Wondrous Words Wednesday: Tim Powers

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!

My words for this week come from The Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers. Because there are so many (and all of them from Chapter 1 alone!), I’ll restrain from comments and pictures this time 🙂


Duffy ducked under the awning of the felze.

Felze: n. nautical the cabin of a gondola
*This definition comes from Wiktionary


The gondolier … began poling his way back up the glittering watercourse, softly callling, “Stalì!” to draw any possible fares.

Stalì: n. calls supposedly used by gondoliers to avoid collisions.
*This definition comes from Google Search – I wasn’t able to browse the site it comes from


A sleepy footpad huddles under the bridge roused when he heard the Irishmans uneven tread.

Footpad: n. historical a highwayman operating on foot rather than riding a horse.


I threw a fit in church during the midnight Easter mass, shouting, they later told me, for the need-fires to be lit n the hilltops.

Need-fire: n. paganism a ritual fire created by friction
*This definition comes from Wiktionary


Duffy easily ducked the wide swing and, blocking the dagger-thrust with the quillons of his rapier, stepped aside.

Quillon: n. The guard of a sword or other bladed weapon designed to protect the hand from harm.
*This definition comes from Wiktionary


The gold-stamped spines of leather- and vellum-bound tomes lined a high bookcase along one wall, and ornate tables, shellacked boxes, glittering robes and dim, disturbing paintings filled the rest of the room.

Shellac: v. varnish with shellac.
Shellac: n. lac resin melted into thin flakes, used for making varnish.


Duffy opened the cabinet and chose a bottle of sauternes.

Sauternes: n. a sweet white wine from Sauternes in the Bordeaux region of France.


You’re a worthless trollop

Trollop: n. dated or humorous a sexually disreputable or promiscuous woman.


The word is they’ve begun to assemble the akinji in Constantinople.

Akinji: n. irregular light cavalry, scout divisions (delil) and advance troops of the Ottoman Empire’s military.
*This definition comes from Wikipedia


A bundschuh leftover from the Peasants’ War will knife the Lutheran…

Bundschuh movement: a loosely linked series of localized peasant rebellions in southwestern Germany.
*This definition comes from Wikipedia


And these things cut into the profits in a big way — damages, nice customers scared off, tapsters harder to hire.

Tapster: n. archaic a person who draws and serves alcoholic drinks at a bar.


He remembered the sharp thudding of the Turkish guns and the hiss of a grapeshot whipping across the plain.

Grapeshot: n. historical ammunition consisting of a number of small iron balls fired together from a cannon.


Keep the riffraff out. Keep the peace.

Riffraff: n. disreputable or undesirable people.


Half these ships have their sails reefed anyway.

Reef: n. each of several strips across a sail which can be taken in or rolled up to reduce the area exposed to the wind.
Reef: v. take in one or more reefs of (a sail).


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


8 comments on “Wondrous Words Wednesday: Tim Powers

  1. I knew shellac, trollop and rifraff, but the rest are new to me. Tapster makes total sense so I bet I can easily remember it. I wish I was going to Venice so I’d have the chance to use felze.

  2. What an interesting book this must be! Some great words there. I can heartedly advise that if you’ve never had a Sauternes that they are totally worth it. I’ve had a number, and was lucky enough to travel to Sauternes in 98. It’s a beautiful area as well.

    And I take great exception to someone calling trollop dated! It’s not dated in Australia- several of my friends and I use it- often as a term of endearment to each other. Riffraff is a reasonably well known term here too, and of course he was a character in Rocky Horror all those years ago.

  3. @ Kathy: I’ve been to Venice several times, but I’d never heard either felze or stalì before. Both may be Venetian rather than Italian.
    @ Louise: I may try and find a bottle… or convince husband to go there sometime 😉
    @ Nicole: thanks for commenting.
    @ Annie: it got better after that, and don’t worry, I’ve already finished it!

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