Words I Didn't Know

As previously mentioned, I have started reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Right now I'm only 31 pages in, but so far it is amazing. I am enthralled. The only difficulty I've encountered is that my present vocabulary has proved insufficient in providing me with all the word meanings that I need. (In doing a Google search of "omniveillant," I find I'm not the only one.) I might, with another book, have skipped over unknown words, but Kavalier & Clay is so engaging that I feel the need to understand all of it. Therefore, I turned to my two favorite resources: the Oxford English Dictionary and Wikipedia. And, at the risk of embarrassing my mother with my inadequate word-knowledge, I decided to post my findings.

ingot- a mass (usually oblong or brick-shaped) of cast metal, especially of gold or silver, and (in modern use) of steel

Clifton "Kip" Fadiman (May 15, 1904 - June 20, 1999) - an American intellectual, author, radio and television personality

Milton Caniff (February 28, 1907-April 3, 1988) - an American cartoonist famous for the Terry and the Pirates comic strip. In 1934, Caniff was hired by the New York Daily News to produce a new strip for the Chicago Tribune/Daily News syndicate. Daily News publisher Joseph M. Patterson wanted an adventure strip set in the mysterious Orient, what Patterson described as "the last outpost for adventure." Caniff, though knowing almost nothing about China, researched the nation's history and learned about families for whom piracy was a way of life passed down over the generations. The result was Terry and the Pirates, the strip which made Caniff famous.

omniveillant- watching over everything*

a small magnifier used by a watchmaker or jeweller

cineraria- a genus of composite plants, mostly natives of South Africa, with blue or purple flowers, but assuming very various colours under cultivation; they are grown as greenhouse or window plants

- sleight of hand, legerdemain

automaton- something which has the power of spontaneous motion or self-movement

Reichsprotektorat- The Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (German: Reichsprotektorat Böhmen und Mähren), the majority ethnic-Czech protectorate which Nazi Germany established in the central parts of Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia in what is today the Czech Republic. It was established on March 15, 1939 by proclamation of Adolf Hitler from Prague Castle following the declaration of establishment of the independent Slovak Republic on 14 March 1939. Bohemia and Moravia as well as the General Government were autonomous Nazi-administered territories which the Nazi government considered part of "Greater Germany." This came to an end with the surrender of Germany to the Allies of World War II in 1945.

pogrom- in Russia, Poland, and some other East European countries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, an organized massacre aimed at the destruction or annihilation of a body or class of people, especially one conducted against Jewish people; generally, an organized, officially tolerated, attack on any community or group

penury- the condition of being destitute; hardship, poverty, need

lachrymose- given or ready to shed tears; of a tearful character, mournful

James Cagney (July 17, 1899 – March 30, 1986) - an American film star. Although he won acclaim and major awards for a wide variety of roles, he is best remembered for playing "tough guys". In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked him eighth among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time.

acromegaly- a disease characterized by hypertrophy and enlargement of the extremities (hypertrophy- enlargement of a part or organ of an animal or plant, produced by excessive nutrition; excessive growth or development)

odeon- a concert hall or theatre

*After an unsuccessful search in the OED, I Googled "omniveillant" and found that it's not a real word; Michael Chabon invented it and expected his readers, intelligent and familiar with Latin word-roots, to figure it out for themselves.


  1. If you ever take the GRE, I guarantee that "lachrymose" and "soporific" will both be on there.

  2. i am surprised you didn't know some of those, but you taught me about five new words today. thanks.

  3. Do you get dictionary.com's word of the day emails? I love them! In the book, have you gotten to "Golem" yet? I had to research that one.

  4. I did get to golem. I've heard of golems in my extensive study of fantasy literature, but it didn't make sense to me in the context of the book, so I had to ask Christian what they were talking about. He said that they talk more about it later, so I figured I could wait.

  5. Look, look! I'm on your blog! Of my own volition! I thought of you and came to read! Yay!

    So, how did you find Atlas Shrugged? I finally just returned it to the library without finishing it, I couldn't get past Dagny's disturbing sexual relationship with whatshisname.

    May I just say, I LOVE your hair, I can't believe you got it cut so short!

    I've never heard of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay - is this the new "it" book that everyone is reading? Everyone but me, apparently...I'm too busy reading political books and homeschooling books. Give me a Reading Rainbow book report about it - but don't tell me the ending! :)

    The secret Blogger I-am-not-a-spammer word that I have to type is "dithotic." Sounds like it ought to mean something, and yet it doesn't. I think it's sad for a word not to mean something - you must come up with a definition for "dithotic." Make it mean something, Mary. It's depending on you.

  6. Hi, Mary. I am reading this book and I am very confused with some words, such as Cagneyesque (page 18). Could you help me to explain the definition of this word? (I am not a native English speaker). Thank you

  7. I'm so validated! I must be exactly as far into the book as you were when you wrote this entry, because my list also ends with "odeon," and I'm sure he's not done using 10-cent words!

    I had five of the same words as you (omniveillant, loupe, prestidigitated, acromealy, and odeon) and two not on your list: cathected = to invest emotion or feeling in (an idea, object, or another person)
    selvage = term for the self-finished edges of fabric.

    Did you know those two already, or skip over them?

    How bad is the vocab in the rest of the book? Was it worth it? I find his vocab to be overly flashy. I think he's just showing off for the sake of overwhelming the reader with his mastery.

    One of my good friends is from Raleigh, by the way, so ... shout out to the NC!