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Vocabulary Fun

March 30th, 2008 No comments

In an earlier post about Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft, I mocked the latter’s overuse of such obscure words as “rugose” and “squamous.” (Another Lovecraft standard: “eldritch.”)

One of Howard’s own favorite words, however, was garden variety: “supple.” The one thing Hyborian Age gals (both types: royalty and whores) had in common was the suppleness of their limbs and even their spines. Sometimes they were “lithe”…but not without being supple.

Typical Zamoran street conversation:

“Why, Octavia, you’re looking quite supple today!”
“Of course, silly! Now, how about some whoring?”

Which is not to say that Howard wasn’t fond of enriching his word power. He liked the word “thew,” as in: “Conan rubbed Turanian jojoba oil into his bronzed thews to keep them supple.”

And it wasn’t enough for the Cimmerian to stab someone with a dagger, when a “poinard” was handy.

But if Howard had any word that was the equivalent of Lovecraft’s “squamous,” it was “sward.” The Hyborian lands were simply blanketed with grassy swards. That is to say that they were swarded. You couldn’t toss a poinard without it landing in a sward.

Thankfully, they were not rugose.