Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wondrous Words Wednesday (June 10)

Kathy at Bermudaonion’s Weblog hosts this weekly meme in which she asks us to share new words we’ve come across in our reading. Feel free to join in the fun.

All my words this week are from Katherine’s Wish by Linda Lappin.

Mistral – “Here the sun was out, though the sky was streaked with gray and a mistral was blowing” (p. 14).

A mistral is “a cold north wind that blows down the Rhone valley and southern France into the Mediterranean.”*

Maenad – “On a mound of kelp lay the decapitated head of a china doll, the blue paint of its eyes chipped away; its maenad hair threaded with seaweed” (p. 37).

A maenad is “a bacchante, or a frenzied woman.” (In case you’re wondering, as I was, what the exact definition of a bacchante is, it’s “a female bacchant,” i.e. “a priest[ess], worshipper or follower of Bacchus, or a drunken reveller.”)

Scrittoire – “Carco took a wad of francs from the drawer of his scrittoire . . .” (p. 51).

I couldn’t find scrittoire in my dictionary or online, but Google suggested maybe I was looking for the word escritoire, which my dictionary defines as “a writing desk with drawers for papers, envelopes, etc. and usually a hing flap to conceal these.” I presume this is what the author meant.

Monitory – “‘No,’ said Katherine, placing her hand on Ida’s arm and giving it a monitory squeeze” (p. 84).

Monitory means “giving or serving as a warning” (which I could guess from the context). As a noun, it also means “a letter of admonition from the Pope or bishop.”

Cataplasm – “. . . as doctors will do, . . . shaking their heads and noting things down, then prescribing the same useless drops, injections, and cataplasms as always” (p. 129).

According to Wikipedia, cataplasm is another word for poultice.

Demijohn – “Here were the jars of olive oil and demijohns of wine, great wheels of cheese, slabs of butter . . .” (p. 157).

A demijohn is “a bulbous narrow-necked bottle holding from 11 to 38 litres and usually in a wicker cover.”

What new words have you discovered lately? Share your Wondrous Words on Kathy’s blog.

*Unless otherwise noted, all definitions are from the Canadian Oxford Dictionary (2004).


  1. You always find great words. I think I knew some bacchantes when I was in college. Thanks for participating.

  2. Great words. I liked Maenad. That word so fit the sentence.

  3. These are some great words Avis...I'm always giving monitory looks to my husband when he puts his foot in his mouth! lol

  4. As always, great words. I believe I have physically used monitory back in the days when I was a mother of young children.

  5. So I knew absolutely none of your words. :-) Nice picks!

  6. I wish I could remember the name of that book with Mistral in the title. It was quite a while ago. Anyway, thanks for stopping by today and for the enlightenment about the Roman goddess of noxious vapors. Makes me wonder why anyone would want such a goddess.

  7. Thanks, everybody, for your comments!

    You're very welcome, Kaye!