Wondrous Words Wednesday

wondrous2Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Kathy at Bermuda Onion where you can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love.

I’ve recently read A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor, a book that I’ll be writing about in more detail. It’s his account of his journey in 1933/4 walking  to Constantinople. He uses many words that either were completely new to me or words that I wasn’t quite sure what they mean. As I was reading it on Kindle I was able to look up their meaning without too much distraction. Most of the words I didn’t know are described as ‘archaic’ and some of the words aren’t in the Kindle dictionary.

Here are just two:

  • imberb – ‘The figure of St John the Divine –  imberb, quizzically smiling, quill in hand and at ease in a dressing-gown with his hair flowing loose like an undress-wig …’

This isn’t in the Kindle dictionary and my guess was that it meant he had a beard. I was nearly right, but also completely wrong – the online Oxford English Dictionary has this definition: adjective from the French imberbe,  Latin imberbis – a rare word meaning beardless.

  •  flocculent – ‘Ragged and flocculent, fading to grey, scattered with specks of pink from the declining sun, varying in width as random fragments were dropping away and recohering and agitated with motion as though its whole length were a single thread, a thick white line of crowding storks stretched from one side of the heavens to the other.’
I like this sentence, which draws a clear picture for me of the storks flying across the scene in front of the setting sun, but wasn’t sure about ‘flocculent’ – a flock of storks?
It means having or resembling tufts of wool, having a loosely clumped texture from the Latin floccus.

11 thoughts on “Wondrous Words Wednesday

  1. Both of these words are new to me. I am not sure if I will ever use flocculent, but my husband in no longer imberb. He’d probably look at me quizzically if I used it to describe him! 🙂


  2. It’s words like these that make me keep my iphone handy while I read–I haven’t heard of either of those words. Funny how close you were with imberb, and yet completely wrong!


  3. I had the same experience when i read Zuleika Dobson. I haven’t got a copy in front of me, but I spent much time consulting the dictionary. It’s interesting to see how many words have fallen out of use…


  4. Margaret – What a terrific meme! I love the idea of encountering new words like that. And your choices are great; I especially like imberb.


  5. I got a copy of this book from a charity shop a while ago – I’ll look forward to reading it. I do know ‘flocculent’ though – having done plenty of chemistry relating to solids flocculating – coming out of suspension in wooly clumps! 🙂


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