I beg your forgiveness for my well-intended pun with this post title, for reasons soon apparent (if they’re not already obvious).

For someone with a supposedly decent vocabulary (a sometimes writer, for goodness sake), I’ve been encountering quite a few words in my recent reading that I’ve needed to look up in my trusty desktop dictionary. I’m not embarrassed, though; far from it. Even now in the Digital Age, where definitions are only a right-click away, it’s still a good habit to consult a real dictionary and it remains good intellectual exercise. I pray it always will.

Assorted Magnetic Words

Image from mentalfloss.com

Here are a just a few of the printed challenges I’ve recently encountered:

  • Inamorata: a woman with whom one is in love or has an intimate relationship. Change one letter and you have inamorato, a male object of love or desire.
  • Immanent: inherent, existing, or remaining within; restricted entirely to the mind; subjective.
  • Vermiculation: wormlike markings or carvings, as in a mosaic or architecture
  • Indolent (knew this one, but it had been a while so I looked it up): disinclined to exert oneself, habitually lazy.

All definitions from The American Heritage College Dictionary, Fourth Edition (Houghton Mifflin).

I encountered the last three words in the 2012 Eloisa James memoir, Paris in Love (James used “vermiculation” in describing “the bank at the top of rue du Conservatoire”). It’s a lovely book, vignettes really, of her family’s one-year residence in Paris after the death of her mother and her own cancer diagnosis. I’m new to James, admittedly. I don’t read romance, the genre in which she mainly works (that’s not a criticism; it’s just not something I read). I can’t help but be fascinated by her personal story, though; real name Mary Bly, professor of Shakespeare and daughter of poet and American Book Award winner Robert Bly. I like her symbolic affront to the old prejudice, the one which goes something like, “real writers don’t write romance.” Surely she laughs at things like that; in her memoir she seems the type of person who laughs at many things.

We just spent three hours opening a bank account. I thought our charmingly chatty banker would never stop talking. As he carried on, I felt more and more American. He even gave us a phone number to call for advice dietetique. French women must not be universally thin if they need dietary advice from their bank.

Paris in Love is available as a trade paperback from Random House. Click on the image above to buy or browse on Amazon.com.