Wondrous Words

Each Wednesday Kathy (Bermuda Onion) runs the Wondrous Words Wednesday meme to share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading.

My words this week are from The Hollow by Agatha Christie. This is a country house murder mystery featuring Hercule Poirot(see yesterday’s post for more details) in which I came across these wondrous words that were completely new to me.

  • Tritoma – here the victim is imagining himself in San Miguel, thinking of the “blue sky … smell of mimosa … a scarlet tritoma upright against green leaves … the hot sun … the dust … that desperation of love and suffering …”

Tritoma is obviously a plant of some sort, I thought and I discovered it’s a Red Hot Poker.

  • ‘Tuft-hunter’ – “Inspector Grange did not think much of the Chief Constable of Wealdshire – a fussy despot and a tuft-hunter.”

I had no idea what a tuft-hunter could be – it’s a toady, a hanger-on to noblemen, or persons of quality. ‘Tufts‘ were gold tassels formerly worn on a nobleman’s cap in English universities, a titled undergraduate – a person of consequence.

  • ‘Coloratura’ – “Lucy has to give the coloratura touch – even to murder.”

Something to do with colour, I thought. It means “florid”, “embellished”.

  • ‘Meretricious’ – “Edward knew nothing about women’s clothes except by instinct, but he had a shrewd idea that all these exhibits were somehow of a meretricious order.”

I was getting this word confused with ‘meritorious‘ meaning worthy of merit or praise, but that didn’t make sense in the context, because the next sentence is: “No, he thought, this place was not worthy of her.”

‘Meretricious’ means: ‘of the nature of or relating to prostitution; characteristic or worthy of a prostitute; flashy; gaudy’ – not at all ‘meritorious’!

7 thoughts on “Wondrous Words

  1. The derivation of the word coloratura is not color per se but refers to a soprano who specializes in florid passages like runs and trills. But I suspect the origins of both coloratura and color are the same.


  2. Thanks for all your comments.

    Coloratura is an interesting word – as both Rhapsody and Kerrie state it is related to music. My dictionary (The Chambers) indicates that it is from Italian meaning “colouring” and a “coloratura soprano” is capable of singing embellished vocal passages including runs and trills etc, and so “florid ” and “embellished”. It also states that “colour” is from the Latin – “color”, related to “celare” meaning to cover to conceal. Lucy’s outward flippancy are the runs and trills that colour/conceal her real concern, I think.


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