Wondrous Words Wednesday

Wondrous Words Wednesday, run by Kathy (Bermudaonion),  is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading.

My words this week are from The Fall by Simon Mawer. This is a novel involving rock climbing and mountaineering:

Exiguous – I thought I should know this word but I couldn’t work out the meaning from this sentence, so I looked it up – ‘She reached the edge and there he was around the corner taking in the rope as she moved on to his exiguous ledge.’ (page 144) Exiguous means ‘scanty’ or ‘slender’. In this context I’d say it means ‘narrow’.

Solecism another word I’m sure I’ve looked up before, but I couldn’t define it. People looked at one another nervously, as though to move would be to commit a solecism. (page 248) Solecism means an absurdity, impropriety, incongruity; a breach of good manners or etiquette. Also a breach of syntax or nonstandard grammatical usage.

Hieraticthis sentence didn’t make sense to me if I took hieratic to be something to do with ‘hierarchy’. ‘The gesture seemed almost hieratic, a mixture of farewell and blessing.’ (page 305) Hieratic means priestly.


Hematocrit He’d got big lungs had Jamie, and a strong heart and tough arteries, a high lactate threshold and high hematocrit; all the physical and physiological qualities that you need to go high.’ (page 396) Hematocrit means a graduated capillary tube in which the blood is centrifuged to determine the ratio, by volume, of blood cells to plasma. Still not sure what it means – something to do with the amount of red blood cells in the blood which if you have a lot – more than the average – helps when climbing to high altitude.


Ogive – ‘The coroner’s court was as solemn as a Welsh chapel – might have been a chapel once, in fact, with its ogive windows and steeply pitched roof .’ (page 414) this is another word that I felt I should know, but didn’t. Ogive means either a diagonal rib of a vault or a pointed arch or window.

Definitions taken from The Chambers Dictionary.

5 thoughts on “Wondrous Words Wednesday

  1. I knew solecism and I have come across hematocrit (I think Danish doctors use the term “hæmatokrit” when they examine babies).

    I wonder, though, that the writer should feel it necessary to use all these words in a novel. I´d expect to meet hematocrit and ogive in non-fiction. Not that I don´t like learning new words, but they must appear natural, not as if the writer is showing off.

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  2. Yes, hematocrit (spelled with an haem in Europe) tells the doctor how much the ratio of red blood cells to white is. Higher does mean better ability to withstand elevations but it’s a general test done to determine the average person’s overall health as well. I’m not showing off – just an old medical transcriptionist. 🙂

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