Wondrous Words Wednesday

Happy Wednesday — it’s time for some new words! You know how this works – share a few words from your current book that you had to look up, then head over to Bermuda Onion’s Weblog to learn some new ones.

This week, my words come from a book I just finished, A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd. This is one of the Bess Crawford mysteries — Bess is a nurse serving in World War I and a sort of accidental investigator. Great, great stories!

1. Nursing sister — A nursing sister, usually just referred to as a sister, is a senior female nurse, usually in charge of a ward or other unit.

“I’m a nursing sister, I’ve just returned from France.”

I originally thought that a nursing sister was a nun! It wasn’t until I read further and Bess’ life didn’t seem to be that of what I thought of as a sister that I checked the definition of the word.

2. Gorse – A yellow-flowered shrub (genus Ulex) of the pea family, the leaves of which are modified to form spines.

“But this was dramatically different, low, black, twisted branches of stunted heather and gorse, filling the horizon now as far as the eye could see.”

3. Oriel – A projection from the wall of a building, typically supported from the ground, or a window in such a structure.

“High above the door, an oriel window broke the plainness of the facade, the panes dark and lifeless under the dull sky.”

4. Suttee – The former Hindu practice of a widow immolating herself on her husband’s funeral pyre.

“The British had done their best to outlaw suttee, but it hadn’t been completely abolished.”

5. Maharani – A maharaja’s wife or widow.

“For dinner I wore the pale green gown that my father particularly liked, with the rope of pearls that had been given to me when I was twelve by the maharani who was a friend of my mother’s.”

6. Crocodile – a file of people, especially schoolchildren, out for a walk.

“I hung about for an hour or more, and then the nuns appeared with a crocodile of children.”

I love it when I find a new definition for a common word! This is chiefly British, which explains why I hadn’t come across it before.

7. Subaltern – An officer in the British army below the rank of captain.

“The subaltern who had missed the corpse got a severe dressing down.”

And there you have it — a good list of words, I think. What new words did YOU learn this week?

  6 comments for “Wondrous Words Wednesday

  1. December 28, 2011 at 9:29 am

    I would have guessed a nursing sister was a nun as well. I kind of wondered about you when I saw crocodile on your list, but I see it has a different meaning. I know it’s chiefly British, but I sure hope I can figure out a way to work that into a conversation!!

  2. Lisa
    December 28, 2011 at 10:50 am

    >I kind of wondered about you when I saw crocodile on your list

    I know! I love it when I find that a word I know can be used in a whole different way. This is going to be a tough one to use unless you’re standing around a schoolyard, and even then you’ll probably have to explain it.

  3. December 28, 2011 at 11:19 am

    The other use of the word crocodile was interesting.

  4. December 28, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Sometimes I can get a sense of a book just from the new words and their sentences. This one looks good – very interesting.

  5. December 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Some common words there for an Australian- I am often surprised at what words don’t cross national boundaries. Intriguing that nursing sister is one of those. Sister is still in very common usage here for a nurse, and indeed you wouldn’t need to put nursing before it, as it would be understood just by sister. Gorse I learnt from Enid Blyton, and we have some imported gorse here in Australia too, although in the cooler, more English regions. I’ve never heard oriel before, but it’s immediately recognisable when I checked google images. There are so many architectural terms I don’t know! The usage of crocodile is indeed interesting.

  6. Lisa
    December 28, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Louise, here in the US, Sister is the term commonly used for nuns, just as Father is commonly used for priests. The term we use here for the position that a nursing sister holds is charge nurse, for the nurse in charge of the ward.

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