Wednesday 12 June 2013

Wondrous Words Wednesday - Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a lovely meme hosted by Bermuda Onion each week to highlight new (to us) words that we come across in our daily reading.

This week I'm rereading Tess for the Classics Club Spin.

I'd forgotten how angry this book makes me feel. Tess' neglectful, selfish parents and the manipulative D'Urberville just do my head in! I wish I could go back in literary time somehow to protect her.

I've just started the 'second phase - maiden no more' which means I will have to get a wriggle on to finish Tess by the end of the month. (I blame Barbara Pym - see previous posts)!

But for now here are a few puzzling words from the 'first phase - the maiden'.

1. Cerealia - "The club of Marlott alone lived to uphold the local Cerealia."

Definition - The Cerealia is the celebration of the Goddess Ceres, Goddess of grains and cereal crops. It lasts for eight days. In the countryside, people offer milk, honey, and wine on the Cerealia (particularly the final day), after bearing them thrice around the fields.
The Cerealia is traditionally held most dear by persons of the Plebeian class; this association stems from the struggles of the orders.

2. factotum - "This was the cheerful servant of the establishment, who, in her part of factotum, turned groom and ostler at times."

Definition - a general servant or a person having many diverse activities or responsibilities. The word derives from the Latin command (imperative construction) fac totum ("do/make everything").

3. clipsing and colling - "Tis melancholy work facing and footing it to one of your own sort, and no clipsing and colling at all."

Definition - embracing

4. mampus - "No doubt a mampus of volk of our own rank will be down here."

Definition - a crowd

5. mommet - "Had it anything to do with father's making such a mommet of himself."

definition - a scarecrow

6. plim - "Doesn't that make your bosom plim?"

Definition - to swell

7. dolorifuge - "as a species of dolorifuge after the death of the horse."

Definition - something that banishes or mitigates grief


  1. I love some of those old words and phrases and chuckled at the line "Doesn't that make your bosom plum?"

  2. Anonymous13/6/13

    I knew factotum it was one of my words today.

  3. I really like "Cerealia"- I live near a little town called Ceres- fitting now that I know Ceres was the goddess of grains and cereal crops (I'm in farm country). I like that you included etymology. Thanks!

  4. Factotum must be having a resurgence in popularity! I came across it and used it in a www post in April. Thanks for reminding me of it, it was one that I really wanted to remember - I'm sure I could be described as a factotum. All of the others are completely new for me too.


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