Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Ross O'Keefe, Oct 4, 2017.
Love this. Committing them to memory as we speak on this malagrugrous day!
I like the word "quaff" for "drink deeply" "Java" for coffee, "wroth" for anger, "Twain" for two.
First time I came across the word "java" was in the Marvel Magazines series The Fantastic Four where The Thing kept saying he was about to drink a cup of Java.
Found out about the word "twain" when reading up on Mark Twain who adopted it as part of his nom de plume. He worked at a steamboat and was in charge of gauging the depths to avoid sandbars. So he would yell out the depths preceded by the word "mark". "Mark six!" Mark four!" Mark twain!" The word "Quaff" I came across while reading one of Edgar Poe's poems, The Raven I think it was.
Well, maybe not since if it had appeared in it they would have mentioned it here:
Back when Internet Cafes were a thing, I wanted to open one and call it the Java Server solely for the wonderful play on words.
Gallimaufry is a word I love but can never find room for in everyday language. I picked it up reading an essay on E.B. White.
That would indeed be a good name for a Café. Drinking a cup of Java would seem to make the experience more refined and more psychologically enjoyable.
Hadn't heard of Gallimaufry until now. Thanks!
This is a wonderful post! Thanks!
How would one use 'apricity' (warmth of the sun on a cold winter day) ?
There was a wonderful apricity on that cold December morning of '67
Yup. Apricate is the verb form.
The sun was so beautiful that December morning, I decided to apricate for a bit, face turned lightward.
Hold on, are you saying I used it right, cos you use it quite differently in your example?
Oh, I see you're using it as a verb. So what PoS is mine?
Verbs, adjectives bla bla bla bla. Don't think I'll ever get the hang of all these different forms. It's shameful, really, but they simply won't stay with me.
Give me a random word and I honestly couldn't tell you what part of speech it is
It's all good. You don't have to know what they're called to use them, and you seem to have a pretty good idea how to do that.
Two of my favourite beautiful old wordsm, as much for their lovely sound as their evocative meanings
hiraeth - homesickness tinged with grief, or sadness over the lost of departed loved ones
tacenda - things not to be mentioned; matters that are passed over in silence
I believe 'twain' was actually not in much use any more at the time Sam Clemens adopted it as part of his pen name. However, it was used (instead of the word 'two') for the purpose of relaying fathom depth, because it was easier to hear over the noise of the engines than 'two.' You could kind of sing-song it, so the words carried. Cool. It was important for the steamboat captain to hear this particular call, because by the time you got to "mark twain" you were pretty close to running aground.
My personal favourite 'old word' which is actually Gaelic for an old concept is 'geas' ...pronounced 'gesh.'
It's a word (applied to a magical 'spell' in folklore, usually applied to heroic figures) that similtaneously obliges you to do something, but at the same time ensures that you will die doing it, or as a result of having done it. I suppose the term 'between a rock and a hard place' is a similar concept. It's an obligation that you must fulfill, and yet you know it will bring about your downfall.
For a while, the obligation seems harmless and indeed good. For example, you might be obliged to always share your meal with a hungry fellow traveler. That's fine, until the guy with purple eyes and green hair turns up at your campfire and asks to share your meal. You have also been given a prophecy that the person who will kill you has purple eyes and green hair.
Sometimes a geas is more subtle. You are obliged to share your meals with hungry travelers, but it's strictly forbidden to ever give food to somebody with purple eyes and green hair. As this guy is a traveler, you can't refuse to feed him. But it's terribly taboo to give food to somebody with purple eyes and green hair. This is truly the rock/hard place scenario.
The trick to understanding geas is that the person who carries this obligation recognises that point where obligation and doom intersect, when that moment arrives. It's pretty much inescapable. To refuse an obligation brings consequences, but so does violating a taboo. In folklore, most heroes simply shrug, give thanks for having lived a long and productive life, and go willingly to meet that doom by either violating the taboo or dumping the obligation.
Most of us aren't heroes. We don't believe in magical obligations, nor do we receive accurate prophecies about our death. That's probably why the term has died out. But the principle hasn't. Sometimes you just KNOW that something you really can't avoid doing is going to bring about consequences that are going to be harmful to yourself. I think the word still has legs, as a term which could be brought back into use.
Except that lightward isn't a real word. Though it has my vote to be added to next edition of the Oxford Dictionary.
I second that lightward should be added to the dictionary. I like that word!
From the list in the jpeg, I love Overmorrow and Elflock. Apricity and deliciate too.
But you can just imagine elflock in a book - like I woke up and looked at myself in the mirror - Gah! - my hair's turned elflock again! Or maybe My hair looks like an elflock?
Overmorrow has such a melancholy tone to it. You can just imagine it in a poem.
Twitter-light totally wouldn't be understood as intended though if it was revived now lol. It sounds more like someone who's gone light-headed with too much exposure to Twitter. Or perhaps an appropriate adjective to describe my state in my first job when I was made to follow and unfollow Twitter users for roughly 2 hours a day...
That is the wonderful thing about writing a fantasy book, all of these words are, at the very least, an inspiration for words used in my fictional world.
I always loved geas, but I was made to understand it differently: as either an obligation or a prohibition with consequences.
For instance, a man may marry a beautiful woman but under the strict condition that he must never come home at twilight; this being the geas from his bride. After years of a wonderful life together and having a child, for some reason or another, the man accidentally or intentionally comes home at twilight—maybe to find his wife is one of the fair folk or else a hag or something strange and so she disappears from him, perhaps taking the child or else leaving their offspring behind with the oathbreaking father. Or in another case maybe no matter how curious or strange people's actions or a situation, the hero must never ask a question about it, or act surprised, or something like that.
The geas itself does not intrinsically necessitate the hero's breaking of it—it very well can or it can be the conflict of being under several geas that eventually place him in an impossible situation or sometimes the hero just screws up himself.
This is how I always was understand geasa.
But to be honest, I can't strictly find anything on me that states it one way or another. I feel like the only things that might have spoken on it would be "Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry" by Yeats or "Fairy Mythology" of Keightly or one of the obscure works I happened upon & was reading a year or two ago to study fae. Or it might even be from back when I was at university in the course on Arthurian legends, where we had to read the Welsh Triads and other Celtic & Gaelic works.
Do you have anything that speaks or describes geas definitively that I can read? I'd be very grateful to you.
And actually, I think there were variations of it in Welsh & Irish & Scottish folklore n' mythology, so maybe I'm just blending them all under one title with the same functions when they all could be uniquely distinct concepts to the particular culture & people in question. Geas may not be equivalent to geis and so on, and that might be where I'm confused or plain incorrect.
I'd be much obliged if someone could set me right on the matter.
1980 - Stephen Donaldson, The Wounded Land, page 162, The memory came upon him like a geas, overwhelming his revulsion, numbing his heart.
Neil Gaiman, "Chivalry": "Galaad stood up again and turned to Mrs. Whitaker. 'Gracious lady, keeper of the Holy of Holies, let me now depart this place with the Blessed Chalice, that my journeyings may be ended and my geas fulfilled.'"
1989, Roger Zelazny, "Knight of Shadows": "An artifact created by the Pattern. It records everyone who walks it. It can call us back whenever it wants... It can send us where it it will with a task laid upon us—a geas, if you like."
Not sure if any of those are any use.
Found here: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/geas
It also rhymes with “half”.
I’ve used that in poetry. This web page was posted in 1998, but the poem is a few years older than that.
Thank you, but those examples are a spot too modern. Geas (and/or geis) are very old concepts.
And I'm confused by wikitionary link, because it says it's from Celtic geis but then states a Gaelic definition, which might be the same thing but then if so I'm confused as to why they bothered to put the parenthetical distinction in the first place? Or is it saying that the Gaelic concept stemmed originally from the Celtic concept? And where does the Cymric fall? Also it said the plural is "geases" but I know that it's "geasa" which also makes me slow to readily accept the other information as unadulterated fact—especially as it again relied on modern examples rather than ancient sources.
But I just know I've read about them in some book or other.
It might have have been "The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Faeries" by Kirk & Lang or it might be some other work all together. I nowdesperately wish I had electronic copies of all the works I ever read on related subjects and could just type in a word search to see where it actually comes up and, better yet, is defined.
But honestly, thank you for your post.
This is honestly going to drive me insane, and I might end up trying to locate & skim every faerie & folklore & mythology books I've ever read and I'm probably not going to find it and I'm already disheartened and very afraid I have a wrong established understanding of the concept(s).
Geas is a loaner word to English. The English plural would be 'geases' but the Irish Gaelic plural would be 'geasa,' following each languages respective rules for pluralizing.
The problem with putting many of these words into play, or most archaic words for that matter, is that your reader is liable to stumble over them. If they do that too often, you're going to lose them. The goal of a storyteller is to engage the reader. Not to use impressive words that will have little to no meaning to the average person.
I'm writing historical 'Gaslamp' fiction and am careful that I don't slip into writing stiff, overwrought nonsense.
You can however use these rare words and phrases to good effect if you mix them up with more modern language.
I'm rather proud of this bit I wrote the other day. The character has just snorted some snuff from her locket... the snuff is in fact the last mortal remains of Joan of Arc, that being the ashes of a suspected witch. She has just had an experience, and is trying to describe her flight of fancy to the person who just stopped her from walking off a balcony. I used the word 'alight' to describe her eyes, 'Creeping Jesus', and 'invigorates' all in the same dialogue exchange... words I wouldn't use if it were Urban Fantasy.
Valerie looked up at him with eyes alight, seeming to recover possession of herself. “Creeping Jesus! How long was I gone? Unmistakably supernatural! It’s an ancient blend, or so I was told. It quite invigorates the sixth sense,” she said with an unwarranted giddiness.
I love the word 'sprent.' It's an Old English word meaning sprinkled, but sounds less foofy. I first came across it in Blood Meridian where is says:
The night sky lies so sprent with stars that there is scarcely space of black at all and they fall all night in bitter arcs and it is so that their numbers are no less.
Another example is from The Serf by Guy Thorne:
He had an arrow right through his mouth, nailed to a tree was he, and the grass all sprent with him.
Oh, I think you're absolutely correct with all of these examples. I also love the concept itself, although fairy folk aren't something everybody tends to believe in any more.
You did bring in one factor that I had forgotten, though. That sometimes a person deliberately decides to ignore a geas they are given. They aren't forced to do this by circumstances, but usually curiosity or greed gets the better of them. And when this geas is broken, they then lose everything that matters to them.
The stories and legends that contain this idea of a supernaturally-imposed unbreakable rule nearly always center around the rule getting broken. I can't thing of any where the geasa are kept and nothing happens as a consequence. However, in theory, I suppose there must have been times? Dunno.
However, of the two manifestations of the concept, I find it more interesting to deal with the rule that gets broken because it comes into conflict with another, equally potent, rule. Just doing some forbidden thing and suffering consequences doesn't carry the fateful dilemma that having to make an impossible choice does.
Here's an example of the kind of story I mean. It's the wikipedia entry for the death of the Irish hero Cu Cuchlainn: "Aided Con Culainn, also known as Brislech Mór Maige Muirthemne). Medb conspires with Lugaid, son of Cú Roí, Erc, son of Cairbre Nia Fer, and the sons of others Cú Chulainn had killed, to draw him out to his death. His fate is sealed by his breaking of the geasa (taboos) upon him. Cú Chulainn's geasa included a ban against eating dog meat, but in early Ireland there was a powerful general taboo against refusing hospitality, so when an old crone offers him a meal of dog meat, he has no choice to break his geis. In this way he is spiritually weakened for the fight ahead of him...."
Here's a full wikipedia article on the subject, which brings in yet another meaning of the word:
Yes, that's exactly what I meant. To keep these old words in modern usage (which I think is what the thread was originally about) their significance needs to be modernised and understood.
Geas is an old word, but it still carries more force than 'obligation.' Obligations are often ignored. An elected official takes an oath to represent his or her constituents to the best of his or her ability ...splutter, gargle, choke.... Obligations and oaths are often ignored and a person can usually get away with ignoring them, but if you ignore a geas, your goose is cooked. You will suffer as a result.
In some ways, the concept of geasa and karma are connected, but a geas is more specific than karma. Both are ancient concepts, though ...and nobody has a problem understanding karma. I suspect the concept of geasa could also be kept alive.
Okay, well I'm glad I wasn't misinformed. I honestly went through four different books last night trying to see if I could find where I picked up the meaning, and I was hitting a wall & getting paranoid that everything I thought I knew was wrong.
And I actually fully understand and agree with you that the geas in stories are there to be broken. I think I just misunderstood you the first time, and thought you meant the in-story geas itself forces the hero to somehow break it.
And we most certainly should bring it back.
Also, I'm actually really, really glad that modern authors are using it too. I'm incredibly likely to read those books now.
(My last post was only in trying to find a definitive source of the original meaning of geas because I thought I got the meaning wrong somehow; and words change so much that the same word now no longer means what it once did. I didn't mean to be dismissive of it altogether)
And I actually think if writers continue to slip the word or concept into their writings, it could resurface in the popular vernacular.
Geas definitely has my vote for reinstatement.
I also vote for appetency (a longing or desire; a natural affinity), circumjacent (the surrounding), and malapert (boldly impudent, impertinent, etc).
At the very least, I think circumjacent is a very useful word.
Maybe it's my age, but I know 'malapert.' I love the word. Actually there are lots of good words out there! We should make a point of using a few. Circumjacent ...I like that as well. Appetency. I'll need to try to fit that into my repertoire as well. Good job digging these out.
Separate names with a comma.