A Possibly Useful Word

There are plenty of obscure and little-used English words out there, but most aren’t very useful for a writer who would like to be understood by a reasonably well-educated reader.

It isn’t often that I encounter a word which I’ve never seen before but which I’m also tempted to use. The other day I was rereading an unusual book by the Italian chemist and holocaust survivor Primo Levi; the title is The Periodic Table and I highly recommend it.

Here’s the passage which piqued my interest:

[…] , and the premonition of imminent catastrophe condensed like grumous dew in the houses and streets, in wary conversations and dozing consciences.

The word grumous intrigued me. I liked the sound of it and tried to imagine what it might mean.

Just then my attention was distracted by a soft and susurrant sound coming from an adjacent wall. I looked up and was surprised to see the surface of the white-painted gypsum-and-paper wall cladding was rippling in a radial pattern! I couldn’t look away, thinking “What might this curious circumstance portend?”

With a muted popping sound a winged reptilian creature took form before me. It looked disgruntled and balefully regarded me with yellow-tinged eyes.

“I had a devil of a time finding you, Larry! I stopped by your building in Hannibal but you were nowhere to be found. How’d you end up in another state and another town?”

The creature was my old friend the Dictionary Demon, a tireless and skillful seeker of word definitions. I said:

“Oh, it’s a long story, demon. Hey, as long as you’re here, why don’t you soar out across the Sea of Words and find me a definition?”

Due to its long scaly snout, the demon’s smile resembled the smile of a dog.

“Can do! What’s the word this time?”

“The word is grumous.”

Once again the wall rippled and the demon was gone.

I returned to my morning routine, drinking coffee and seeing what was new out on the web.

A few minutes passed by; once again the wall rippled but this time the demon didn’t appear. A neat packet took form and dropped into my lap. It appeared to be wrapped in paw paw leaves stitched together with spider silk. Using a small pair of scissors I snipped the minute stitches and unrolled the vellum scroll I found within. Inscribed upon the scroll were these definitions:

Grumous \Gru”mous\, a. [Cf. F. grumeleux. See {Grume}.]
1. Resembling or containing grume; thick; concreted; clotted;
as, grumous blood.

grumous
adj 1: transformed from a liquid into a soft semisolid or solid
mass; “coagulated blood”; “curdled milk”; “grumous blood”
[syn: {coagulate}, {coagulated}, {curdled}, {grumous},
{grumose}]

grume
n 1: a thick viscous liquid
2: a semisolid mass of coagulated red and white blood cells
[syn: {blood clot}, {grume}]

How interesting! Now I want to use that word…

Larry

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7 Comments

Filed under General and Local

7 responses to “A Possibly Useful Word

  1. Joan

    What’s in a Name

    To scribe a poem with grumous I encountered quite a hurtle.
    Since nothing rhymes with grumous I made do with using curdle.
    I make an effort to avoid gross images that doom us
    And clotted blood seems sadly the best way to define grumous.
    Were I a doc or a scientist, with stronger constitution
    I could deal with clotted blood, which had been transformed from solution.
    If I were a new mother, then this grumous name would fit
    In describing baby upchucks and more often milky spit.
    But since I’m none of these I’ll just be mundane if you please
    And sit here staring glumly at my tub of cottage cheese.

  2. Virginia

    Omigosh, Joan. I wish you hadn’t used cottage cheese. I’ve always liked it, but now it sounds disgusting. Perhaps instead grumous after-dinner gravy clinging to the side of a frying pan?

  3. I’ll carefully keep the word “grumous” away from my mental image of cottage cheese, as I do like that food. Yeah, Virginia, old congealed gravy could well be described with that word!

  4. Joan

    I still like cottage cheese, Virginia. They used to called it curds and whey and if that didn’t turn me off then grumous probably will not. (grin) Now I’m not so sure about the congealed after dinner gravy visual.

  5. Dale

    L, it’s 10:44pm. I heard from Kent, too. Is it too late to ‘phone your place?
    Also, email me your email, so’s I don’t use your platt for personal posts, please.
    — (signed) the band guitar player

  6. Darrell

    I’ve been meaning to list this for a couple of years, but kept letting it slide. Good info/insight on Civil War era Hannibal: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~momarion/

  7. Virginia

    I’ll bet Civil War soldiers ate plenty of grumous grub – when they had grub at all. It probably looked pretty good at times.

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