Goodbye Lemon

Saturday 18 November 2006This is over 16 years old. Be careful.

I just finished Goodbye Lemon by Adam Davies, about a guy coming to terms with his past, including a dead brother, and with his dad, who has become totally paralyzed due to a stroke. It was a good book, though I thought it ended a bit simplisticly and somehow didn’t have the scenes I expected with the dad.

About half-way through the book I realized there were a lot of words in it that I didn’t know. I started writing down these words, and ended up with 19:

  • numinous: not in the dictionary!
  • lanceolate: shaped like a lance. Usually used to describe leaves, he was talking about fingers.
  • scarified: to make a series of small cuts, to criticize sharply.
  • brady: to move slowly?
  • hypnogogic: not in the dictionary!
  • cloacal: pertaining to the cloaca, a sewer-like cavity in many lower animals.
  • macerated: wasted away.
  • diluendo: diminuendo, gradually diminishing the volume of music.
  • thrombus: a blood clot.
  • shogunate: the government of a shogun (used in the book to describe a crowd of people?)
  • reticulate: formed of a network.
  • indurate: hardened.
  • spavined: affected with spavin, a disease causing lameness in horses.
  • glozing: from gloze: specious talk or flattery.
  • ineluctable: not to be resisted by struggling, inevitable.
  • trippant: from heraldry, portraying an animal with one foot lifted off the ground.
  • addorsed: also from heraldry, two figures back-to-back.
  • desiderate: to want.
  • empurple: not in the dictionary, so I guess he meant to turn purple.

The definitions are my understanding, taken from the 2000-page Webster’s New Twentieth Century dictionary. Some of the words were fancy words for precise meaning (lanceolate), some seemed almost misused (glozing, shogunate), as if he dived into a thesaurus for a fancy word and didn’t bother to look it up to see if it really fit.


Oooh, exotic words. I can't resist. Here's what my New OED 2001 edition tells me:

numinous: having a strong religious or spiritual quality; ...
hypnagogic: (also hypnogogic) of or relating to the state immediately before falling asleep
macerate: soften or break up by soaking in liquid
empurple: make or become purple

Is the author British?
Numinous is one of my favorite words (I keep a list) and I am amazed that you could not find it in your dictionary. It is not all that abstruse. To amplify Matt's definition:

numinous \NOO-min-us; NYOO-\, adjective:
1. Of or pertaining to a numen; supernatural.
2. Indicating or suggesting the presence of a god; divine; holy.
3. Inspiring awe and reverence; spiritual.
"Is the author British?"

Must be. As a British English speaker I often find myself using each of the listed words several times a day.
You must learn in almost every Cocoa program! I found 'numinous' right in Safari, although 'hypnogogic' just displayed the variant info until I clicked 'More...'
Carl Sagan defined "numinous" for me in Contact.

"The theologians seem to have recognized a special, nonrational aspect of the feeling of sacred or holy. They call it `numinous.' The term was first used by somebody named Rudolph Otto in a 1923 book, The Idea of the Holy. He believed that humans were predisposed to detect and revere the numinous. He called it the misterium tremendum...

"In the presence of the misterium tremendum, people feel utterly insignificant but not personally alienated. He thought of the numinous as a thing `wholly other,' and the human response to it as `absolute astonishment.' Now, if that's what religious people talk about when they use words like sacred or holy, I'm with them. I felt something like that just in listening for a signal, never mind in actually receiving it. I think all of science elicits that sense of awe."

Add a comment:

Ignore this:
Leave this empty:
Name is required. Either email or web are required. Email won't be displayed and I won't spam you. Your web site won't be indexed by search engines.
Don't put anything here:
Leave this empty:
Comment text is Markdown.