Words, and Yet More Words

Cthulhu Chick recently formatted Lovecraft’s original works into eBook format, a process which allowed her to make a count of Lovecraft’s favorite words. There are a few surprises on the list – “squamous” appears only once, shockingly – and a few obviously preferred choices (“hideous” appears 260 times, “nameless” 157 times).

Despite its comparative brevity, today’s story has no shortage of words – including a handful on the above mentioned list. Though a fairly standard horror story, it has an almost poetic undercurrent of descriptive language. Phrases like “after an infinity of awesome, sightless crawling up that concave and desperate precipice,” or “it was a compound of all that is unclean, uncanny, unwelcome, abnormal, and detestable,” are the exact language-based gymnastics expected of Lovecraft by casual readers – or outsiders, if you will forgive the pun.

Your assignment today is very brief: which of Lovecraft’s favorite words (or phrases) are your favorite? Briefly explain your choice. (It needn’t appear in today’s reading.)

I must personally confess an unwholesome affection for both “eldritch” and “gibbering,” and was oddly gratified to see that Nyarlathotep was mentioned 47 times…

Reading 1: Cthulhu Chick’s Count of Lovecraft’s Favorite Words
Reading 2: The Outsider
Task: Which Lovecraftian word or phrase is your favorite?

About Headmistress

Sarah L. Crowder, current headmistress of Vacation Necronomicon School, was once a pupil at the prestigious Miskatonic Academy for Girls -- though she did not graduate, as the school closed under mysterious circumstances shortly before her studies were completed. She spent many years contemplating both the arcane arts and hidden dimensions of commonplace life, and now lends her talents to our little online haven for workaday scholars.
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11 Responses to Words, and Yet More Words

  1. Nina says:

    That was very interesting! I can’t believe “squamous” only occurs once. I like expanding my vocabulary through Lovecraft- I always thought “Cyclopean” meant… you know… having one eye. Then I thought it meant “big”. But it turns out it’s a style of Mycenaean masonry that uses huge boulders fitted together without mortar. To me, “Gibbous” was a phase of the moon more than half illuminated, but I didn’t know that the term gibbous included the concept of convexity, which I should have realized, given Lovecraft’s complicated feelings about convexity and concavity. My favorite must, however, be “fungous” because I am, professionally, a mycologist. I have to root for the home team. “Fungous” means “fungus-like”, and Lovecraft seems to use it to mean “pale” “flabby” or “spongy”. I resolve to use the word “fungous” at least once in my final project.

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  3. Headmistress says:

    @Nina – I was also very shocked about “squamous.” It’s just seems like it should be in the text more often – maybe Derleth used it? I think “fungous” is fantastic – and I hope you do use it.

    @Borrowind – Too many words well spent, it seems. What a lovely rumination – and I say that as one who has fainted many times, literally and figuratively.

    Thank you!

  4. Resa says:

    I’ve always been fond of Non-Euclidean. It reminds me of Kant’s concept of the noumenon, the unknown and unknowable thing. Non-Euclidean space is for us unknowable as an actuality, though we can theorize about it. Perhaps that’s why glimpses of it drive us mad. Non-Euclidean breaks our brains, and not just when we’re trying to work the maths!

  5. Headmistress says:

    @Resa – Excellent point! And I learned a new word…


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  7. Paul says:

    It took me two attempts (WordPress decided to swallow my original post!) but here’s my favourite word: stygian.


  8. Headmistress says:

    @Paul – That’s a very good one, stygian. I was also shocked that he never used the word “gleimous,” as far as I can recall. It means “slimy” – I would think it would be handy!


  9. Kit says:

    I could be silly and say my favorite of his favorite words is cat — I love my kittehs — but that would be going against the spirit of the thing. A better answer would be one that didn’t make the list, but appeared in the previous reading: vertiginous. Meaning “dizzying,” it reminds me of a fun time with my co-workers. We’d read it in a review, and we all trooped out to the reference section to look it up. (I really miss working in a bookstore. Sometimes.)

  10. Headmistress says:

    @Kit – Vertiginous is a great word. I wonder why it didn’t make the list? I seem to remember it in more than one story…


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