by David Bramwell
Mel-IF-floo-us: (of sounds) sweetly smooth. Literally means ‘flows like honey’. From the Latin.
I bought this one on a discount table in a shopping mall, to read on the train. Surely I could learn all four words I didn’t already know before my journey’s end? Truthfully, at least half of the words were new to me. And even for those I knew, reading about their etymology and examining the diagrams explaining where each word originated was interesting enough to ensured I missed my stop.
The book has one word per page, plenty of visuals, and is graded into hard, harder and hardest words. It’s certainly no substitute for a good dictionary. In truth, I can only imagine using most of these words satirically. In my everyday writing I’m more likely to say ‘Bruce Springsteen has a perfectly formed rear’ than ‘The Boss is callipygian’ (from the Greek kallos (beautiful) plus pyge (buttocks)). If a client describes their novel’s main character as orthostatic, I might gently suggest ‘upright’ or ‘standing tall’ would resonate better with their readers.
The Book of Hard Words is perfect for dipping into; for those moments when you should be working but you’re ‘doing research’, and for when your internet is down. Or for when you are on a transpontine hibernacle.