Definitions of Excruciatingly Arcane Words Found in Gene
Wolfe's THE SHADOW OF THE TORTURER
(from the Oxford English Dictionary)
Compiled by Peter Kuchera
HTMLized by Raja Thiagarajan
- The water-women are the "brides of Abaia," but I can find
no reference to this goddess in the OED.
- a reader; one employed to read aloud; the reader of the lessons in
1708: MOTTEUX Rabelais "Carefully and distinctly
read to him by the most learned and faithful Anagnost."
- 1) the chief magistrate, and, after the time of Solon, one of the
nine chief magistrates of the Athenian republic
2) a ruler or president generally [Wolfe uses this sense]
1862: DANA Mon. Ocol. "Man...stands alone, the
Archon of Mammals."
- in Russia, an association of craftsmen or other workers for work in
1955 H. HODGKINSON Doubletalk "A brigade, or artel,
chosen without regard for family connections, undertake particular
functions--ploughing, reaping, processing, milking, etc.--as and where
*Wolfe uses the spelling artelos to describe the function of
certain buldings in Nessus (when Severian first tours it). This is
probably what he means; a craft association. Could be another hint that
we're in, as I suspect, what was once south Central Asia (though the
continents have changed).
- an absolute ruler; = AUTOCRAT
1865: Daily Tel.: "The great Autarchs of history."
- poet. (a. F. Averne 'the pit of hell' (Cotgr.
1611). A lake in Campania, the poisonous effluvium from which was said
to kill birds flying over it. transf. The infernal religions.
[also Avernal - a) infernal; b) an inhabitant of
Avernus, a devil
1599 GREENE Alphon. (1861) "Pluto, king of the dark
*Wolfe named his deadly flower from the Latin word, associated with
poison, death, and the underworld.
- a belt or girdle, usually of leather and richly ornamented, worn
pendent from one shoulder across the breast and under the opposite arm,
and used to support the wearer's sword, bugle, etc.
1832 TENNYSON L. Shalott III. ii. "And from his
blazon'd baldric slung A mighty silver bugle hung."
- In a list of fabrics Severian describes in Agia's shop window. Wolfe
has either made up, or found an extrememly obscure, fabric. The closest
I could find in the OED was balmer -
apparently some kind of colored cloth, now a rare and obsolete word; and
Balmoral - a) a variety of Scotch cap; b) a kind of
figured woollen petticoat
- A battlemounted parapet at the top of a castle or church; esp.
an over-hanging battlemented turret projecting from an angle at the top
of a tower, etc.
[In no dictionary before 1800; not in Todd 1818, nor Craig 1847.
Apparently first used by Sir Walter Scott, and due to a misconception of
a 17th c. illiterate Sc. spelling, bertizene, for bertising,
i.e. bretising, BRATTICING, f. bretasce (BRATTICE),
a. OF. bretesche, 'battlemented parapet, originally of wood
and temporary.' Bartizan is thus merely a spurious 'modern
antique,' which had no existence in the times to which it is
1814 --- Wav. xiii, "A bartizan, or projecting
gallery, before the windows of her parlour."
* Makes you feel smart to catch Gene in a screwup, doesn't it?
- A transparent precious stone of a pale-green color passing into
light-blue, yellow, and white; distinguished only by color from the more
precious emerald. When of pale bluish green it is called an aquamarine;
its yellow or yellowish varieties are the chrysoberyl, and, perhaps, the
chrysoprase, and chrysolite of the ancients. (The name is used in early
literature without scientific precision; it is also doubtful if the
'beryl' of the Old Testament is corretly identified.)
*Severian describes the eyes of the Chatelaine of the Pelerines as "...hard
- caique (ka EEK)
- a light boat or skiff propelled by one or more rowers, much used on
- a) a long shaggy cloak or overcoat with a hood, worn by soldiers,
sailors, travellers, etc. b) a long mantle reaching to the feet, worn by
1877 KINGLAKE Crimea VI. vi. "His troops in their
- obsolete, except historically [Latin].
In ancient Latin 'exicutioner,' but in med. L. often 'butcher' (the
1617 MIDDLETON Fair. Quar. "Let the carnefexes scour
- Obs. exc. Hist. a large ship of burden, also fitted for
warface, such as those formerly used by the Portuguese in trading with
the East Indies; a galleon
1581 J. BELL Haddon's Answ. Osor. "A great Carrick
would be skarce able to beare them all."
*Severian describes the water-women, settling "...thru the water
like carracks sinking."
- one of a series of small (temporary) buildings between the ramparts
and houses of a fortified town for the accomodation of troops; also a
*At the bridge, Severian is questioned in a casern, guarded
- In the sense used here, a Gene Wolfe invention, or--more likely--a
tiny error, even a misprint. He certainly intended castellan
- the governor or constable of a castle.
- a soldier in full armor
671: MILTON Samson "Before him and behind, Archers
and slingers, cataphracts and spears."
- A chain's length, as a lineal measure, is equal to 66 feet, or 4
poles. An area of ten chains in length by one in breadth, or 100,000
square links = an acre.
- a precious (or semi-precious) stone, which in its various tints is
largely used in lapidary work: a cryptocrystalline sub-species of quartz
(a true quartz, with some disseminated opal-quartz), having the lustre
nearly of wax, and being either transparent or translucent
It is not safe to carry the modern application back before the 16th or
at the earliest the 15th c.; and references to earlier notions come down
to the 17th. In modern lapidary work, chalcedony receives different
names according to its chrysoprase, onyx, sard,
etc. Most of the varieties were included by Plimy under his jappis.
*Severian describes a building's steps as made of chalcedony,
during the cart chase with Agia.
- *For anyone interested, the OED also defines another
sense of chalcedony as follows:
- the name of the precious stone forming the third foundation of the
New Jerusalem, but found nowhere else
The word is of very complicated history. The L. is commonly assumed to
be the same as the adj. chalcedonious of Chalcedon in Asia
Minor, as if it were 'Chalcedonian stone,' but this is very doubtful. In
interpreting the name in the Vulgate, which has the variant form carcedonious,
the early writers identified it with a stone mentioneed by Pliny xxvii,
where MSS have the variants carchedonia, charcedonia,
calcedonia, calchedonia, carchedonius,
said to be found in North Africa, and to be brought by way of Carthage,
which, from the description, could have nothing to do with the
chalcedony of the moderns. Isidore has carchedonia. The carchedonius
or chalcedonius is mentioned and moralized upon by a whole
catena of writers, including esp. Beda; but to none of them was it more
than a traditional name, about which there clustered notions originally
derived from Pliny with an accretion of later fables. The first to try
to identify it with any known stone was apparently Albertus Magnus
(1205-1282), who may have had in view some form of the stone to which
the name is now given. (See the exhaustive article of Schade Altdeutsches
- (Obsolete) an expanse of level open country; a plain unbroken by
hills, woods, etc.
*In the tour of the city with Agia, the tent-cathedral is built on a
champian, or 'level space'.
- 1) oil mingled with balm, consecrated for use as an unguent in the
administration of certain sacraments in the Eastern and Western Churches
2) to anoint with chrism
1768 TUCKER Lt. Nat. (1852) II. 384 "The Messiah,
that is, the chrismed or annointed."
* Wolfe uses both senses at once: as blood, and to be anointed with
blood, in ritual of the Guild, when a torturer is elevated to
- a sweetmeat made of some fruit, root, etc., preserved with sugar; now
usually a small round or oval mass of sugar enclosing a caraway seed,
almond, etc.; a sugar plum
1828 SCOTT F.M. Perth viii, "Wine is drunk, comfits
are eaten, and the gift is forgotten when the flavour is past away."
*During the cart chase, Severian and Agia overturn a cart filled with
comfits. You decide if it was sweetmeats or sugar plums.
- II. a place of worship or assembling; 9) a small convent
*Another type of building in Nessus, mentioned fleetingly by Severian.
I've only given the two most likely meanings of the word. The OED
lists many senses of conventicle, most of which suggest a
building used for clandestine meetings of the religious, outside the
legal religion. I think Wolfe just meant it to mean 'convent'.
- a piece of armour for the body (originally of leather); spec.
a piece reaching down to the waist, and consisting of a breast-plate and
a back-plate, buckled or otherwise fastened together; still worn by some
European regiments of cavalry. The breastplate alone was sometimes
called a cuirass, or the two pieces combined were called (a pair of)
cuirasses. The word has also been used in a general sense for
all kinds of ancient close-fitting defensive coverings for the body,
made of leather, metal, or other material.
- a robe or loose light garment for women; esp. an under garment, a
chemise (used somewhat vaguely in poetry and fiction)
1824 WIFFEN Tasso "Whilst yong Erminia laid her
vests aside...And to her flowered cymar disrobed complete."
*Yet another item of clothing Severian saw in Agia's shop window.
- 1. a long robe open in front, with narrow sleeves, worn by the Turks;
2) the uniform jacket of a hussar, worn like a cape with the sleeves
hanging loose; 3) a kind of mantle with cape-like appendages instead of
sleeves, worn by women
*Another outfit Severian spied in Agia's shop window.
- Agia addresses one of the Pelerines as "Holy Domnicellae,"
but I can find absolutely no clue what she meant in the OED.
- archaic spelling of DUNGEON, q.v.; now usual in sense I, 'The great
tower or innermost keep of a castle,' to distinguish it from the modern
*Why Wolfe chose to capitalize the word is a mystery. The contextual
clues suggest that this sense--a dungeon--is probably the one he meant,
but it's possible that he had something else in mind. I'd credit him
with more knowledge of castles than the OED has.
- a measure of length varying in different countries. The English ell =
45 in.; the Scotch = 37.2; the Flemish = 27 in. Now only Hist.
or with reference to foreign countries, the Eng. measure being obsolete.
- a 'beholder' in Gr. Antiq. a person fully initiated
into the Eleusinian mysteries. Also trasf.
1850 GROTE Grece II vii. (1862) "Addressing his
companions as Mysts and Epopts."
- L. the action of causing or the state of suffering extreme pain; an
instance of this
1618 T. GAINSFORD Hist. P. Warbeck in Select.
Harl. Misc. (1793) "After she had lived a while
in...excrutiation both of soul and body."
*It's interesting that the related root--excruciate--is
considered obsolete in this sense, but meant "to subject to
torture, put on the rack, etc.; fig. to 'rack' (one's brains).
A spooky history for a word we use today, and one of the terms that
gives Shadow its great, dark tone.
- 2) an outsider; one who does not belong to or does not reside in an
establishment or institution: a. gen. also a foreigner;
formerly, one of collateral descent.
1610 Women Saints "Being no Romane, but an externe
and a Barbarian..."
*Wolfe uses the term to mean "foreigners"; they "speak
in tongues," or other languages. Probably.
- 1. a) a festival, an entertainment on a large scale; b) a bazaar-like
function designed to raise money for some charitable purpose; 2. the
festival of the saint after whom a person is named; in Roman Catholic
countries observed as the birthday is in England
*Agia tells Severian that Armigers are constantly going to fetes
- a small four-wheeled carriage for hire, a hackney-coach, a French cab
- Antiq. a clasp, a buckle, or a brooch
1736 POPE Let. to Cromwell 30 Dec., 1710 "His robe
might be subnected with a Fibula."
*The clasp of Severian's robe is a fibula.
- - a small wind instrument, having a mouthpiece at one end, six
principal holes, sometimes keys
- a torch; esp. one made of several thick wicks dipped in
wax; a lighted torch
1840 DICKENS Barn. Rudge xvi "Many a private
chair...preceded by running-footmen bearing flambeaux."
- The OED doesn't list the root, exactly. The closest I
could find was "fuliginous - a) pertaining to,
consisting of, containing, or resembling soot; sooty; b) covered or
blackened with soot, chiefly in humorously bombastic use." Wolfe
probably coined the word for a fabric blacker than black that shows no
folds; specifically, the color of soot.
- 1. magic, enchantment, spell; esp. in the phrase to cast the
glamour over one (see quote, 1721); 2. a) a magical or fictitious
beauty attaching to any person or object; a delusive or alluring charm;
b) charm; attractiveness; physical allure, esp. feminine beauty; freq.
1721 Gloss. to Poems "When devils, wizards or
jugglers deceive the sight, they are said to cast glamour o'er
the eyes of the spectator."
*Dr. Talos tells the waitress that he must "...cast the glamour
and teach her her lines, all in one day."
- 1. a horse of middle size and quality, used for ordinary riding, as
distinguished from a war-horse, a hunter, or a draught-horse; in early
times often an ambling horse; 2. from an early date mention is found of
hackneys hired out; hence the word came often to be taken as, A horse
kept for hire
*In the streets of Nessus, people ride on all types of vehicles and
animals, some of which are hackneys.
- commander of the horse; the title of officers appointed to command
the cavalry in ancient Greece
1847 GROTE Greece II.xxi. "There were now created
two hipparchs, for the supreme command of the horsemen.
*"When Agia challenges Severian to a duel, she's disguised as a
- (also jelib, jellab) a hooded cloak worn in Morocco
1889 HALL CAINE Scapegoat I. Introd. "His dress was
hardly less brilliant--a chocolate jellab over a kaftan of several
*More clothes in the shop window.
- in the East: a building (unfurnished) for the accomodation of
travellers; a caravanserai
1958 R. LIDDELL Morea II. vii. "The buses going to
Arcadia pull up at a khan near the village of Alepochori."
*There are many variations in the spelling, but they all mean the same
thing. Wolfe describes a building across the river, the "rounded
dome of the khan". It's probably like an inn, where soliders lodge.
That seems more likely to me than another sense of "khan,"
used by a different Gene (Roddenberry): "In later use: A title (now
of slight import) commonly given to rulers, officials, or men of rank in
Central Asia, Afghanistan, etc."
- Wolfe uses it to describe some kind of mercenary weapon with a long
staff, but the word is too obscure for the OED.
- a scarf or piece of stuff worn over the helmet as a covering. In
Her. represented with one end (which is cut or jagged) pendant
1891 Cornh. Mag. "I might bear it as a token or
lambrequin upon my helm."
*A dead man in the street was, Severian speculates, probably strangled
by a lambrequin, or scarf.
- The only reference I can find in the OED is "a
fabulous monster supposed to have the body of a woman, and to prey upon
human beings and suck the blood out of children; also a witch, a
she-demon". Somehow, I don't think that's what Agia meant when she
laughed and asked Severian if she had a lamia around her neck.
Some kind of jewelry, probably a charm, that only Gene Wolfe knows
- Hist. one of a class of mercenary soldiers in the German
and other continental armies in the 16th and 17th centuries
Originally applied to the serfs brought into the field by nobles within
the territories of the Empire, in contra-distinction to the Swiss
mercenaries. Subsequently this distinction became obsolete, and the
designation seems to have connoted a particular kind of equipment, of
which a lance was part.
*Severian runs into guards at the bridge, whom he describes as lansquenets.
It seems likely that we're meant to take the broader definition of the
word: They are a type of lance-carrying soldier
- A type of building in Nessus. No reference in the OED.
- Gr. Antiq. the commander of a lochus so, also lochus
- Gr. Antiq. a division of the army, in Sparta and some
other Greek states
1832 ARNOLD Thucyd. c. lxviii. II. "The lochus then
consisted ordinarily of 100 men, under the command of the lochagus...On
extraordinary occasions, the strength of the lochus was doubled...while
the number of the lochi themselves was not increased."
*At the bridge, Severian is called in for questioning before the lochage.
- one who lugs; spec. an oarsman who depends on mere strength
1837 MARRYAT Dog-fiend xxx. "The lugger pulled
eighteen oars, was clinker built, and very swift."
*Severian, in his dream, describes the motion of the great,
leather-winged being upon which he rides. Her motion changes like a
lugger's, or oarsman's, does.
- a French dress goods of silk, or silk and wool, having a raised
design. Also attrib. or adj. having a raised pattern
*A fabric in Agia's shop.
- a soldier next in rank below the gunner in a train of artillery, who
acted as a kind of assistant or mate
In the U.S. the term was synonomous with private of artillery.
1639 in Grose Milit. Antiq. (1786) "Captain of the
pioneers, Quarter master, Four conductors of the matrozes, Forty
*One type of guard at the Citadel.
- 1. pertaining to or used at the table; 2.a) in Irish (and early
Scottish) history, mensal land: land set apart for the supply
of food for the table of the king or prince; b) in Scotland and Ireland
before the Reformation, applied to a church, benefice, etc.,
appropriated to the service of the bishop for the maintenance of his
table. Also similarly used in the modern Roman Catholic church in
*"The mensal of the monachs," Agaia tells Severian, when he
asks the function of a building that smells like it has allspice pounded
into the mortar. If monach means 'monk,' then this building
must be used for food for the monks. Have I got that right, do you
think? It seems like I'm still missing something here. But certainly,
Wolfe wrote "The mensal of the monachs" for the wonderful,
alliterative way it rolls off the tongue.
- Severian describes the traffic on the streets of Nessus; some ride
metamynodons. The OED has no reference. It's
probably an off-world species, brought to Urth to replace an extinct
one. The word is evocative; use your imagination.
- Obs. rare an affected substitute for 'monk'
1540 Pol. Verg. Eng. Hist. (Camden) "Augustine and
Miletus, two monaches of aownde livinge."
- a single combat; a contest between two; a duel
1885 R.F. BURTON in Academy "The other [kind of
combat] is the monomachy for especial purpose...to decide an important
question without shedding the blood of the general."
*"To monomachy?" blurts Severian, when the shopkeeper tells
him Severian's been challenged (by Agia in disguise). The avern fight is
- an inspired or holy man; a sage; an ascetic or hermit
1971 Illus. weekly India 11 Apr. "The Jain Munia
believe that th body is a great source of sin and must be subjugated and
*Severian reads a history of the previous Autarch, Ymar. The story
begins with Ymar sitting down, under a tree, with a muni, to
- of smells: Resembling that of cooked or burnt animal substances;
strong and unpleasant
1698 FRYER Acc. E. India & P. "Stones of live
Brimstone exhaling a nidorous Scent, stinking like that Water the
Mariners call Bilge Water."
*In the parable Severian tells Agia, a dying angel asks Gabriel, does
she not smell "...fetid, foul, and nidorous?"
- No reference in the OED. Two of this animal pull
Severian's and Agaia's carriage on it's pell-mell ride through the city.
Probably another off-world species brought back to Urth, to replace an
- a musical wind-instrument of powerful tone, a development of the
ancient 'serpent,' consisting of a conical brass tube bent double, with
keys, usually eleven in number, forming the bass or alto to the
key-bugle; also, a performer on this instrument.
1879 GROVE Dict. Mus. "From the gradual disuse of
the Serpent and Ophicleide, the Euphonium is becoming the chief
representative of the eight-foot octave among the brass instruments."
- a member of the patrician order in Rome; in wider sense, A noble or
1920 AUDEN About House "As Neitzsche said they
would, the plebs have got steadily Denser, the optimates
Quicker still on the uptake."
- 1. the sacred banner of St. Denis, a banderole of two or (according
to some accounts) three points, of red or orange-red silk, attached to a
lance, which the early kings of France used to receive from the hands of
the abbot of St. Denis, on setting out for war; 2. transf. and
fig. something which serves the purpose of the Oriflamme of
St. Denis; any banner or ensign, material or ideal, that serves as a
rallying point for a struggle, etc.
1885 Standard "[There] will be reared masts bearing
the oriflamme of the town [Paris]."
*Again, from the parable of Ymar: Ymar sees troopers galloping by
bearing an oriflamme. They are probably bound for war, which
adds to the meaning of the parable.
- a strong corded or gros-grain silk fabric, much worn in the 18th c.
by both sexes, of which POULT-DE-SOIE is the modern representative; also
attrib. and ellipt. a garment of this material
*Another kind of fabric in Agia's shop.
- a) the territory or district under the rule or jurisdiction of a
palatine or count-palatine; b) in England or Ireland: A country palatine
or palatine earldom
so, also palatine - of or belonging to the imperial
palace of the Caesars; of or belonging to the palace or court of the
German emporers; of or belonging to a palace; of the character of or
befitting a palace; palatial
*Agia tells Severian that he has "...the face of someone who stand
to inherit two palatinates and an isle somewhere..."
- a pilgrim who had returned from the Holy Land, in sign of which he
carried a palm-branch or palm-leaf; also, an itenerant monk who
travelled from shrine to shrine, under a perpetual vow of poverty; often
simply an equivalent of pilgrim
*When Severian disguises his fuligin, Agia tells him he looks like a
good palmer, or poor monk.
- the name given to the vast treeless plains of South America south of
the Amazon, esp. of the Argentina and the adjacent countries (The
similar plains north of the Amazon are know as llanos.)
1880 C.R. MARKHAM Peru. Bark "At lenth we came to a
rocky ridge which bounded the vast pampas of Vilque."
*Wolfe probably just means it as a geographical feature--a wide,
treeless expanse--and not a hint to the story's location. But 'ya never
know; many of these words are Eastern.
- 1. a level space in a garden occupied by an ornamental arrangement of
flower-beds of various shapes and sizes; 2. a level space on which a
house or village stands; 3. the part of the ground floor of the
auditorium of a theater behind the orchestra; later, in the U.S., that
part beneath the galleries
1816 J. SCOTT Paris Revisit. "What must have been
the beautiful Hougomont, with its wild orchard, its parterred flower
garden, its gently dignified chateau."
*The OED spells the word without the hyphen: parterre.
Severian uses the word to describe the par-terred privacy
afforded some of the buildings in Nessus by their use of balconies.
- This one's so obscure, even the complete OED hasn't got
it. Wolfe may be referring to some strange variant of paterero
(a small gun); he describes a soldier, walking in the dark, shouldering
one of these, so it could easily be a weapon. Considering Wolfe's
interests (Soldier of Arete), it's probably something
Greek (see peltast, below). Or, you know, maybe he made it up.
- of or pertaining to, resembling or characteristic of a peacock
*The shopkeeper wore a "pavonine brocade".
- a name applied from time to time to various fashions of mantles or
capes worn by women; in nineteenth century use, a long narrow cape or
tippet, with ends coming down to a point in front, usually of lace or
silk, or of the material of the dress
The cape appears to have been in vogue 1740-50 (it was obsolete to
Fielding in 1752); again about 1764; also 1823-25, 1855-68, 1884-1904;
the shape or material being probably more or less new each time.
*The religious order which holds the Claw of the Concilliator is called
- Gr. Hist. a kind of soldier
1849 GROTE Greece II. xiix. VI. "Peltasts, a species
of troops between heavy-armed and light-armed, furnished with a pelta
(or light shield) and short spear or javelin."
- a conductor of souls to the place of the dead; also, the spiritual
guide of a (living) person's soul; a person who acts as a guide of the
In Greek, a name applied to Charon; more commonly to Hermes, the Anubis
of Egypt, and to Apollo.
1958 L. DURRELL Balthazar vi. "If I had been in your
shoes and the whole damn thing wasn't just a lie to make yourself more
interesting to the psychopomps--I'd...well, I'd bloody well try and
sleep with him again."
*The shopkeeper is surprised to see a journeyman torturer this side of
the river, and so far north. He says it's just as unlikely to see a
psychopomp in those parts.
- Rom. Antiq. b) in early times, a public prosecutor in
certain criminal cases
1838 ARNOLD Hist. of Rome "The two quaestors who judged
in cases of blood, were also chosen from the patricians."
*This is the public official who also gives the signal to the
executioner to chop off a head. Wolfe's spelling is atypical; the
OED gives quaestor. But Wolfe's could be a valid
- a variety of onyx or stratified chalcedony having white layers
alternating with one or more strata of sard
*Severian describes the great and colorful variety of building
materials used in the structures of Nessus: pink and white marble, red
sardonyx, blue-gray, and cream, and black bricks, and green
and yellow and tyrian tiles..." etc.
- the distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little
finger, or sometimes to the tip of the forefinger, when the hand is
fully extended; the space equivalent to this taken as a measure of
length, averaging nine inches
- a man's great coat or overcoat
Applied c. 1870 to a kind of single-breasted frock-coat with pockets
cut diagonally in front.
*Another kind of clothing Severian saw in the shop.
- a) one of a race of beings or spirits supposed to inhabit the air
(orig. in the system of Paracelsus); b) applied to a graceful woman or
girl; usually with implication of slender figure and light airy movement
1838 DICKENS Nich. Nick. "She's the only sylph I
ever saw, who could stand upon one leg, and play the tambourine on her
other knee, like a sylph."
*Dr Talos calls the waitress a sylph.
- Good luck on this one; it ain't in the OED. In context,
it's a kind of boat, probably a really obscure type Wolfe encountered in
Greek or Roman history. He might have made it up, though. The root thalam
is Latin, and means "a nuptual chamber". Maybe we can get a
hint from that.
- a worker of marvels or miracles; a wonder-worker
1881 Athenaeum "Pious mythologists have made out
that she [St. Frideswide] was a thaumaturge of the first order."
*Dr. Talos tells the waitress that he's a thaumaturge. In
fact, he stages plays; but his language (he's a miracle-worker; she's a
sylph; he'll cast a glamour on her) is pretty
magical in itself.
- Absolutely no clue from the OED. When the cart pulls up
to pick up Severian and Agia, the animals are afraid of her, "...as
if she were a thyacine". It's either a word Wolfe coined,
or a lexeme too obscure for even the OED. For fun, I
looked up the prefix "thy-" and the affex "-acine,"
and found this: thy - adv. Obs. a) by means of or by reason of
that, because of that, therefore; b) in relative sense; for the reason
that, because; + -acine - Obs. one of the small grains of
which a blackberry or mulberry is composed. Put them together: "The
animals were afraid of Agia, as if she were a because of a mulberry
grain." Probably ain't it.
- b) spec. in reference or allusion to the purple or crimson
dye anciently made at Tyre from certain molluscs
*Severian, in describing the colors of Nessus, says that some of the
tiles are tyrian.
- 1. a South American animal (Auchemia vicunna), closely
related to the llama and alpaca, inhabiting the higher portions of the
northern Andes and yielding a fine silky wool used for textile fabrics;
2. ellipt. Vicuna cloth; also, a garment made of this.
*Fuligin is a blend of vicuna, blended with linen. As with
all animals in The Book of the New Sun, I wouldn't take
Severian too literally; the fabric more likely comes from an off-world
replacement animal, than from South America.
- a large open vehicle, drawn by horses or oxen, for carrying heavy
loads, esp. of agricultural produce; usually four-wheeled.
The word does not occur in the Bible of 1611, though Wyclif and the
16th c. translators use it. As a colloquial word it survives only in
dialects, but in poetry it is commonly used instead of wagon.
*Severian describes the early-morning street traffic of Nessus; drays
and wains cross his path.
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