Monday, February 26, 2024

The One Where I Learn Some New Vocabulary

I'm currently reading a pre-publication copy of The Bright Sword: A Novel of King Arthur by Lev Grossman. I have a soft spot for almost any form of the King Arthur story and this one is no exception. I've only read 13% so far and I'll talk more about the book later after I finish, but for now, I'm having fun learning some new vocabulary words.

I like to think I have a slightly better-than-average grasp of words, and that may be because I read slightly more than the average person. In 2016, the average number of books read per capita in the US was 12. I'm pretty sure many of you read more than that so maybe you feel the same way about vocabulary, but I'm not judging anyone's reading habits. 

When I read a book, I often encounter one or two words that I'm not familiar with, look them up, and learn something. In The Bright Sword, there are many more than just one or two words. Here are a few of them so far. If you scroll down past the book cover, you can see what they mean.







Mi-parti cotehardie





Machicolationsopenings in the floor between the corbels of a projecting gallery or parapet, through which molten lead, etc., might be cast upon an enemy beneath.

Tercemainly in the Roman Catholic Church the third of the seven canonical hours of the divine office, originally fixed at the third hour of the day, about 9 a.m.

Gambesona quilted garment worn under mail.

Gonfalons - banners suspended from a crossbar, often with several streamers or tails.

Gallimaufrya hodgepodge, confused medley, or jumble.  

Flampet - pork and figs that have been boiled in ale, then baked in cheese, then encased in pastry.

Mi-parti cotehardie - a long-sleeved medieval garment that was usually thigh-length and belted for men and full-length for women and that was made to fit closely often by buttoning or lacing.

Paludamentuma cloak worn by officials and military officers of ancient Rome, especially during wartime.

Lughnasadhan ancient Celtic festival held on Aug 1. It is also celebrated by modern pagans and is also called Lammas. 

Almonera person whose function or duty is the distribution of alms on behalf of an institution, a royal personage, or a monastery. 

Hippocrasan old medicinal cordial made of wine mixed with spices.

So how did you do? No doubt, there are so many new-to-me words because of the period and setting of this book. We still display gonfalons of a sort; there are plenty of gallimaufries in government and politics, and enjoying a bit of hippocras sounds like it might be a good thing. We just don't use those words anymore, but that's kind of a shame!


  1. It's nice to be in the "above average" reading group! And I knew a few of these words... but most were new to me! But this book sounds like a rather fun read! Thanks for waking my brain up in the best way! :)

  2. Most of these were new to me, but I suspect that's because of the time frame in which your book is set (I'll fully admit that my medieval vocabulary is not so strong!). I have to say that although I'll never give up paper books, one benefit of reading a digital book is the ability to touch an unfamiliar word and get a pop-up definition!

  3. One of the things I love so much about reading is learning new things. I did not know ANY of these words. Some of these look like what they mean (looking at Gallimaufry - LOL - and Hippocras - interesting that it is similar to the Hippocratic oath that physicians take). I do like pork and figs, but Flampet sounds AWFUL!!!

  4. Oh, my...aren't those a mouthful. I've never heard of any of them.
    I was a big King Arthur fan when I was a teen. I had an old book that had the most gorgeous illustrations of the legends. I fancied myself quite the Lady of the Lake for a time until Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet came out and then I was a Capulet for a while but that was only until I saw Wuthering Heights and spent a year in high school wearing what I thought Kathy would be wearing walking among the I had quite the imagination.

    1. Even though I looked up definitions I don't think I'll have a chance to use many of them while grocery shopping at Walmart.

      You were quite imaginative; maybe you've channeled that into dressing up your Barbies!

  5. I'm an above average reader and I did not know ANY of these words. Of course, medieval literature is not my jam so perhaps that's why. One thing I like about reading on the Kindle is how easy it is to look up a word.

  6. I'm glad that I have no need for machicolations through which to cast molten lead upon my enemies! hah.

  7. I knew terce and almoner, but the rest were new to me. One of the best things about reading is learning new words!

    1. You knew more than I did, but I agree with you that one of the great things about reading is learning new words. I'm not sure I can use these new words in any present-day conversations!

  8. What a great list of words. They were new to me. I love the cover on that book. It's fun to discover a new version of an old story. Or maybe just a retelling but still nice.

  9. oh yeah, I didn't know any of those words (and I'm not sure I'm going to remember any of them either) - but I will for sure recognize them when I see them because ... a NEW Lev Grossman book!!??!!

  10. I have never heard/read ANY of those words before! What fun! What a challenge! I love "collecting" words I don't know when I read books (I keep a master list), but I've never read a book with that many new words! (I love King Arthur stories, too. Will be looking forward to seeing what you think of this new one!)

  11. none of the words look familiar. I like when I am reading on a kindle I can highlight the word and see the meaning (if I have wifi). If it's a real book I just guess from context clues.. hoping I am right.


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