Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Vocabulary in Borges' Labyrinths

I decided this needed its own spot. Here are the words I'm looking up as I read Borges' Labyrinths. Most are words I've never heard or never known, though some I've known or looked up in the past but forget.

Nina thinks he's using words just to use words - I'm not sure if it's Borges or the translator. I appreciate his use of language, but I'm not sure why. In some instances I think she's right.

Ursprache: A proto- or root language, from ur- and the German sprache.
apotheosis: The highest point in the development of something; culmination.
proconsul: A governor of a province in ancient Rome.
palimpsest: A writing material that has had the original writing erased in order to use it again.
propitious: Giving or indicating a good chance of success; favorable.
numina: Deities
lustra: 5-year periods
vade mecum: A handbook carried for constant use.
deleble: Delible, able to be erased; I think it went untranslated from Spanish, as it's an obsolete spelling.
ab aeterno: From time immemorial. 
Basilides: An early Gnostic religious teacher in Egypt.
dithyramb: A wild choral hymn of ancient Greece, or any passionate writing.
perspicuous: Clearly expressed and easily understood.
apodictic: Clearly established or beyond dispute.
Tetragrammaton: The Hebrew name of God transliterated in four letters as YHWH or JHVH and articulated as Yahweh or Jehovah.
Pentateuch: The first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).
cosmorama: An exhibition of perspective pictures of different places in the world, usually world landmarks.
crapulous: Of or relating to the drinking of alcohol or drunkenness.
oriel: A projection from the wall of a building, typically supported from the ground or by corbels.
vespers: A service of evening prayer in churches.
essaying: Trying or attempting.
condign: Appropriate or fitting/deserved.
conventicle: A secret or unlawful religious meeting.
cosmogonic: Story of the origin of the world.
perdurable: Permanent, imperishable.
exiguous: Meager, small.
nitid: Bright, lustrous.
astragals: A small semicircular molding around the top or bottom of a column.
pullulate: Breed or spread so as to become extremely common.
hypogea: Underground chambers.
vituperated: Used harsh language towards.
impugn: Criticize as false.
solecism: A grammatical mistake; a breach of good manners; a piece of incorrect behaviour.
theriaca: Medical concoction; panacea. (In this case an antidote to venom of The Serpent.)
fulminate: Express vehement protest.
adduce: Cite as evidence.
guerdon: A reward or recompense.
fustigate: Criticize severely; hit with a cudgel.
veronal: A barbital-based sleeping aid.
misanthropy: Dislike or hatred of mankind.
stylobate: The base of a colonnade.
teleology: The doctrine of design and purpose in the material world.
philology: The study of texts and their meaning.
apostrophe: A digression addressing someone not present.
pathetic (see note 1): Arousing pity, esp. through vulnerability or sadness; relating to the emotions.
exigent: Demanding, pressing.
appurtenance: Accessories; subordinate things.
subtilize: Elevate; sharpen.
lozenge (see note 2): A diamond or square shape.
sheave: A pulley.
concatenation: A group of things linked together (like a chain).
permute (see note 3): Submit to a process of alteration.
exegetical: Critical explanation or interpretation of a text, esp. of scripture.
propension: Propensity (archaic).
lapidary: Engraved on or suitable for engraving on stone and therefore elegant and concise.
educe: Bring out or develop (something latent or potential); infer (something) from data.


1. Borges (or the translator) uses pathetic quite often, and at times not really in a derisory fashion. As with apostrophe, I wondered if there wasn't a different meaning that we don't generally use.

2. This meaning is archaic - the shift to mean candy started in the 16th century, when it meant a square cake.

3. I'm not sure this is a correct translation, and yes, I know how presumptuous that is.

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