Chary of Peripety and Thaumaturgy

The picture is a little fuzzy -- as is my mind.There is a reason why The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers isn’t more widely read.  It’s because of words like chary and peripety and thaumaturgy, all of which were found on the same page in my version of the book as I was reading this morning.  Yes, they are English words.

When I was in college, I read with a dictionary.  I had a little pocket dictionary that I carried in my bag.  I had a bigger dictionary in my dorm room.  (One of my father’s prized possessions is a dictionary given to him when he went to college, so he gave one to me when I went.)  Now I have multiple dictionaries around the house, little ones, big ones, paperback, hardback, electronic — we’ve got them all.

And what do I usually use now?  The internet.

My father also told me to use a new word ten times to make it mine.  I am more than a little chary of this advice while blogging.

Definition of CHARY

1. dear, treasured

2. discreetly cautious: as hesitant and vigilant about dangers and risks

Certainly there are dangers and risks involved in using words such as these.  Will I frighten off some of my younger readers?  I really don’t want a peripety with Hot Dogs and Marmalade.

Definition of PERIPETY


Definition of PERIPETEIA

: a sudden or unexpected reversal of circumstances or situation especially in a literary work

This blog is chugging along quite well, thank you, and I’m not sure I want a sudden reversal of circumstance in one direction or another.  It feels safe the way it is.

And yet, there is that longing within each of us for a little thaumaturgy.

Definition of THAUMATURGY

: the performance of miracles; specifically: magic

Isn’t that why we read anything in the first place?  We want to be transported, enlightened, challenged, encouraged.  We all want a little magic in our lives.  Just waking up in the morning isn’t miracle enough — we seek something more.

The way I figure it, I’m 10% of the way to owning those words.

Tim Gunn, the fashion guru, said,

Few activities are as delightful as learning new vocabulary.

But then, Stephen King, an incredibly talented and successful writer said,

One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed.

Don’t you find it funny that the fashion designer talks about words and the writer talks about fashion?

I guess I’ll just be chary of overusing big words.

4 thoughts on “Chary of Peripety and Thaumaturgy

  1. This is so great. We’re reading The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge with the kids. I’ve ended up keeping our Webster’s 1828 dictionary close by – every single day, we look up at least one word (then try to use it in the following days). So many words, so little time…

    • I just looked up Elizabeth Goudge and saw that J K Rowlings said The Little White Horse was one of her favorite books. A long time ago I had read that The Treasure Seekers by Edith Nesbit was one of Rowlings favorite children’s books and had read that one to my kids. Maybe I’ll have to check out The Little White Horse.

      • We are huge Nesbit fans as well. Everyone should read “The Enchanted Castle” – Buechner even makes reference to some of the characters in it in some of his writings, and Lewis as well (striking similarities between Enchanted Castle and The Chronicles of Narnia). So wonderful.

  2. It is more than a little annoying when I am reading along, in normal, everyday English and a mysterious word pops up. I know the writer is just trying to sound more knowledgeable or something, but if the entire work is not written that way, the poor word is really the odd man out and the writer appears more foolish as opposed to brilliant.

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