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Tag Archives: Learning

To be read with alacrity

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n. brisk and cheerful readiness.

My new word today is one that I have read many times before, but would never have been able to give the precise definition of. When I check “alacrity” on my trusty kindle I find it is buried in there 23 times. 23 times! I have that sinking feeling; how can I not know exactly what this word means? Apparently I have read it in:

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adj: noisy and difficult to control

As I add another new word to my growing collection I start to realise something. The words I have been finding are not always completely alien to me even though I might think I’ve never heard them before.  I look up Obstreperous in my kindle after underlining it in Lauren Beukes’s The Shining Girls and find it right there in Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I knew I had seen it before, it had been floating around for a while before it finally hit my consciousness. I hope now it will manage to stick in my memory.

I find obstreperous an interesting word. The dictionary gives an example of its use: “The boy is cocky and obstreperous.” It appears to be one of the words heavy with gender, seeming to be a typically male characteristic. From Middlesex I see the same thing: “Boys can be very obstreperous.” This is of course spoken by the main character, Calliope, a hermaphrodite who is raised as a girl and later decides to become a boy. Eugenides’s novel raises many question about gender roles and prejudice, just as The Shining Girls does, covering issues surrounding women in the 20th century.

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Glaucous and Tender is the Night

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adj Tech or Lit 1) A dull greyish-green or blue colour 2) Covered with a powdery bloom like that on grapes

Glaucous Sea

covered in a bloom?

“It was past four and under a blue-gray sky the first fishing boats were creaking out into a glaucous sea.”

Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I had this underlined from Tender is the Night not only to memorise my new vocabulary, but also beause I feel it is a wonderful example of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s prose. It is a simple phrase, setting the scene on the Côte d’Azur, simple but so beautifully put.  I fell in love with Fitzgerald whilst reading Tender it the Night, enjoying the quality of his language as well as his storytelling.

We follow Rosemary, a young American actress, as she holidays with her mother in the sun-drenched south of France. She starts to mix with the other wealthy guests from her hotel and soon becomes embroiled in their lives, falling in love for the first time with Dick Diver, a married man. Read the rest of this entry

Think of a word beginning with G…

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Verb, int. 1. lower one’s body briefly by bending one knee to the ground, typically in worship or as a sign of respect. 2. (fig) show deference or servility.

I am trying, really trying, to not beat myself up over the fact that I have reached the age of 26 and didn’t know the word genuflect. I embrace certain gaps in my knowledge, seeing them as opportunities to learn something new and to question my previous beliefs. Vocabulary, however, seems different to me. It’s like the word is jeering at me, an affront to my choice of reading matter over the years.

I learnt the word genuflect this summer whilst reading in a garden in the south-west of France. I can’t now remember what I was reading at the time but a quick search on my kindle reveals this: Read the rest of this entry

Life: Just a Word Game?

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Noun.  A chronic disease, endemic in parts of Africa and South America, caused by infestation with blood flukes (schistosomes).*

I was in the kitchen last week having a rather banal conversation. (You’re hooked already, no?) There were some laughs and maybe a few insightful remarks, I’m sure, but nothing to write home about. The subject was of such a high importance that I have completely forgotten it. For all I know we could have been discussing the reason why kitchen foil has one shiny and one dull side (although, I actually find this quite interesting and if you want to know you’ll just have to ask me. Or google it.)

So we were deep in mind-blowing philosophising and I got stuck mid sentence. I couldn’t find the word. It was a totally simple, everyday, uncomplicated word but it got stuck somewhere in my brain. Read the rest of this entry