Bellowing Bellow II

Recently, I finished reading The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow. I absolutely loved it; however, I do not recommend it to people who aren’t writers. It is definitely a book for writers. If there are any casual readers left out there who enjoy lengthy, flowery classics, then by all means, give this one a read.

Bellow uses a plethora of fancy-pants words. He’s always a bit verbose, but in this particular book he lets the vocabulary flow unrestrained.

So, the next couple of blog posts will be examples of some of those interesting, unwieldy words that writers today have no business using, simply because, well, what would be the point?

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1. quiff — noun — a prominent forelock. [MJC: personally, I’d use “a prominent forelock.”]

2. homiletic — adjective — of, resembling, or relating to, a homily. [MJC: and, after looking up “homily” to find out that it means, basically, a sermon, I decided that I really like this one. Puts an edge of knowing to the description, whereas “preachy” sounds as if the narrator has tuned out the homiletic individual immediately.]

3. amortizing — verb — to pay off (as a mortgage) gradually by periodic payments of principal and interest or by payments to a sinking fund. [MJC: yet another economics term, like “repudiation” from the first Bellowing Bellow installment. The book doesn’t delve too deeply into economics, so I’m surprised at Bellow’s level of lingo in the field. Did he know these terms beforehand, or are they the result of good research?]

4. margrave — noun — the military governor especially of a German border province. [MJC: my reaction to this is almost the same as my reaction to “amortizing,” in that I am reminded of the first installment of this blog series. Instead of economics, this term is another of political caste—the former being “aldermanic”—very obscure, and very specific. I should note that no margrave, or alderman, appears in the story. These words are used to describe behavior. Very specific. But is it too specific? Can you see the difference between the behavior of a margrave, and the behavior of an alderman, after knowing the definitions?]

5. corpulent — adjective — having a large bulky body. [MJC: this is one of those words that I’ve seen many times before, but never bothered to look up. I’d always gotten a decent idea of its meaning through the context (I do this more than I should). Now that I know its definition exactly, I realize that I don’t really like it. I dunno; it sounds too pretty to be bulky. It sounds like orbs of light, or something. Doesn’t that sound right? “Corpulent orbs of light.”]

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Got a dusty, old word you never can use without editors arching their eyebrows? Feel free to share it here, at the Bloggery!

More Bellowing Bellow to come.

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Published in: on February 14, 2012 at 7:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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