Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Vocab Builder: G

Vocab builder G
Welcome to the seventh of the Vocab Builder series. Last week we covered the letter F. This week, for those not following the pattern, we will look at the letter G.

A strong vocabulary allows you to select the precise word for what your trying to say.Whether you're a writer on Grub Street, or talking to your gormless friend, you should have a strong vocabulary suited to your situation.

It has been commented that it is all very well knowing these words but one mustn't show off vocabulary for the sake of it. Remember if you want to use these words make sure you are using them correctly and because they are the right word for the job. Let's start:


Meaning:  twilight / dusk

Sentence:  In the gloaming it was hard to tell if it was a sleeping dragon or just a statue.

Origin:  Old English. Glōmung is the Old English, from the stem Glōm meaning twilight.

Discussion:  It is an unusual word and in most cases the word twilight or dusk would be better suited as they are better known. However, if you have already used the words twilight and dusk you could easily throw in 'the gloaming' for a bit of variety. That said, I think 'gloaming' sounds a bit like a verb, 'to gloam' seems to sound right, even if it isn't actually a word. Alternatively you could think of using this word for poetic purposes  if you have need to use dusk, but it doesn't rhyme, or has too few a syllables, then gloaming could be a good choice.


Meaning:  to not deal with, or deal with too lightly, a problem.
or            to give a deceptive(ly) (attractive) appearance to something

Sentence:  When the dragon killed half the townsfolk, the king tried to gloze over the situation

Origin:  Middle English. Glose is the middle English for 'flattery' or 'plausible pretext'.

Discussion:  Avoid using this word. It may seem odd for me to put a word in and then recommend not using it, but that's because my source of interesting words was somewhat lacking in 'G' words and I needed to bump up the numbers. If you want to use this word, use 'gloss' instead. It shares the same etymological origins and means essentially the same thing when used in this context. I suppose it might come in handy if you're reading a really old book from the early 1900s!


Meaning:  to paralyse / mesmerise / stupefy / petrify

Sentence:  The monster eyed his prey with a gorgonizing glare.

Origin:  Greek. Gorgons are three-winged female monsters in Greek mythology with snakes for hair and the ability to tun what they looked at to stone. Most people have heard of the most famous Gorgon, Medusa. Gorgos is the Greek for terrifying.

Discussion:  Fantastic word. Sometimes it is spelt with an 's' rather than a 'z', but the 'z' version seems to be most prevalent. Works well in Fantasy, but if you are writing about a world where Greek mythology never happened avoid using this word as it is too rooted in our history.


Meaning:  stupid / foolish

Sentence:  The gormless knight went into battle with little more than a novelty foam sword sent from the future as a practical joke.

Origin:  English / Nordic. The word is from the 18th century Britain slang, 'gaumless' which lost its 'au' and gained its 'or' in the late 19th century. It comes from the Old Norse 'gaumr' meaning 'care or heed' with an added -less suffix.

Discussion:  We all know a gormless person. We have all been gormless ourselves at one point or another. Even a gormless person knows what gormless means. So, why put it in a Vocab Builder? Irony, perhaps? Or, more likely the same reason I put 'gloze' in the builder:  I had very few words to choose from.


Meaning:  domestic cat / old female cat
or            An ill-tempered old woman

Sentence:  The witch's familiar was a dishevelled grimalkin just like she was.

Origin:  Shakespeare. He used Graymalkin as the name of a witch's familiar in the line, 'I come, Graymalkin.' Gray is a colour; Malkin is short for Matilda/Maud which was a general cat's name.

Discussion:  A word of warning to fantasy authors writing a non-Earth story. Shakespeare existed on Earth and references in your fantasy world won't work. You'll have to stick with 'cat' or 'grumpy old lady'! Otherwise, this is a good word to use to add a bit of variety and could be used for pathetic fallacy, indicating trouble is to come. The well-known references to witches will help here.

Grub Street

Meaning:  where you'd find needy literary hacks

Sentence:  O Grub Street! How do I bemoan, thee, whose graceless children scorn to own thee! ... Yet thou hast greater cause to ashamed of them, than they of thee.' Jonathan Swift

Origin:  Er... it's a street name

Discussion:  Grub Street is a street in London (well, it's called Milton Street now) where many impoverished minor authors lived. Samuel Johnson describes the street as 'much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems'. It isn't just a street name in London, though. Used as a noun it is a place to find impoverished authors, but as an adjective it can be used to collectively describe needy authors, as in 'Many Grub Street authors are turning into sock-puppet reviewers.' In that sentence I am not saying the authors live on Grub Street, but describing them as needy, hence the sock-puppet reviewing. For those who don't know, sock-puppet reviewing is where an author sets up multiple fake accounts and reviews him/herself with repeatedly good reviews (or in some cases bad reviews, only to then fake an opposing review).

So there you go. Six words beginning with G.

Please post in the comments below. Perhaps have a go at using all 6 words or discuss the 'G' words further. Can you think of any good 'G' words? If you found this post interesting or useful please share it using the social media tools below or send links to people you think may be interested.

Matt B


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