Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Growing Vocabulary

Murder mysteries by Ruth Rendell are usually pretty good. Not always, but usually. However, a dictionary close by is handy because there are often words I'm not clear on.

For instance, I knew that "verdigris" is that green stuff you see on copper. But I didn't actually know what it is.

"The copper plate had turned bright green with verdigris."

Verdigris: a green crystallized substance formed on copper by the action of acetic acid.

When my dictionary isn't handy (say I'm reading in bed when I come across something I don't understand), I pull my notebook out of the night-stand and scribble down the word and its neighbours so it can be looked up later:

"atmosphere that subsisted between the two men"

Sure I know what "subsistence" means, but this seemed an unusual use of the word. And in this particular edition of the book I was reading, there were a lot of typos. So worth checking:

Subsist: 3) reside or exist in

Okay, makes sense enough.

"A section of wall with coping along the top of it"

I'm always learning words that describe building materials. You do, if you don't just skip over them in order to get on with the story.

Coping: the top (usu: sloping) course of masonry in a wall or parapet.

"they like chucking their gash about"

This must be British slang for cash, or money. Alex — Is that correct?

"The baby had begun to grizzle"

Grizzle: cry fretfully; complain whiningly.

"when it comes time to enlighten the tyro"

Tyro: a beginner or novice

"a narrow vitrine in the rear wall"

Vitrine: a glass display case

So much vocabulary, so little time!

And now it can't be put off any longer: the kitchen counter is full of dirty dishes since I started late yesterday afternoon to bake a chocolate cake for Scott's birthday (he turned 54) and throw together Beef All-in-One Macaroni for a quick supper (Emil is home with a cold and needed feeding up, and then I ran some grub out to the field where the gents were combining till well after dark and Scott was already getting a headache, he said when I got there, so was happy to see me, bolted down the vittles, and hopped back up on the combine) and boil up some corn on the cob (purchased from the local Co-op store and shucked by Everett after work). The kitchen was spotless when I started, honest! But by the time I got back from the field, I figured to hell with it: I'd face the mess in the morning. And so I must.

And then I'm going to make some fudge for the market this Saturday. This could be the last sunny warm day of the season, so it needs to be taken advantage of; sunny days are best for making fudge, or so the story goes. And there are two cobs of corn that weren't eaten; I'm going to slice off the kernels and throw them into Mexican Soup, one of my favourites and thus a standard around our house. And I'm trying to get Scott's books organized so he can get his 2012 business taxes paid; a year's worth of invoices and bills to sort through, extract numbers from, and add up before handing the whole mess over to Don, the accountant who will make sense of it all. And last but not least, I am going for a walk! It's glorious out there. Windy but sunny and warm, and the huge gaggles of geese are not only flying over, but they are parking themselves in the fields around our yard and are absolutely thrilling to hear. American hunters have been driving in to inquire in their southern drawls "Who owns the land?" so they can request permission to go a-shooting. They get their thrills in a different way than I do.