Wondrous Words Wednesday: Sue Monk Kidd

This week’s words all come from The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd (See this week round-up at BermudaOnion’s blog!)


A half-dozen great white egrets flew up from the marsh grass nearby with their low-pitched throat calls.

Egret: n. a heron with mainly white plumage, having long plumes in the breeding season. [Genus Egretta (and Bubulcus): several species.]

I knew it was a bird, but what kind of bird exactly? This kind (image courtesy of Wikipedia):


The abbot spoke in his Irish brogue, not one bit of it flaked away after all these years.

Brogue: n. a marked accent, especially Irish or Scottish, when speaking English.

And it can also mean “a rough shoe of untanned leather, formerly worn in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands”. You can see the link, right? Awful!


He flipped his cowl over his head and crossed the central cloister.

Cowl: n. a large loose hood forming part of a monk’s habit.

I could understand this from the context, picturing it like this (again from Wikipedia):


A whip-poor-will sang out.

Whip-poor-will: n. a medium-sized nightjar from North and Central America [Caprimulgus vociferus]
*This definition comes from Wikipedia

Again, a bird, as I understood from the context. This one (from Wikipedia):


I’d thought of her as the nettlesome monastery mascot, but perhaps she was more to them than that.

Nettlesome: adj. chiefly US causing annoyance or difficulty.

This is one I would never have guessed.


It was piled with stalks of coral, crab claws, sea sponges, lightning whelks, shark eyes, augers, jackknife clams.

Lightning whelk: n. an edible species of very large predatory sea snail or whelk, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Buccinidae, the busycon whelks [Busycon contrarium]

Auger: n. [any of] a group or taxonomic family of small to large predatory sea snails, marine gastropod mollusks. [I think it refers to this, the Auger shell, not to the tool]

Jackknife clam: n. a long, smooth-shelled, burrowing clam found on Atlantic and Pacific beaches [Ensis minor]

*All three definitions come from Wikipedia

Pictures! From Wikipedia! (You could see this coming, right?)

Lightning whelk

Auger shell

Jackknife clam


My steps slowed until I was just standing there, stymied with doubt.

Stymie: v. informal prevent or hinder the progress of.

Oh my, I had read this in Tribute Books Mama‘s Wondrous Words Wednesdays just last week, but I only realized I had after reading the definition and etymology! What can I say, you have to learn a word seven times and forget it again seven times before it stays with you forever!


(All definitions are taken from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary © 2008 via WordReference.com unless otherwise stated.)


10 comments on “Wondrous Words Wednesday: Sue Monk Kidd

  1. I agree with you ! When I read in english, I search a word again and again in my English/French dictionnary !
    I think I remember really one or two word(s) for one read book….

  2. The thing is, I don’t usually remember that I had already searched for that word! So it was strange to read the same definition only one week later. But it happens! 🙂
    And my goal when I read is not to learn new words, so that’s fine with me. I can never tell when I read a word for the first time (I would do a poor lexicographer), I guess my vocabulary-building refuses to be described — but it takes place, and that’s what’s important.

  3. Great words! Sue Monk Kidd is coming here at the end of March and I hope to go see her. We actually have egrets in the ponds in our neighborhood from time to time. Thanks for playing along.

  4. @Bermudaonion: is she? This is her second book for me and I am not sure yet if I like it. But the first (Secret Life of Bees) was great, just great. Hope you can make it!

    @Mary Ann: true, it does! As long as you learn them, not forgetting them in one week like I did 😛

    @Bev: LOL! I didn’t realize it, but you’re absolutely right!

  5. I know exactly what you mean about having to come across a new word seven times before you learn it- I do too. It’s an essential part.

  6. The “seven times” part comes from a book on linguistics I read years ago, the author cited another linguist about it. I don’t know the original source anymore (De Saussure maybe?). If anybody knows, I’d be glad to hear about it!
    Thanks for visiting, Louise.

Ditelo con parole vostre/Let your words be heard

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