Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Today's Word is Pullulation

I like it when I have to look a word up. I also like it when I meet people who do that. It means, among other things, that we are reading challenging books that include words we don't know. It also means we like words enough to have a discussion about them. As one of my professors used to say, "Words mean things. Pay attention!" I'm not talking about pompous, self-conscious, show-offy words for their own sake, but the expanded vocabulary of an author's unique craft and vision.

Last night was my first night at my new Great Books group. I was invited in November and finally managed to make a meeting (blame the holidays). The quality of the discussion was first-rate. I was impressed by the courtesy with which the very opinionated members treated each other, while strongly disagreeing on what Borges' The Garden of Forking Paths had to say about space, time, cowardice, mazes, fiction, the human condition, and the nature of reality. It was a very positive experience, although C.S. says twice a month would be too much for him.

And I especially enjoyed the part where almost all of us admitted that we'd had to look up "pullulation" and then discussed whether "swarming" would have been a better choice by this particular translator. That's when I knew I was really onto something.

4 comments:

  1. Oh! What a wonderful book group! I am jealous. Although twice a month would be tough for me -- I have problems with that kind of commitment.

    How do you pick which "Great Books" you read?

    I would have to look up pullulation for sure. But swarming is such a terrific word its hard to think of a need for using anything else.

    Great new header picture, by the way.

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  2. I just looked it up myself. Good word, though I'm also not sure I could bring myself to use it over swarming.

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  3. Rose City -- Yeah, I think I have lucked out. Time will tell if the pace is too much or just right.

    They read excerpts, classics, and some "new" classics. Right now the text is this anthology (Great Conversations 3): http://store.greatbooks.org/product_info.php?cPath=12_19&products_id=273

    We unanimously preferred "swarming," too. But it was a key concept, so perhaps it was designed to stop us in our tracks and make us think.

    Thanks about the picture! I can't believe it took it myself. Dumb luck, no doubt about it!

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  4. Profoundly -- "Swarming" carried the day for the group, too. Hard to tell if it was the translator's choice or the author's, though it may have been intentionally difficult / obscure for extra emphasis.

    I may have to do a post about Anglo-Saxon English vs. Norman Conquest English someday . . . . Think anyone would read it? This would be a good example of the contrast.

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