Diana's strange and unusual words

One of the things that has impressed me from the beginning about Diana Gabaldon's writing is her amazing vocabulary. I have always considered myself to have a reasonably good vocabulary; I'm a college graduate with a lifelong love of reading, but I frequently run across words in Diana's books that I've never seen before.

Just to name a few of my favorites:

coccygodynia (from DRUMS OF AUTUMN)

poltroon (from DRAGONFLY IN AMBER)

chisping (from BOTB)

absquatulation (title of ABOSAA chapter 94)

And in a recent discussion on Compuserve, Diana used the word armigerous, which had me completely baffled, until I looked it up. <g>

Diana has a fascination for those odd and unusual words, and she does indeed sprinkle them in her books on purpose, just as some of us had suspected. <g>

What do you think of her use of unusual words? Do you keep a dictionary nearby when you read? Jot down words to look up later? Or does this sort of thing get in the way of your enjoyment of the story? Do you have a favorite example of one of these unusual words?

Speaking only for myself, I love it when I encounter words like these in Diana's books. The really bizarre ones always make me laugh.


Merrymags said...

As a book lover, words are an integral part of why I love them. I enjoy the way certain words trip and flow off my tongue, while the pronunciation of others take some practice in front of the mirror. Diana does have an extraordinary vocabulary, but it doesn't surprise me. In fact, I would be disappointed and dismayed if she didn't because the novels, aside from the vocabulary, prove that she has an active, educated mind. Any writer that "dumbs down" either himself or the reader deserves to have his books tossed into a "vanities bonfire."

I do employ a dictionary or go straight to my computer's online source. Usually, though, I first try to glean a word's meaning from the context in which it is used. Then, I make sure to try and incorporate the words I learn into my vocabulary.

I also watch for "tricks," such as Diana's use of onomatopoeia, imagery, personification, etc. All of these elements, and many more, make for some of the best reading today.

Karen Henry said...

Hi Merrymags:

Good to se you over here!

I agree 100% with your comment about "dumbing down". Diana's books have the opposite effect on me as a reader. I learn new things on every re-read (or "re-listen", as the case may be <g>). And I've found myself engaging in the sort of literary analysis on these books that I haven't done since college, looking for the deeper themes, the foreshadowing, the subtler shades of meaning that may be buried so deep that they aren't even visible until the umpteenth re-read. <g> It seems no matter how far I dig down into the deeper layers, there's still more to discover. And that never ceases to amaze me.


Karen Henry said...

Um, you'll forgive the typo in the first sentence of my reply to you, I hope? (Yes, I do know how to spell <wry g> but apparently I can't type on a Friday afternoon. <sigh>


Merrymags said...


I just got back from playing hooky -- went to lunch with a couple friends who also have autistic kids.

You do not have to apologize for misspellings or typos. You have proven yourself, beyond a doubt, to be intelligent, thoughtful, and in possession of cognitive functioning. I didn't even see the error until you pointed it out. : )


Anonymous said...

Hi Karen,

I agree with you! I love the new and interesting (to me) words Diana uses in her books. I often find I have to look up words in my dict. as well. I also enjoy reading (learning) about English words that really aren't in use any more,(like usury). As a nurse I watch for the words for diseases that are no longer in popular use, like apoplexy. I can't imagine that written in a chart!!

Who knew when I picked up Outlander in the library, it would have such a significant impact on me and future reading.

Anonymous said...

I also like to check out her lesser known words. I don't check as many as I should but the one that kept popping up that finally got me to grab my dictionary was "alacrity". She uses it often and I'd never heard it before.

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