A few months ago, Writer Unboxed had a discussion on the advisability or not of creating names and languages in fantasy. There’s no doubt that Tolkein was the master. But I have put more fantasies by other authors back on the shop-shelves than I have bought, simply because many of the names and languages read like a Scrabble box of letters. My feeling for what it is worth is that the English language, ancient and modern, has a mammoth reservoir of words into which one can delve. In addition, if a fantasy author chooses to model parts of their world on a specific culture, I feel it’s more than okay to pilfer the odd foreign word and use it for one’s own needs. As a reader though, I need to be able to roll words around like a lozenge and taste them. It’s an idiosyncracy and one I use in my own writing.
Sometime ago, whilst reading Cecilia Dart Thornton’s Bitterbynde Saga, a novel heavily steeped in the mists of ancient England, I wrote a list of 100 words that I had never seen before. There were words like shabrack and purpurin, crispate and pipkins, qincunx and contumely. And others as wonderfully rare, like chatoyant and chaperon, crepitated and cromlech. It took me a couple of hours with the OED and I felt I had discovered some priceless gem, maybe it was even sidereal and fimbrilated it was so rare.
So I have this collection of wordiness which rarely fits into anything I am writing, but which like some collector’s piece, is fine and precious and becomes more valuable by the day. In its honour, I am offering my word of the day . . . gallimaufry . . . roll that round your mouth and then go look it up and give me a beautiful word back if you like.
To finish I am offering up a minikin poem spoken by Gallivant the Hob to Adelina the embroiderer and which is from another list of favourite words. The poem is from the text of The Shifu Cloth, currently in draft and waiting to be polished until it has a chatoyant and sidereal lustre:
‘Damask, brocade and velv-et,
Bombazine, lutestring and scar-let,
Samite, cambric and sarsen-et,
Buckram, muslim and felt . . . et.’
By the way, the link for the delicious illustration of Ireland comes from: