Wondrous Words Wednesday: Gregory Maguire

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 Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire, a book I liked for the author’s language choices.


Still, in our time we girls rarely cavorted on the streets! Not hoydens, we! — more like grave novices at an abbey.

hoyden:n. dated a boisterous girl.


Fish laid to serry like roofing tiles, glinting in their own oils.

Serry:v. archaic to press together especially in ranks
*This definition comes from the Merriam Webster Dictionary online


And the villagers of March and the webfooted fen folk could see what the coming winter would be like.

fen:n. a low and marshy or frequently flooded area of land.

I had heard of the Fens, but didn’t know it could be a generic term.

A fen in the Netherlands (which is where the novel is set) in winter, via Wikipedia


We aren’t wastrels or refugees. We’re not dirty gypsies. We are your own.

wastrel:n. literary a wasteful or worthless person.


Gingerbeard has calipers, scales, tools in his eyes; he stares at Iris.

caliper:n. an instrument for measuring external or internal dimensions, typically with two hinged legs and in-turned or out-turned points.

Caliper, image via Wikipedia


The panels are limned in red or black line. Some of them are worked with an olive or sepia wash.

Limn:v. literary 1 represent in painting or words 2 suffuse or highlight with bright colour or light.


Margarethe is a mistress of the simples, and she can treat any ailment with an infusion or a plaster.

Simple:n. chiefly historical a medicinal herb, or a medicine made from one.


“Where’s the old goosander?” growls the creature, pushing in.

goosander:n. a large merganser (diving duck), the male of which has a dark green head and whitish underparts.

I didn’t find any reference to this word used as an insult, but the character here is referring to a man, not a real goosander.

A goosander, image via Wikipedia


“The Girl-Stag of the Meadow,” says Caspar as she passes him into the kitchen. “Which part are you? Girl or Stag?” But from him the remark is not an insult; it makes her chortle, and she doesn’t answer.

chortle:v. laugh in a gleeful way.


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


9 comments on “Wondrous Words Wednesday: Gregory Maguire

  1. I knew several of your words from all the historical romances I’ve read. Simples was new to me, at least in this form. I find the use of medicinal herbs very interesting.

  2. What great words. I love chortle, and hope to do that frequently. I’ve come across hoyden and fens before. What an interesting use of simple though!

Ditelo con parole vostre/Let your words be heard

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s