Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Vocab Builder: B

vocab builder:  B
This is the second in the 26-part series, Vocab Builder. Last week we covered the letter A which means this week (I bet you won't get this) we are covering the letter B. OK, so maybe you did get it!

Using strong vocabulary is always a good idea. Note the use of 'strong' rather than 'large'. From an extension of George Orwell's quote we know we should strive for the right word, not the largest word.

So, without further ado let's start this list of 7 'B' words:








backstairs

Adjective

The word means 'secret' and 'scandalous'. This meaning can be linked to the simple fact that the stairs at the rear of buildings are less visible. Less visibility naturally leads on to increased sneakiness. This use of the word gained appeal by 1663 and has been in use ever since.


Of course, it is too easy to get lost in the metaphorical sense of the word. It does also mean 'stairs at the back of a building'. So if you do use this adjective literally try not to put it in a context where it could be taken figuratively. For example the sentence 'the deal was done on the backstairs' does literally mean a deal was done on stairs at the back of a building. However, 'many backstairs deals were made on the backstairs' means that secretive deals were made on the stairs at the back of a building.

Personally, I like the word. It has a dual meaning, but when used well can invoke a sinister mood that draws the reader in far better than just saying, 'the alley was dark with secret drug deals'. See how much better, 'the dark alley was home to backstairs drug deals.'

Behemoth

noun - often capitalised

The mighty animal comes from the book of Job 40:15-24 and is used to describe the power of god. It can also be used for something of monstrous size, power, or appearance.

Scholars have decided that the Behemoth likely described a hippopotamus-like animal. The origin is around 1350-1400 and is from the Hebrew 'bəhēmōth' meaning beast.

Like 'backstairs' this word is a powerful mood enhancer. A simple description like, 'the large, powerful beast pounded the man to the floor' is far less  interesting than 'the Behemoth pounded the man to the floor'. I think it is because 'Behemoth' is a concrete noun with a specific meaning. The beast is not just powerful, it is powerful to biblical proportions.

Belle Epoque

noun

Those who know French will have an advantage working out what this word means. 'Belle' means 'beautiful', or 'fine', and 'epoque' means 'era'. So it literally means 'beautiful era' when directly translated. However, the term as a whole is used to mean 'a period highly cultural or artistic development'. For example the end of the nineteenth century in France was a belle epoque.

This word can't really be thrown about willy-nilly and consideration must be taken before using it. It describes a specific time in a society. If there was just one famous artist at the time then belle epoque is inappropriate. If the period you are discussing had a significant change in artistic attitude or other cultural changes then belle epoque might be the word to use.

I think this word works well in Fantasy to an extent. By describing the period you fantasy race is going through as a belle epoque then the reader knows that art and culture are important. However, a word a caution:  belle epoque is a French word with many French connotations, therefore it can only be used in a fantasy setting analogue to Earth or one that has the French, or a French-esque, language or society.


Bibelot

noun

Meaning 'a trinket', or 'small ornament/decorative object' this word can be used in many settings. Be it a Victorian period drama or a fantasy comedy your characters are likely to have bibelots in their homes. Granted it is an unusual word and not one to be over-used (as all words, but even more so here), but it can add to a setting.

Again, this word has its origins with the French. The word is thought to come from 'baubelet' which might be Old French for beautiful (bel).


Bosky

adjective

The word describes an area having 'abundant trees/shrubs' or 'relating to woods'. The word doesn't seem to have any sinister connotations so it is not limited to scary woods.

The word 'Bosk' meant 'shrub' in Middle English but in the 16th century it became the root of 'bosky' and so turned the now obsolete noun 'bosk' into an adjective.

There aren't enough words that simply mean 'woody area'. Too many words in this area are associated with sinister forests or dense jungle. Bosky is a nice, quirky word that adds meaning to a sentence whilst not detracting from the sentence it appears in.


Brachiate

verb

When I first saw this word I thought of branches. I wasn't far off the meaning as monkeys do this off branches. The word means to 'move via swinging with the arms from one hold to the next'.

The word comes from the Latin, 'bracchium' meaning 'arm'. A little tidbit on this Latin word:  it is related to the word 'pretzel' which comes from the German 'Brezel' (from the Latin 'bracchium') meaning 'having branches like arms'.

This is a strong verb. It is concise and gives a very definite image in the readers head. If your character brachiated along the trees then they are swinging from branch to branch.

Bromide

noun

The chemist in me forced me to end on this word. Bromide is a Bromine ion (Br-). For example Sodium Bromide is a type of salt (not table salt as that's Sodium Chloride) which includes a Sodium ion (Na+) and a Bromine ion (Br-) making NaBr.

However, it can also mean a 'tiresome person' or an 'overused statement/idea'.

The element Bromine was discovered in 1827, but it was the 20th century which sees figurative use of Bromide start. The meaning 'tiresome person' comes from Potassium Bromide being used a sedative. Although no longer in use the meaning still remains.


So, there you have it, 7 new words all beginning with B.

Do you have any words starting with B that you'd like to share? If so please use the comments box below. Alternatively you could try coming up with a sentence containing all 7 words.

Thanks
Matt




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