Word Play (or “The day I finally gave up and grabbed a dictionary”)

I was home schooled for twelve years in a joyously nerdy family. We studied latin and greek roots, cherry-picked the book-lined walls, hauled a laundry basket full of new reading home from the library each week, and slogged through many years of vocabulary workbooks. After that, I attended a university with a rigorous classics and writing-centric core curriculum, wrote military history articles for a newspaper, and spent years knocking out business and competitor reports. I thought I had a good vocabulary. Then I met the works of Edmund Crispin.

My mother-in-law recently introduced us to Crispin’s deliciously funny mysteries. In his stories, the mystery quite often plays second fiddle to the hilarious dialogue, commentary, and characters. The writing is intelligent and cheeky, as if P.G. Wodehouse married Dorothy Sayers and read the dictionary to their in-utero author son. Bonus points if you know these at first glance – I didn’t: Logomachy; Hierophantically; Objurgatory; Minatory (makes sense once you think of the myth…I didn’t); Proscenium; Tutelary (not what I guessed); Exiguous; Epicene (wrong there, too – I was thinking of Epicureans); Atavism.

At least I got Rhadamanthine. Maybe I should have taken Latin for longer? For now, I choose to blame the current level of reading in this house. It’s melting our brains:


How could this melt your brain Mom? There are eight whole words on this page!


2 thoughts on “Word Play (or “The day I finally gave up and grabbed a dictionary”)

  1. I only recognised one of those words – Atavism, but I still had to look up what it meant. I read an interesting post recently, that you might enjoy.


    Just wait until you realise that your phrasology has its roots in the children’s books you have read over and over. Just this morning I bought Ginger an inflated balloon at the craft shop as she had patiently waited while I picked fabric and got the lengths cut. As she was playing with it at lunch and making it ‘squeak’ the words of Billy Balloon kept wafting though my brain “I can squeak like a mouse if you pinch my skin but don’t do that my skin’s too thin!” (http://www.worldcat.org/title/billy-balloon/oclc/220598579)

    • An interesting article – it makes sense that vocabulary is developed best through lots of reading for context and use. So funny on the children’s book line! It’s starting to happen here as well – “Please, baby, please” keeps running through my head from the Spike Lee picture book anytime the twins are being bad…

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