This week’s words all come from Friends in High Places by Donna Leon (See this week round-up at BermudaOnion’s blog)
Bonsuan pulled to a stop not far from the enormous ship, stepped off the boat, and began tying it to the mushroom-shaped metal stanchion on the embankment, so thick it must have been intended for larger boats.
Stanchion: n. an upright bar, post, or frame forming a support or barrier
I must admit I am confused. From the context I supposed it was something like this:
Yet Google Images results only look like this:
which would make no sense in that context. I guess the word has a very general meaning!
Patta sat back in his chair, stretched his feet out in front of him, and crossed his ankles. For a moment, he contemplated the gleaming shine on his wingtips.
Wingtip: n a shoe with a toecap having a backward extending point and curving sides, resembling the shape of a wing
I had never heard of this term (I’m no good at fashion!), although it was clear it was some kind of shoe. Again, according to Google Images, this type:
The surface of the table was covered with maps, a ruler, and a protractor.
Protractor:n. 1 an instrument for measuring angles, typically in the form of a flat semicircle marked with degrees along the curved edge 2 chiefly Zoology a muscle serving to extend a part of the body
I gather it’s meaning nr. 1 here, i.e. this:
(I had imagined as much from the context!)
Patta was back: tall, handsome, dressed in a lightweight suit that caressed his broad shoulders with respectful, gossamer fingers.
Gossamer: adj. very fine and insubstantial
Looking up this word made my day! It exists as a noun, meaning: “a fine, filmy substance consisting of cobwebs spun by small spiders, seen especially in autumn”, and look at its etymology:
Wow, interesting! (OK, I understand not everybody would jump on their seats because of such a discovery, but that’s what I just did!)
The room was empty; that is, no one was inside, though there were some boxes of tools, a pair of sawhorses, and a discarded pair of lime-covered painter’s pants.
Sawhorse: n. a rack supporting wood for sawing
Unfortunately this definition meant almost nothing to me. I couldn’t see what it meant. So it’s back to Google Images, once more:
Oh, OK, so that’s what it is, then!
“Have they ever been audited by the Finanza?” he asked, holding in his hands a fiscal red flag so large and incarnadine as to be easily visible as far away as the central offices of the Guardia di Finanza in Rome.
Incarnadine: n. a crimson or pinkish-red colour
Although I had never heard this word in English, it was quite transparent to me, and I could understand it immediately, maybe because it’s Italian in etymology:
origin C16: from Fr. incarnadin(e), from Ital. incarnadino, var. of incarnatino ‘flesh colour’, based on L. incarnare (see incarnate).
(All definitions are taken from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary © 2008 via WordReference.com)