Sunday, January 07, 2007

Build Your Vocabulary: Read Proust

You can't read Proust and not reach for the dictionary. Not unless you have no curiousity whatsoever. One problem is that most dictionaries don't have a lot of the words he uses as he's fond of old, yet interesting words. Here are some I've noted down using a variety of online dictionaries.

Before providing the list, here's a link to a site that explains the Dreyfus Affair, which is mentioned throughout In Search of Lost Time What was the Dreyfus Affair?

Here are some words I've learned from Proust. They're all from Moncrieff's translation, Vol. II The Guermantes Plain:

  • tergiversate: 1. to change repeatedly one’s attitude or opinions with respect to a cause or subject 2. to turn renegade (p. 66)
  • fugleman: (formerly) a soldier placed in front of a military company as a good model during training drills (p. 102)
  • volubility: good with speech and writing (p. ?)
  • palimpsest: a parchment or the like from which writing has been partially or completely erased to make room for other text Jane Eyre and other books use this all the time. Why have we stopped? Well, computers, but the sound is so irresistible.
  • vatic: oracle (p. 125)
  • supererogatory: more than is needed or desired (p. ?) this we can still use
  • bluestocking:a woman having intellectual or literary interests (p. 199 and earlier)
  • principii obsta: resist the beginnings (p. 232)
  • arcades ambo: two of a kind (p. 232)
  • Émile Augier: 1820-1889 French poet & dramatist (p. 235)
  • dewlap: a fold of loose skin hanging from the neck of certain animals (or people - like a wattle)
  • nerudite: no results from Google (p. 246)
  • in petto: in secrecy, in reserve, in the breast (p. 249)
  • inter pocula: during a drinking bout (p. 249)
  • Japhetics: of or pertaining to a hypothesized group of languages of the Caucasus, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, and southern Europe, including the Caucasian languages, Sumerian, Basque, and Etruscan, formerly thought by some to represent a stage in language development that preceded the development of Indo-European and Semitic.
  • mediatise: to annex (a lesser state) to a greater state as a means of permitting the ruler of the lesser state to retain title and partial authority.
  • Yellow Books: no useful results from Google (p. 269)
  • kobold: a gnome that in German folklore inhabits underground places (p. 272)
  • purblind: 1. Having greatly reduced vision.2. Lacking in insight or discernment. (p. 281)

N.B.This website has a list of characters and other interesting information on In Search of Lost Time:

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