Monday, December 31, 2007

Increase Thy Vocabulary

In general, I think it is safe to say that I have a fairly large vocabulary. The dissertation, however, is enlarging it with all sorts of obscure and often bizarre words.
Take, for example:
cryptesthesia: Mentioned by Breton in the Second Manifesto as something the surrealists ought to investigate, this refers to paranormal perception, such as clairvoyance. (Well, why didn't he just say clairvoyance?)
paletot: The English word for the Czech "paleto," used by Vítězslav Tichý to describe the suspended garment seen by the fox in one of Toyen's collages for Ani labuť, ani Lůna, this term refers to a type of 19th-century women's coat similar to a pelisse. Now, at least I had heard of the pelisse. I wasn't sure, however, from the illustrations of paletots that the garment in the collage qualified. Maybe it is really a pelisse. Then again, who really knows? I'm pretty good on costume history, but admittedly that was the only costume class I didn't take during my theatrical past.
lambitus: This term, a favorite of Bohuslav Brouk, but not to be found in any of the Czech dictionaries I consulted in Prague, turned out to refer to oral sex (female recipient). I don't know whether Brouk's readers had to look this one up. The vernacular term is more descriptive.
Sometimes, of course, my failure to type in the correct spelling leads to problems. When I typed in "pusta," Lingea Lexicon assured me that it meant "puszta." I gazed at this in astonishment and was unable to find any useful English meaning for "puszta." Eventually, I realized that I meant to type "pustá," which means bleak or desolate. Toyen was rather fond of bleak and desolate landscapes, although I wouldn't class the scene with the fox and paletot as exactly one of them.

Let's hope that 2008 will not be unusually bleak, and that on the contrary it will be rich in cryptesthesia, that those who wish for paletots will get them, and that there will also be a general abundance of lambitus.

Note: A reader informs me that while "puszta" refers, seemingly non-usefully, to the Hungarian steppe (a meaning I had encountered), like the Czech "pustá" it also means bleak and desolate. Let's hear it for Slavic-FinnoUgric borrowing...

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Blogger Kristen said...

Love the fox!

January 02, 2008 8:26 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

Let's hear it for 2008 and thanks for keeping us laughing! Seeing what Bohuslav Brouk actually looked like before he bit the dust in 1978, I shudder at the thought of the female recipients of his beloved lambitus...

January 03, 2008 11:48 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

Well... I think Brouk looked a bit better in his youth. I'm sure post-1938 events took their toll.

January 04, 2008 12:32 AM  
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