Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wondrous Words Wednesday


Wondrous Words Wednesday
is hosted by BermudaOnion's Blog

These words are brought to you by 
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard


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I drew the cows, for they were made interestingly; they hung in catenary curves from their skeletons, like two-man tents. (28)

In physics and geometry, the catenary is the curve that an idealized hanging chain or cable assumes under its own weight when supported only at its ends.
Definition from this site

Don't you just love it when you look up a word you don't know and the moment you read the definition, the image of what the writer is trying to express is immediately there, in the forefront of your imagination?

I drank coffee in titrated doses.  (49)
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titrate (verb)
To determine the concentration of a solution by titration or perform the operation of titration.
Definition from this site
titration (noun)
determination of a given component in solution by addition of a liquid reagent of known strength until the endpoint is reached when the component has been consumed by reaction with the reagent.
Definition from this site

And then there are times when the definition merely makes the chosen word seem more of an allusion rather than a clarification. I mean, are we to suppose Dillard is sitting there drinking her cup and somehow conducting an experiment to assess the concentration of the coffee brewed? Or are we to infer that the coffee was strong? Or is the allusion here to an increasing strength of brew? I don't know.  Is a single does a cup?  I drink coffee.  This shouldn't be so confusing.

EDIT:  Please be sure to check out the comments because one of my wonderful readers explained this perfectly.  You simply must go and see for yourself.

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Her father was a grazier, her grandfather had been a butcher, but that was all nothing. (199)

grazier (noun)
A person who grazes cattle.
Definition from this site

This is one of those words that I understood because obviously it comes from the word "graze" and once again the context assured me that I was probably guessing correctly. With that said, I looked it up anyway. (Of course, it could simply be that I like to be right and these words where I can tell what they mean without looking them up lets me show-off how so very I am.)

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Showers of sparks shot out of the caldera—the dark hollow in which the keys lie. (63-64)

caldera (noun)
A caldera is a cauldron-like volcanic feature usually formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption, such as the one at Yellowstone National Park in the US.
Definition from this site

I love it when a definition sheds light on something that you can visualize but for which you have no specific name. I mean, what if I wanted to describe a typewriter going up in flames? How would I have described the sparks flying out from . . . where? From between the keys or from above the keyboard? But this is it, the word. And the definition, although I could not find oen for a typewriter specifically, was still clear because I could see a volcano crater and it all immedaitely made sense. Further, this is one of those perfect word choices that make my heart dance with delight when I read.

8 comments:

  1. I love that you included photos with your words. I'm pretty sure I've seen caldera before but I couldn't define it. Your other words are new to me.

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    1. Thank you so much for saying something about the photos because two weeks ago I spent hours (seriously) trying to get the photos to work and nothing good came of it. My husband eventually stepped in to offer some help but he couldn't figure it out and we both just gave up in despair. But then I figured out a work-around and I don't think it will be a problem for me any longer. I guess this means there will be some new problem to flummox me before long.

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  2. It looks like The Writing Life gave you both new words but new thoughts as well.

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    1. Dillard definitely has a vocabulary that tests my boundaries and I love it. As for her making me think, unfortunately I already think so much that if my husband found out that her books make me think he might ban her from my reading repertoire. How bad am I? Yesterday one of the other women in my class actually said, "You're thinking too much." Oops. She's right but still . . . oops.

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  3. You've got some great words there this week Satia. I think she using a more medical definition of titration. This is when you give repeated, modest doses of a drug until you've given enough. As opposed to giving one big whack all at once. Grazier is in common usage in Australia.

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    1. That makes perfect and wonderful sense. In fact, so much so that I'm now going to edit my post to encourage others to read your comment. Thank you!

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