Apr 1, 2009

wondrous words

This week all my new words came from Emma. Even if I'm not enjoying the book, it's expanding my vocabulary! A lot of them are so archaic, though, I fear I'll never use them. O well, at least they'll be recognizable next time I meet them in print.

Valetudinarian- "The evil of the actual disparity in their ages was much increased by his constitution and habits; for having been a valetudinarian all his life, without activity of mind or body, he was a much older man in ways than in years..."
Definition: a sickly or weak person, constantly concerned with their own health

Mizzle- "Ever since the day that Miss Taylor and I met with him in Broadway-lane, when, because it began to mizzle, he darted away with so much gallantry, and borrowed two umbrellas for us..."
Definition: rain in a fine mist, drizzle

Cockade- "Here is my sketch of the fourth, who was a baby... and it is as strong a likeness of his cockade as you would wish to see."
Definition: a feather or rosette on a hat

Cavil- "Her eyes, a deep grey, with dark eye-lashes and eye-brows, had never been denied their praise, but the skin, which she had been used to cavil at, as wanting colour, had a clearness and delicacy which really needed no fuller bloom."
Definition: to find fault with, or make a trivial objection

Recontre- "...the history which he had to give Mrs. Cole of the rise and progress of the affair was so glorious- the steps so quick from the accidental recontre, to the dinner at Mrs. Green's, and the party at Mrs. Brown's..."
Definition: an unplanned meeting

Tippet- "Jane, Jane, my dear Jane, where are you? Here is your tippet. Mrs. Weston begs you to put on your tippet. She says she is afraid there will be draughts in the passage."
Definition: a woman's fur shoulder cape with hanging ends

There were also a lot of words I knew, but whose spelling gave them unfamiliar faces: chuse for choose, foretel for foretell, beaufet for buffet, stopt for stopped, sopha for sofa, surprize for surprise, huswife for housewife, etc. I'm not sure which of these words have different spellings because they're British, or just because spelling wasn't standardized back in the 1800's? But they made for interesting reading!

For more wondrous words, visit the host of this meme at Bermudaonion's Weblog.


  1. Wow, you found some great words! Valetudinarian is quite the mouthful. Thanks for playing along.

  2. I love that spelling of "chuse" - things like that are one of the reasons I love Jane Austen. Did you ever read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell? It's massive, but I really enjoyed all the old-timey spellings.

    Great bunch of words!

  3. I'm sorry you are not enjoying Emma but I like your words from the book. I especially like mizzle. I can see myself using that word the next time I'm caught in a light rain. Of course, I can also see everyone looking at me with wonder on their faces, or some other expression. Fun to read/learn your new words.

  4. I think it's just the spelling of the day, or that it wasn't standardized. I haven't come across chuse or the like even though British English is prevalent here (when spoken/written).

    Interesting words!

  5. While I liked most Austen books, I was never able to get more than twenty pages into Emma... Regardless, excellent round-up of vocab words. I know "cavil" and vaguely remember the word "tippet", but the others are new.

  6. Anonymous4/02/2009

    What a great list of words. I don't think I've ever read Emma.

  7. Bermudaonion- I don't even think I can pronounce that one out loud!

    Jenny- No, but I do have it on my TBR! It looks very long.

    Margot- I like that word too. I'm fond of rain, and I think I'll start using it myself!

    BlackSheep- Thank you for clearing that up. I suspected it was just old spellings.

    Anonymous Child- I almost didn't make it further than 20 pages myself...

    Carolsnotebook- Sorry, I can't quite recommend it! But the words are fun.

  8. I remember looking up valetudinarian when I read Emma! It sure doesn't sound like what it is - it sounds academic to me.

  9. My assumption of what the word meant from the surrounding text was not what it turned out to be, either.

  10. I was just reading another blog and learned about the Save the Words site: http://savethewords.org/ You can adopt a word that's fallen out of use and bring it back. Some of these might be over there. :-)

  11. Ooh, I like valetudinarian the best! I was surprised by recontre though; I would have thought it should be spelled rencontre, but maybe that's more of that unstandardized spelling.

  12. Janet- that's a very cool site! I've got the link up in my sidebar. I keep visiting but can't decide which word to start verbalizing, and bring back to life!

    Avianschild- I found a lot of words spelling in odd ways, more than I listed here.


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