Favorite

In an introduction to “Classic Crimes: A Selection from the Works of William Roughead,” Julian Symons says that Roughead’s “fanciful and elaborate” writing style seems “a true reflection of his twinkling, self-mockingly pedantic personality.” Symons continues:

“When he says ‘viciously to intromit with such a one’ … he knows perfectly well that we shall have to look at the dictionary to discover that ‘viciously to interfere’ would have said the same thing. Or would it have been quite the same thing? I should defend this extreme bit of Rougheadism by claiming that the fancy phrase says something to us about the enormity of Burke’s and Hare’s crimes that the plain one would not. I enjoy similarly the flourishes of such words as ‘cautelous’ and ‘homologated’ which have fallen into undeserved desuetude, and appreciate the humor of a phrase like ‘it is, or ought to be, luciferious.’ ”

I found cautelous in a 1944 edition of The Winston Dictionary, and even there it was labeled “obsolete.” It means “cautious, crafty, wily.” Homologated (“approved, ratified”) and luciferous (“bringing or providing light” and “providing insight or enlightenment”) can be found in newer dictionaries, although, as Symons says, both have fallen into disuse.

Roughead was born in 1870 and died in 1952, which means he did most of his writing at a time when some of these words mightn’t have seemed as odd as they do today. Still, you’re inclined to agree with Symons that he deliberately sought out the less familiar. That inclination, and the fact he was from Edinburgh, both probably influenced his first sentence in “Classic Crimes” — “When douce Mr. Thomas Ogilvy brought his young bride home to Glenisla his mother doubtless hailed the event as of happy augury for the house of Eastmiln.”

Random House says douce is found in Scotland and Northern England. It means “sedate; modest; quiet.”

I too enjoy flourishes, as when Roughead says of the beard of a 19th century murderer that “it might be plausibly maintained that no man so heavily handicapped with hair could be otherwise than wicked, the umbrageous growth in question, like the fabled Upas Tree of Java, blighting all within its baleful shade.” They don’t write ’em like that anymore.


Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

  |  

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Doug Smith

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

More by Max Brantley

Most Shared

Latest in Words

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Brant Collins named Group Travel Manager for Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Brant Collins named Group Travel Manager for Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Collins to work toward increasing visitation to Arkansas by groups and promoting the state's appeal

Event Calendar

« »

March

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Never his fault

    Unlike his personal hero Vladimir Putin, President Trump can't have his political opponents thrown into prison, shot dead in the street or flung off fourth-floor balconies.
  • The two cities of Little Rock

    The Little Rock City Board illustrated the capital city's division again last week.
  • Repeal charade

    The debacle of the repeal-Obamacare movement left the president and the Republican Congress ruminating about the terrible lessons they had learned from the defeat — mainly that neither ever had a health plan or even a clue about how to frame one.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Never his fault

    • Good point. Onward!

    • on March 30, 2017
  • Re: Never his fault

    • Okey, dokey - good point. Except that unbiased coverage on Trump, et.al., would be nice…

    • on March 30, 2017
  • Re: Never his fault

    • @investigator of both sides - shouldn't we all, including Mr. Lyons, focus our attention on…

    • on March 30, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation