I’m still working through James Joyces’ Dubliners, as annotated by John Wyse Jackson and Bernard McGinley. It’s due today and I have it out on Inter-Library Loan, so I need to finish this! I still have the last and longest story left, “The Dead,” but I read it once for a class, so maybe it will come back to me.
The first word for this week, barmbracks, comes from “Clay:”
The fire was nice and bright and on one of the side-tables were four very big barmbracks.
From the annotations:
barmbracks: A corruption of the Irish báirín breac, ‘speckled loaf’, and usually spelt as two words. Barm brack is a brown fruit loaf, still common in Ireland at Halloween. Typically it contains a ring and sometimes money and other trinkets of augury. Other things too, it seems: the Irish Homestead for Halloween 1904 accused bakers of using their ‘sweepings’ as flour for bracks, and the occasional ‘beetle as a plump raisin.’
I’m hoping that last bit is along the lines of our April Fool’s jokes and not meant to go so far as someone actually eating it.
The next word, astrakhan, is from “A Painful Case” in a passage describing the gaze of a woman who has revealed, perhaps, too much:
The pupil reasserted itself quickly, this half-disclosed nature fell again under the reign of prudence, and her astrakhan jacket, moulding a bosom of a certain fulness, struck the note of defiance more definitely.
No help from the notes here. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary says astrakhan is “a cloth with a usually wool, curled, and looped pile resembling karakul” and karakul is a breed of sheep with dark fur. Both words are also place names in Russia. From searching on the web, this seems to be a fur product (i.e. it’s not wool, the sheep provided its pelt). But there are plenty of faux versions. Here’s a photo from the PerfectlyVintaged shop on Etsy.
My final word is rectitude, also from “A Painful Case.”
He gnawed the rectitude of his life; he felt that he had been outcast from life’s feast.
Even not knowing what the word means, that’s a beautifully crafted sentence. The notes helped here:
Though ‘rectitude’ connotes propriety, its literal meaning is also ‘rigidity’. Rightness is uprightness.
In the context of the story, that’s the perfect word.
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.”