November 30, 2011

Pharaonic Words

This Wondrous Words Wednesday post was supposed to go up SO MUCH EARLIER in the day.  Sorry, all; I got wrapped up in the unbelievable drama of watching police herd American citizens through the streets of LA last night, and time got completely away from me.

ANYWAY, all my words today come from the Egyptological tome Red Land, Black Land, by famous Egyptologist and novelist Barbara Mertz, of the beloved nom de plume Elizabeth Peters.  Ever read an Amelia Peabody mystery?  If not, you simply MUST; they're fabulous.  All my words come from only one book this time--which is unusual for me--because I am trying desperately to meet the requirements of my own "Read Your OWN Library!" challenge and finish it before midnight tonight.  At this particular moment, my hopes are not that high, but Goonies never say die!

1.  corbel--Basically: ever seen a shelf with a bracket built into the bottom of it to hold it up?  The bracket piece underneath is a corbel.

2.  serdab--I'm happy to finally know what the name for this is, since I've seen pictures of them many times, and even saw a real one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  (I LOVE the MET!!)  In Old Kingdom ancient Egypt, tombs contained a walled-up room with a tiny viewing window built into it, through which one could see a statue of the deceased.  That room is called a serdab.

3.  shank's mare--Had any of you ever heard of this before?!  It was certainly a new one for me.  All it means is to walk, the implication being that you're having to travel a long way on foot.  "Some places could only be reached by water, and boats were a lot more comfortable than donkey back or shank's mare."

4.  exogamy--I had never encountered this term, but it made perfect etymological sense once I saw it.  An exogamous marriage is basically just a "mixed" marriage--marrying outside one's own race, religion, tribe, whatever you parents told you never to do and thereby made a whole bunch of new people groups look like a really attractive place to find a mate.

5.  soi-disant--This one is clearly French.  It means "self-styled," as in, to give oneself a nickname, epithet or title.

6.  peripteral--Lots of architectural terms in this book.  This one means, according to Wiktionary, "surrounded by a single row of columns."

7.  clerestory--More architecture.  Clearly, this one sounds like it's related to "cloister," at least to me.  "[T]he upper part of a wall containing windows to let in natural light to a building, especially in the nave, transept and choir of a church or cathedral".

So, there are my words for the week.  And I DID get the book finished!  (I always forget to check how much of the remaining content is index and bibliography when I'm reading an e-book.)


  1. Those are all new to me. I've seen plenty of corbels - maybe I can use the correct word the next time I see one and impress everyone.

  2. love the words.. and the book. I got one architectural word as well.

  3. Thanks for this trip to the wonderfu Egypt !

  4. Nice wordy post - even your title is a new-to-me word. I had no idea Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Mertz are the same person. Glad I came to visit.

  5. Some very interesting words there this week. All new to me. In Australia we use shank's pony- have never heard it said as shank's mare- for some reason that seems to be the American variant. Language is such a funny thing.


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