Vocabulary From Books, #2: The Paula Edition

Sunday Tomes and Tea - Paula

Last week, when I reviewed Paula, I left out the part where it was the most challenging book, vocabulary-wise, I’ve read since I committed to looking up unfamiliar words. In the first ten pages alone, I had to look up three–and having to stop so often was breaking my flow, so I rummaged in my craft box where I thought I had some tabs. I did! Once I started marking sentences, I could look up several at once instead.

Paula gave me a record-shattering seventeen new words. (The previous title-holder appears to be Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin with five.)

My hat’s off to both Isabel Allende and the translator, Margaret Sayers Peden, for the astounding range of words I got to learn.

Some few irascible types died frothing at the mouth, although the cause may not have been rage, as evil tongues had it, but rather, some local pestilence.

irascible: having or showing a tendency to be easily angered

By then the name Salvador Allende, the founder of Chile’s Socialist Party, was being bruited about.

bruit: to spread (a report or rumor) widely

In appreciation, one of them, a furrier by trade, gave Memé a luxurious coat of gray astrakhan.

astrakhan: the tightly curled fleece of the fetal or newborn karakul lamb

Crossing the cordillera of the Andes is engraved in my soul as one of the true epiphanies of my existence.

cordillera: a system of mountain ranges often consisting of a number of more or less parallel chains

I had never experienced anything similar with my grandfather, or any other member of family, all of whom believed that paucity is a blessing and avarice a virtue.

paucity: a smallness of number or quantity

Memé’s ghost was lost in the gelid crannies of a house built for summer pleasure, not winter wind and rain.

gelid: icy; extremely cold

When my grandfather had made the last repairs on the house and tired of fighting the ineluctable erosion on the hill and the plagues of ants, roaches, and mice, a year had gone by and solitude had embittered him.

ineluctable: unable to be resisted or avoided; inescapable

He bought the gin at a corner liquor store whose proprietress often disturbed the sleep of that concupiscent patriarch.

concupiscent: filled with sexual desire; lustful

A glacial silence greeted my peroration.

peroration: the concluding part of a speech, typically intended to inspire enthusiasm in the audience

From the first issue, the magazine provoked heated polemics.

polemic: a strong verbal or written attack on something or someone

The country seemed nearly out of control, and Salvador Allende announced a plebiscite that would allow the voters to decide whether he should continue governing or resign and call new elections.

plebiscite: the direct vote of all the members of an electorate on an important public question, such as a change to the constitution

She listened quietly to my disquisition, from time to time casting an eloquent glance out of the corner of her eye.

disquisition: a long or elaborate essay or discussion on a particular subject

Celia learn to flagellate herself and wear a cilice with metal barbs made by La Candelaria nuns, disciplining herself out of love for her Creator and paying for sings, her own and those of others.

cilice: a hair shirt

Bomber planes flew like fatidic birds over the Palacio de La Moneda, dropping their bombs with such precision that they exploded through windows and in less than ten minutes set ablaze an entire wing of the building, while tanks lobbed tear gas canisters from the street.

fatidic: of or relating to prophecy

I had come from winter, the petrifying order of the dictatorship, and widespread poverty to a hot and anarchical country in the midst of a petroleum boom, an oil-rich society in which profligacy reached absurd limits: everything was flown in from Miami, even bread and eggs, because it was easier to import than to produce them.

profligacy: 1) reckless extravagance or wastefulness in the use of resources; 2) licentious or dissolute behavior

In the afternoons, this ironic grandmother sits down with her knitting beside her granddaughter’s bed and talks to her with not thought for the sidereal silence into which her words fall.

sidereal: of or with respect to the distant stars (i.e., the constellations or fixed stars, not the sun or planets)

On a shelf I saw ugly crystal and porcelain bibelots but almost no furniture, except in the dining room.

bibelot: a small object of curiosity, beauty, or rarity; a trinket


As always, have fun reading and keep looking up those unknown words!

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