Wondrous Words Wednesday: Irving Stone

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) and interesting (to us, again) words we encountered in our readings. See this week round-up at BermudaOnion’s blog!

I’ve been away for too long, but first vacation and then not reading much in English left me without new words to share. I’m back, though! And look, I carry new words from my current read, The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone!

*****

The laughter had an annealing quality; strangers at Lorenzo’s table who had never met and perhaps came from diametrically opposed ways of life began talking with the people around them.

anneal: v. heat (metal or glass) and allow it to cool slowly, in order to remove internal stresses.

I didn’t realize it immediately, but the author uses a lot of vocabulary related to art and sculpture techniques, in a metaphorical way. Here I had gathered that he meant “unifying”, but it’s actually much more than that. This word alone has made my respect for the author soar!

*****

By mid-December news reached Bologna that Savonarola had stepped into the crisis with a series of Haggai sermons in which he backed the proposed democratic structure.

Book of Haggai: n. an Old Testament book telling the prophecies of Haggai which are concerned mainly with rebuilding the temples after the Babylonian Captivity
*This definition comes from WordNet

*****

Arising out of the third level of the wall and going up into the curved vault were pendentives, which in turn were based on pilasters, column-like piers buried in the third tier.

pendentive: n. (Architecture) a curved triangle of vaulting formed by the intersection of a dome with its supporting arches.

Here’s a diagram:

Image credits: Wikipedia. The pendentives are shown in yellow.

And here’s how the pendentives would turn out:

Image credits: Wikipedia

*****

The Pope’s objective would be accomplished; no one would be disturbed any more by the projecting spandrels, loomingly empty lunettes or the broken-up vault with its monotonous circles of gold stars.

spandrel: n. (Architecture) the almost triangular space between one side of the outer curve of an arch, a wall, and the ceiling or framework; the space between the shoulders of adjoining arches and the ceiling or moulding above.

It’s easier to see it:

Image credits: Wikipedia

And here is what Michelangelo would end up doing with his spandrels:

Image credits: Wikipedia

*****

This knock, these words, are the first time my hand or tongue have made sense since I arrived in Rome. I brought my lute so that I could accompany myself while I tell you my bathetic story.

bathetic: adj. related to bathos
bathos: n. (in literature) an unintentional change in mood from the important and serious to the trivial or ridiculous.

I knew “pathetic”, which has the same origin more or less, and I still think that that’s what he may have meant. Except that the character speaking here is putting up a show of his life (as a way to say he’s sorry), and may want to use high-flown words just as a jest.

*****

But Rome shall hear this dirge no more from me. From now on I sing the praises of Master Buonarroti.

dirge: n. a lament for the dead, especially one forming part of a funeral rite; a mournful song, piece of music, or sound.

*****

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

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8 comments on “Wondrous Words Wednesday: Irving Stone

  1. Wow. You’re back with some great words! Some I knew, some I didn’t. Architecture has it’s own world of words doesn’t it? I did know dirge- one reason being it’s in American Pie (which of course I now need to listen to on youtube!). I must try harder to remember bathos- I’m very good at it.

  2. I’m glad you’re back. It looks like you run into a big batch of new words. Book of Haggai was the only one I was familiar with. The picture sure help, don’t they.

  3. Thanks for all ! The photos and the very interessant explanations ! Michelangelo makes a wonderful work with pendentives (pendentifs in French) and spandrels !!

Ditelo con parole vostre/Let your words be heard

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