waaay over there.

Barthelme or Will Self write wordy fiction. What about poetry? Dean Young?


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:18 PM
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He has a notably florid writing style.

I knew him when I was a kid. He talked just like that when he was 19.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:19 PM
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I just finished Nostromo by Conrad and liked it a lot. It has lots of words in it, I'm pretty sure. While flipping through it just now I came across the phrase "huge circus-like erection," so it's got that going for it too.


Posted by: neil | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:19 PM
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Keep 'em coming. I'm going to swim, which means that I'm going to lose a few more words to chlorine gas....


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:20 PM
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Hey, you can get the list (but not Burgess's commentary) online! The book I was thinking of (which I haven't read, so I make no representations as to its quality) is, I'm pretty sure, Darconville's Cat by Alexander Theroux.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:20 PM
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What about Richard Powers, the science novelist?


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:20 PM
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13 -- If we're going with Stephen Fry it should certainly be The Liar!

But, if we can't go with an actual Victorian novel, how about a relentlessly literary updating thereof? Michael Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:21 PM
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Has anyone mentioned Dan Brown yet?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:21 PM
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16 is absolutely right -- especially the Book of the New Sun (available in two volumes here and here).


"The pelagic argosy sights land." Indeed.


Posted by: NCProsecutor | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:22 PM
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19: That would make total sense.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:22 PM
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23 -- And oh yes Richard Powers. The Goldbug Variations or (my favorite) Galatea 2.2.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:22 PM
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!!! Read some motherfuckin' THOMAS BROWNE! Start with Religio Medici. Find his works here.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:22 PM
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10 should read Bucloh. I do recommend that book, actually, to brainy people who don't know visual art.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:23 PM
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24.2 is also spot-on.


Posted by: NCProsecutor | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:23 PM
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32

"What struck me on the beach--and it struck me indeed, so that I staggered as at a blow--was that if the Eternal Principle had rested in that curved thorn I had carried about my neck across so many leagues, and if it now rested in the new thorn (perhaps the same thorn) I had only now put there, then it might rest in everything, in every thorn in every bush, in every drop of water in the sea. The thorn was a sacred Claw because all thorns were sacred Claws; the sand in my boots was sacred sand because it came from a beach of sacred sand. The cenobites treasured up the relics of the sannyasins because the sannyasins had approached the Pancreator. But everything had approached and even touched the Pancreator, because everything had dropped from his hand. Everything was a relic. All the world was a relic. I drew off my boots, that had traveled with me so far, and threw them into the waves that I might not walk shod on holy ground."

The Citadel of the Autarch, Gene Wolfe


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:23 PM
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I've undergone the same vocab decline that ogged describes. It's really awful.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:24 PM
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Infinite Jest.

Google confirms my recollection of this as a
vocabulary-rich book.

(Why worry about vocabulary when you can look at a thesaurus, and why worry about remembering things when you have google?)


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:24 PM
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Oh, AS Byatt. Possession, particularly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:24 PM
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Awful, and also.... bad.


Posted by: neil | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:26 PM
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Browne isn't the first person to come to mind under the description "post-1900", but he really is a great writer.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:26 PM
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I hated Possession. Hated, hated, hated it.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:26 PM
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I know you prefer post-1900, but I still suggest Poe, who's famous for his extensive vocabulary. There's also the advantage that you can try a short story or two then give up if he's not to your taste.

If you insist on the post-1900 restriction, I'd recommend Angela Carter--in particular, The Bloody Chamber, her collection of short-story adaptations of well-known fairy tales and fables, like the Bluebeard legend, Little Red Riding-Hood, and many others.


Posted by: NickFranklin | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:27 PM
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Another book from the Burgess list that'd work: Titus Groan.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:27 PM
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This book.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:28 PM
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Right on, ogged. I like to keep lists while I read of words that:

1. I don't know at all;
2. I kind of know but couldn't confidently use in a sentence; and
3. I know but don't use often enough.

A few candidates:

- anything by Mike Davis (Late Victorian Holocausts is fascinating, though some chapters are skippable);
- Big Trouble: A Murder in a Small Western Town Sets Off a Struggle for the Soul of America, by J. Anthony Lukas (incredibly dense but well worth it for both vocab and history)
- Norman Rush
- Hendrik Hertzberg's book of essays, Politics, and the New Yorker in general, especially for #3


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:28 PM
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43

I'll throw in some additional votes for 16, 17, and 24.1, although all of those are probably too enjoyable for suffering-obsessed Ogged. Let me also nominate Charles Palliser's Victorian pastiche The Quincunx.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:28 PM
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38: That must be very difficult functioning without a soul.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:28 PM
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45

Read Michael Chabon, who famously uses unusual, arcane, underused and simply otherwise perfect words. I'd recommend you start with The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay if you haven't read it yet. If so, then Wonder Boys.


Posted by: Moira | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:28 PM
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Michel Houllebecq has a surprisingly direct and easy writing style in translation, despite being the latest trendy euro-novelist. I suggest "The Elementary Particles".

And yes, you'll like him, although I know I'm not supposed to say that.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:29 PM
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The thing is, the post 1900 restriction really makes very little sense. If you don't care about enjoying what you read, I'd swear you'd get a broader vocabulary, more fluently used, in almost anything before that date than anything after.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:32 PM
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I don't believe Umberto Eco's popped up yet. The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum are even readable.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:32 PM
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Was going to say Will Self as well. Non-fiction has to be good for technical terms too.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:32 PM
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34 -- Yes. Seconding Infinite Jest, which I refused to read for a while when it first came out because it seemed far too fey and ironic and smelled of boy (and that damn bandana pic -- ugh!), but when I finally did read it I was shocked at just how affecting and, well, triste it ultimately was. More like Dostoyevsky than Mark Leyner (which is what I was expecting).


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:33 PM
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32: You know, apart from the made-up names, that doesn't actually strike me as very vocabulary-rich.

The Quincunx is a great choice.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:33 PM
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Is there a less efficient way for ogged to accomplish what appears to be his goal? Improve his vocabulary by reading fiction, which he hates to do. Moreover, it can't be fiction from the era most likely to use interesting words (as noted by LB) or fiction previously identified as useful towards the end which he seeks (as mentioned by Matt F). I suggest this, not for the vocabulary, but to address the end result of this attempt of ogged's.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:34 PM
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I enjoyed Roy Jenkins' biography of Gladstone, which had a number of quotations of Victorian fustian that might be enriching. I suppose the same might apply to any sizeable biography of a pre-WWII figure.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:34 PM
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48: Also, Baudolino.

I find it hard to not recommend enjoyable books.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:35 PM
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If you want a romance book, Miss Lonelyhearts by West is the way to go.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:35 PM
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If Gene Wolfe's dense Book of the New Sun or Fifth Head of Cerebrus prose style is too enjoyable, perhaps you could read some of Pynchon's lesser works. I found Vineland a bit like dropping something on my toe repeatedly.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:35 PM
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Also, Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey & Maturin novels, incomparably rich. In a similar vein, the Flashman novels of George MacDonald Frasier.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:35 PM
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Oh, motherfucker. I didn't click post! I was scrolling back to fix my "Cerebrus" typo! (I blame Dave Sim for my inability to spell it correctly.) Now Ogged will never read Vineland, and it's all my fault.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:37 PM
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I second the Umberto Eco recommendation. ogged, if you haven't read these, I think you'd better hop to it. The vocabulary is ridiculous, out-of-control obscure, but rich.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:37 PM
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Snark:

Ogged will never get through Gravity's Rainbow.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:37 PM
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Gaddis, especially a Frolic of His Own, Nabokov. A second for Rushdie, especially Midnight's Children. John D MacDonald and Patricia Highsmith write high-vocabulary crime fiction. Jhumpa Lahiri, brand new. Faulkner if you like him and have the energy.

Do you like history at all? Huizenga's Autumn of the Middle Ages, Marco Ginzburg, Auerbach's Mimesis are all nice for prose; William Manchester's book have clunky but diverse prose, and cover subjects slightly relevant to contemporary politics (Krupp, MacArthur).
Oxford history of anything interesting-- Vikings and the Crusades were both well-done, IMO.

A last.fm-like thing that lets you start from known favorites and explore would be nice.

While notionally in the style of Gaddis of Pynchon, I absolutely hated Infinite Jest, I did not like the style, and didn't really see much of anything else in the book. Bridget Jones' Diary was a much more entertaining exercise in well-styled emptiness.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:39 PM
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I second ben's recommendation of Darconville's Cat, with the twist that, since I've read it, I can recommend it as a book-qua-book, instead of a dreary lexicon enhancer.

I third or fourth the Wolfe recommendation, but with a caveat: his big words aren't the sort you're looking for unless, say, you need to describe the thing that attaches all the spokes of a wheel to the thing in the center of the wheel in your daily life.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:40 PM
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Third on Richard Powers. The Time of Our Singing is an excellent novel if you're interested in German Opera (lots of crazy vocabulary!), race relations in the United States 1930-95, and theoretical physics (more vocabulary!). Or any two out of three.

From Galatea 2.2 (written in 1995):

The web was a neighborhood more efficiently lonely than the one it replaced. Its solitude was bigger and faster. When relentless intelligence finally completed its program, when the terminal drop box brought the last barefoot, abused child on line and everyone could at last say anything instantly to everyone else in existence, it seemed to me we'd still have nothing to say to each other and many more ways not to say it.

Yet I could not log off.

Trivia quiz: which Richard Powers character is based on a prominent blogger?


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:40 PM
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You know, apart from the made-up names, that doesn't actually strike me as very vocabulary-rich.

I had the same thought. Florid style, but mostly short, common words.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:40 PM
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Of the Eco books recommended, I'd underscore Foucault's Pendulum. I've read most of Eco's stuff, and I think that's the most vivid and memorable one.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:40 PM
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Nabokov is freaking brilliant. It is amazing how well he wrote. I get ticked when I think about how English was not his first language.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:41 PM
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61: Auerbach! And Midnight's Children! Yes! Now we're talking.

I don't even care what Ogged does. I'm going back and reading some of these books again.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:43 PM
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51 - It's hard to communicate exactly what Wolfe is doing with the language of those books with a brief excerpt; he's communicating alien-ness by using a shitload of obscure vocabulary (inc. sannyasins) rather than inventing words himself. Arcothers! Urtication! Gallipots!


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:44 PM
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65: Funny you should say that. Of all his books it's the one that made the least impression on me.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:45 PM
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51 and 63: The words aren't made up, they're just obscure.

That being said, anything by Wolfe, and especially BotNS, is going to be more useful for building-obscure-vocabulary than re-learning useful words.


Posted by: keith | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:46 PM
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I found Vineland a bit like dropping something on my toe repeatedly.

I enjoyed Vineland as far as I got into it, although the "start each chapter with one narrative thread and then digress into another" structure got a bit repetitive... but I stopped reading it at some point and have never felt any compulsion to go back and pick it up again. Kind of the same experience I had with Underworld.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:46 PM
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64 -- Well, it's our own professor of Dangeral Studies. But I can't remember the character's name.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:46 PM
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I third or fourth the Wolfe recommendation, but with a caveat: his big words aren't the sort you're looking for unless, say, you need to describe the thing that attaches all the spokes of a wheel to the thing in the center of the wheel in your daily life.

Jeez, SEK, you're gonna make me spell out the joke?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:47 PM
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68: But things like "sannyasi" and "Pancreator" are pretty much made-up words in that context, right? In that he doesn't have their real-world referents in mind.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:48 PM
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I adore Galatea 2.2 and The Goldbug Variations, but have been neutral to negative on every other book by Powers I've read. Also, I've twice tried to read The Recognitions and haven't been able to get more than fifty pages into it either time.

I blame society.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:48 PM
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76

Eco's novels are OK, but his feuilletons in Travels in Hyperreality are really nice. Second on Conrad, Lord Jim is very good indeed. Nostromo starts wonderful but
gets weighed down by the silver in the mine. Plus, my editon is set in the most hideous font, monoset photina. OK, c, 19th-- Middlemarch is also wonderful. Understated, masterfully written, definitely adult fiction.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:49 PM
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Is there a less efficient way for ogged to accomplish what appears to be his goal?

Really. I just read a whole Jane Austen novel and only got "rhodomontade" out of it. But then, is not deploying a rare synonym when a more common word will do the negation of good intellectual practice? Sometimes you need a specific word to achieve precision and/or euphony, but this seems the exception.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:49 PM
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Speaking of education, someone brought an "US" magazine to the office.

I didnt realize how few famous people I knew.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:50 PM
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I'm on my way out the door and haven't read the thread, but there's nothing better for perfecting one's use of the English language than reading Samuel Johnson, both for vocabulary and for excellent, complex but meaningful syntax. He's a little depressing, but in a good way.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:51 PM
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Ogged, if you really don't like to read, perhaps you should take a Latin class? If you knew Latin you'd know that a meretrix=fancy prostitute.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:51 PM
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Samuel Johnson
Yes. Hume, Hazlitt, and Gibbon. Hume and Gibbon were both short, fat and ugly. Hazlitt was a looker. Johnson?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:53 PM
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77: I think ogged's talking about reaching for a perfectly conventional SAT word that he knows, and not being able to think of it in real time, not actually learning new words. And I'd guess that Austen reinforced a lot of words that are squarely within your vocabulary, but that you mightn't use a lot.

(I'm finding the discussion of Mansfield Park at your blog interesting. I've always kind of felt out of step about it, as I can't find Fanny as unappealing as everyone seems to.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:53 PM
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brought an "US" magazine

InStyle at the grocery, every week baby.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:54 PM
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74: He has the real world references in mind, just tweaked to convey an alien context. You could write a book about his use of obscure words in that series -- in fact, someone has.


Posted by: keith | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:54 PM
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Hume gives me shuddering orgasms. Yay Hume.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:55 PM
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69.--- Baudolino is probably a better book, untilterms of narrative structure and cohesiveness. The Name of the Rose was certainly the most popular (although in retrospect, I think, its borrowing from other authors becomes a bit annoying). The Island of the Day Before has an overall mood that I still remember; it was the first exposure I'd had to the irrationalism of the Enlightenment. One of my favorite Eco pieces is a conference talk called "Interpretation and Overinterpretation"---even though it represents a move away from a textual paradigm I really enjoyed.

But Foucault's Pendulum sticks me with most. I first read it at 13, and kept rereading it periodically until, at 22, I finally figured out that it was satire.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:56 PM
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69.--- Baudolino is probably a better book, untilterms of narrative structure and cohesiveness. The Name of the Rose was certainly the most popular (although in retrospect, I think, its borrowing from other authors becomes a bit annoying). The Island of the Day Before has an overall mood that I still remember; it was the first exposure I'd had to the irrationalism of the Enlightenment. One of my favorite Eco pieces is a conference talk called "Interpretation and Overinterpretation"---even though it represents a move away from a textual paradigm I really enjoyed.

But Foucault's Pendulum sticks me with most. I first read it at 13, and kept rereading it periodically until, at 22, I finally figured out that it was satire.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:56 PM
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In that he doesn't have their real-world referents in mind.

Well, he does and he doesn't; they're not untethered signifiers. Every time he sends you scurrying to the dictionary, it's meant to communicate that something differs from the plain-English understanding of it. If he chose, e.g., to refer to a certain animal as a "coney", it would meant to indicate that it was rabbit-like but not actually a rabbit.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:57 PM
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Almost all of my vocabulary developed through reading books. It's less about memorizing lists of vocabulary and more about simple facility with the language, which I always found easier to work on through reading other people who were better at the language than I was.

(N.B., this does not apply to journal articles. Fuck you, academy. I used ta be able ta write.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:58 PM
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72 is correct. Professor Be/rube, his wife and sons appear in Galatea 2.2. I'd be a bit concerned if one of my colleagues wrote a novel in which the autobiographical character falls in love with my wife, but that's just me.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 12:58 PM
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Ogged could read Hazlitt then experience the intimate charm of the William Hazlitt Experience.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:00 PM
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84: I thought the conceit was supposed to be that he was "translating" a future language and using obscure present-day language to approximate. Which isn't quite the same thing.

Yes, I guess you could write a book about it...


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:00 PM
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Oh! Tristram Shandy or Tom Jones, but probably not both. If you like actual novels, TJ is phenomenally good and brilliant. If you like bizarre, dirty, convoluted jokes and frustration, TS is perfect. I'm guessing TS is the way to go, here.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:00 PM
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81. Johnson was huge and ungainly. Ogged should nonetheless read him. But first, if we're abandoning th c20 pretence, he should read Gibbon, who was the finest writer of prose in the English language (and used plenty of words).


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:02 PM
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The quote in 32 is all of Book of the New Sun that's at all memorable, so Flippanter just saved you some time, Ogged.

"Smelled of boy" is an awesome descriptive phrase for a book. (Reading blogs has really damaged my vocabulary as well. For example, once upon a time whenever I would reach for the mot juste, it would be a word other than "awesome".)


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:04 PM
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Scribble scribble scribble, eh, Mr Gibbon?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:04 PM
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OFE, have you read all of Gibbon? If you have, I'm really impressed.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:05 PM
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Barbara Tuchman wrote with a larger vocabulary than is immediately obvious from skimming, simply because her prose style was so smooth. She wrote about a lot of interesting people and eras, too.

Tanith Lee is good for lush dense prose dripping with exotic vocabulary.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:05 PM
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99

Yay, finally found a quote online to demonstrate how the book I recommended in 41 would help Ogged's vocabulary (my copy seems to have gone walkies some time in my last couple moves):

"Drawing a pismire from his swash, he stepped over the corpse, leaned far out the window, and peered upward. A lone pigeon was still circling its way upward, as they will when they look for altitude and have a long way to go. It was barely more than a speck, and no one knew the limitations of a pismire better than Slitgizzard, but nonetheless he tested the lovelock, cocked the chutney, rested one wrist upon the other, held his breath, and squeezed the trigger very gently. The pismire spat fire. ... The pigeon hit the parataxis and bounced onto the tiled roof of the clerihew, where it lay still."


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:06 PM
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71 -- Underworld completely loves all narrative drive in the middle, but it picks up. By the end it's really good.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:09 PM
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I, Clavdivs?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:14 PM
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85: This kink of AWB's is sick. Better than Hannah Arendt's kink, I suppose.

I have a rare recent American book which uses tons of weird vocabulary, but is only mildly interesting.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:14 PM
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Uh, for "loves" in 100, read "loses".


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:15 PM
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Gibbon on legal reasoning:


The books of jurisprudence were interesting to few, and entertaining to none: their value was connected with present use, and they sunk forever as soon as that use was superseded by the innovations of fashion, superior merit, or public authority.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:15 PM
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I second Wm Gaddis' A Frolic of His Own. I think of it every time I pull a bottle of pinot grigio out of the fridge.

Also, second Vineland, which I adore.

Man, I miss reading BOOKS.


Posted by: Moira | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:17 PM
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Vikram Seth uses a lot of exotic vocabulary, much of it Anglo-Indian but some archaic English ("verruca" = "wart").


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:17 PM
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I want to recommend The Master and Margarita but I can't actually remember if it stretched my vocabulary. I am breaking all the rules and mentioning it purely for love of evangelizing it as being so very good.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:19 PM
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I don't think that's archaic, just UK. Terry Pratchett uses the same word, and largely isn't straining himself on the vocabulary.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:20 PM
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I'd be a bit concerned if one of my colleagues wrote a novel in which the autobiographical character falls in love with my wife, but that's just me.

Rather, not to mention having your analogue character be conveniently written out of the picture by being made into an abandoning schmuck, if I remember things correctly.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:23 PM
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107: evangalize away, that is an amazing book. Vocabulary might vary with translation a bit, I suspect.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:24 PM
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Wait, Josh, was there some joke I was supposed to be getting?

Also: if he's looking for better faculty with words like "meretricious," the place to go is British detective fiction. I'm thinking of the procedural novels of Iain Banks and what-not, because if there's one thing they have on the other side of the pond, it's smoothly integrated impressive vocabularies.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:24 PM
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I learned 'verruca' from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:24 PM
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I've only read one book of his, but Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods was informative and funny, and his vocabulary is educated. He's written quite a few other books, and I hear they're all similarly great reads. One would think his new book on Shakespeare would be a promising location for some eloquency.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:28 PM
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It never occurred to me that it was a word, rather than an unusual british girl's name, in C&tCF. But I'm slow like that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:29 PM
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107: There's a new translation out that a friend said is good; I've only read the Ginsburg translation, which I understand is not well-thought-of.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:29 PM
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111 -- SEK -- do you mean Iain Rankin? He writes Scottish detective novels (very good ones). Iain Banks (writing also as Iain M. Banks) writes both sci-fi and strange dystopic fiction (Wasp Factory is wholly unnerving).


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:31 PM
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113: A Walk in the Woods sounded boring to me, but I really like Notes from a Small Island.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:32 PM
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109: A family member has published (and, you know, been paid for...it's not even some kind of self-publishing craziness) short stories in which our whole family is sort of transposed...Bizarro-LBJ is tall, athletic and physically courageous, pretty much none of which are true of actual-LBJ. I can't help but see Bizarro-family as the wish-fulfillment family, which makes me uneasy.


Posted by: Lady Bird Johnson | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:32 PM
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It's a good thing I decided to read the comments before posting, as it would have been truly ignominious to be pwned by freaking COMMENT NUMBER ONE. I will add that the multi-volume compendium available on Amazon is probably worth the extra ten bucks. Amazon also lets you view pages from inside the book to see if it's your thing.

Another good choice is Night Lamp, searching inside for "Mediators" turns up an amusing and brief passage.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:33 PM
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114: Wonka says something at one point like "what an interesting name! I always thought a verruca was a sort of wart on the sole of the foot." I looked it up.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:33 PM
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LB, I tried reading Possession, but I petered out after a few pages. What makes it so good?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:34 PM
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116--Hey, let's add Iain Sinclair to the mix! Downriver is pretty good and rather bizarre, and I always get him confused with Iain Banks.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:34 PM
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Whoops, I somehow thought Ogged was asking for books that did *not* use a high level of English vocab. Since he's, you know, stupid now.

In that case Gibbon and Johnson are good, but they will make orotund to a degree that will lead other Americans to find you pompous. Nathaniel West would be better.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:36 PM
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Post-1900, off the top of my head: James Branch Cabell, Robert Byron, Frederic Prokosch, Alasdair Gray, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Cyril Connolly, Ronald Firbank, Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, Marguerite Young, Elizabeth David.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:37 PM
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Also, Vance is a fairly quick read being both plot-driven and humorous. Compared to, say, Byatt. Since we know how Ogged hates work...


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:39 PM
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124: I'd rule out Gertrude Stein for Ogged's purposes...


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:40 PM
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97. Not all by any means - the "Roman Empire", obviously, but only bits and pieces besides. But he is a beautiful and humane writer, and if you don't know him, keep a volume of the history by your bed for a bit.

108. I had verrucas (doesn't mean it's not archaic - I am).


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:41 PM
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W00t Robust McManlyPants! When I was in Moscow I studied with a Bulgakov scholar and she took me on a weird walking tour of the events of the novel. I was tempted to take photos at all these different sites where, in fact, nothing happened in actual history. I did take a few.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:41 PM
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I'd also love some recommendations for books that make extensive use of words ending in -que, -loin, and -icious.


Posted by: feldspar | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:41 PM
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121: Well, it helps if you're already fond of Browning. I dunno -- the characters are well and convincingly drawn, the plot is compelling, the ideas discussed are fascinating, the pastiche of Victorian fairytales is also fascinating... mostly I just really liked it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:42 PM
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Or Iain Pears, while we're on Iains. Instance of the Fingerpost is an enjoyable, thick mystery set in 17th century Oxford. (I feel that LB would like it, if not Ogged.)


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:42 PM
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Er.
An Instance of the Fingerpost, that is, complete with closed italics.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:43 PM
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131 -- Ooh, An Instance of the Fingerpost is great. What's not to like about Francis Bacon?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:44 PM
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130: also, the exchange of love letters is hottt


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:45 PM
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I like some other Byatt novels better than Possession, though I don't dislike Possession: The Virgin in the Garden and Still Life, especially.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:46 PM
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Oudemia's book taste and mine seem to overlap significantly.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:48 PM
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The mystery novels of the late Sarah Caudwell. I cannot think of anything else that I've enjoyed, but those spring to mind imm43ediately.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:48 PM
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The Enright translation of Proust (or rather the Enright revision of the Kilmartin translation, if one wants to be a little bitch about it) had me reaching for the dictionary as much as any book I've ever read. Plus, the novel is one of the greatest monuments of civilization, so it's got that going for it.

Ogged, have you come across Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero? It's abstruse and otherwise peculiar, but given the subject, I thought you might be interested.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:53 PM
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Re: Master and Margarita, photos from Patriarch's Pond and the halls outside Woland's apartment, where the entire novel has been scrawled or grafittied.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:55 PM
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I want to recommend The Master and Margarita

I love that book. I still have the copy I bought from the SF Book Club when I was but a wee lad. It wasn't until recently, though, that I learned that M&M apparently inspired Jagger to write "Sympathy for the Devil."


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:56 PM
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117: I know the title sounds boring, but really, a good deal of it is hilarious, other parts informative, and there's even some insightfulness. And it moves fairly quickly.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:57 PM
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I cannot think of anything else that I've enjoyed

How sad.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:57 PM
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136 -- Aha! Then I must insist that you read Wilkie Collins' Armadale. It might be the most perfect example of the giant, crazy Victorian novel, and I had never heard of it until a couple of months ago. (And if you haven't read his Moonstone and Woman in White, then you have to do that too.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 1:58 PM
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Oudemia, can you expand on the Faber recommendation? If I liked The Quincunx (and I did), would I enjoy the Faber?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:01 PM
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I'd also love some recommendations for books that make extensive use of words ending in -que, -loin, and -icious.

The Consummate Guide to Delicious Barbeque Tenderloin


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:02 PM
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Yay for TM&M love! I haven't read it in about 10 years so I can't remember what translation I was reading. I suspect one of the later ones, glancing at the novel's translation/publishing history on Wikipedia, probably the one from '89. Now I need to dig it up and reread it. Something that good would probably make for great inspiration and distraction during NaNoWriMo.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:02 PM
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Also, photos of in-novel locations? Totally hott. This is why robots love you, 'smasher.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:03 PM
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Let me show you my invisible cities . . . ladeez.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:05 PM
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I didn't realize until I read The Gangs of New York that the Tenderloin in Manhattan is named after the cut of beef. (The legendarily corrupt Clubber Williams apparently named the neighborhood after getting transfered there: "I've had nothing but chuck steak for a long time, and now I'm going to get a little of the tenderloin.") Clearly Ogged should start reading Herbert Asbury.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:07 PM
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If you really want these words to trip off your tongue, you need to speak them and hear them a lot. What you're really wanting is to join a salon. Or found one! Bloomsbury so-cal.

Given how unlikely that is, I'd say you'd be much better off making the best of your ossifying brain. Read Hemingway, and model your speech (and life) on his characters.


Posted by: chas | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:08 PM
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I adore Wilkie Collins, but have not, in fact, read Armadale. I will!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:09 PM
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Even in translation, the only way I can appreciate him, Borges' stories and essays are pretty great for pointing out a new word, place or thing now and again. I particularly like The Book of Imaginary Beings.

Another way to pick up new words is to have a father who, for reasons of space, keeps an old set of the eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica in his kitchen. (On shelves under a television, to keep from giving the impression that Flippanter père is some kind of weird hermit.)


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:12 PM
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Wait, Josh, was there some joke I was supposed to be getting?

I never thought I'd get posting privileges to Standpipe's blog...

I completely agree with your assessment of the educational value of Wolfe's vocabulary. That was, in fact, why I suggested him in the first place.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:12 PM
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OMG, I want some barbeque right now.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:16 PM
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144 -- I've never read any Palliser! BUT based on your description I (1) think I need to and (2) definitely do think that you'd like the Faber, for some of same reasons you say you liked the Palliser. It (very consciously) has all of the tropes and excesses of the late Victorian novel (elaborate wealth and desperate poverty, clever prostitutes, madwomen-in-the-attic, crusaders for virtue and morality, the fitful heir, governesses who are not what they seem, multiple main characters, etc.) but with a keener/blunter view of matters sexual (but not in a pandering way) and the kind of pomo twist that all of these characters are writing texts of their own. Does this help/make any sense?

Curtis Hansen is making it into a movie -- and based on L.A. Confidential I think that he could do a great job.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:16 PM
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99: Clerihew?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:17 PM
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155: Yeah, that movie of L.A. Confidential was pretty sweet. I particularly liked the way it mishandled the character of Dudley Smith, who dominates the L.A. Quartet through White Jazz.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:20 PM
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Vineland uses both "transfenestrative" and "imbrication," two words I dearly love. So thirded, I guess.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:22 PM
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I liked The Quincunx also.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:23 PM
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I've still never seen (or read) L.A. Confidential. I am sadly undermovied.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:24 PM
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Oudemia, have you read A Maggot by John Fowles? I bet you would like it.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:26 PM
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Thanks. The Quincunx, as the spoiler-laden discussion on my site suggests -- I think w-lfs-n has commented there -- is plotted to ridiculous extremes, and is more of a Nabokovian (or Gene Wolfe-ian, in fact; that's actually a better comparison) puzzle-narrative than it sounds like the Faber is. Super fun, though, and not actually that taxing if you're not trying to piece together the gaps in John's highly unreliable account of his own history. (If piecing together the gaps etc. etc. sounds like fun, you'd enjoy Wolfe's New Sun and Latro the Soldier books.)

I, umm, don't recommend reading the 254 comments at my site until you've finished the book.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:32 PM
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156: Yes. It is used consistently so in the book. "Pismire," also.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:32 PM
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161: Really good (and weird) book. Far better than The Magus.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:33 PM
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So, who can summarize the thread?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:36 PM
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"Unfogged commenters like to talk about books and are profoundly uninterested in answering the simplest goddamn questions Ogged has."


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:37 PM
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161: No, but I will now!

162: No, you're right TCP&TW isn't a puzzle narrative, but it is maybe about Narrative. The ending that many people hate points me in this direction (and makes me wonder what the heck they'll do with it in the movie).


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:38 PM
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I should add that I personally like to read Gibbon while I cook elaborate, adventurous meals entirely from scratch.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:43 PM
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So, who can summarize the thread?

Well, I would but snarkout did it better.


Posted by: chas | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:44 PM
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116: oudemia, I did mean Rankin. For some (undoubtedly genre-ghettoizing) reason, I always confuse the two.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:45 PM
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I read Gibbon while I swim laps.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:55 PM
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I saw a gibbon in a zoo.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 2:59 PM
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Gibbon, uncut, accesorizes my closet of very small-waisted pants.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 3:01 PM
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Books do furnish a room.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 3:08 PM
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Lolita, or something by Updike (Rabbit, Run has great "vocab" from what I recall).


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 3:12 PM
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Master and Margarita is the only novel I've read in Russian. It expanded my vocabulary some, but mostly I only got the plot points and missed most of the fun language stuff because I didn't really understand the language. I really should read it again in translation.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 3:24 PM
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Anyone read C.P. Snow these days?


Posted by: Austro | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 3:26 PM
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Books do furnish a room

I had a desk once made of a door propped up on four stacks of books.


Posted by: Austro | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 3:29 PM
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174 > 3 ?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 3:31 PM
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Lawrence Durell? André Brink? Paul Scott? H.E. Bates? And dare I even suggest Kipling. All are submitted as being within the terms of reference.


Posted by: Austro | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 3:33 PM
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Pnin by Nabokov uses my favorite big word: Defenestration.

I do think that we have lost a tradition of earnest self-improvement signified by things like Reader's digest's word power quizzes, Harvard classics, and "How to read a book". My grandparent's generation seemed to love that stuff; even the ones that didn't go to college.



Posted by: Joeo | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 3:34 PM
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Anything by Peter Brown, the historian. The Body and Society and his biography of Augustine should be easy to find.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 3:35 PM
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John Barth, The Tidewater Tales and The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor. In both, he works with a rarefied and variegated lexicon.

Also, you should all read Stephen Fry, The Ode Less Travelled.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 3:37 PM
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179: Yes.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 3:38 PM
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Hey Austro, good to hear from you.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 3:45 PM
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If you find the idea too daunting to actually commit the time required to read the herein recommended books, another rewarding and vocab-rich exercise is to read the "back of the book" in the New Republic.

Yes, yes, I know, I find Leon Wieseltier as annoying as the rest of you do. But credit where credit is due, he assembles a pretty good book review section, and the assumed level of literacy is higher than virtually any other general interest periodical (and I pointedly include The Economist in that).


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 3:52 PM
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I can't believe no one has suggested David Foster Wallace yet. I'd recommend "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" and "Infinite Jest", non-fiction essays and enormous novel, respectively.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 3:53 PM
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Someone did recomment Infinite Jest. I hated it, in a way that makes me feel that I have a personal grudge against Wallace, but I do like his essays.

How interesting is the vocabulary, though? His writing's arty, sure, but I don't know that the words he uses get that unusual.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 3:55 PM
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I found his writing, especially in Infinite Jest to be alternately arty, and then possessed of a ridicuously (gratuitously, even) large vocabulary. The large vocabulary also shows in his non-fiction. He is a bit pretentious and, like most post-modernists, doesn't know how to end a story to save his life, but I found his stuff thought-provoking, if not always entertaining. (Maybe I should try to stuff a few more commas in there just for kicks).


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 4:01 PM
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doesn't know how to end a story to save his life,

This. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Goddamn it if I invest in a thousand page book and read all the footnotes, I want some goddamn resolution. Hate.

But I do adore his essays. He's got a more recent book, too, Consider the Lobster, but I don't like it as much.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 4:04 PM
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Foster Wallace is definitely the kind of thing Ogged is specifically not looking for, since he is not looking for "ten dollar words", and says "I don't mean things that are baroque or have complex structure".


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 4:05 PM
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190: The essay about the pr0n convention was a bit much for my delicate sensibilities, but the one about lobsters was pretty great.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 4:06 PM
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I haven't read nearly the whole thread yet but just want to go off on a tangent based on this:

I get ticked when I think about how English was not his first language.

I misread this as "tickled" and was inclined to agree. I think writers are often more flexible, playful and creative in their vocabularies when they are writing in a non-native language. It's even sometimes true for non-American-English native speakers of English.

I'm thinking of Keri Hulme's The Bone People, Esmeralda Santiago's When I Was Puerto Rican, anything by Sherman Alexie (I seem to recall Ogged has already read him)...I have a vague sense that Borges and Italo Calvino are rich in vocabulary too, but haven't read either recently enough to be sure.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 4:07 PM
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The essays aren't ridiculously structured, and the vocabulary isn't sillier than it needs to be (that is, I don't remember it as unusual at all). He might set off Ogged's need to scorn the wussy or something, but other than that I think they're the sort of thing he wanted.

Infinite Jest, Ogged doesn't want to read.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 4:08 PM
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Gibbon, uncut

Too. Much. Information.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 4:08 PM
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Thanks for the recommendations, folks.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 4:15 PM
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Recommendations? I thought we were organizing a bookburning. Don't just skip to the bottom of the thread, folks.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 4:19 PM
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John Barth! There's a name I haven't thought of in years. We had The Sot-Weed Factor and Giles Goat Boy when I was young - never read either of them, but always loved the titles. You'd think anything called The Sot-Weed Factor would automatically go onto Ogged's list of improving books.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 4:23 PM
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In addition to exercising a rather alarming vocabulary, Cormac McCarthy also has a penchant for portraying necrophilia, incest, & infanticide (which apparently constitute the book reviewers' Trifecta of Things You Shouldn't Talk About). More bang for your buck.


Posted by: caldwellian | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 4:45 PM
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which apparently constitute the book reviewers' Trifecta of Things You Shouldn't Talk About

No way is incest on that list, surely.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 4:47 PM
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No way is incest on that list, surely.

It's strange, isn't it? But the reviewers were oh-so-shocked--possibly only because McCarthy, who was skyrocketing to fame with All the Pretty Horses back in '92 had, in fact, this dark & immoral fixation for the several decades immediately prior before turning to romantic tragedies of the American west. Or something.


Posted by: caldwellian | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 4:58 PM
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The words Wallace uses can be quite unusual. I wrote a brief essay about one of them in Infinite Jest ("luculus"). That book also has an ending and closure, but you have to piece it together. Carefully.


Posted by: Jonathan | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 5:24 PM
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3rd Alex Theroux, romantic misogyny as oxymoron. Or Stevens. Or just read jerce, and meek up yer oun fuchting weirds.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 5:28 PM
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203 schmupme, meant redudancy, not automoron.
Ah speck.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 5:43 PM
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Infinite Jest commenters: Please note that I invoked that novel on the terms of the original request, and not as an endorsement of its literary merit.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 5:44 PM
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205: But for the record, that book is awesome, and if you don't like it you are a bad person and possibly in league with Satan.

201: Strange indeed.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 5:47 PM
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Incest was old hat to lovers of fine literature who expected McCarthy to be squarely within the William Faulkner tradition.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 5:50 PM
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206: Actually, I liked it quite a lot, but I consider that fact a character flaw and am therefore reluctant to confess it.

There are works of art - Pulp Fiction comes to mind - that I think are brilliant, but I would tend to view with suspicion anyone who agrees with me.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 5:52 PM
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Heck, 205, I'll endorse its literary merit. I did in fact (somewhere way up there)! I will also agree with Jonathan at 202 that it does indeed have a resolution (but is it an ending, if it isn't at the end?) that reveals itself through Talmudic diligence. Or, really, just remembering "Hey! Wait a minute!" for something that made no sense at the front of the book, once one got to the end (and following strings from there).


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 5:54 PM
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I would tend to view with suspicion anyone who agrees with me

Probably a good instinct.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 5:54 PM
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Kathy Acker novels also fall into this category.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 5:55 PM
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Concur in the Wolfe recommendations, and with those arguing that the 1900 or later restriction is both bizarre and counterproductive.

Much as I love TM&M and Vikram Seth, I'm not sure they fit the terms of the request. Definitely recommended though.


Posted by: HC | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 5:59 PM
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207: True indeed, but "book reviewers" does not always imply "lovers of fine literature." Watching them be shocked, however, is by turns entertaining & infuriating. Re: McCarthy's Faulkernianism, I persist in being amused by the battle between those who want him for the Faulkner camp & those who claim him for Hemingway--though the "Beckett camp" contenders are gaining in number as well.

Not really related is that I'm still trying to decide who I'd put my money on in a fistfight between Hemingway & Faulkner.


Posted by: caldwellian | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:00 PM
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213: I think the bigger question is which one would win in a drinking contest.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:05 PM
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#45: My first thought was Chabon and TAAOK&C, too. What a great read that was, made even better by Chabon's word choices.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:05 PM
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The Wikipedia page is somewhat inaccurate right now, so I couldn't find out the answer.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:07 PM
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214: Given that Hemingway was actually drunk most of the time & that Faulkner wrote like he was half-drunk all of the time, my best hypothesis is that Hemingway could probably drink more but that Faulkner would look better doing it.


Posted by: caldwellian | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:09 PM
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#48: Mad props to Eco, too, although when you read him in English, of course, you're really reading a translation of his original writing. I loved The Name of the Rose (which I quoted here) and Foucault's Pendulum, (which for my money was the original inspiration for the craptacular The Da Vinci Code).


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:11 PM
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216: I totally did not know that about Hemingway. Wikipedia is an invaluable resource.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:11 PM
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218 is only a viable statement if you haven't read Holy Blood, Holy Grail, whose authors sued Dan Brown for stealing their purportedly true conspiracy theory.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:15 PM
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I think the bigger question is which one would win in a drinking contest.

In the real-life drinking contest that was their concurrent careers, Hemingway lost by just over one year.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:19 PM
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#218: I haven't, so it's viable.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:21 PM
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Whoops, in #222, #218 s/b #220.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:23 PM
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Since people have already recommended Vance and Wolfe and similar artsy SF/F stuff, I'll suggest M. John Harrison's Viriconium books. Probably not Ogged's sort of thing at all, but the vocabulary is exceptionally rich and baroque.

I've just started reading Lempriere's Dictionary. That's pretty useful, vocab-wise.

122: Frowner likes Iain Sinclair! Hooray!


Posted by: Felix | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:23 PM
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220: well, no, Dan Brown could have ripped off both that specific conspiracy theory and also ripped off the sprawling-erudite-thriller-about-biblical-conspiracies thing from Foucault's Pendulum.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:23 PM
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Who would win a lame books that too many people took seriously contest, Dan Brown or the Bridges of Madison County guy?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:25 PM
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221: Whoo! Billy, Billy, he's our man, et cetera! And he looked better doing it per 217! I'm going to wander off and shotgun a beer in celebration.

226: Dan Brown, hands down. It would be between him and whoever wrote The Celestine Prophecy. (Or the various authors of The Secret.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:32 PM
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Dan Brown.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:33 PM
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Pwned.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:34 PM
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224: Lempriere's Dictionary is great, but The Pope's Rhinoceros, Norfolk's follow-up, wasn't worth pursuing past page 100 or so, I felt.

John Lanchester's The Debt to Pleasure is the sort of book that food-obsessed blog commenters might like.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:34 PM
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Dan Brown, no contest. The thrilling linguistic mysteries that are supposed to have withstood attack from the finest minds over two millenia could be solved by my Latin 102 students.

And I was given 75 copies of the damn thing by older relatives because it is apparently what I study. Argh! Just when you have folks convinced that Classics does not equal Dickens and Shakespeare . . .


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:37 PM
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SO DARK THIS CON OF MAN?! WHAT?!? FUCK OFF DAN BROWN!!!


Posted by: OPINIONATED CRYPTOGRAPHER | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:38 PM
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God, I haven't thought about the Celestine Prophecy guy in ages.

If I understand Ogged's mission, it's not a question of big words, but of rather everyday words ("brusque," "purloin") that fall out of everyday use when you're mostly hanging out with everyday people.

At any rate, that's how I experience the phenomenon. Echoing the recommendation of Eco. What one would want as an antidote is something like immersion in a slightly elevated vocabulary set: Eco provides dialogue -- at least in Foucault's Pendulum, all I've read -- among people who talk that way alla time. It registers to this reader, anyway, as: Ah, yes, of course, I remember now. I can settle in here (never mind whether Eco can be annoying at times).

YMMV.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:44 PM
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FUCK OFF DAN BROWN!!!

That's it! You've solved the riddle that has baffled us! For centuries nobody knew what "AWB Doff Nun Frock" meant, but it's just an anagram!


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:45 PM
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234 wins at least this thread, and possibly several others.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:47 PM
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To build your vocabulary, Ogged, you could just listen to Wu-Tang Clan:

I bomb atomically, Socrates' philosophies
and hypotheses can't define how I be droppin' these
mockeries, lyrically perform armed robbery
Flee with the lottery, possibly they spotted me
Battle-scarred shogun, explosion when my pen hits
tremendous, ultra-violet shine blind forensics


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:55 PM
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Faulkner wrote like he was half-drunk all of the time, my best hypothesis is that Hemingway could probably drink more but that Faulkner would look better doing it.

As Hemingway once (apocryphally?--I can't be bothered to try to track it down right now) said re: Faulkner, "Anyone can write like that with a fifth of bourbon and a bad grasp of grammar."

I think it's the other way around, though: Faulkner could out drink Hemingway six ways to Sunday--Faulkner could put away bottles of that shit--really, Barton Fink's depiction of "Bill Mayhew" isn't far from the Faulknerian truth--but Hemingway usually looked better (where "looked better" is defined as not winding up in pool of your own vomit) while doing so.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:59 PM
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Final contribution: anything by Simon Schama. Hell, watch his shows with CC to simulate the effect.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:01 PM
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Yeah, but how many trophy marlins did Faulkner ever shoot?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:01 PM
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239 to 237. Or if you prefer, "Faulkner" s/b "Schama".


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:02 PM
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I hear it gets funky when you've got a subject and a predicate.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:02 PM
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There aren't enough British women novelists in this thread (points to baa for the Jane Austen, but she's not contemporary).

You might like Salley Vickers' Mr Golightly's Holiday.

Anything by Penelope Fitzgerald.

Hilary Mantel.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:02 PM
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where "looked better" is defined as not winding up in pool of your own vomit

Or with a shotgun in your mouth?

My favorite "Hemingway vs. x" battle is still that of the Great Hemingway-Stevens Fistfight of '36.


Posted by: caldwellian | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:09 PM
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Hilary Mantel.

A Change in Climate is devastating and wonderful. I read it in Paris, which was a somewhat odd juxtaposition.

Someone upthread suggested Norman Rush, who I think is a good choice for the bleg as stated. Mating -- a book I like very much, though lots of people (men, especially, for some reason) find the narrator very offputting (I like her) -- is chock full of the upper-middlebrow vocabulary of late-twentieth-century holders of graduate degrees. Should be just the thing.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:17 PM
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There are so many books here that Ogged will never pick up a single one of them. We should go straight to the words. I try to use "ancillary" and "mendacious" once in a while. "Callipygean" is always fun, and I recently learned the concept of "beta-diversity", which I thought was neat. (I'm not telling what it is, but California has the most of it!)

I expanded my vocab in my teens by reading Fantastic Four comic books. "Amorphous" and "gangrene" are two I remember from those days.

Mating is one of my favorite-ever books.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:24 PM
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...but close-tags are among my least favorite HTML instructions.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:26 PM
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I know a good book that has words like gelatinous and fangoriously, and, um, linebacker.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:28 PM
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There are so many books here that Ogged will never pick up a single one of them.

Not so; I already have a few (top secret) selections.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:28 PM
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248: hey, I have a Dan Brown book or two, too.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:30 PM
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248: Why top secret?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:33 PM
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My favorite "Hemingway vs. x" battle is still that of the Great Hemingway-Stevens Fistfight of '36.

Hemingway-Eastman '37. Or Hemingway-Callaghan '(I can't remember). Which was even better because Callaghan was Canadian.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:34 PM
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248: Why top secret?

Because that's how I roll.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:35 PM
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Lovecraft, on occasion, used large words that weren't made up. He's kind of 20th century.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:37 PM
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I wore out my first copy of Mating and had to buy another.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:39 PM
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252: Surely, in this day and age, there's a </gang sign> tag that you could have ended that with.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:39 PM
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My henchmen are on their way to your place now.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:40 PM
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Also, don't translations skew things, depending on the translators' choices?


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:41 PM
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I just saw 18. Smasher is right about Barthelme, of whom I didn't think until I just now thought to search to see if someone had mentioned. I like The Dead Father, but Sixty Stories was my gateway drug.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:41 PM
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256: Tell 'em to look for me with Lorenzo,...


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:43 PM
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Oh god, I went through a period in college of wanting desperately to be Barthelme (as a writer), not quite appreciating that (a) he'd already taken care of that, and (b) I was not remotely up to the challenge.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:43 PM
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My dad is a big fan of The Sot-Weed Factor and Giles Goat-Boy. This is something I have always found kind of puzzling, actually.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:45 PM
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rfts is my dad?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:45 PM
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Lovecraft is an excellent choice, in fact, with the added O-bonus that he's kind of an unpleasant author to read. (I love the guy, participated in Halloween readings on the quad in spooky ol' Providence, have read Houellebecq on him, etc., but he's not a very good writer for most definitions of "good".) Ogged may already know the words "eldritch", "undecipherable", and "fetor", however.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:48 PM
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263 is cthonic.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:51 PM
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My favorite of the words I've encountered in my reading lately is soteriology.

You might be surprised how often you can work it into conversation if you don't mind using it incorrectly.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:51 PM
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260: I wrote bad Barthelmesque stories in college! Yay!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:52 PM
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Lovecraft? Most usage of "squamous" and "rugose" per page of any writer I know.


Posted by: HC | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:53 PM
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HC has not read my unpublished masterpiece "Ziggy Squamous and the Black Rugose Trapdoor Spiders from Mars".


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:57 PM
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cthonic.

Chthonic.

"Squamous" is a great word. I think it figures in one of the songs on Bob Drake's album The Skull Mailbox and Other Horrors, which all fans of either Lovecraft or Gorey should pick up post-haste.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 7:58 PM
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Yay indeed! I wonder how many others of us there were. Probably not that many, compared to all other -esques out there. And then there George Saunders, and he was the winner.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:00 PM
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Consider some of the song titles from that Drake album: "The Shocking Efflorescence", "You Can't Outwit that Thing" (and "You STILL Can't Outwit that Thing"), "The Crepuscular Vestibule", "Some Accursed Things", "The Miraculous Reliquary", "Cellar of Madness", "In the Tomb", "The Unmentionable Inhabitant", "The Tragic Seance" … and each one a masterpiece!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:00 PM
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245: I expanded my vocab in my teens by reading Fantastic Four comic books. "Amorphous" and "gangrene" are two I remember from those days.

Hmm, remembering "amorphous" couldn't have anything to do with Susan Storm's outfit in that issue, could it?


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:01 PM
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269: dammit! I had it spelled that way, and googlefighting led me astray. I should remember that I know better than everybody else.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:02 PM
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Or alternately, I'm an idiot.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:05 PM
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Friends, let us not tarry too long on the subject of Mr. Lovecraft. To dwell on his prose is to glimpse, as through a gap in the armor of this fragile world, the churning, howling abyss of mad chaos; the sight has driven civilized men insane and rendered members of the criminal classes, with their coarser senses, weeping infants. Quiet! Do you not hear the Beast's sighs?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:05 PM
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Ia.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:06 PM
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Quiet! Do you not hear the Beast's sighs?

NO


Posted by: OPINIONATED GRANDMA | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:06 PM
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Well, carry on, then. Sorry to trouble you.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:08 PM
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Snarkout, I eagerly anticipate the arrival of your masterpiece in my in-box, that I might rectify that lack.


Posted by: hc | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:18 PM
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Seconding Robertson Davies, my homie. And Julian Barnes, who isn't.


Posted by: Penny | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:19 PM
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Any medical, veterinary, or legal dictionary will give you some vocabulary. "Consortium", "easement", "nugatory", "fiduciary" and "eleemosynary" are my favorite legal terms. "Scours" is my favorite veterinary term.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:20 PM
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Davies is good and all, but is he really good for this sort of thing?

Let's just talk about words we like. I like "flense".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:23 PM
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Also "hortatory".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:25 PM
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History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters is the bomb, but I don't recall it being particularly word maven-y.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:25 PM
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"eleemosynary"

I love this word!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:28 PM
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You are not alone, w-lfs-n. I'm fond of "razorback" and "sessile", myself.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:29 PM
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Gamine. Lissome. Nubile... umm, theme emerging.

Also, paraconsistent. And grandiloquent. Mmmm, grandiloquent.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:34 PM
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285: Me too! It's on the first page of Tom Jones!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:34 PM
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Despite its not being too far-flung, I have to say I adore the word "egregious."

& despite its not being too wordsmithy, I have to say that Mitchell's Cloud Atlas is kind of rocking my socks off.


Posted by: caldwellian | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:34 PM
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289: A fabulous book in so many ways.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:36 PM
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Attenuate.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:37 PM
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I don't know who translated them, or even what the original language was--French, probably--but Salvador Dali's books are good for lots of big words, particularly relating to his anal fetish.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:37 PM
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Have you read Black Swan Green? Much less experimental than Cloud Atlas, but I loved it also, and I felt there was an intriguing way in which it did similar things, just more quietly. This thread! It's a parade of book love.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:39 PM
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Many constraint-based Oulipian works have unusual words.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:40 PM
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For example.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:43 PM
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Attenuate.

Just the kind of word I'm looking for. "Eleemosynary," on the other hand, was one I was considering using as an (and I'm sure there's a word for this) example what I didn't want.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:44 PM
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I like "vicissitudes."


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:46 PM
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Every academic has the word she uses too often in writing. That one's mine.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:46 PM
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296: "attenuate," really? What do you use to communicate now, variously pitched grunts?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:48 PM
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293: No, this is my first foray into Mitchell (on recommendation from a friend), but I must say I'm hooked. I suspect I'll feed many more hours into the Mitchell-reading Machine.


Posted by: caldwellian | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:48 PM
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What do you use to communicate now, variously pitched grunts?

Are you trying to say that you thought I was looking for bigger, fancier words? Then you, sir, can't comprehend even the little words I use to post.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:49 PM
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"Nubile" just means fertile, not "slender and busty". That's a common error among masturbationists.

Werll, screw you, Ogged. Eleemosynary is a GREAT word.

"Egregious" was ruined for me forever by my first girlfriend, who applied it to me. "Preclude" was ruined by a later crush object.Women seemed to go to the thesaurus when rejecting me.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:49 PM
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301: attenuate seems, well, rather common.

STWMYBSALB? IDK, M, IDK.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:51 PM
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Don't be hating on my word, Tweety.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:52 PM
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302: My boyz Merriam and Webster say it means either "of marriageable age" or "sexually attractive".


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:52 PM
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284: Not so much with the $10 words, but great for using familiar ones that might not first come to mind but turn out to be just right.

I may be misremembering, but Davies seemed in love with the vocabulary of slightly unusual professions, that's why I thought of him.


Posted by: Penny | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:53 PM
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Uh oh.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:53 PM
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Corsair
Concatenate
Twill
Lepidopterist
Christology
Arianism
Hornswoggle


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:53 PM
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Well, with ant queens it just means fertile, and the "sexually attractive" meaning originated with Hugh Hefner (who, ironically, probably hasn't masturbated for years).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:54 PM
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I have been using 'model', 'theory', and 'exists' too much lately.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:54 PM
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the "sexually attractive" meaning originated with Hugh Hefner

Who raised me as his protege and heir-apparent. So there you have it.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:55 PM
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People, just go knock yourselves out at Wordie.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:55 PM
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"Ferret-legger". A useful compound word.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:56 PM
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John Crowley, seconded. Not only does he write well, but he demonstrates how to use obscure words (e.g. "minatory") well.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:56 PM
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I've been looking for better vocabulary to describe geometry. For instance, if you had a solid that could be described as the space between the surface of one sphere and the surface of a second, uniformly scaled sphere, what would that be called?

And even that scaling I referred to, I know there's a better word for it, and I used to know it. Dangit!

My memory is, for lack of a better word, attenuated.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:58 PM
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NTM "cicisbeo".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:58 PM
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You haven't masturbated in years, DS? You're banned, I think.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 8:59 PM
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I love "syncretic." One of my first "ooh! Academics!" experiences was hearing one of my mom's acquantiances use "syncretic" in casual conversation.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:00 PM
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316: delightfully, the Python script at the end of that chain of links presents as a text file.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:01 PM
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Speaking of syn- words, I like "synoptic" and "perspicuous".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:01 PM
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I've always liked "perspicacious".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:02 PM
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Penetralia
Dasypygal (that one's for you, Ogged)
Retromingent
Crampon


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:03 PM
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At one point I read "allodial" as "alluvial". That makes no sense at all, so I didn't understand what I was reading very well.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:03 PM
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316: delightfully, the Python script at the end of that chain of links presents as a text file

That's because Chicago's CS department IT people moved things around and now all CGI scripts have to be run from cgi-general.cs.uchicago.edu, not people.cs. Cicisbeo.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:04 PM
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Ooooh, cacopygian.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:04 PM
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Can we talk about words we don't like?


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:04 PM
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Speaking of syn- words

syncopal


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:05 PM
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Analia and Genitalia.

A court order forbids me to say which of those is Mrs. Zizek's given name.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:05 PM
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Can we talk about words we don't like?

"Irrespective".

You had better believe that I left a comment in a blue book today chastening a student for employing it.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:06 PM
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Can we talk about words we don't like?

No.

I mean, we can talk about it. I just don't like hearing the word.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:06 PM
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Someone described "victuals" and "refectory" as the two ugliest words in English. They were nuts, though.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:06 PM
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What's wrong with "irrespective," numnuts?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:08 PM
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317: "Years" might be putting a little strongly. Times have been a little tougher since the Mighty Hef exiled me from his kingdom... it's a long, painful story.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:09 PM
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A director once asked us to be more epicene, which I very confidently took to mean " of horses". Didn't find out 'til well after.


Posted by: Penny | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:09 PM
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Nothing. I meant "irregardless".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:09 PM
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327: ooh, yeah! Syncope has been a part of some of the best moments of my life.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:10 PM
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I hate "irregardless" so much I couldn't even properly type it.

And that's "numbnuts" to you, ogged.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:10 PM
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I don't see what's painful about masturpation.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:11 PM
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Syncope has been a part of some of the best moments of my life.

Likewise, synesthesia.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:12 PM
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Phylactery,


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:13 PM
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339: they syncretize like a horse and carriage.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:14 PM
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338: Apparently the possibilities are endless, though mine is strictly an agony of the soul.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:15 PM
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328 made me laugh out loud.

The words I hate aren't so much ugly as stupid:

Utilize. Please use use.

Medal as a verb. This usage was coined by American sports broadcasters during one of the recent Olympics.

Deplane. What's wrong with disembark?


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:15 PM
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Oo! Oo! Hilary Mantal is flat-out good. Really, really good.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:15 PM
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What's wrong with disembark?

What, for that matter, is wrong with "debark"?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:15 PM
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343: Utilize. Please use use.

If you haven't seen Idiocracy, you really ought to.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:16 PM
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Syndi Bliss is "the fashion, alterna and nude model extraordinaire" who has "the most phenomenal 3 legged green Iguana in the world".


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:17 PM
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And that's not a euphemism.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:18 PM
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I'm late to the party, but I've come to recommend Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion which is still one of the best novels I've read in the last five years, and has neither ten dollar words nor baroque contruction but still maintains a healthy (and lyrical) vocabulary. Moreover it opens up a view into a fascinating period of history, and should provide at least some fodder for Ogged's nonfictive tastes.

A nonfiction book that I read in college, thought of as utterly fascinating, and recall getting a lot of good vocabulary reinforced by, was Roll, Jordan Roll: The World the Slaves Built, an antebellum cultural history by Eugene Genovese. I keep meaning to pick this up again.

I second the Vikram Seth and the Rushdie, and add on Bharati Mukherjee and Amitava Ghosh---the desis like their fancy words, it appeals to the Sanskritic aesthetic. Abandon, by Pico Iyer, might be similarly useful, or perhaps his nonfiction. Amitava Ghosh also has some nonfiction, though I haven't read it.

'smasher, you make me swoon.


Posted by: Saheli | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:22 PM
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to grow the profit margin, dickweed. upscale casual deaccessioned.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:22 PM
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I hate when people use a word with incorrect prepositions. For example:

They awarded him with the Medal of Honor

should be, simply:

They awarded him the Medal of Honor

And Idiocracy RULEZ. It's got electrolytes.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:24 PM
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Has anyone mentioned the works of Fr. Rolfe? Hadrian the Seventh is the only one I've read.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:24 PM
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The link in 342 is horrific.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:25 PM
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To nitpick a little, it's "Amitav" Ghosh. Who has a kickass website.

In the Skin of a Lion is indeed a fine novel, but Coming Through Slaughter and The Collected Works of Billy the Kid are between them the pinnacle of Ondaatje's craft.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:27 PM
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#345: What, for that matter, is wrong with "debark"?

It sounds like you're stripping a tree or severing a dog's vocal cords.

To describe the act of getting off an airplane, how about: get off


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:27 PM
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353: I'm particularly fond, in a retching sort of way, of the "Vaccuum Disasters" page.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:29 PM
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DS: yeah, it's hard for us Bengalis to keep track of each others' idiosyncratic transliterations. You are correct.


Posted by: Saheli | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:29 PM
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So, he would actually pronounce it as something close to "Amitava" but doesn't necessarily transliterate it that way? I should've thought of that, actually.

The Imam and the Indian essay collection is fabulous.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:35 PM
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I haven't read Roll, Jordan, Roll, but this retrospective review is worth a read if you're curious about it.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:44 PM
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DS, in her heart Saheli is silently nurturing a bitter hatred for you. Bengalis cannot stand to have their transliterations corrected. It's more or less the equivalent of questioning their chastity.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 9:58 PM
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I'm trying to remember the word for being technically correct about a minor point and yet feeling like a complete douche. I'm sure it will come to me.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:04 PM
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"w-lfs-n"


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:06 PM
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Late to the thread, and I see that my recommendations have already been made. Fingerpost. Maggot. Quincunx is fine, but Unburied is ok too. Maybe a little less baroque.

Frankly, a guy could do worse that French Leiutenant's Woman or Dream of Scipio for the project at issue.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:06 PM
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Slightly OT, what is a word you unknowingly misused, mispronounced, or misunderstood until well into adulthood?

For example, I used to say "dimunition" instead of "diminution". And I mispronounced "detritus" with a short-i "trit" and emphasis on the first syllable, when in fact it rhymes with "unite us".


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:15 PM
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And I mispronounced "detritus" with a short-i "trit" and emphasis on the first syllable

Hey, that's how I pronounced it until five seconds ago.

One thing I've learned from the internets is that there are thousands of people who, like me, thought "misled" was the past tense of the verb "to misle".

Aside from that, I thought "cemetery" contained the root word "cement" for far too long.

Both of those ended around age 16, though.

A couple weeks ago someone made fun of me for putting the emphasis on the second syllable in "Gorgonzola".

And I still can't believe that pronouncing "salve" with no L, and "herb" with no H, are really the standard pronunciations. I refuse to drop those sounds.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:27 PM
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364: allegory was "a leg ory" until quite recently.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:28 PM
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Let me add myself to the list of erstwhile Barthelme apers. In my defense, it was how I got from trying to write like Tom Robbins, which was how I got from trying to write like Douglas Adams.

Let's throw "erstwhile" and "ersatz" on the pile.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:29 PM
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putting the emphasis on the second syllable in "Gorgonzola".

I'm using this pronunciation from now on. Way funnier.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:29 PM
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In my defense, it was how I got from trying to write like Tom Robbins

That's your defense? Oh dear.

Wanting to write like Douglas Adams I can understand.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:30 PM
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I was pretty outraged to find out that the "m" and the "n" in "remuneration" really do appear in that order.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:31 PM
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I said "a-LEG-ory" until the senior year of high school. I think it came from piano lessons, and the word "allegro".


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:31 PM
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And then there's the words that I frankly have no idea how to pronounce, like "banal". It can't rhyme with "anal", can it? Does anyone ever say it out loud, or is it only found in written criticism? I have never heard it said out loud.

Also "chasten", "distaff", and "virago". And any number of people's names, of course. (Demarest? Barthes? Arthegall?)


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:32 PM
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I think I used to say "renumeration", too, but I got up to speed on that one much earlier.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:33 PM
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They kissed beneath the misled toads.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:33 PM
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Now, now - renumeration is a perfectly good, if old, word which means exactly what you'd expect.


Posted by: HC | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:33 PM
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I still read misled as the past tense of "to misle." Every fucking time, that one gets me. It takes a full second for me to think, "No, indeed, it seems I have been misled."


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:34 PM
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I believe banal is pronounced "buh-NAHL". People tend not to say it out loud because it makes you sound like an insufferable prick.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:35 PM
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372: "banal" took me a while. It does not, in fact, rhyme with anal. Bah-nahl, maybe?

The rest of those, thank god, I get right.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:36 PM
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Good topic, Gajin Biker. I still have that problem with "detritus," so thank you for that possibly handy mnemonic. Also, I still waver over the correct stress to put on "eschew."

Far into his eighties, my grandfather would not accept that "parmesan" was not, in fact, pronounced "par-mee-zee-ahn." I think a group of golf acquaintances had to intervene with a dictionary.


Posted by: fig | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:37 PM
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377: excuse me, dear fellow, but I say banal in conversation quite readily. Ho ho, but that's a kick in the pants, eh?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:38 PM
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banal


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:40 PM
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Also, I still waver over the correct stress to put on "eschew."

Ah, there's another one. I don't know which syllable to stress, or even which consonants it contains. Fortunately the only people who use that word are, much as with "banal", pretentious.

Far into his eighties, my grandfather would not accept that "parmesan" was not, in fact, pronounced "par-mee-zee-ahn." I think a group of golf acquaintances had to intervene with a dictionary.

If I haven't been able to get my fiancee to stop pronouncing "hiccups" as "hee-cups" by the time she turns eighty, I'll stop trying.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:41 PM
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Okay I'm tired of you fuckers calling me pretentious.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:42 PM
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I don't trust dictionaries, sir. They're the ones that told me that the L in "balm" is silent.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:42 PM
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From the link in #381:

Usage Note: The pronunciation of banal is not settled among educated speakers of American English. Sixty years ago, H.W. Fowler recommended the pronunciation (bān'əl, rhyming with panel), but this pronunciation is now regarded as recondite by most Americans: no member of the Usage Panel prefers this pronunciation. In our 2001 survey, (bənāl') is preferred by 58 percent of the Usage Panel, (bā'nəl) by 28 percent, and (bə-näl') by 13 percent (this pronunciation is more common in British English). Some Panelists admit to being so vexed by the problem that they tend to avoid the word in conversation. Speakers can perhaps take comfort in knowing that these three pronunciations each have the support of at least some of the Usage Panel and that none of them is incorrect. When several pronunciations of a word are widely used, there is really no right or wrong one.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:43 PM
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and "herb" with no H, are really the standard pronunciations. I refuse to drop those sounds.

An Englishwoman once gave me a hard time about dropping the "h" in "herb." Apparently it's considered low-class to pronounce it as "erb." But I'm just a poor colonial, so...

My mother says catsup for ketchup. Which always makes me think of something the cat dragged in.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:44 PM
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Okay I'm tired of you fuckers calling me pretentious.

This from the person who describes a moment of pure joy when surrounded by people pretentious enough to use the word "syncretic" in common conversation.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:44 PM
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#384: Maybe that's why you can't bring it on an airplane.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:45 PM
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A foolish high pretension is the hemogoblin of little minds.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:46 PM
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Missile, misled, and missal I knew, but until this day I had not known of misls.

Now that we're on pronunciation, a link to that poem is mandatory.


Posted by: HC | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:46 PM
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eh-SHOO.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:48 PM
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Gesundheit.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:48 PM
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387: assumes facts not in evidence. Maybe I felt the predatory thrill of a shark tasting blood.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:48 PM
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391, 392: Exactly how I say it, and exactly the response I almost always get.

"Shun" doesn't seem like an elegant alternative, though. I suppose I should work on that.


Posted by: fig | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:52 PM
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How many states eschew escheat for estates?


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:53 PM
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Using 'awesome' is a sign that Alzheimer beckons.....


Posted by: Herr torquewrench | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:56 PM
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Jimmy Carr does a stand-up routine where he says "An American told me he likes British people in general, but he finds us patronizing."

"I told him, 'I think you'll find that's pronounced PAT-ronizing, my good fellow.'"


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:58 PM
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No clue, eb.

But jeebus: my dictionary maintains that one should pronounce the word, "es-CHOO," which just leads me back into that grey area, because, in that case, the word just sounds like the technical term for one method of masticating (The S-chew, as opposed to the B-chew). Which I can't believe is correct. I mean, there has to be some slurring of the "s" and "ch."


Posted by: fig | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 10:59 PM
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Two 400s in one night?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 12:11 AM
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400!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 12:11 AM
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337: I love "irregardless" for precisely this reason.

389: there's some Tim Powers book (Dinner at Deviant's Palace?) that has a nasty little beastie called a "hemogoblin" in it.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 12:11 AM
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If w-lfs-n ever comes to visit me, I will take him to eat here.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 12:14 AM
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Wordsmith.org's word of the day for today:
lexiphanes - (lex-SIF-uh-neez) noun
One who uses words pretentiously.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 12:34 AM
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Insofar as pronunciation problems goes, I still hate the word "vehement."

Being one of those kids who grew up reading rather than talking to people, I to this day occasionally learn that I've been mispronouncing some horrifically common word.


Posted by: caldwellian | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 12:39 AM
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re: 386

Dropping the 'h' in herb makes me want to hurt someone. Completely illogical, I know, but the combination of the missing 'h' and the rhotacised vowel in some US pronunciations of 'herb' is probably the pronunciation that annoys me above all others. There's a British shampoo advert that plays on this which I have to turn off as it can put me in a bad mood for ages.

It's not language snobbery [it's not as if I have an RP accent myself] or some kind of xenophobic thing -- lots of US pronunciations I don't mind and some I quite like -- it's just that one word. It's like fingernails on a blackboard.

[This has come up before on another thread]


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 1:28 AM
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405 is spot on.

Also, somebody has to shoehorn 'syzygy' into this thread.

I once had a colleague who had a minor panic attack if anybody used the word 'portion'. Otherwise she was quite normal.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 2:17 AM
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I remember being rebuked (mildly) by another student for not dropping the "h" in "herb" sometime in grade/middle school. I probably drop it now, but I don't think I've said it for quite a while.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 2:27 AM
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I do things in speech that I'm fairly sure annoy RP-purists. I use glottal stops in the middle of words a fair bit. Being annoyed at the dropped-H is just an idiosyncratic thing. It annoys me in 'posh' English speech too. Ditto using 'an' before words like 'hotel'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 2:47 AM
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Fantasy author Stephen Donaldson has a bizarre and recondite vocabulary. See "clench-racing" - the players each have a Stephen Donaldson book and start reading at random points. The first person to reach the word "clench" wins.
Variants use "aegis", "cynosure", "argute", etc, etc.
For more on this see the inimitable Ansible.
(www.ansible.co.uk)
whence this parody...

`"Hellfire!" erupted Thomas Covenant, his raw, self-inflicted nostrils clenching in white-hot, stoical anguish while his gaunt, compulsory visage knotted with fey misery. His lungs were clogged with ruin. A hot, gelid, gagging, fulvous tide of self-accusation dinned in his ears: leper bestseller outcast unclean.... To release the analystic refulgence, the wild magic of the white gold ring he wore, could conceivably shatter the Arch of Time, utterly destroy the Land, and put a premature, preterite end to the plot!

`Yet what other way was there? The argute notion pierced his mind like a jerid. Only thus could the unambergrised malison of Lord Foul be aneled. Only thus. He clenched his clenching. Hellfire and damnation!

`At that point he winced at a swift, sapid lucubration ..."


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 3:12 AM
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What, no lithe opaque noses?


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 3:41 AM
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Who would win a lame books that too many people took seriously contest, Dan Brown or the Bridges of Madison County guy?

Dan Brown, easily.

when we were talking about things that would prevent you from dating someone, I should have listed someone liking Dan Brown or Thomas Kincaide.

I could grudgingly get over an enjoyment of Dean Koontz.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 7:22 AM
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411: readoing and taking seriously Dan Brown or that Celestine Prophecies guy or the people behind The Secret would indeed put me off.

In fact, I have noticed myself judging people for reading these books on the train, especially if they read the translated versions.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:00 AM
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Jonathan Livingstone Seagull? Love Story [with Tipper]?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:03 AM
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Jonathan Livingstone Seagull?

Christ. Nightmare flashbacks to eighth grade. Worst. Book. Ever.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:05 AM
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I still avoid the word 'infuriating' in conversation (and let me tell you, given my personality, it comes up a lot) because somehow in childhood an extra syllable sneaked in there -- I want to say 'infurinating'. I don't say it wrong anymore, but saying it right is enough of an effort that I can't make it past the word without a weird pause.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:07 AM
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Before you people were born, of course. The premise of the book seems to be that most seagulls are timid conformists who don't like to fly, except for one extra-special super-duper seagull who does. Whereas seagulls are actually arrogant, vicious bastards.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:07 AM
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There are perfectly respectable decent people who are very fond of Richard Bach's writing (the Jonathan Livingston Seagull guy). Not me, but people. (Although he's apparently gone mad. A few years back, I was looking for a present for one such person, and found a recent couple of books by Bach. He's apparently writing about ferrets in the RAF now -- not children's books, either. Adult novels about ferrets in little leather jackets with scarves. I approve of this if the books can be used to torment Giuliani somehow, but other than that, that's just off.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:12 AM
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418

"Perfectly decent people". Not Dr. Oops, I hope. Or the ox-abusers.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:18 AM
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419

Hey, if I'd wanted to name names, I would have. But the ferrets thing is weird -- I'm wondering if he had a stroke or something.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:20 AM
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420

315: I've seen that as 'spherical shell'. And were you trying to say that your spheres were concentric?


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:21 AM
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421

420: sonofa. Yes and yes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:22 AM
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422

420: I may have misunderstood, but I thought he was talking about an egg-carton -- the shape defining the space between two spheres next to each other. Not exactly an egg-carton, but that sort of thing; the foam packing material you'd need to fill a box with spheres in a cubic lattice.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:24 AM
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423

421: Oh. Duh.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:24 AM
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424

Hah! I envisioned two non-concentric spheres, not of the same size. So what I envisioned was a cone with a hemisphere-sized chunk taken out of each end.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:29 AM
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425

This is why I needed the words, you see.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:32 AM
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426

422 cracks me up, though. I take it you majored in Applied Complexity at the Institute, LB?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:33 AM
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427

Course 8 all the way (or, rather, 3/8 of the way), baby. Classical Electrodynamics left me running for the hills. In retrospect, having someone tell me that while there weren't any explicit prereqs, there there was a reason people generally didn't take it until senior year, would have been helpful.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:35 AM
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428

There are perfectly respectable decent people who are very fond of Richard Bach's

I admit to being quite fond of several of the pieces in Gift of Wings.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:37 AM
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429

If you had to pick something of Bach's, that's the book. He writes nicely about actual planes.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:40 AM
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427: what's electricity trying to pull by being so confusing, anyhow? I have often wondered this.

"There's a reason the right-hand rule uses the middle finger, buddy."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:44 AM
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430: My high school physics teacher taught us all the left hand rule, for how electrons, rather than current, move (cause they're negative, y'see). It netted out okay, he was a good enough teacher otherwise that I had time during college tests to redo any problem depending on the right hand rule four times to make sure I had it pointed the right way. Still, pointless sadism.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:48 AM
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432

Maybe he was dyslexic.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:49 AM
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433

I liked Jonathan Livingston Seagull a lot.

Consider a spherical shell containing mercury carrying a current from north pole to south. The shell, initially at rest, begins spinning. Calculate the induced magnetic field and steady-state mercury current.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:55 AM
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434

That was the class. The fact that I consistently fell asleep during lectures didn't help.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:57 AM
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Consider a spherical shell containing mercury carrying a current from north pole to south. The shell, initially at rest, begins spinning. Calculate the induced magnetic field and steady-state mercury current.

Ow.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:58 AM
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436

HPL's also good for "cyclopean."


Posted by: Headache | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 9:59 AM
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437

364:

And I mispronounced "detritus" with a short-i "trit" and emphasis on the first syllable, when in fact it rhymes with "unite us".

Dammit, really?

I may be destined never again to say "detritus" aloud, then, because for unclear reasons I can't abide the pronunciation that rhymes with "unite us." It just sounds ... idiotic.

Huh. I have no idea where this attitude of mine comes from.

On the other hand, a friend insists on pronouncing "err" to rhyme with the final syllable in, say, "faster." This doesn't bother me; it just makes me snicker. ("To err is human." Indeed! And don't tell me my friend's pronunciation is correct -- I don't want to hear it!)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 10:19 AM
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Dropping the 'h' in herb makes me want to hurt someone.

Please don't hurt me, ttaM. I don't drop the 'h' in Herb.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 11:09 AM
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439

Dropping the 'h' in herb makes me want to hurt someone.

Wait, do you pronounce the h in herbal, too?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 11:11 AM
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437: your friend's pronunciation of "err" is correct. But deserving of snicker nonetheless.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 11:14 AM
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I wonder if it clangs as sounding phoney French; American pronunciations of Frenchish words seem to run Frenchier than UK. I can imagine reasons why that might be socially irritating -- a purely auditory repulsion seems peculiar.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 11:15 AM
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362: Ah yes, that's the one.

439: Wait, do you pronounce the h in herbal, too?

God, that would be so annoying.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 11:17 AM
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He's apparently writing about ferrets in the RAF

Every time I see 'RAF' I first think 'Red Army Faction'. Now I've got a picture in my head of those Richter paintings but with ferrets instead of the Baader-Meinhof Gang..


437: I thought for years that the word was 'deritus', stress on the first syllable.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 11:38 AM
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In case anyone thought I was kidding about the ferrets.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 11:46 AM
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445
The writer who gave Jonathan Livingston Seagull his wings returns with a fourth installment of the Ferret Chronicles (Rescue Ferrets at Sea, etc.), this time focusing on a Montana ranch where "ranchpaw" Monty Ferret has a bittersweet parting with his childhood love, Cheyenne Jasmine Ferret.

Good Lord.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 11:50 AM
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Jonathan Livingston Seagull

If you thought the book was bad, you should see the movie.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 11:50 AM
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447

I really am thinking 'stroke'.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 11:50 AM
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448

I just came across this site, which is basically a vocab test. Go and show off your command of words, or learn some new ones. And apparently donate rice too, so you can feel even better.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 3:32 PM
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Ha, and I've just got onto level 50 by knowing what a verruca is. Which of course as noted above is not at all an obscure word over here.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 3:40 PM
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450

Verruca Salt?


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 7:10 PM
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#437: I feel your pain. DET-trit-tus sounds so much better than duh-TRITE-us. But there you have it.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 7:13 PM
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Two best parts of the Wikipedia entry on Richard Bach:

1) Bach had six children with his first wife, Bette. They divorced in 1970, because Richard didn't believe in marriage.

2) Bach espouses a consistent philosophy in his books: Our true nature is not bound by space or time, we are expressions of the Is (see: Non-duality), we are not truly born nor truly die, and we enter this world of Seems and Appearances for fun, learning, to share experiences with those we care for, to explore - and most of all to learn how to love and love again.[citation needed]


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 7:14 PM
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Two best parts of the Wikipedia entry on Richard Bach:

1) "Bach had six children with his first wife, Bette. They divorced in 1970, because Richard didn't believe in marriage."

2) "Bach espouses a consistent philosophy in his books: Our true nature is not bound by space or time, we are expressions of the Is (see: Non-duality), we are not truly born nor truly die, and we enter this world of Seems and Appearances for fun, learning, to share experiences with those we care for, to explore - and most of all to learn how to love and love again.[citation needed]"


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 7:14 PM
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448-9: Hey, that's pretty addictive, asilon. What a great site, assuming its charitable function can be trusted. I petered out at Level 48 after fifteen minutes or so.


Posted by: NickFranklin | Link to this comment | 10-24-07 10:54 PM
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