Exuberant Verbosity

Abnegation. Anadems. Argence. Bartizans. Bedizened. Benignant. Benison. Brume. It's an addiction: I can't read Stephen R. Donaldson without jotting down his latest researches into the Ultra-Complete Maximegalon Dictionary. In the new Thomas Covenant epic, Against All Things Ending, he mingles new discoveries with old favourites....

Caducity. Caliginous. Carious. Cataphract. Cerulean. Charlock. Chlamys. Chrism. Chthonic. Circadian. Clinquant. Cloacal. Condign. Condyles. Cymar. Cynosure. Deflagration. Deliriancy. Demesne. Despoilage. Destrier. Devoir. Dromonds.

I love SF's weird words, not so much invented languages like Klingon as bizarre one-offs. In John Brunner's The Shockwave Rider, future people don't say "OK" but "Sweedack", supposedly from the French "Je suis d'accord" – a likely story. Larry Niven offers the feeblest ever swear-word with "Tanj!", standing for "There ain't no justice!"

(Ebon. Ecru. Effluvium. Eidolons. Eldritch. Embrasure. Exigent. Formication. Frangible. Friable. Fug. Fuligin. Fulvous. Galvanic. Gangrel. Gavotte. Gelid. Glaive. Glode. Gravid. Guerdon. Gyre.)

SF technospeak is crammed with silliness. When someone in Neal Stephenson's Anathem says "I have to counter-strafe the new clanex recompensators ...", the reply is a huge relief: "I have no idea what this means." I never grasped the scientific units in Arn Romilus's Brain Palaeo: "As you know, the Masters possess a positive potential of several thousand bratilgrovits on which they depend for motivation." Even when you substitute "Laws of Robotics" for the jargon in the following, there still seems to be some problem: "Robots were constructed with an inbuilt verboter unit, preventing them from either doing or not doing an action that might result in harm to a human." (Gardner F. Fox, Escape Across the Cosmos.)

(Ichor. Illucid. Illusive. Immanence. Immedicable. Immiscible. Incarnadine. Incondign. Incused. Ineluctable. Innominate. Irenic. Irrefragable. Irrefusable. Jerrid. Knaggy. Knurls. Lambent. Lealty. Lenitive. Louring. Lucence.)

Some words aren't meant to be understood. The tragedy of future humanity in Brian Aldiss's "The Failed Men" is the maddeningly untranslatable "struback". Diana Wynne Jones's Fire and Hemlock features a McGuffin of which nothing is known but its name, the Obah Cypt. A similar problem bedevils the quest for the Throme (the what?) in Patricia McKillip's The Throme of the Erril of Sherill. An alien Platonian in John Brunner's "Out of Order" reveals that his idea of fun involves pretonsuling and incoblapsimine, whose meaning we mercifully never learn. And who could argue with the profound saying quoted by Alfred Bester's time-traveller: "The Future is Tekon"? ("Of Time and Third Avenue".)

(Malefic. Mansuetude. Marge. Marmoreal. Marrow-meld. Metatarsus. Moil. Muricated. Nacre. Nascent. Nitid. Niveous. Oneiric. Oriflamme. Orogeny. Paresthesis. Pearlescence. Pediment. Percipience. Phalanges. Plash. Puissance. Rachitic. Rapine. Ribbands. Roborant. Rugose.)

Before Hitchhiker, Robert Sheckley was the master of silly sf terms. In "Bad Medicine", the hero's psychotherapy machine proves to be a Martian model which diagnoses feem desire – a vile perversion – and urgently insists that he try to remember his goricae. Another hapless Sheckley hero in "Protection" is adopted by a gronish (ie. invisible) validusian derg, whose friendly help unfortunately makes him vulnerable to nastier beings like the gamper, grailers, leeps, feegs, melgerizer and thang. To avoid the dreaded thang, it's vital not to lesnerize. Our man has no idea what this means. The story ends as he's about to sneeze. Or in Thomas Covenant phrasing, to sternutate.

Sacral. Salvific. Sapid. Scaur. Scrannel. Scrog. Scurf. Sempiternal. Sendaline. Siccant. Soilures. Spilth. Spume. Stricture. Surquedry. Susurrus. Suzerainty. Swales. Talus. Tarsal. Theurgy – the most frequently-appearing of all these words. Threnody. Tocsins. Tumid. Utile. Verdigris. Verdure. Viridian. Virtu. Vitriol. Wight. Writhen.

Oh, Mr Donaldson's wonderful vocabulary always sets me off. Now I feel all argute, inchoate and refulgent.

David Langford knows which politician said that another was inebriated with the exuberance of his own wossname.