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Wondrous Words

February 4, 2009


When I posted my first Wondrous Words last week, Julie of Booking Mama, suggested I start a Wondrous Words Wednesday meme.  I’ve been giving it some thought, and decided I’d see if there was any interest in this before I took the plunge.  Please take a second to answer this poll.

I found some more new (to me) words in Drood by Dan Simmons and Speaking For Myself by Cherie Blair last week.

1. simulacrum – This was used in Drood like this, “I remembered the image of the rat in the coal cellar, then saw instead a curling tendril of smoke or fog creeping between the bricks down there, coalescing into this simulacrum of a man.”

Simulacrum means an image or representation.

2. abattoir – This was used in Drood as well – “Even in the cold air, the small space smelled like an abattoir.”

Abattoir means a public slaughterhouse for cattle, sheep, etc.

3. bollards – In Speaking For Myself, Cherie Blair said, “The road itself was cordoned off with bollards at both ends.”

Bollards is a British term which refers to a post post preventing vehicle access to a pedestrian area or used for security purposes.

4. opprobrium – This was used in Speaking For Myself too – “Berlusconi (Italian Prime Minister) had stood with us on Iraq, one of the ‘coalition of the willing,’ and if visiting him would get the Italian IOC (International Olympic Committee) votes, Tony would do it, he said and ‘bugger the opprobrium.'”

Opprobrium is scornful reproach or contempt.

What new words have you learned lately?

45 Comments leave one →
  1. February 4, 2009 6:33 am

    I love it! I had been meaning to do something like this. But you’ve got a cool name and a cool button, so I’m happy to follow you.

    Abbatoir is one of those words that doesn’t stick in my head. I think I first noticed it while reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, so I know I knew what it was at one point, but the definition surprised me when I read it here. I noticed it too in Drood and then forgot about it. Did you finish it yet?

  2. February 4, 2009 7:14 am

    I think this is a great idea – and will give me an opportunity to practice what I teach.

    I was given a Kindle for my birthday this year, which makes looking up unfamiliar words a breeze. Unfortunately, I have only a few books on my Kindle, and rarely have a dictionary close by when I read. I will have to change some bad habits to participate 🙂

  3. February 4, 2009 7:21 am

    I’m all for you turning this into a weekly meme, new words are awesome and I think it would be great fun!

    3 are your words this week are new to me. My own mental idea of abattoir was close to the definition – I always pictured it being the dirt-floored rooms attached to farmhouses where you hung animals to prepare for slaughter.

  4. February 4, 2009 7:59 am

    fabulous idea! I just love words and learning new vocabulary. I think I got that from my father. He was always coming up with a word at the dinner table that I didn’t know. For example, he would tell my mother she had cooked a “plethora” of potatoes or could he “cajole” me into partaking of dessert. For some reason, those became some of my favorite words with my late sister and me for years.

  5. February 4, 2009 8:00 am

    Sounds like a fun idea. I don’t run across all that many new words in most of my reading, but I just found a couple in the latest Anita Brookner novel I read. And then there are those words that I thought I knew, but couldn’t give you a definition to save my life – like “simulacrum”!

  6. February 4, 2009 8:24 am

    I love this idea. And I like learning new words. I’m with JLS: I thought I knew what simulacrum meant, but I was stumped for a succinct definition. Thanks.

  7. February 4, 2009 9:13 am

    Wow, Drood is full of fantastic words! I love this idea and will participate when I find words that are new to me.

  8. February 4, 2009 9:19 am

    I love this idea but I’m not sure that I want to commit to every week right now. February is just a bad month for me. I would love for you to host this though and I promise to try to participate! 🙂

  9. stacybuckeye permalink
    February 4, 2009 9:52 am

    I didn’t know any of these (again!).

  10. February 4, 2009 9:54 am

    I just got done reading a mystery that had me running to the dictionary about 3 times per chapter. I certainly didn’t expect that from a cozy mystery!

    I may not find new words every week, but I’ll definitely try to participate!

  11. February 4, 2009 9:56 am

    I like this idea!

  12. February 4, 2009 10:12 am

    I’m feeling scared to read Drood now!

  13. February 4, 2009 10:29 am

    I learned the word “abattoir” my senior year of high school while reading Cal by Bernard McLaverty. There are whole sections of that class that I don’t remember (any of my paper topics, for example), but I remember that word.

  14. carolsnotebook permalink
    February 4, 2009 10:51 am

    I’ll have to change my habits some, and actually look up the “new” words instead of just reading over them. But it sounds like a great idea.

  15. February 4, 2009 11:03 am

    If you decide to make this a meme, I’ll need a week’s notice so I can collect words. May be difficult when I’m doing an audio, but I’ll definitely play when I can and I’d love to read everyone’s entries.

  16. February 4, 2009 12:43 pm

    Absolutely I want to do this. I keep a running list and wanted to mention them in posts but figured no one but me would be interested.

  17. February 4, 2009 12:56 pm

    I think this is great Kathy. I often run into words I don’t know and it’s fun to see what the out of the ordinary words actually mean. I think I’ll start a word document and record mine there if you go ahead with this.

  18. February 4, 2009 1:09 pm

    I’d also like to participate on a regular basis. I was thinking of doing something like this in my sidebar but I’d prefer a regular meme. Meme’s are such a good way to share ideas/words with lots of people.

    I’d only heard of one of your words – bollards. Back in my working days I had to have some installed for security purposes.

    I like your use of the poll. I’m trying it this week too and was surprised how easy it is to use.

  19. February 4, 2009 1:34 pm

    I’ve always thought the word “abattoir” sounds far too pretty for its meaning. (shiver) So, I knew two of them, this week. The other was bollards. I love this idea!

  20. February 4, 2009 2:39 pm

    This is so interesting, Kathy! I enjoy learning new words. I would love to run this post and subsequent posts in our newsletter – we like to have some short yet fun, informative pieces – of course I would credit you and link to your blog.

  21. February 4, 2009 3:51 pm

    I’d seen the word “abattoir” before, but I had no idea what it meant. I really should look up words more often…and a meme would give me extra encouragement, which is great.

  22. February 4, 2009 4:56 pm

    You’ve made me really want to read Drood!

  23. February 4, 2009 5:15 pm

    This sounds like a great idea Kathy! The word that comes to mind for me is propitiate. My pastor heard this word a couple of weeks ago and he has been amazed with it ever since-it means ‘to make favorably inclined’. After he shared it with us I came across it when reading Peony in Love.

  24. February 4, 2009 5:35 pm

    If you want a book where you will learn lots and lots of new words, try Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. That had me reaching for the dictionary quite frequently (but it’s very fun rather than daunting).

  25. February 4, 2009 6:27 pm

    Oh I love this! The only reason I know the word abattoir is from playing free rice…the rest are all new to me.

  26. February 4, 2009 9:01 pm

    I think this is a great idea. Though, I’m afraid I might learn words that everyone else already knows! My vocab is rising, but still a little short of academic I would say.

  27. February 5, 2009 10:49 am

    I like the idea so much that I went ahead and posted one!

    Another book for finding lots of new vocabulary words is Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon. I didn’t care for the book myself (mostly because I thought the vocabulary was ridiculous for a couple of vagabonds), but it certainly sent me running for the dictionary.

  28. February 5, 2009 11:04 am

    I knew bollards, but that was the only one on your list that was familiar to me. I’m not sure I’ll get a chance to incorporate any of the others into my day-to-day conversation, maybe I’ll try it with the family around the dinner table (I can already imagine the eyes rolling!)

  29. February 5, 2009 11:17 am

    I like reading these posts, but I rarely find words new to me.

  30. February 5, 2009 12:50 pm

    I love it when authors use words that I don’t know, it encourages me to learn something new. When I read Midwife of the Blue Ridge by Christine Blevins I found several words that were new to me. Most of them originated in Scotland and I enjoyed finding their definitions online (you could pretty much get the meaning from the context, so looking up wasn’t entirely necessary, but it was fun for me).

  31. February 5, 2009 3:20 pm

    Keep it up.. this is really great. I LOVE IT!

  32. February 5, 2009 3:36 pm

    I think it’s a good idea, I’ll read along but I’m not so good with words.

  33. February 5, 2009 10:23 pm

    I find all kinds of weird and new to me words but I don’t always stop and look them up if I can make an educated guess and if it doesn’t effect the story any.

  34. February 5, 2009 11:26 pm

    Heh, I learned abbatoir from an old Monty Python skit. Very gross, very funny. Sounds like a fun meme, though I ‘m not sure I’d play along. I just tend to pick words up from context.

  35. February 6, 2009 6:09 pm

    I just saw that you announced this on A Novel Challenge. I don’t think I’ll post weekly but I like the idea!

  36. February 6, 2009 8:44 pm

    A great idea! I’d play.

  37. February 7, 2009 5:15 am

    This sounds like not only a fun thing to do, but educational too so I’m definitely in! Fantastic idea and I love the image you’ve used! It’s perfect!

  38. February 7, 2009 8:53 am

    I love this idea! Personally, I think are overlooking some wonderful delicious words in favor of simplicity.

    check out that site…you can actually adopt a word to use 😉 These are words the Oxford Dictionary is considering dropping!

    anyway…I love this and I wanna play along!

    Marta’s Meanderings

  39. February 10, 2009 1:34 pm

    Today on Facebook, the writer Nick Harkaway posted a link to a site that has words that you can adopt, use, and thereby save from extinction. You can check it out at

  40. February 10, 2009 1:35 pm

    Oops, sorry. I think it’s rude not to read all the comments before adding to them, but I thought I had already.

  41. March 4, 2009 7:43 am

    I am soooo excited. I never know what to do when I see these unfamiliar words. They haunt me.

  42. Tea permalink
    March 4, 2009 8:02 am

    Do we list our new word here under comments?

  43. Tea permalink
    March 4, 2009 9:13 am

    Wondrous Words on Wednesday
    I am three quarters of the way through “Forest Lover” by Susan Vreeland. Emily Carr, the Pacific Northwest artist did go to Paris to “improve” her paintwork. I don’t know whether she visited the Colarossi.

    Académie ColarossiArt school in Paris, France, established in the nineteenth century as an alternative to the official Ecole des beaux arts. Comparable to and slightly less famous rival of the Académie Julian.

  44. May 20, 2009 9:48 am

    I love all those new words. The word “bollard” stood out for me. If we lived in or visited Britain, I bet we would hear that word a lot.

  45. November 29, 2009 12:05 pm

    As a child I loved Reader’s Digest puzzles for improving your vocabulary. As a writer, educator, mother and grandmother I am dismayed at the paucity of vocabulary and the disinterest many display in the power of words. Keep up the good work!

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