Unapologetically Verbose – March

Once upon a time there was a story…but not that kind of story. A story which promises to teach you at least 365 of the most intriguing words in the English language, and will perhaps provide an enjoyable repose for you at the same time. A story which will unfold month by month, with each excerpt containing all of the word-of-the-day entries for that month, as depicted in my very well-favoured Word of The Day calendar. The particular words are referenced with footnotes (and if you click the footnote you’ll be able to jump straight to the definition at the the bottom of the article; then click the definition to jump straight back up the relevant part in the main text.) Read these words, learn them, use them; they’re all wonderful.

Then come to love the story, and follow it each month. I don’t know exactly where it’s going, but I do know that it’s going to be special.


Here’s March…

Charlie Whittaker’s life was once firmly situated somewhere right between the spectacular and the atrocious. Somewhere otherwise known as ordinary. Mediocre.
He was an only child, who grew up in a small house with his parents, who went to a public school.
Nothing was exceptional.
Until it was.
Until one vicissitude [1] altered everything he had ever known, with his once ordinary world becoming kaput [2] in an instant.

He never expected to attend his mother’s funeral before he’d even finished High School, he never expected to watch her coffin descend into the ground before she’d even seen him grow up. He thought she would be old and grey and knitting in a rocking chair until he was well beyond the folds of middle age, but her life had sadly been truncated[3], and all that got left behind her was a desperate wreck of a family filled with memories of how it used to be.

Charlie was strong through his sadness, but his father’s head quickly become an imbroglio [4] from which he could not escape. He numbed the pain with alcohol, sipping slowly at first but soon developed an insatiable thirst which no amount of unlabelled whiskey could quench. The effects of it were increasingly caustic, [5] with him spiralling further down the path of self-destruction with the emptying of each bottle. Before long the substance had eroded every ounce of human sentiment that once resided in his heart, leaving behind a cruel monster who violently resented Charlie for bearing such a striking resemblance to his mother. He despised the way his eyes once belonged to her, it was nothing but a constant reminder of everything he had lost.

So Charlie did the only thing he could do…he ran away. Away from what was left of his home, away from what was left of his father, and away from what was left of his desolate [6] life.

He headed for London but he knew from the very beginning he didn’t want to stay there for longer than necessary. For him London was nothing but a smorgasbord [7] of sin and corruption, with embezzlement, [8] adultery and mindless consumerism the backbone of its strategy. He didn’t dream of existing in a place like that. Instead he dreamt of going some place simple. Some place where he wouldn’t have to worry about surviving in a city of venality, where he could be with people who cared about more important things that having a tonne of newfangled [9] material possessions they didn’t need. No, he wanted to go some place where his only concern would be not getting trampled by a pachyderm. [10] In fact he wanted to go to a lot of places like that. He didn’t want to settle for calling one place home, he’d given up on the ideal of home a long time ago. Instead he wanted to be an interloper, [11] who migrated from one country to the next with the same ease that other people would journey to and from work.

But before he could do that he needed money, which meant the first thing he needed was a job.

He met Edwin in an old run down pub far beyond the boundaries of the city. Charlie didn’t favour the choice of venue, but he liked that Edwin’s job advertisement had been printed in the newspaper. Nobody seemed to do that anymore.
Edwin explained that he had never been anything other than an electrician. He was never a husband, a father or even a brother – he’d always just been an electrician. When he entered the later years of his life his fragile hands had started to lack the prestidigitation [12] they required, and his cataracts [13] clouded more of his vision every day. Since he had no progeny [14] of his own he needed to advertise for help.

He liked Charlie immediately. He saw something in him that reminded him of himself. He envisioned Charlie as a journeyman, [15] whom he could teach the trade just like his antecessor [16] had taught him. Charlie didn’t bother to explain that he only wanted the work until he’d saved enough money to leave indefinitely, he didn’t think Edwin needed to know that part.

From the very beginning they worked together in a most harmonious fashion. Charlie had both an unprecedented intellect and a keen eye for minutia, [17] which meant he learned the skill quickly. Edwin soon trusted his ability to figure out even the most complicated of systems, so when he received the call from Freeman Manor he did not anticipate anything beyond the successful completion of an ordinary job.

Of course Freeman Manor was never going to be a completely ordinary job. It was too grand to be entirely ordinary, and there was usually a phalanx [18] of people observing their every move as soon as they arrived on the premises.
But that afternoon was a little different.
The Freeman family were busy preparing for one of their usual shindigs, [19] so Edwin and Charlie were left unsupervised to fix the problem.

Edwin started by sending Charlie to the cellar to examine the circuits. They were complicated, and far exceeded the scale of anything he had seen before, but he was confident that he had enough empirical [20] understanding to rectify the fault. He just had to examine it for a moment first.

“Do you really have to fix that?”

The girls voice came out of nowhere to startle Charlie. He turned around to see who was observing him and became quite sure he had no idea who the girl was, but even more sure that she was the very apex [21] of beauty.

His natural instinct was to be obsequious, [22] and adulate [23] her beyond compare, but he knew that if he did anything of the sort she would write him off as another helpless space cadet. [24] He knew with this girl he had to be a little different, and perhaps slightly aloof. Admirers surely flocked around her quite frequently, so he needed to find the mot juste [25] that would give him an impressive distinction.

But he didn’t have anything.
He was rendered speechless by the very presence of her, just thinking how the silence coming from him was sure to be damaging.

Luckily for him, she flourished in silence. She’d always been known for being a master raconteur [26]– with a talent to transform even the most mundane of stories into a captivating, outlandish [27] saga. [28]

She told him about the parties her family were famous for, going to great length to explain her ardent disapproval of them. She compared herself to a butterfly trapped inside an elaborate cage, and described how she waited for the day she could fly away from her beautiful prison. It was everything he never expected to hear from a girl in her well-favoured position; it was honest. At the same time she made all of the words sparkle, and somehow had a way of making him feel impossibly nervous and comfortable all at once.

When she stopped talking she smiled at him. He had already fallen in love with the way she spoke, but in that exact [29] moment – with that most beautiful of smiles – he became alarmingly aware of the incorrigible [30] infatuation he had for her.
Nothing was ever going to be the same again.

Yet at the same time he knew it would never be acceptable. Her parents would never approve of him, they would cleave [31] the two of them apart by any means necessary. In no uncertain terms would they ever consider letting a guy like him be near a girl like her.
But he knew he had to try.

(You can navigate to the previous parts of the story by clicking here.)

Vicissitude – An unexpected change or fluctuation. A difficulty or hardship usually beyond one’s control.

Kaput – Utterly finished, defeated or destroyed. Unable to function. Hopelessly out moded.

Truncate – To shorten by cutting off.

Imbroglio – Confused mass. Complicated situation. A Painful or embarrassing misunderstanding.

Caustic – Capable of destroying or eating away by chemical action: corrosive. Marked by incisive sarcasm.

Desolate – Deserted, abandoned. Forsaken, lonely. Dilapidated. Barren, lifeless. Cheerless, gloomy.

Smorgasbord – A luncheon or supper buffet offering a variety of foods and dishes. An often large heterogeneous mixture.

Embezzle – To appropriate (as property entrusted to one’s care) fraudulently to one’s own use.

Newfangled – Attracted to novelty. Of the newest style or kind.

Pachyderm – Any of various nonruminant mammals that have hooves or nails resembling hooves and usually thick skin.

Interloper – One that intrudes in a place or sphere of activity.

Prestidigitation – Sleight of hand, legerdemain.

Cataract – A clouding of the lens of the eye that obstructs the passage of light. Waterfall. Downpour, flood.

Progeny – Descendants, children. Offspring of animals or plants. Outcome, product. A body of followers, disciples or successors.
Journeyman – A worker who has learned the trade and works for another person. An experienced reliable worker, athlete, or performer.

Antecessor – One that goes before.

Minutia – Minute or minor detail.

Phalanx – A body of troops in close array. A digital bone in the hand or foot. A massed arrangement of persons, animals, or things.

Shindig – A social gathering with dancing. Usually large or lavish party. Fracas, uproar.

Empirical – Based on testing or experience.

Apex – The uppermost point: vertex. The narrowed or pointed end: tip. The highest or culminating point.

Obsequious – Marked by or exhibiting a fawning attentiveness.

Adulate – To flatter or admire excessively or slavishly.

Space cadet – A Flaky, light headed, or forgetful person.

Mot juste – The exactly right word or phrasing.

Raconteur – A person who excels in telling anecdotes.

Outlandish – Of or relating to another country. Out of the ordinary: bizarre. Exceeding proper or reasonable limits or standards.

Saga – A tale of figures and events of Norway and Iceland from history or legend. A story of heroic deeds. A long detailed account.

Exact – To call for forcibly or urgently and obtain. To call for as necessary or desirable.

Incorrigible – Incapable of being corrected, amended or reformed. Unruly. Unalterable, inveterate.

Cleave – To divide by force: split. To separate into distinct parts and especially into groups having divergent views. To penetrate or pass through something.