Tag Archives: Sherlock

Wordy Wonders

At the end of last week, and into the weekend, I felt pretty rough. Tired, and washed-out, and hardly fit to string a sentence together. It felt, more or less, like I’d been squashed flat. Not a lot of fun.

However, it did have one upside, and that was this: I finally got time to watch a few old episodes of BBC’s Sherlock, which (I hate to admit) I haven’t been following right from the start. I’d only seen series three up to last Saturday, and one of my Christmas presents to myself was the box set, which includes every episode so far. So, over Saturday and Sunday I settled in with series 1. And it was good.

Now, there’s plenty to like about Sherlock. The cracking dialogue, and the excellent characters, and the clever plots (and, if you’ve got any familiarity with Arthur Conan Doyle’s original novels, the little references and nods, here and there, to the stories as they were originally written), and Mrs Hudson (who is just the best), and sweet, awkward Molly, and the deliciously unhinged Moriarty. Not to mention, of course, the main attraction.

Photo Credit: ashleigh louise. via Compfight cc  Every time you clap your hands, Sherlock and John get a new case!

Photo Credit: ashleigh louise. via Compfight cc
Every time you clap your hands, Sherlock and John get a new case!

Whoever cast Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as Dr John Watson needs a knighthood (or damehood, or whatever). Their dynamic is perfect, and their acting superb, and just… yeah. I’m fangirling now, so I’d better rein it in.

Anyway. All of this is leading to a point, I promise.

During one of the episodes, Sherlock (not a man who chooses his words with anything less than precise, elegant care) drops ‘meretricious’ into a conversation about a recently discovered corpse. In surprise, Inspector Lestrade replies ‘and a happy New Year’, looking a bit confused. I laughed at that, not just because of the funny dialogue, but because of the sheer wonder of the word ‘meretricious.’ I repeated it out loud to myself a few times (which probably means it was lucky I was alone), enjoying the sound, and spent a few moments being glad that I’m a person to whom words are important.

Meretricious. Try it. You might find you enjoy saying it as much as I do. You may even find cause to use it in a sentence today, despite the fact that ‘tawdry’ or ‘tacky’ would do very well in its place. They just don’t sound the same.

You can’t help but admire a character who uses a word like ‘meretricious’ in a sentence without even thinking about it, can you? As a kid, I was often told I’d swallowed a dictionary, because a word with fourteen syllables would always be my first choice (despite the fact that a word with three syllables, which meant just the same thing, would have done equally well); I also had the classic reader’s problem of mispronouncing things, because I’d only ever seen them written down. I really admire a character who is written in a way which appeals to my vocabulary-loving heart, and it got me thinking about some of my other favourite words.

Pusillanimous. ‘Timid’ or ‘weak’.

Pulchritude. Meaning, slightly ironically I think, ‘beauty.’

Prestidigitation. Sleight of hand.

Susurrus (I share the love of this word with Tiffany Aching, which makes me proud). ‘A rustling, rippling, whispering noise.’ Or, if you’re Tiffany, ‘an immediate incursion into your world by another, and time to get out the frying pan.’

Mellifluous. A rich, honeyed, pleasingly musical sound.

Zaftig. A German borrowing, meaning ‘curvaceous and attractive.’ This word was used of me, once, before I knew what it meant, meaning I had to make a quick judgement call as to whether it was an insult or not. (It wasn’t). Sometimes I wonder whether my ignorance had a role to play in the way my life has subsequently developed. Oh, well. No harm.

Palimpsest. A manuscript which bears the faint traces of other, earlier words, either words which have been erased and written over or words which were impressed or embossed upon the parchment through a heavy-handed scribe leaning on another sheet.

Propinquity. A tendency, inclination, or attraction, or the nearness of things to one another.

There are many more, but here I must draw a line for fear of instilling boredom. I’m struck, while compiling this list, how many words I love the sound of begin with the letter ‘p’ and/or end in some version of an ‘s’. Strange, and inexplicable, and rather interesting – at least, to me. Words in all their loveliness please my nerdy little heart. I’ve often meant to compile a proper list of my favourites, and keep adding to it as I learn more – but that’s a job of work for another day, I feel.

Do you have a favourite word, or a Top 10? Frankly, I’ll be less inclined to like you if you don’t. Just saying.




Bookish Mysteries

Now, by ‘Bookish Mysteries,’ I’m not talking the type that involve these fellas, here:

Image: venturegalleries.com

Image: venturegalleries.com

or even this lassie, here (much as I love her):

Image: fanpop.com

Image: fanpop.com

No. I’m talking about books whose plots I can only barely remember, whose titles I’ve forgotten, and which I would love very much to track down – if only I could remember enough about them to have any chance of searching for them successfully.

It’s no secret that I’ve read a lot of books in my years on this planet. I started young, so some of them have (sadly) retreated into the mists of faulty memory; I’ve also always had a vivid imagination, so sometimes I wonder whether the plots I remember are actually of books I read, or something I dreamed up myself. I have form for this kind of thing: for years, I had a recurring memory of an animated film I’d seen which involved a floating city, a girl, and a robot with long arms and one eye which was bigger than the other.

Nobody but me seemed to remember it.

I was told by everyone – my film-crazy brother included – that I was just remembering a dream and confusing it with reality, or plain making stuff up, but I knew, deep down, that I wasn’t. I knew. I struggled to remember, for years, what this film was called, what it had been about, what the little girl’s name was, all that. It was very frustrating. I was essentially being called delusional by everyone I knew, and I was being told to forget about it. And the sad thing was, I almost did.

And then, I went to college. And I met something called ‘the Internet.’

Image: technabob.com

Image: technabob.com

That fine fellow is a model of the giant robot in the 1986 animated movie ‘Castle in the Sky,’ directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Note, if you please, the long arms and the eyes – one of which is bigger than the other.

I can’t even explain the sense of euphoria that washed over me when, finally, I had proof that this movie wasn’t something I’d dreamed up and that my memories of it were real. I’d watched it, I’d loved it, and now I knew what it was called I could track it down. And I did.

It was every bit as magical in my twenties as it had been as a child. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it.

Anyway, the point is: things that are half-remembered from childhood have a strange sort of power. It’s probably a mix of the idealisation of youth and the excitement of coming across a new story for the first time, but whatever it is, it’s potent. When you can just barely remember something – it’s on the tip of your mind, just about hanging on by its fingertips – it’s irritating, and maddening, and intriguing, and strangely exciting.

I know I read a book, many many many years ago, which I remember loving. (We’re talking the nineteen-eighties here, people – the era of big hair and legwarmers and large-framed spectacles and glitter. Halcyon days.) It was, of course, a children’s book, and it featured a little girl living in a house near a circle of standing stones which had an eerie power over the landscape. In the book, there was a drawing of another house, and in one of the windows of the drawing another little girl was living, trapped inside it and desperate to get out.

Now, I may be confusing part of this plot with Penelope Lively’s marvellous ‘The Whispering Knights,’ which features a circle of standing stones (based on the real landmark known as the Rollright Stones, in the United Kingdom):

Image: amazon.com

Image: amazon.com

I know I read this book during the long ago 1980s, too, and I loved it. I haven’t read it in recent years, but as far as I know the plot involves three children who accidentally raise the spirit of Morgan la Fay, witch extraordinaire, who goes on to terrorise their village.

But the detail about the drawing – and the little girl trapped inside it, forever held captive behind an upstairs window – is something which has held an iron grip over my mind for almost thirty years. Does anyone remember a book which features anything even remotely like this? The idea of it, the sheer deep-down bone horror of it, has haunted me all my life, and perhaps it holds this power because I simply can’t remember the name of the book; perhaps if I could, that power, and that intrigue, would dissipate.

But perhaps it has power because it’s a really good idea.

I’ve always suspected the idea was too good, and too strong, to be one of mine. I can’t give myself credit for coming up with it, because I genuinely don’t think I did. However, I’ve never been able to find it with a Google search or using Bookfinder or anything like that. Admittedly, I haven’t tried it in a while, but for some reason it’s on my mind again this morning and I thought I’d throw it out into the wilds of Blogville, and see if anyone could help.

So – can anyone help? Please, put me out of my mystery.*

*Pun intended.

Smug Sherlock. Just because. Image: davinahamilton.com

Smug Sherlock. Just because.
Image: davinahamilton.com