September 30, 2014

Mrs. Jones's Car - by Susan Barclay

magnetic poetry photo by Natalie Roberts
The best writers are always learning – whether from life experiences (their own or others’) or from books or teachers. Games can be instructive also, whether they be games like Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy or Scrabble and crossword puzzles.

When I was in junior high, I had a dusty humourless history teacher who spent time reading his dictionary every day. Once I had the opportunity to play Scrabble with him and he was an impossible opponent. Every time I challenged him on a word, he could prove its authenticity. It quickly became apparent that there was no point in dispute.

You’d think I’d have learned from this to spend time in my own dictionary, but it was an activity I viewed as a boring chore. Instead, my own vocabulary has been built over time through the more enjoyable act of reading. I may not always be able to give you a dictionary definition, but I can usually offer a word's gist.

This brings me to this month’s blog challenge: to find three words I don’t know the meaning of, look them up, and use them in a piece of writing. I’ll give you the piece of writing first. See if you can figure out which words I’ve chosen:
The accused squirmed in his seat to the left of the judge, whose gaze he felt most keenly. Under the fierce scrutiny of the prosecutor, he couldn’t keep his hands from trembling, though he tried to hide them from view. 
“Come, Mr. Jones,” the prosecutor thundered. “It’s a simple question: answer it. Why did you decide to replace the victim’s 1928 Ford Roadster with something more neoteric?” 
Mr. Jones’ insides quivered. He hadn’t, but should have, foreseen months ago that he’d be defending himself in a court of law. Was there a way of eliding the direct question while answering honestly? He was under oath, after all, and didn’t want to add perjury to his charges. 
“Please answer the question, Mr. Jones,” the judge prompted, not unkindly. “It’s germane to the case.”
 Blast and bother! Mr. Jones thought. It had all begun as what he thought of as an act of munificence. Apparently his intentions didn’t matter. 
He took a deep breath and exhaled it loudly. “Well,” he began, “The Roadster had a lot of problems, and I thought it was throwing good money after bad to continue getting it repaired.” 
“Was that your decision to make? The car wasn’t in your name, was it?” 
“No, but my wife and I had made similar decisions on one another’s behalf in the past. I wanted to surprise her.” 
The prosecutor looked from Jones to the judge with a laugh. “Well, you certainly did that.” He turned his back before rounding on Jones again with a scowl. “I suggest that it wasn’t just the cost of the car repairs that motivated you. In fact, weren't you jealous of your wife’s attention to the car? Hadn’t you been trying to ablactate her from it for some time?”
Jones sputtered and his face turned red. He hadn’t expected this line of questioning. His wife’s fixation on the car had certainly felt like negligence of him, but he didn’t realize his feelings had been so evident. His next answer would have to be carefully considered. He would not be emasculated in front of his peers.
Once I got started on the piece, it was hard to stop. But see if you guessed my 'mystery words' correctly. They were:
ablicate, meaning 'to wean'
eliding, meaning 'suppressing, omitting, ignoring, passing over'
neoteric, meaning 'modern, new, recent' 
Were any other words new to you? Is the dictionary a useful writers' tool?


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First photo credit
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  1. Great job! I had 2 out 3 that you had chosen. The other word that stumped me was, "munificence." Thoroughly enjoyed your post.

  2. Well done! I didn't know those words either!

  3. Great words and a fun story. I had to look up, "germane" as well. Good for my brain.

  4. I'm wondering how archaic the word ablicate is. I could not find it in my Oxford dictionary.
    I do enjoy new words-must confess I may not use these, although their use could be germane to scrabble.
    Thanks for the interesting post.

  5. Try ablAcate, Jocelyn. That may make a difference in your search! :)

  6. Interesting further on that...
    First message that keeps coming up, "did you mean abdicate?"
    Interesting, when I did spell ablacate, the message that came up, besides the initial "cannot find ablicate or ablacate"
    Then I got this message:
    You arrived here by searching for Ablacate
    The correct spelling of this word ought to be: Ablactate....
    And that makes sense ... lactate is the nursing, ablactate is stopping of lactation.
    Aah ... those spell checkers, I guess ablactate will continue to be a word for me to avoid. :)
    Much fun in this little search!

  7. I enjoyed your fiction writing, the dialogue and the suspense words. Maybe you are ready to challenge your dictionary-reading, former teacher to a game of Scrabble. This months assignment is, after all, about challenging our fears! Perhaps he would appreciate the fact you are now a writer. :-)

  8. Susan,

    What a great piece! I did spot the three words, and even a couple others I wasn't familiar with.

    I do like going to the dictionary. Now that I read on kindle sometimes, I love that I can click on the word for a definition. I tried doing that on a paper page recently -- rats I had to get up and find my Canadian Oxford!

    Enjoyed the story of Mr. Jones.


  9. Oy, Jocelyn! Thank you for doing your homework! I have corrected my spelling :)


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