Wondrous Words Wednesday: Audrey Niffenegger

I am sorry I missed the Wednesday post for a few weeks, I was travelling. This week’s words all come from Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (See this week round-up at BermudaOnion’s blog!)


They would naturally come to him with their little dilemmas and queries; avuncular, he would advise them and aid them in their London initiation.

Avuncular: adj. like an uncle in being kind and friendly towards a younger or less experienced person.

This word’s etymology resonated with me, but I couldn’t place it.


His skin was pallorous from being too long in the hospital.

Pallorous: adj. derivative from “pallor”
Pallor: n. an unhealthy pale appearance.

I could understand this from the context, but apparently the adjective is not registered (yet?) on any of the dictionaries I checked.


… the way her ribs thrust out over her belly in the last months of her illness, the scars from the port and the surgery.

Port: n. a small medical appliance that is installed beneath the skin. A catheter connects the port to a vein. Under the skin, the port has a septum through which drugs can be injected and blood samples can be drawn many times, usually with less discomfort for the patient than a more typical “needle stick”.
*Definition from Wikipedia

I still cannot figure it, probably because I haven’t ever seen one (luckily!)


Their eyes were large, grey and so wide-set that they appeared almost wall-eyed.

Wall-eyed: adj. derivative from “wall eye”.
Wall eye: n. an eye squinting outwards.

I must admit I had not idea of this one, not even from the context!


Eventually, he heard the twins galumphing down the stairs.

Galumph: v. move in a clumsy, ponderous, or noisy manner.

Another one that was rather clear from context.


He hung back, keeping his eye on them and feeling pervy and gormless, not to mention highly noticeable.

Gormless: adj. Brit. informal lacking sense or initiative.

I remember reading this word in a WWW post on the day after seeing it in the book! Go figure! But I thought I would put it in my post nonetheless!


I need a disguise. Maybe a beard. Or a hazmat suit.

Hazmat suit: n. a garment worn as protection from hazardous materials or substances.
*Definition from Wikipedia

No idea about this one, and it gives a completely new sense to the whole scene 🙂


You’re just bloviating. Get on with it.

Bloviate: v. US talk at length, especially in an inflated or empty way.

Another one clear from context, but with an interesting etymology (from: to blow).


The room was half-timbered and half-unfinished, as though the carpenters’ elevenses had lasted several decades.

Elevenses: n. pl. Brit. informal a break for light refreshments taken at about eleven o’clock in the morning.

Now I get it! Interesting word.


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


8 comments on “Wondrous Words Wednesday: Audrey Niffenegger

  1. It looks as though Her Fearful Symmetry led you on quite the word-search. I like elevenses. I’ve seen it before but never knew what it meant. I guess that’s similar to what some in the US call a nooner.

  2. @ Margot: it did, yes, and I’m always happy when I get to read an interesting book and at the same time one full of “wondrous” words. (BTW, I just checked “nooner”. The origin must be the same. Interesting!)

    @ Mary Ann: thank you for passing by.

    @ Bev: the book is very British in setting, but I didn’t realise it was so British in language too, until I started checking the dictionary.

  3. @ Lemon: that’s why I was confused, too.

    @ Julie: I’m not sure I agree, or we would end up using less and less words. Even when two words have exactly the same meaning, one more word means a richer language.

    @ BermudaOnion: thanks.

Ditelo con parole vostre/Let your words be heard

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