Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Sagacious Seventh

In an entrance test I had once prudently pointed out that though gravity and gravitation are cognate, levity and levitation aren't. This could be confounding for some but amusing nuances for others. Such quirks make language or vocabulary learning fun. Not only the origin, sometimes the pronunciation is tricky: stifle but stiff, climate but proclivity, libel but liberty. Then there are those that are often mispronounced, like, regime, liaise, genre, lingerie, Grand Prix, avant-garde, awry and yet others whose stress on a syllable varies, as in the use of conduct, present, premise, close, etc as noun and verb. It helps to check the pronunciation and use of a word along with its meaning and part of speech.

While trying to meditate, I realized, my mind is never free of exploring these subtle differences. I'm always swirling in a maelstrom of myriad words and here I am to paint my subliminal thoughts in black and white, so they are saved for posterity. Whenever a labyrinth of unusual words enmeshes my mind, I attempt to club them up into relatively sensible sentences and save the motley assortment of statements here to help me jog my memory. A couple of such sentences that substantiated this morning to incarcerate some useful words and words that appear to be cognate but aren't are as below:

Can an exorcist be an extortionist and contortionist?

Is it always amusing to indulge in one's musings?

A gaunt man wielded a gauntlet to ward off any offensive move as he strolled down the dark alleys.

The fractious journalists, though ignorant of fractions, published an impeccable report on the infractions at a local institution.

If you found it funny, consider this:
They enjoined her to phrase an apt rejoinder for him as a means of well-deserved retribution/ recrimination.

Yes, names are meaningful. If you're interested, it's easy to figure out that Gladys originates from gladiolus, Charles means 'free man', William means 'vehement protector' and so on. But the interesting matter is that you can use some names, starting with lower case of course, like 'tom' and 'd**k', in sentences. 
And now here's two more:
Number of people affected by COVID-19 has ratcheted up globally since the nature  of it has been declared as 'pandemic'. Though the stringent social-distancing rules crafted by political leaders appears to harry us, it is the only way to peter out the spectre of the deadly invisible enemy. Flouting the rules is not anymore a personal hazard, it's a precarious condition that can spread across a community and so the leaders have been forced to met out harsh penalties if the norms are compromised.

An uxurious husband obliged to capture in oil-painting an image of his wife in cerulean silk sitting by a sea of catkins with her hair drawn into an elegant chignon, her wayward curls cascading from her temples to rest upon her toned shoulders.

A young girl eagerly waiting with her brother for a steam-engine-hauled train to trundle along the railway tracks that circumvent a carpet of catkins dancing beneath cotton-like clouds scudding across a bright sun in a clear blue sky is imagery that is close to all the people that share the part of geography I come from! It conjures a web of ineffable emotions - thanks to the renowned author and the eminent director who poured in life to the characters and who wears a crown of many jewels of which this famous trilogy is probably the brightest!

I've ensured my progeny has been talked to about the birds and the bees, so he doesn't stumble into uncharted territories dangerously ignorant.

A tippler teetered between his lust for alcohol and an urge to relinquish before giving in to his habit.

She stood there in her new pair of espadrilles mesmerized by the art using espaliers.

Fray as noun and verb has many different meanings none of which is even close to indicate anything opposite to 'defray'. Thank god, defray isn't used as much these days. I picked it up from The Speckled Band - one of Holmes's mysteries. However, the frayed Sorting Hat crafted by J. K. Rowling does come to my mind with the mention of 'fray'.

The bony yet bonny brunette whose humility knew no bounds was humiliated by her adversaries for no reason during the annual symposium at Seychelles.
It was God's gracious intervention that he agreed upon a suitable gratuity fund with his employer ignoring the gratuitous advice of his cunning colleagues.

I'll always be grateful to the graceful lady who guided me during my apprenticeship.

A cowboy was gored by a charging bull while he was struggling to goad his cattle across the farm - who knows what goaded the bull!

He gloated about how he floated on the blue waters of the Caribbean during his vacation.

It's possible to achieve the impossible if you set your heart upon it but is it possible to go pale if you are impaled by a needle?

The advent of summer heralded a season of fitful sleep as the soaring mercury and niggling humidity rendered the nights uncomfortable and unbearable.

After the war the colonel recapitulated how he saved his men from  being decapitated when his battalion had to capitulate to the enemy forces.

She was decollated (archaic) due to her decolletage (decollete).

The teachers overtly discussed the dilemmas the teenagers face in their meeting that was only an overture to a long debate.

Harry invested all his spare time to prepare for the investiture that he was invited to attend by the end of the year.

It was an incredible attempt to preclude the prejudiced politicians from including the alleged insurgents in the commission.

The hospitality exhibited by my affable friend during my stay at his place is ineffable.

The bespectacled lady in an immaculate bespoke suit conceded that she had a predilection for printed-silk couture inspite of the convenience of the contemporary trend  of ready-to-wear apparel, considering the proliferation of malls that are a fount of such clothes. 

They didn't show up as witnesses of the crime scene even when the police offered indemnity; they were scared of getting incriminated; impunity couldn't override their fear of the implication in the crime.

The name comes first when you need to identify a person. That combined with address, date of birth, and nowadays phone number, are often asked to prove your identity along with a panoply of official documents. While epithet and moniker are two well-known substitutes for the name, a lesser-used 'appellation' has been held up by Jeffrey Archer in the vengeful saga of Kane and Abel:
'Abel flushed to hear aloud the appellation he had whispered so often to his shaving mirror during the past few months.'
The others that are worth remembering are bynames, sobriquet (say saub-ri-kay), an honorific. It's prudent to add 'namesake' to the list of related words!

Verve is not a verb and nonce isn't always a noun. The outbreak of COVID-19 has wreaked havoc and the world leaders all over the world are rolling out generous aid to save the day for the nonce. Here it's used as an adjective. It's meaning as a noun is repulsive and such a person deserves to be behind the bars perpetually. 

COVID-19 is not only a galling grit that has encumbered the wheel of civilization but also is a source from which has stemmed dark conspiracy theories that would surely inspire some of the future noirs.

A school of thought within our university premises premised that the virus was transported to our atmosphere through a meteorite.

It was a pure musical decadence to soak in the cadence of the prima donna at the fag end of a fruitful day!

Inflections in English are eloquent of the diversity the language offers us.
You may have a remedy to a problem or you can be busy remedying a situation.
You may live in a lavish villa or you can indulge in lavishing your wealth on a villa!
You may act like an obstinate imbecile deliberately or you can deliberate over your plan to jump ship to a new workplace.
It's a great idea to look for these wonderful inflections and add more to your vocabulary with little extra effort.

Though this post looks like a ham-handed effort to boost one's vocab, it's an attempt to use alliteration, inflections and conflating similar words to highlight the differences between words that sound similar.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Sedulous Sixth

I feel elated to reflect on the fact that I'm 'six posts' old! I never envisaged myself writing even a few lines, but my alacrity to learn new words has driven me thus far. I learn and use and sometimes forget a new word. Documenting them digitally enables me to revisit my creations and in turn, jog my memory.
This holiday season started with a curious gift from a close friend of mine. It was an assorted assembly of succulents in a glass container. I had no idea that it could have a name and it certainly did! It's called a terrarium. Well, with Google at hand, it hardly took any effort to figure out that it's a sort of a sister of our familiar aquarium and that they house mainly plants and sometimes small animals like turtles or ants. On similar lines, the vivarium can contain both animals and plants and a paludarium is a vivarium that consists of both aquatic and terrestrial elements. Instantly two images flashed in my mind like matching cards of a memory game. One of them is from a personal trip to the zoo where a crocodile reluctantly swam out of its water tank to bask under the lazy October sun and offer its spectators a rare view which is at its mercy. The other one was the tank from which the Boa Constrictor communicated with Harry Potter and the readers were introduced officially to the magical capabilities of the boy-who-lived, although a few incidents like growing his hair after a bad haircut, shrinking of a jumper he didn't want to don and ending up on school building's chimney upon being chased by his porky cousin -  a bully who Harry endured with stoicism, were sprinkled like seasoning to give a flavour of magic prior to the impending magical event in the zoo. That tank had both aquatic and terrestrial elements and each time I watch the movie, I try to recollect all these words!

Now, it's no secret that English bewilders me time and again with its nuances. When my vocabulary was quite feeble, I had explained to my son that 'discourse' is the course that a river takes when it is accosted by obstinate obsidian (read 'rock'). Thankfully I realised immediately that it can't be true as whatever path a sinuous river decides to tread upon is its 'course'. That triggered my curiosity and soon set my hand on the dictionary. The meaning couldn't have been more different! Since then, I hardly took any chance to venture and offer a meaning of any word that I haven't heard of before. I realized pretty soon that 'disgorge' isn't any butte, mesa, pinnacle or escarpment that climbs towards the sky on the opposite side of a gorge. 
Such aberrant behaviour bemuses me in an amusing way. I have collected quite a few of them and will log them in my future post. You can then laugh your socks off as I did when they teased my brain. The circadian rhythm of our quotidian life often buffets the words we learn to the deep recesses in our mind. They remain consigned there and sometimes the subliminal mind fumbles for them to express a thought. With visceral energy, I’ve launched this endeavour to etch them permanently on the wall of my active memory through these posts. I’ll dedicate this paragraph to some compound words that will astound you as the final word does not mean any of the individual words that conflate to form it. Consider dewlap, cockscomb (the flower), hamstring, haywire, hogshead, belfry, mortarboard, mayhem, bedlam, deadpan, gainsay, stalemate, slapstick, hot dog, top dog, underdog, underpin, tailgate, turnstile, kingpin, shotgun (seat), undercut, overrun, sidestep and the list can go on. If you are reading this and know of any, please drop them in the comments.

I’ll end this post with three more words. The first one is impiety. Dan Brown has used this in Chapter 83 of Angels and Demons:
And yet, Vittoria knew, for all its impiety and inevitable horror, the task at hand was inescapable.
The sacrilegious task was a fictitious papal autopsy to investigate whether the Pope died of a heart attack or whether he was administered an overdose of Herapin to orchestrate a murder.
The second one is ‘improvise’. I’ve seen people using it often to supplant ‘improve’, but in actuality, it means to perform spontaneously without preparation. In the Order of the Phoenix movie, Harry asks Hermione in the Forbidden Forest what she was about to do with Professor Umbridge, and she replied ‘Improvising’. A word that sounds close is ‘impoverish’ that I learnt along with this word and I always remember them together.
The third word is also used at times in a wrong way and hence I decided to pin it to this post. The word is ‘fruition’ and not ‘fruitation’. The word is featured in Chapter 8 of the riveting read of Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less by the elegant author Jeffrey Archer:
James arrived carrying a bottle of Beaune Montee Rougue 1971 – even his wine cellar was fast diminishing. He hoped it would last long enough for the plans to come to fruition. Not that he felt an automatic right to a part of the bounty while he failed to contribute his own plan.
Go ahead and read up how a clever twist by Archer enabled James to be rightfully part of the bounty even though he never came up with a plan!

With this, I’ll end this post and sign off for quite a while till the end of holidays and I’ll resume around the time of Valentine’s Day of a brand-new year.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Fabulous Fifth

With a guest is at home, I’m swamped with a maelstrom of activities and to lighten my load in the kitchen, I started looking up for some deals that the local eateries are offering. That is when it struck me – a paradox. Isn’t it paradoxical that we are elated about how much we are saving by spending to avail a deal? Even the receipts of local grocery store say at the end of a long list of purchased items, how much you’ve saved by spending the amount printed beside ‘Subtotal’. Some stores go to quite a length to circle the amount saved and print it in a bigger font to highlight it so much so that your eye catches that before you realize how much you’ve spent! That’s right, we come across so many paradoxical situations in our everyday life, but this is perhaps the most common one these days and I decided to pen it down in my blog today.

Between paroxysm of laughter and light moments with family and guest, I wistfully looked at and dreamed of reading Catch-22 by Joseph Heller and Inferno by Dan Brown. I’ve already watched the action thriller based on the latter, and even then I feel, Dan Brown takes his readers to a such an exalted level of experience through his words that it will remain unrivalled irrespective of how well the seasoned actors portray the fictional characters in the movie. When I took to blogging, my pivotal drive was documenting my journey of building my vocabulary. A part of the journey involves looking out for words in whatever I read. This novel of Dan Brown has the word ‘dolent’ within its first few lines and this word is redolent of the moments when my son was trying to find his way in the ‘vocabulary’ word. He had learnt in his own way that indolent is lazy but when he referred Collins mini dictionary for ‘insolent’, he got enmeshed in a loop. Meaning of ‘insolent’ was written as ‘impudent’ which he hadn’t heard of before and when he searched up ‘impudent’, he was pointed to ‘impertinent’. That was when he came running to me for help. Finally, I helped him to figure out and while doing so he picked up so many synonyms of rude. I then suggested him to remember the words together like a chest of drawers, the topmost being the easiest one and each of the following can represent a synonym. While writing a draft, we use the ones in the topmost drawer and while finalising it can’t be imprudent to replace a few with better synonyms from the following drawers. A close friend of mine hinted at this technique long back and she is an avid reader! In the years that followed, our paths of learning forked but this continues to be one of my favourite ways of adding words to my chest of drawers! English, however, still tricks me. Check out ‘redolent’ and ‘redolence’ to see what I mean! I always stop by to invigorate my pulmonary veins with the sweet redolence of beautiful clusters of oleanders that bloom almost all the year-round in our suburb’s station premises.

If you’re done comparing dolent, redolent and indolent, you can try remembering insolent, impudent and impertinent together. Remember not to get confused between impudent and imprudent!

English is interesting as one word can have multiple meanings that widely vary from each other. If you think that impertinent is opposite to pertinent in a way that 'possible' is to 'impossible', you are only partially correct. Consider this from recent news pertaining to a royal scandal that has avalanched the internet:
“She (Princess Beatrice, daughter of Prince Andrews and Sarah Ferguson and sister of Princess Eugenie) was asking lots of pertinent questions and had her doubts,” the source said. “But by the end of the meeting, she was convinced by the Newsnight team and Amanda Thirsk that they had no choice – that it was the only way to put all the rumours behind them.”
Impertinent is opposite of pertinent when it is used as irrelevant, but impertinent also means rude, even though pertinent doesn’t mean polite!

Before I move on, I better mention the word ‘paroxysm’ in a well-known context. Joseph Heller has done a stupendous job in Catch-22 and is a must-read for any vocab-enthusiast. In Chapter 7 of his book, named McWatt, the author has ventured to deliver the below:
He was capable of mighty paroxysms of righteous indignation, and he was indignant as could be when he learned that a C.I.D. man was in the area looking for him.
Now, who but these famous authors can come up with such brilliant application!

I’ll conclude with a few more words that I remember this way:
In the Lord of The Rings, King Aragorn was portrayed as a paragon of courage, resilience, strength, leadership, virtue, righteousness and wisdom.

Peter followed a strict regime to pump his pecs to impress a lass with parasol, who attended pilates classes in his neighbourhood.

Enfilade (a set of rooms whose doors are aligned in a line) in architectural parlance is quite different from its meaning in military parlance. Topiary, caryatid, pastiche (an inferior emulation of another work, or period), pilotis (stilts or piers), gentrification, stylobates (massive beams), muntin (bars that support adjacent glass panes), fenestration (arrangement of windows in a building) are jargons in architectural parlance for commonplace artefacts we see around us every day. Poche, though it sounds like posh, is the solid black line in architectural designs that resemble solid walls. While still in this discussion, let me mention the art techniques, sfumato and chiaroscuro, that artists, art historians and art connoisseurs have appreciated since their use by the Renaissance polymath Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio (often mentioned by Jeffrey Archer in Clifton Chronicles and by Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code) & Rembrandt. I’d be a dilettante to claim that these techniques were used to create a perception of depth in paintings back then to mitigate the parallax error in the famous Mona Lisa painting, but art aficionados out there have written a panoply of articles to throw light on this aspect as part of their researches and that can sate anyone who is curious about the matter.

The last word of today’s post is 'paradigm'. We are familiar with ‘paradigm shift’ – a classic example can be the shift in belief from geocentric to the heliocentric model of our solar system that came along through a feud between science and religion. The use of this word is widespread. However, the standalone word ‘paradigm’ means a typical example or a theoretical framework of any kind. Let me quote this that I gleaned from the web to illustrate a use of the word:
On that day (2nd April 2012 at UN Headquarters in New York) at the UN, a global movement was launched to create a new economic paradigm – one that has as its goal human happiness and the wellbeing of all life on earth; that recognises as key conditions for the new economy ecological sustainability, fair distribution, and the efficient use of resources; and that requires a healthy balance among thriving natural, human, social, cultural, and built assets.

I’ll be back soon with a trove of special words and their citing in books or web in my next post. If you are reading and have learned a new word from this post or want to share a good one, please feel free to express in the comments. Thank you!

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Flourishing Fourth

A couple of friends need special mention for their contributions in my life when it comes to reading and learning new words. The friend, who got me into reading, reads anything underneath the sun and encourages everybody to read as much as they can and build an enviable vocabulary. She believes reading carves out a good human being out of every reader and endows him/ her with the knowledge that is priceless. I’ll be indebted to her as long as any book entices me to dive between its covers, which I hope, and guess is as long as I breathe!
Another friend of mine and her husband are professionals at Google. The husband’s passion for photography is exceptional. His work was featured in Gizmodo and he went to the extent of taking flying lessons to gratify his aspirations of capturing aerial views. Often he posts rare glimpses that he was fortunate to incarcerate in his frames from drones, planes that he himself flew and from his ventures to remote corners of the world with his companions from National Geographic. The frames, for sure, are breathtaking, but what amps up their uniqueness is his articulate account of anecdotes, experiences, descriptions and information. And, it is from these accounts that I had picked up words like ‘ensconce’, ‘pique’, ‘apparition’, ‘sojourn’, etc during the initial stages of my conscientious work on my own vocabulary. His way of expression, along with my friend’s expansive vocabulary, was one of the many reasons that triggered my interest in this sphere.
Other than photography, he is keen on cricket and in one of his posts, where he aired out his opinion on Facebook, he had written: “They have made all the right choices by dropping prima donnas like ...” (not quoting the entire sentence for privacy and security reasons)
Back then, I used to learn any new word that came my way. But this word drew my attention for two reasons. Apart from alluding to a vainglorious, conceited and temperamental person, this noun has another meaning that couldn’t be more different, and these are the nuances of English that I love exploring! I quickly learnt about leading soprano or the chief female singer in an opera. And then, who but the eminent author Jeffrey Archer, added a different dimension to this word! It’s been months that I’ve completed the novel, but thanks to his art of writing, I can vividly remember a coffee-milk complexioned Priya, resplendent in red, watching Fonteyn in Swan Lake with the British Sebastian at Royal Opera House. The sixth volume of Clifton Chronicle – Cometh the Hour – describes Seb, mesmerised by the virtuosity of the prima ballerina.
Chapter 16:
From the moment the curtain rose and the little swans fluttered out on to the stage, Seb was transported into another world. He was captivated by the dancers’ skills and artistry, and just when he thought it couldn’t get any better, the prima ballerina made her entrance, and he knew he would be returning again and again.
But whether he would, we couldn’t know as Priya sacrificed her life selflessly for her love a couple of chapters later. Piques your interest, doesn’t it? Go ahead and dive into the beautiful tapestry of events that Archer has sewn so elegantly with members of a well-knit family.
If you’ve come across words like prima donna, prima ballerina, prima facie, do share here.

A constant mentor in my journey is Wes who anchors Interactive English on YouTube. His lessons are illuminating and informative. Wes leaves no stone unturned to convey the importance of vocabulary in English and often comes up with interesting lessons to propagate several fascinating words. Let’s check quid pro quo. Wes had explained the meaning quite well, but what made it indelible was its fantastic use by Dan Brown in Angels and Demons, a thriller that depicts a feud between Illuminati and the Church in the backdrop of Rome and the Vatican City. Between the horrific murders and conspiracies of the church, the age-old tussle between science and religion claims a dramatic climax that only Dan Brown could have related with his gamut of words and collocations that keep pace with your pounding heart. I do believe he is an avant-garde when it comes to collocation (Ever thought of a sumptuous room? He did!).
Tom Hanks as the suave Robert Langdon and Ayelet Zurer as the smart and beautiful Vittoria Vetra hurtled through the roads of Italy, solving riddling conundrums to chalk out the Path of Illuminati in an attempt to outstrip Hassasin and forestall the murders of cardinals. ‘Quid pro quo’ was used by the Hassasin when he ominously informed Langdon and Vetra that the murders of the cardinals had been planned and the wheels had been already set on the motion to kill them every hour on the hour from 8 pm. Then at midnight, a plan had been choreographed to detonate a new form of incendiary that would wipe out the Vatican City in an unprecedented concussion generated by the deadly newfound weapon. Here is the conversation that marks the race of Langdon and Vetra with the inexorable ticking of time till midnight and the ordeals they faced throughout the novel.
Chapter 41:
‘After the brandings, the scientists were murdered, and their bodies were dropped in public locations around Rome as a warning to other scientists not to join the Illuminati.’
‘Yes. So we shall do the same. Quid pro quo. Consider its symbolic retribution for our slain brothers. Your four cardinals will die, one every hour starting at eight. By midnight the whole world will be enthralled.’
You can learn plenty of words, but contexts such as these render them unforgettable. More commonplace synonyms are for this beautiful word is revenge, retribution, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, reprisal, retaliation, recrimination, counteraccusation and the list can go on.

Here is another word that I learnt from Wes but remembered through Angels and Demons. The book Catch-22 by American author Joseph Heller that I intend to read to soak in the rich vocabulary is eponym for this word. You guessed it right – I’m about to list catch-22.
Chapter 46:
‘Exactly. Word of Galileo’s brotherhood started to spread in the 1630s, and scientists from around the world made secret pilgrimages to Rome hoping to join the Illuminati … eager for a chance to look through the master’s telescope and hear the master’s ideas. Unfortunately, though, because of the Illuminati’s secrecy, scientists arriving in Rome never knew where to go for the meetings or to whom they could safely speak. The Illuminati wanted new blood, but they could not afford to risk their secrecy by making their whereabouts known.’
Vittoria frowned. ‘Sounds like a situazione senza soluzione.’
‘Exactly. A catch-22, as we would say.’
I often use this phrase to describe air-conditioning which is one of the many offshoots of our precarious and inexorable progress in every sphere. We condition the air at home to get respite from the heat outside and in turn leave immense carbon footprints that cause global warming! Now think of all the office, restaurants, malls and other establishments that increases the carbon footprint manifolds and there is no solution, or should I say the problem and solution are synonymous with the old aphorism - ‘chicken and egg problem’.

Finally, I’d like you to reflect on how Google and guillotine are eponyms and Harry Potter is an eponymous character. That’s another word that I have highlighted in this post. It’s pretty much used by vloggers on YouTube and is easy to learn and remember, especially when it sticks to the widely used ‘Google’ and the celebrated ‘Harry Potter’.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Thriving Third

Got a bit delayed this week! I had to spur my mind off a myriad of activities and thoughts to concentrate and come up with this one. Marshalling my views and research on a plethora of scenarios of this commonly used term, ‘deus ex machina’, occupied a considerable part of planning. I’d be quite intrepid to take up Harry Potter canon to explain this as it has been sliced and diced since its inception by millions of fans and now with the inexorable spread of internet a multitude of views are reaching people at an unprecedented rate leaving little room for further analysis. Throughout the canon, the highly capable author has employed seemingly deus ex machina to save the day, only to explain their significance deftly down the line that they were indeed up her sleeves and weren’t quite really a deus-ex-machina.

With a panoply of snippets of the movies and their analysis doing the rounds, it’s almost impossible to avoid a ‘spoiler alert’. But if you haven't noticed yet, you’ll realize when you read that the first few chapters of the first volume sculpt Snape as an atrocious professor who has set his heart upon humiliating Harry. However, Rowling leaves a subtle hint as early as by the end of the first week of the eponymous character’s stay at Hogwarts. ‘The Potions Master’ chapter ends with: ‘And did Hagrid know something about Snape that he didn’t want to tell Harry?’
Of course, they all did, didn’t they? But Rowling will allow you to know only near the end of the last volume, in 'The Prince's Tale', where she’ll tie up plenty of loose ends leaving hardly any room for ‘deus-ex-machina’ – Snape protecting Harry since The Philosopher’s Stone, Snape protecting the Hogwarts students from the Carrows, Snape informing the Order about Harry’s misconception of Padfoot’s capture by Voldemort, the magical appearance of a doe-Patronus leading Harry to the sword of Gryffindor and Ron to Harry and the explanation of the iconic pleading: ‘Severus … please …’

Oh! I always feel grieved no matter how many times I see, read or hear this! How I hoped beyond hopes that all the wizards, pointing their wands towards heaven, Ron with a modicum of hesitation, would overcome the irrevocable power of Avada Kedavra, thereby resuscitating the wizened wizard Dumbledore! He was moribund and senile since the time he made contact with the cursed ring, which was a Horcrux as well as one of the Deathly Hallows and was debilitated from his venture to the cave of dark magic where he had conjured up a conflagration to ward off the Inferus and protect himself and his favourite student Harry Potter. In spite of that, I desperately wanted him to survive his fall over the 'crenellated ramparts' when I first watched the scene in the movie, pinned between exasperation and hope.

Then there are so many others strewn all through the volumes. It occurred to Hermione suddenly ‘Devil’s Snare is deadly fun, but will sulk in the sun’ – a deus-ex-machina that features in the movie only. In the book, however, the golden trio’s joint effort paved their way through this second phase of protection! Hermione recollected the trap was Devil’s Snare that liked dark and damp places, Harry suggested to light a fire and when Hermione mentioned of the absence of wood, Ron’s yell ‘ARE YOU A WITCH OR NOT’ jolted her back to the act of conjuring up bluebell flames that eventually got the boys unentangled.

The great escape from Gringotts after retrieving the Hufflepuff Cup Horcrux, uses the incarcerated dragon which I would have thought of as deus-ex-machina had Rowling not mentioned “ ‘They say there’s dragons guardin’ the high-security vaults.’ ” as early as during Harry’s first exciting venture to Diagon Alley with Hagrid and we took in everything from Eyelops Owl Emporium to Ollivanders, including the entrails of Gringotts. I mention it here as I must admit I was a bit upset to find Hermione suggesting the dragon as a means of escape in the movie as opposed to Harry in the book! I appreciate the way the movie engrossed us in the dragon’s and trio’s efforts to break through the penitentiary.

Then there was the pivotal moment where Harry was ostensibly resurrected to win the Battle of Hogwarts. Had Dumbledore come up with his extraordinary explanation only at the end of the seventh volume “‘He took your blood and rebuilt his living body with it! Your blood in his veins, Harry, Lily’s protection inside both of you! He tethered you to life while he lives!’”, readers wouldn’t have lapped it up as easily as they could with a mere mention of “For a fleeting instant, Harry thought he saw a gleam of something like triumph in Dumbledore’s eyes.”  several volumes earlier in The Goblet of Fire. Rowling wisely and delicately placed such cue that heavily hints at the unfolding of Harry’s restoration to life as a planned part of the novel and no deus-ex-machina.
Of course, I’ve to jog my memory to find the explanation behind Dumbledore’s unanticipated appearance at Ministry of Magic to accost Voldemort in The Order of the Phoenix. Even if there’s none, I’d still be hesitant to assume it as deus-ex-machina considering Dumbledore’s immense intellect and ability to stay on top of everything!
A personal touch – years back while designing a school with hexagons, I couldn’t link them up to form a closed loop. I gave up and slept. The solution apparently surfaced in my dream. I woke up the next morning, as if in a reverie, and completed the design with one lucid attempt. Strange it may sound, it was the deus-ex-machina that rescued me from a humiliating consequence!

I had plans to discuss a few more words, but now that I’ve already flouted my own rules of a concise post, I’ll conclude this post here and be back soon with the rest. I’d be happy to know of any deus-ex-machina that you’ve come across while reading a novel or facing a challenge in your practical life.

Friday, November 1, 2019

The Inception

Due to some technical glitch, 'Still Nascent' appears before this post even though this is the first of the lot.

The art of writing is something I haven't yet mastered even when a slew of silver strands of hair and crisscrosses snow piled on my face are desperately trying to make obvious the number of winters I've weathered. But I can string together words that I desire to memorize into grammatically correct sentences that make some sense.
Consider this:
I was petrified when a pachyderm proffered me a puffer (read fish or jacket as you wish) with its prehensile proboscis.
Sounds arcane? It might. But that is exactly how I group words that I aspire to remember. Yes, I've given up on writing, but I am a vocab enthusiast and I've started writing this blog to reach others with similar interest.

A plethora of 'forwarded' messages deluge my WhatsApp account every day. Some of them don't even deserve a cursory glance, but one particular message has never left my mind since I read it several months back, a message that said 'die empty' otherwise the graveyard becomes the richest place on earth. That message prompted me to start this blog. Several words and phrases whirl and swirl in my RAM throughout the day causing disquietude. I, therefore, decided to jot them down here to maintain my 'compos mentis' and by sharing I can 'die empty' when the time finally arrives.

Now, as the blog post indicates, it's all about vocabulary. 'Lexiconacy' or 'Lexico-lunacy' were other names (moniker) I had thought of, but I believe the term vocabulary resonates more with people than 'lexicon' or 'lexis'. Hence I resolved to retain the rudimentary word 'vocabulary' in the address and I coined my own portmanteau 'vocabuleria' modelled after a song that was quite well-known when I was a denarian. The song featured the word 'loveria'.

Portmanteau! That's right. It's one of my 5 most favourite words. You must have guessed the meaning already from the context. Here are some more, with the technique that I use to stitch words together:
While listening to a podcast and writing my blog over brunch, I scowled at the smog that hung over the polluted cityscape that was visible from my motel.

Can you identify the frequently used portmanteaus/ portmanteaux?

Yes, they are not compound words - smog, motel, blog, podcast and brunch. To add a contemporaneous touch, extend the list to vlog, netiquette, netizen and marcom. If you know more of these, don't forget to list them in the comments. 

Here is what I imagined for 'vocabuleria':
'Vocabulary hysteria' that I am obsessed with or a 'vocabulary malaria' (like aforementioned 'loveria') that has impinged on my way of thinking.

Now, one word can have multiple meanings. A word can also be categorized into various parts of speech. The meaning may vary with this difference in some cases (an example - 'consummate' as an adjective and a verb).

Portmanteau too has another meaning. It features in my favourite canon Harry Potter. Remember the scene where Professor Lupin was introduced to the readers and audience, huddled up in the corner of a seat on the world-famous Hogwarts Express and Hermione condescended to apprise others of his name that she deciphered from the labels on his suitcase? That same suitcase was magically packed by Lupin when he was leaving the school after his resignation.

Here is the scene that is etched indelibly on many minds.

That suitcase is, I believe, a portmanteau. If you haven't yet checked the web for the word, do so now and you'll find that the images are similar. Hope I succeeded in my attempt to attach this precious word with an even more precious, unforgettable scene so that the word stays with you forever. Next time you watch this or read, your mind will automatically regurgitate this word and that's an efficient technique of memorizing. Portkeys and portmanteau are otherwise also frequently bumped upon as a means of transportation in Harry's world.

It would be remiss of me if I finish this post without mentioning that plural of words that end with -eau, usually ends with -eaux.

If it piques your interest, go search up the word 'portmanteau' and learn all you can about it! With worldwide web at your fingertips, the world's your oyster!

I'll talk about the rest of my favourite words in my next post because concise posts, I understand, are more interesting and easier to remember. If you learnt a new word, please let me know. I'd be delighted!

Still Nascent

Friday again and time to commit to digital paper the rest of the 4 words that top my list along with ‘portmanteau’ and that are clamouring (not deafening through) to be published! Without further ado, I’ll escort you to the first one, a common thing (like ‘portmanteau’) that we all have experienced without many of us not knowing it has a name.

Have you not taken an extra-long breath to get a little more of that intoxicating wisp which emanates when the pristine pearl drops from heaven grace the parched terra firma in the afternoon of a real scorcher?
That sounds like a lengthy rhetoric question, but the answer is in affirmative, isn’t it? That subtle smell is known as ‘petrichor’! How delightful to put a name to such a wonderful natural phenomenon! Next time you indulge in the pleasure of this inhalation, you’ll certainly remember ‘petrichor’ that has its origin in ‘petro’, meaning ‘relating to stone’. Food for thought: we always save up for our ‘rainy days’, do we save enough ‘rain’ for our literally non-rainy days? Price of a litre of milk in a local retail store is skyrocketing as we keep contributing towards the drought relief fund for farmers!

Now that we’ve inhaled petrichor vicariously, let’s move on to ‘primogeniture’. You can easily find out what it means, so, I’m more interested to reveal how it’s been used by a great author and how you can easily recall the word whenever you think of the British Royal Family. This renowned author is Jeffrey Archer. If Jeffrey Archer’s writing were a man, he’d be a suave one, elegantly wending through the peaks and troughs of a story with well-chosen words and that’s where he introduced me to this wonderful word: Clifton Chronicles, Volume IV, Chapter 47

‘Were you hoping for a boy or a girl?’ asked Sam as the head waiter pulled back a chair for her.
‘I didn’t give Gwyneth a choice,’ said Giles. ‘Told her it had to be a boy.’
‘For purely practical reasons. A girl can’t inherit the family title. In England, everything has to pass through the male line.’
‘How archaic,’ said Sam. ‘And I always thought of the British as being such a civilized race.’
‘Not when it comes to primogeniture,’ said Giles.

Immediately he mentions the ‘Queen on the throne’, but I’m not a history aficionado, the web will do a better job to inform you how she inherited that after her father George VI, - thanks to the abdication of Edward VIII for Wallis Simpson! I’m nonetheless happy that Princess Charlotte of Cambridge is 4th in the line of succession as of 2019 while her little brother is 5th – no more prejudices – kudos to the Succession to the Crown Act of 2013 signed by the Queen after which Princess Charlotte became the first princess to overtake a prince. This word again is one of those familiar day-to-day life matters, but the word itself isn’t so familiar to us!

That is a reason why these 5 words (‘portmanteau’ in my first post, ‘The Inception’ and the 4 words described here) top my list – familiar phenomena but the words aren’t that well known. Talking about it, I’d like to bring to you my next one ‘constitutional’. I might sound that I read only Jeffrey Archer when I cite his writing again, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do for this word and the next! It’s true that I haven’t read as many books as many other avid readers out there have, but the reason I can’t read as many is that I don’t skim read and I realized the advantages of reading pretty late. I can’t claim that I have an eidetic memory (used by Audrey Tautou as Sophie Neveu in The da Vinci Code movie), but I have a proclivity to retain the context from where I’ve picked up an unusual word or a collocation as I read slowly. Jeffrey Archer, J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown and J.R.R. Tolkein have provided quite a few of them and I’ll discuss those eventually. For now, let’s focus on Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles, Volume VI, Chapters 4 & 26:

Chapter 4: Maisie had lived in a cottage on the Manor House estate since her second husband’s death three years before. She remained actively involved with several local charities, and although she rarely missed her daily three-mile constitutional, it was now taking her over an hour.

Chapter 26: ‘Capital,’ said the colonel. ‘I rarely miss my constitutional. Gets me out of the house. Well, must be getting along, or the memsahib will be wondering where I am.’

By now you must’ve deduced what it means or looked up the meaning, but beware - this is a trick of English, it differs in meaning with a different part of speech. As an adjective, it can be used to express something related to a person’s nature or physical condition as in ‘constitutional weakness’ or something related to legal matters as in ‘constitutional amendment’. But I’m sure you’ll remember it whenever you go for your next morning walk!

A personal anecdote – when I moved to this English-speaking country, I was awed to fathom the high standard of English used here from a list of words circulated among children of primary school as a preparation for Spell Bee competitions. Win the contest or not, I requested my child to learn the words on the list to build a healthy lexicon. I accompanied him and together we embarked upon the seemingly impossible journey of learning all the words. Even then it was a wise endeavour, because if you could retain at least 60%, you’re vocab would be considerable, and it’d also pique your interest in this field – you’d always be looking out for new words and learning them.
One word that I learnt from the list was ‘investiture’, but Jeffrey Archer rendered it special through his Clifton Chronicles, Volume VII, Chapter 2:
‘Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,’ he began, ‘and welcome to Buckingham Palace. Today’s investiture will begin in a few minutes’ time. Can I remind you not to take photographs, and please do not leave before the ceremony is over.’ Without another word, he departed as discreetly as he had entered.
Later in the news that attempted to dispel the rumours of HM's demise, I came across this:
Gradually, while still being very hands-on, the Queen has cut down the amount (number sounds better) of investitures she does, spending longer ( long should be correct) weekends at Windsor and reducing her public duties.
Now, I’m sure you’ll pay more attention to news that pertains to investiture henceforth. 

I’ll be back with more in my next post, which I’ll aim to keep short and effective! Thank you for reading!