Word of the Day: Nudnik

The Word of the Day today is nudnik. I discovered this word while reading Phillip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. I quote:

But above and beyond everything else, he had originally been drawn by her screwball expression; for no reason, Juliana greeted strangers with a portentous, nudnik, Mona Lisa smile that hung them up between responses, whether to say hello or not.

Dick uses the word as an adjective, although it appears to be a noun. That is neither here nor there.

The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle

According to Merriam-Webster, nudnik means “a person who is a bore or nuisance.”

I might use the word nudnik in a sentence like this:

A group of brainy nudniks beat my friends and I head-to-head on trivia night at Books and Brews, a local bar and restaurant.


Baron Samedi

Baron Samedi figures in the Haitian Voodoo religion. He is often depicted as having a skull-like face (or an actual skull for a head). He usually wears a top hat, dark glasses, and a black tuxedo. He may have plugs of cotton in his nostrils in imitation of a recently deceased person prepared for burial in the Haitian tradition. He is usually seen smoking a cigar and drinking from a glass full of rum. He is boisterous and depraved, fond of obscene language, yet provocative and charming.

Baron Samedi Alter

Baron Samedi is a Loa of the Voodoo religion. Loa are intermediaries between humanity and the great Voodoo god and Supreme Creator Bondye. Baron Samedi is the Loa of resurrection, and he is responsible for digging the graves of the recently departed and leading their souls to the underworld. As such, he also has the power to heal the sick.

Live and Let Die

I learned about Baron Samedi while reading the second James Bond novel, Live and Let Die, by Ian Fleming. In it, Mr. Big subjugates his minions by convincing them that he is a zombie controlled by Baron Samedi, played by Geoffrey Holder. It should be noted that the movie is a very loose adaptation of the novel. The movie wasn’t really very good. Do yourself a favor and read the novel! It’s an excellent read!

A quote from Live and Let Die:

“You start to die the moment you are born. The whole of life is cutting through the pack with death. So take it easy. Light a cigarette and be grateful you are still alive as you suck the smoke deep into your lungs. Your stars have already let you come quite a long way since you left your mother’s womb and whimpered at the cold air of the world.”


Quote From Of Mice and Men

I recently read Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. I rather enjoyed this short novel about two farm hands—Lennie, a huge overgrown bear of a man with the brain of a child, and George, his life-smart friend and caretaker—out to make a living on the farms of California during the Great Depression.

From Of Mice and Men:

Curley’s wife lay with a half-covering of yellow hay. And the meanness and the plannings and the discontent and the ache for attention were all gone from her face. She was pretty and simple, and her face was sweet and young. Now her rouged cheeks and her reddened lips made her seem alive and sleeping very lightly. The curls, tiny little sausages, were spread on the hay behind her head, and her lips were parted.

As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment.

Then gradually time awakened again and moved sluggishly on. The horses stamped on the other side of the feeding racks and the halter chains clinked. Outside, the men’s voices became louder and clearer.

At any rate, the preceding passage caught me. I think we’ve all experienced moments like these when time seems to slow to a stop. And then after a moment in eternity passes, the machinery of life seems to start back up again.

Interestingly, Steinbeck creates this moment when there is no living person in the scene. The POV is omniscient. It’s almost as if he’s directing a scene for a movie.


Jane Eyre Vocab & Quotes: Installment Five

This is the fifth installment of my longstanding series Jane Eyre Vocabulary & Quotes. So without further ado, let us begin!

halcyon: Of or relating to the halcyon (a bird identified with the kingfisher and held in ancient legend to nest at sea about the time of the winter solstice and to calm the waves during incubation) or its nesting period. Calm, peaceful, happy, golden.

I remember the halcyon days of my youth, when life was replete with love and romance.

appanage: A grant (as of land or revenue) made by a sovereign or a legislative body to a dependent member of the royal family or a principal vassal. A rightful endowment or adjunct.

The dilapidated tree-house was my sole appanage.

fillip: A blow or gesture made by the sudden forcible straightening of a finger curled up against the thumb. To strike or tap with a fillip.

Charley filliped his younger sister, Mary, which caused her to cry out and beseech her parents for redress.

lachrymose: Tending to cause tears. Tending to cry often.

Of late, Daniel was lachrymose, perhaps because of the sudden and unforeseen demise of his pet gerbil, Ivan.

incubus: An evil spirit that lies on persons in their sleep, especially one that has sexual intercourse with women while they are sleeping. One that oppresses or burdens like a nightmare.

Elizabeth accused Bartholomew of being an incubus, which caused him to smile wryly and lick his lips.

Well, that’s all for now. Feel free to comment on this post with your own sentences from the words above. I’ll leave you with a quote from Jane Eyre:

“… Do you never laugh, Miss Eyre? Don’t trouble yourself to answer—I see, you laugh rarely; but you can laugh very merrily: believe me, you are not naturally austere, any more than I am naturally vicious. The Lowood constraint still clings to you somewhat; controlling your features, muffling your voice, and restricting your limbs; and you fear in the presence of a man and a brother—or father, or master, or what you will—to smile too gaily, speak too freely, or move too quickly: but, in time, I think you will learn to be natural with me, as I find it impossible to be conventional with you; and then your looks and movements will have more vivacity and variety than they dare offer now.”


Jane Eyre Vocab & Quotes: Installment Four

This is the fourth installment of my longstanding series Jane Eyre Vocabulary & Quotes. So without further ado, let us begin!

lugubrious: Full of sadness or sorrow, especially in an exaggerated or insincere way.

Mr. Underwood lugubriously recounted the passing of his pet Guinea Pig, Fluffums.

etiolate: To bleach and alter the natural development of (a green plant) by excluding sunlight. To make pale.

She stood motionless, like a marble statue, her etiolated limbs drained of blood despite the furious pumping of her heart, as the Tarantula inched its way across her foot.

habergeon: A medieval jacket of mail shorter than a hauberk.

Todd donned the Habergeon of Virginal Perpetuity before embarking upon his quest to claim the Throne of Nerdia.

subjoin: Annex or append.

Subjoining caramel frosting to the chocolate cakes was the confectioner’s secret.

welkin: The vault of the sky (firmament). The celestial abode of God or the gods.

Herman walked alone and desolated under the city’s foreboding welkin of clouded chrome.

Well, that’s all for now. Feel free to comment on this post with your own sentences from the words above. I’ll leave you with a quote from Jane Eyre:

Know, that in the course of your future life you will often find yourself elected the involuntary confidant of your acquaintances’ secrets: people will instinctively find out, as I have done, that it is not your forte to tell of yourself, but to listen while others talk of themselves; they will feel, too, that you listen with no malevolent scorn of their indiscretion, but with a kind of innate sympathy; not the less comforting and encouraging because it is very unobtrusive in its manifestations.

Me: This passage reminds me very much of the beginning of The Great Gatsby when Fitzgerald made Nick ruminate thusly: “…I’m inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of the confidences were unsought — frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon; for the intimate revelations of young men, or at least the terms in which they express them, are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions. Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope.”


Jane Eyre Vocab & Quotes (3rd Post)

This is the third installment of my longstanding series Jane Eyre Vocabulary & Quotes. So without further ado, let us begin!

merino: any of a breed of fine-wooled white sheep originating in Spain and producing a heavy fleece of exceptional quality. A soft wool or wool and cotton clothing fabric resembling cashmere. [I suppose the wool from a Merino sheep might be assumed.]

Betty’s merino coat was ruined when a hapless construction worker accidentally spilled upon it a quart of crimson dye.

Merino Sheep

hoary: very old. Having gray or white hair.

The malodor of the hoary homeless gentleman accosted Wilbur’s nose as he ambled passed the park bench.

sere: being dried and withered.

Matthew crawled upon his hands and knees, exhausted and close to death, surrounded on all sides by the sere and unforgiving landscape.

rookery: the nests or breeding place of a colony of rooks [a type of crow]; also, a colony of rooks. A crowded dilapidated tenement or group of dwellings.

The birds fluttered about Mrs. Fairfax’ head amidst her futile flailing and her repeated oaths never to enter the rookery again.

cuirass: a piece of armor covering the body from neck to waist; also, the breastplate of such a piece .

Bob donned the medieval cuirass and thought himself a valiant knight in front of his full-length closet mirror.

Well, that’s all for now. Feel free to comment on this post with your own sentences from the words above. I’ll leave you with a quote from Jane Eyre:

It is vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it … Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.

Me: It’s amazing that Bronte’s sentiment has yet still to be embraced by the whole of humanity. How long have we yet to travel along the winding road of evolution.


Jane Eyre Vocab & Quotes (2nd Post)

This is the second installment of my longstanding series Jane Eyre Vocabulary & Quotes. So without further ado, let us begin!

moiety: one of two equal parts. HALF. One of the portions into which something is divided. COMPONENT. PART.

Jim Bob demanded a liberal moiety of the remaining contents of the whiskey bottle, lest the situation devolve to fisticuffs.

officious: used to describe an annoying person who tries to tell other people what to do in a way that is not wanted or needed.

The officious secretary announced through a critically designated e-mail that the length of all lunches for the remainder of the week should be kept to under an hour.

ireful: the quality or state of intense and usually openly displayed anger.

Gary’s ireful remonstrance of the absence of a wireless connection to the Internet in his hotel room was met with bored ambivalence.

sough: to make a moaning or sighing sound.

The low, plaintive soughing of a doleful lover could be heard from the drawing-room.

cachinnate: to laugh loudly or immoderately.

Upon observing Todd slipping on the icy pavement and falling flat on his face, Sally cachinnated remorselessly.

Well, that’s all for now. Feel free to comment on this post with your own sentences from the words above. I’ll leave you with a quote from Jane Eyre:

I did not like re-entering Thornfield … to slip again over my faculties the viewless fetters of an uniform and too still existence; of an existence whose very privileges of security and ease I was becoming incapable of appreciating. What good it would have done me at this time to have been tossed in the storms of an uncertain struggling life, and to have been taught by rough and bitter experience to long for the calm amidst which I now repined!


Jane Eyre Vocabulary (First Installment)

I’m reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. It was first published in 1847 under the pseudonym Currer Bell. The novel recounts the life of Jane Eyre, an orphan that grows up in a boarding school, suffering many injustices along the way, and eventually becomes a governess later in life.

This book is chock-full of abstruse (for me, at any rate) words. I thought I’d document my journey through the book and its formidable vocabulary in my blog.

So, without further ado …

phylactery: either of two small square leather boxes containing slips inscribed with scriptural passages and traditionally worn on the left arm and on the head by observant Jewish men and especially adherents of Orthodox Judaism during morning weekday prayers. AMULET.

I stole David’s phylactery and put it on my kitty’s head.

slatternly: untidy and dirty through habitual neglect. CARELESS. DISORDERLY.

My slatternly habits were disapprovingly scrutinized by my girlfriend.

assiduity: the quality or state of being assiduous (duh). DILIGENCE.

The student applied himself with heroic assiduity to his studies.

mien: a person’s appearance or facial expression.

The wanderer’s somber mien belied his kindness and generosity.

imputation: attribution. Accusation. Insinuation.

The judge’s imputation cut deep the criminal’s guilty heart.

hebdomadal: weekly.

I fervently looked forward to our clandestine hebdomadal meetings in the Garden of Much Zen.

Well, that’s all for now. Feel free to comment on this post with your own sentences from the words above. I’ll leave you with a quote from Jane Eyre:

It is far better to endure patiently a smart which nobody feels but yourself, than to commit a hasty action whose evil consequences will extend to all connected with you; and besides, the Bible bids us return good for evil.


Ice Bucket, Needle, Garage

The world was black and closed. The curtains were drawn. Rod did not know if it was day or night, whether the sun or moon shone, or if clouds filled the sky. He didn’t want to know. He didn’t want to care. A gnawing rot of hate burned a hole in his belly. It was the only thing he could feel or cared about.

He sat upright on the edge of the bed. He dabbed a needle in an ink-filled Mason’s jar lid on the bedside table and poked his forearm. He winced. The tiny wound swelled slightly. He had filled a bucket with ice. When he was done, he would use the ice to reduce the swelling. He poked himself again. He looked at the ragged visage in the mirror across his hotel room and breathed deep the frozen air-conditioned air. This is going to take a while. He put the needle down and picked up the smoldering cigarette cradled in a glass ashtray and sucked on it until there was no tobacco left to burn. Back to work. Poke. Poke. Poke …

He wouldn’t forget her name. He was etching it on his skin. Maria. Maria. Maria, why didn’t I see it coming? Her suffocating death at the hands of his partner. His big calloused hands like a vise around her swollen purple neck. It seemed predestined now. How could it have unfolded otherwise? God drew it up just so on his fucking black board. Why didn’t he read it? Why did he choose not to read it? It wouldn’t have mattered, anyway. He would’ve been powerless in the face of the ugly mudslide of events.

He thought back. When was it? Two, maybe three days ago. It was hard to know. A drop under High Bridge. Four bricks of coke. It should’ve just been Rod and Jelly, but Maria always wanted to tag along. She didn’t have to, but she always did. It had been that way for a month or more. Jelly didn’t like it, but Rod made the rules. Rod was the smart one. Jelly was his partner because he was the biggest, meanest motherfucker the boss could find.

He remembered that night in Jelly’s garage. Maria was high on ice and shaking. Worse than usual, but she never interfered. Just sat in the back of Jelly’s car and scratched her skin until it bled. They drove an hour or so to the bridge. Nobody said anything. Just the city, a radio sax, and white static.

But the drop went bad. The mark didn’t have the money. He brought big guns and some friends instead. Shots were fired that cracked the hum of the of the highway overhead. Boom, boom, boom. Jelly caught a bullet in his arm but had the sense to gun the car. The tires spewed dirt and gravel into the air. The mark lost them as the black muscle car fishtailed and rocketed away.

Then the stupidest thing happened.

Maria grabbed one of the bricks and threw it out the window. What in the hell was she thinking? Maybe she was scared. Maybe in her doped-up brain she thought she was helping out. But there was no way in hell they could go back and get it. Free coke for a crooked mark. Jelly went berserk, twisted in the driver’s seat while the car sped on a wide city street, caught Maria by the neck with both hands and squeezed the life out of her. Rod punched him in the head like a furious automatic, but the blows bounced off him as if he were made of granite.

The rest of the night tumbled out of the car like a fractured nightmare. Rod hadn’t seen Jelly since. But he would find him. And he would kill him.


Balloon, Orange Juice, Tape Recorder

Dominique Manfredi sat outside at a corner table at The White Peacock Café. He had just ordered two eggs (sunny side up), toast with raspberry marmalade, espresso, and a half-glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. It was just after ten in the morning on yet another perfect day in sunny Hollywood, California.

He was anxious. A looming deadline haunted him. In two days, the screenplay he had spent the past two months pouring himself into was due. Galaxy Studios wouldn’t tolerate another delay, and Dominique desperately needed the cash the finished screenplay would bring. His brainchild and labor of love, An Heiress’ Son, was nearly complete. In fact, he was up late the evening before crafting the final scene. However, he felt it lacked something‒a certain nuance he couldn’t quite put his finger on.

He pressed the red button on his portable voice recorder. The tape was nearly full. He intoned thoughtfully, “Idea. The boy walks away, down a long dark alleyway, having seen his mother for the last time. He sobs. The sun falls behind the skyscrapers that loom over him like frozen granite monsters. It starts to rain.”

It didn’t feel right. Something was missing.

Dominique set the recorder down and sipped his espresso. He observed the wake of bobbing heads of passing pedestrians‒tourists, stars-to-be, locals‒drift by in an orderly chaos with a rhythm all its own.

He saw a boy with a blue, helium-filled balloon. It buffeted on the air a couple feet above his head as he happily skipped by without a care in the world. As he passed Dominique, he tripped and fell, and the balloon sailed up and away, free from its master, to God knows where. The boy cried plaintively, beseeching Dominique with tear-filled eyes to do something. Anything.

Dominique was at a loss.

“Sorry, kid. It’s gone.”

The boy sobbed and walked away. Dominique watched him recede into the crowded street. He gulped the last of his orange juice and pressed the red button on his voice recorder yet again. “Idea. The heiress gives her son a blue balloon, an unsatisfactory parting gift. It does nothing to soothe the boy’s broken heart, but the heiress appears unconcerned. He cries. She dispassionately strokes his hair and walks quickly away. He walks into the alleyway, head bowed, and lets the balloon go. The camera follows the balloon up into the sunset. It drifts out of view.

Dominique paid his check, walked home, and fell quickly asleep.