Brideshead Revisited: Test Your Word Power!

Soon after starting Brideshead Revisited I decided to keep track of the number of words I encountered within it that I didn’t know. This throwback exercise was inspired firstly by the dismay of finding that within the first two pages of the book I had come across two words I wasn’t quite sure of, and secondly by my first attempt at playing Free Rice where I stagnated at level 46 and got tooth-gnashingly annoyed.

I was embarrassed to realize in the course of this exercise that although I had encountered some words a number of times before, I still didn’t quite know what they meant, perhaps because the context they had been used in at the time had been enough for me to follow what was written, or I simply didn’t bother to look them up. Funnily enough, having learned this bunch of words from Brideshead Revisited, I played Free Rice again today and easily got to level 49. I guess our primary school teachers really did know what they were talking about!

Just for fun, I’ll start by listing the words on their own so you can check how many of them you know off the bat. After the list, continue reading for a little more context to the words and links to dictionary definitions.

  1. verismilitude
  2. panegyric
  3. jejune
  4. sacerdotal
  5. lapidary
  6. muniment
  7. suborn
  8. glaucous
  9. manumission
  10. crapulous

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My Lost Yoof

Via Policyblender, the BBC is apparently compiling a “lexicon of teen speak” (Brit teen speak, that is). Out of the rather long list of teen phrases provided, I was only familiar with:

  • buff
  • buzzing
  • feds
  • fo sho
  • jack
  • lush
  • off the hook
  • owned/pwned
  • random
  • roll with
  • sick
  • slap up
  • vexed (only because its teenspeak meaning seems to be the same as its usual meaning)
  • wagwaan (only because I listen to dancehall, I wouldn’t have a clue otherwise)
  • wicked
  • your mum

I was not, however, aware that the new word for “minger” is “munter”, nor did I know that to “unass” is to “relinquish or surrender control of an object or person; to leave”.

So would a fine young English gentleman these days therefore say “I unassed my beyatch ‘cos she was a right munter”? I don’t know. I feel adrift. Come July when I return to London to roll with my So Squalid Crew in the mean streets of Fitzrovia, I fear I will no longer have their respeck.

Pop Quiz, Hot Shot

Level 1: Desuetude. Do you know what this means?

Level 2: I’ll give it to you in a sentence. “Whereas the degree in sociology and political economy that Pnin had obtained with some pomp at the University of Prague around 1925 had become by mid century a doctorate in desuetude, he was not altogether miscast as a teacher of Russian.” (Pnin, Vladimir Nabokov)

Still don’t know?
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Wrong G-Word

Oh dear. You know you’re working too hard when out of the corner of your bored, roving eye you read the review excerpt on the back of your copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned as:

“A prose that has the tough delicacy of a gusset.”
– New York Review of Books

and you’re like “A gusset? Ewwwww!” and then you look closer and it was garnet, which makes much more sense.

Memory Hole

A character in Cryptonomicon (435 pages down, 918 minus 435 more to go!) referred to a “peace dividend”. It took about 10 seconds for me to remember what that was and where I’d learnt about that from (preparing a case on disarmament for the World Schools Debating Championships in ’98). In a Dublin cafe Alec described Singapore as “monetarist” (amongst other things) to a friend of his and for at least a few seconds I couldn’t remember what that meant either.

Passing thought: how much have I forgotten and don’t even remember ever knowing? Facts, ideas, people?