Monday, May 31, 2010

word of the day: diuturnity

context: The Director is in communication with angels (or eldila, as author C.S. Lewis terms them in his space trilogy), and they are helping him head off the final conquest of Earth by the fallen angels. Should the bad angels succeed, “Bad men, while still in the body, still crawling on this little globe, would enter that state, which, heretofore, they had entered only after death [i.e., Hell], would have the diuturnity and power of evil spirits.”

definition: Long duration; lastingness.

definition source:

quotation source: That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis

Sunday, May 30, 2010

word of the day: slatch

context: Katherine is looking back on her childhood. Katherine’s parents have divorced and her mother, who has custody of her and her younger brother, is marrying anew. The adult Katherine contemplates a photograph from the wedding: “[I]nstead of recording untainted happiness, it captures me with a hazy stare and half-smile. … I see myself as I must have been: waiting. Waiting during the lull, the slatch between my past and my future, between one father and the other.”

definition: “a relatively smooth interval between heavy seas.”

definition source:

quotation source: Blood Strangers: a memoir by Katherine A. Briccetti

Saturday, May 29, 2010

word of the day: lamellation

context: Ruth’s father has died. Both Ruth’s parents were Deaf; though Ruth and her brother were born hearing their first language was American Sign Language. “I heard his voice as it was in life. And I saw the gentle lamellation of his signs.”

definition: “an arrangement or structure in which there are thin layers, plates, or scales.”

definition source:

quote source: In Silence: Growing Up Hearing in a Deaf World by Ruth Sidransky

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Now, this is the sort of thing that’s so minor, even charming, that making any kind of deal out of it seems silly, especially since the topic of the book in which this thing appears is a totally serious (in fact, awfully depressing) topic. Among the Great Apes is Paul Raffaele’s account of visiting the regions where the remnant great ape populations are barely holding out – war-torn Africa mainly, where the chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas scrape by, but also the aggressively exploited forests of Borneo where the orangutans are running out of trees.

When I came across the word “stripling” in Raffaele’s book I recognized it as one of the age categories James Davidson discusses in his The Greeks and Greek Love, a book I’d recently worked my way through (it’s long!). A stripling is a youth, a teenager. Age categories were very important to the Greeks.

Raffaele, however, uses “stripling” to mean something entirely different. Sapling, maybe. Slender branch? At first I thought it was just an accidental misspelling of “sapling.” But then he did it again. And in this passage Raffaele does it twice:

“The silverback’s nest resembles an oval throne, fashioned from branches he has snapped to form the foundation, and with a layer of vegetation woven with striplings and leaves to make it soft and springy as a cushion.” A silverback gorilla is the leader of the gorilla family, the patriarch. Nearby are the nests of the females and youngsters. “The two-year old is still practicing nest building and has snapped and bent some striplings together and added a few leaves for comfort.”

By context you know no gorilla is snapping or bending or weaving together youthful human males. But I wasn’t able to find any other definition of “stripling” in a dictionary. Raffaele, by the way, does also know the word "sapling" and uses it elsewhere.