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.)


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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