"The English language has the largest vocabulary on earth, so why should we live
on dry, white toast when at hand is one fine smorgasbord?"
So asks William Least Heat Moon about some of his word choices in both "Blue Highways," and his new "Writing Blue Highways," and of his discussions with editors.
Which means when I'm reading his books, or any for that matter, you'll find me with pen in hand, circling words I like, or want to look up.
Here are the ones I noted in his recent book. They give you pause, but also spark curiosity.
- purlieu-- the area near or surrounding a place.
- ordinance-- the systematic or orderly arrangement of parts, especially in art and architecture.
- soupçon--a very small quantity of something.
- microcephalics (used disparagingly of critics)--people with microcephaly have a condition in which a person's head is significantly smaller than normal for their age and sex.
- sententious--given to moralizing in a pompous or affected manner.
- dispassion--about students.
- fob--a medallion or ornament attached to a pocket watch to assist in handling
- cognomen--an extra personal name given to an ancient Roman citizen, functioning rather like a nickname and typically passed down from father to son.
- rebus--an allusional device that uses pictures to represent words or parts of words.
- bifurcation--the division of something into two branches or parts.
- gestalts--forms or shapes.
- escritoire--writing desk.
And here are are some phrases and sentences I underlined, marked or starred.
- "I was over-degreed and under-educated." He'd completed his Ph.D.
- "Byways grant space and time to reevaluate what one should not have slighted, and they can stimulate ways to discover."
- "To have a run at escaping the greatest cage of all--the interior of the human skull."
- "Curiosity to a writer is as quadriceps to a weightlifter--the place hoisting begins."
- "Drafts are strata, and they can be read like an archaeological record."
- "To revise fewer than a half dozen or even a dozen times means either you're an unmatched genius or you're kidding yourself."
- The opening paragraph had 91 words and he rewrote it two dozen times.
- "Remember, rewriting is redemption."
- "The biggest danger to a teacher is to be infected with student indifference."
- "'Blue Highways' began not with a typewriter but with a camera. A photo can go where words cannot."