For those of you curious about my source of new words last week, Oscar Wilde’s children’s stories, I posted a review of that book on Sunday: Book Review: Stories for Children by Oscar Wilde and a Wilde visit to St. Louis.
This week’s words come from another Irish writer, James Joyce. I’m reading James Joyce’s Dubliners as annotated by John Wyse Jackson, the lecturer that I heard last week talking about Oscar Wilde. So far, I’ve only completed the first three stories. Each of these features a youthful protagonist with a precocious, according to the annotations, vocabulary.
From “The Sisters” on page 2, my new words are gnomon and simony:
Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis. It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word gnomon in the Euclid and the word simony in the Catechism.
According to the notes, here is the definition of gnomon:
The word ‘gnomon’, which is linked with gnosticism, has several related meanings. It is an interpreter or indicator (particularly of a sundial), a t-square as used by masons and carpenters, and jocularly, ‘the nose’. Gnomons are also the (large, yellow) teeth of a horse, used to tell its age. In geometry, a gnomon is the part of a parallelogram (or any rectangle) which remains after a similar parallelogram is taken away from one of its corners. (The idea is therefore analagous to a community or family after the death of one of its members.)
I love that I now know what that part of a sundial is called and I may have opportunity to use that word today since we will be walking at the Missouri Botanical Garden and will pass a sundial. I didn’t fully understand the geometric aspect of gnomons until I read the page from Dr. Philip J. Owens of Austin Community College: 9.3 Gnomons or … It’s a great little piece with pictures and references to Aristotle, so interesting and useful even if you don’t work through all of the math.
Okay. That was long. I’ll save simony for next week!
Wondrous Words Wednesday is hosted by Bermudaonion’s Weblog. Kathy says: “Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading.”