Summer reading #11

Poplollies and Bellibones: A Celebration of Lost Words by Susan Kelz Sperling

Published 1977    ~   ISBN #0-517-530791    ~   113 pages    ~   Challenge book # 7

The author of this book, Susan Kelz Sperling, is/was an English teacher with a passion for obscure verbiage. I thought at first that it would be like a dictionary, albeit with fewer entries. The outdated word, an explanation, its setting…and thou.

However, it is not so predictable as that. The book is divided into several short chapters. For the majority of them, Sperling uses a literary device called a round. So the first paragraph asks, “What is Obscurity A?” Then answers the question with a goodly description, ending with a final sentence that includes Obscurity B. The next paragraph begins, “What is Obscurity B?” And, of course, answers the question with a definition that includes yet another unknown word. And so on and so forth until the final word and definition that includes Obscurity A. Thus, a round.

I do like the method of a round. Unfortunately, the non-round chapters were mostly short stories, and they were rather labor-intensive to read. She had an exhaustive index, but still. It isn’t fun to read a story when you have to look up every third word.

But there were a lot of gems unearthed, including:

  1. condog: to agree, a pun formed from concur
  2. merry-go-down: strong ale
  3. eyebite: to bewitch
  4. lip-clap: kissing
  5. bellibone: a pretty girl, from the French belle et bonne

and my favorite (remember The Dark Crystal?)…

  1. fizgig: a frivolous person, fireworks in the shape of a dragon

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