Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Words words words

I've been reading Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle. I'm not too far into it, but early on I came across the word "beerily." It's used to describe the way young men are carousing in the streets, walking along in a beerily way.

What a great word. It perfectly encapsulates that sort of stride down a street, in the middle of the May Day revelry. You can imagine that it's quite different from 'whiskily' or 'winily.' And I don't suggest you ever use 'winily,' because it's a horrible construction. But beerily? That word needs greater currency.

I haven't read much of Diana Wynne Jones' work. Just The Homeward Bounders, because it had something to do with Prometheus. I wrote about that one in my dissertation, which I really should get around to revising for publication one of these days.

I haven't seen the animated movie of Howl's Moving Castle, either. I hear it's pretty good. But will it be better than the book?

There's also, apparently, a sequel (or 'companion,' as the cover declares) to the book, called Castle in the Air. I love the cover to it. I've been recently fascinated by The Arabian Nights (I finished the entirety of the recent Penguin editing translated by Malcolm C. Lyons not too long ago--did you ever hear the story that anybody who reads the entirety of The Nights will die upon doing so?), so you can see why this would intrigue me.

So, is beerily a legitimate, in-the-dictionary word? Yup. It's in Webster's, though not in my American Heritage behemoth, nor in the OED. Meeriam-Webster's online dictionary has it (though you only get access if you're a subscriber, which seems weird to me; and it's worth noting that the next word in that dictionary is 'beer pong'). They associate the term with a maudlin mood, which is apt, I think.

You know what 'beerily' makes me think of? That one Christmas carol...

Beerily, beerily, through the snow, Christmas bells are ring-ing!

Yeah, caroling and beerily don't sound remotely alike, but they fit the same meter. And in my head the song is "merrily, merrily, through the snow," which is why I associate it with 'beerily.'

I'll have a lot more to say about words when I get the chance to write about Christopher Moore.

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