A "good enough" mom muses about alpha moms, adoption, computers, the State Of The World, Internet quirkiness, and the Kosmik All
Mz. Language Person: Pop Quiz

Quick! What do the following words mean?

bellipotent allochroous brontophilia (the link is for the opposite) tutling allicient barbelate barratrous cacophrenic borachio ecdysiast covinous antelucan acherontic

Give up? (Hint: click on the links.)

To my mind, they are evidence that either David Brin was out of his ever-lovin' gourd when writing a part of his book "The Uplift War", or his editor was. OmegaMom (aka Mz. Language Person) encountered these words in the space of 32 pages in that book; she actually had to revert to the college mindset and haul out the highlighter to mark each word. Now, admittedly, I do know one of them (ecdysiast), and a bunch of them I could figure out because, due solely to my upbringing and an eight-year stint with first-year French, I have an awesome grasp of Latin roots. (For instance: Cacophrenic--think of "cacophonous", discordant/ugly music, and "phrenology", the "science" of studying the shape of the skull. From those two words, I get cacophrenic equals a damned ugly skull, and, given the context of that word, it fits.) But four of them I couldn't even find on my handy-dandy link to Dictionary.com WHY??? Why on earth would any writer use words like these? Why would any editor let them pass by, when they jar the reader out of the rhythm of the work, into a cold, cruel world where the Oxford English Dictionary is not a delightful luxury, but a dire necessity? This slew of odd words puzzles me, because I've been reading Brin's books lately, and none of the other ones had this infusion of erudition. In fact, they pop up in only one chapter, and a few other chapters here and there. It's so damned out-of-place that it makes me wonder if two people were writing this book, or if Brin just dropped them in as a joke. (On a little googling research, I discover that Brin had a "classical education", so perhaps to him these words weren't jarring.) (If any of you knows what "tutling" means, please let me know.)
posted by Kate @ 5/26/2006 05:28:00 PM  
17 Comments:
  • At 5/26/2006 08:37:00 PM, Blogger Miss Cellania said…

    I've been told that tutling will make you go blind.

     
  • At 5/26/2006 08:57:00 PM, Blogger Kate said…

    Miss C.--I came across that meaning on one link while googling the word...But it doesn't seem to fit the context, which is "...needing neither man nor his tutling scalpels to tell them that Heaven's fury required a reply...". Lemme put it this way: I sure as heck would hate to see a "tutling scalpel" if your meaning is correct!

     
  • At 7/14/2006 04:18:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's funny, actually, I came across this entry while searching to see if anyone, anyone else actually used "allochroous" (the only references I can find are all collections of random words or dictionaries all trumpeting it with the same two-word definition). I've been reading "The Uplift War," myself, and I've stumbled over a number of those words, too.

    I have a theory on why he may have chosen to be so sesquipedalian (sorry, couldn't help it!) for this book, though. Much of the theme of the book resolves around how the neo-chimps feel as clients to the "wolfling" humans. The humans themselves feel lost in a universe that has made billions of hears of progress without them--how much more so must their unfinished clients feel? As a result, the long words may have been planted deliberately to enhance the "we're way out of our depth here, but we have to muddle through anyway!" feeling.

    --(David G.)

     
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About Me
Name: OmegaMom
Home: Southwest
About Me: Middle-aged mom of a 4-year-old adopted from China. Love science, debate, good SF and fantasy, hiking, music of almost every style. Lousy housekeeper. "Good enough" mom.
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