Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures

Winston Churchill Words, Part I


The first thing I think of when I hear the name Winston.

First off, I feel that since ole Sir Winston and I are going to be spending so much time together, what with the four volumes of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples coming in around 1600 pages, I need a nickname for him, but I’m not sure what you call a Winston when he’s at home. Winnie doesn’t seem dignified. Win’s a little bellicose-sounding. Suggestions appreciated.

A quarter of the way into Volume I The Birth of Britain and here are the words I’ve had to look up:

  • hypocaust: a hollow space under the floor of an ancient Roman building, into which hot air was sent for heating a room or bath.
  • efflorescence: reach an optimum stage of development; blossom
  • exiguous: very small in size or amount
  • coracles: (esp. in Wales and Ireland) a small, round boat made of wickerwork covered with a watertight material, propelled with a paddle
  • tonsure: a part of a monk’s or priest’s head left bare on top by shaving off the hair.
  • suzerainty: a state presided over by a feudal overlord
  • rapine: the violent seizure of someone’s property

It goes without saying that I will not be incorporating any of these words into my regular vocabulary. In fact, according to my dictionary (New Oxford American), some of the definitions are “historical” though the book was published in 1956.

I wasn’t able to guess any of these word’s meanings in context (except the boat one) and was pretty surprised when I did learn what they mean. Hypocaust was especially odd since hypo– is Greek and I can’t figure what the Romans were doing naming parts of their houses in Greek. And “exiguous” left me saying “Really?!” since there are at least half a dozen normal ways to express that idea. Show-off.

So many mysteries in the world.


Author: le cul en rows

I'm an American Spaniard, living in France. I like to tell stories.

6 thoughts on “Winston Churchill Words, Part I

  1. Hey: This seems like a very serious book but probably very interesting. I am glad to say that I actually knew a few of these words : tonsure, rapine, exiguous, suzerainty. Quite proud of myself! And the Romans borrowed a lot from the Greeks so it isn’t surprising that they also created latin words with greek roots. The Roman were actually “fast followers” as they were very good at absorbing other people’s technology and improve on it.

    As for a nickname for Winston…that is a tricky one. Maybe you need to do something with his last name!

    • Well, aren’t you fancy for knowing those words! I blame my lack of religious education for not knowing tonsure (a word I’ve subsequently come across twice) and the rest may be simply due to not growing up in a place that was ever a feudal society or one that valued history all that much.

      The book itself is “interesting,” but it’s not something I’d recommend without reservations as it’s also kind of “boring.” Maybe your word choice is better: serious.

      • Hey: I guess I have to admit that I have a B.A. in History with a Minor in Latin so that would explain why these words would be familiar to me and some of them have equivalent in French so I am not so smart…just came across them in a few contexts.

      • You shouldn’t have admitted anything and I would have thought you were just incredibly clever and had a way better English vocabulary than I do!

  2. C Dub? Or just Dub? Or even The Dub? (to be clear, Dub is short for the actual pronunciation of the letter W)

    • I got your meaning right away. Dub has the dubious double connection to another bellicose former world leader, Dubya Bush, so that kind of works. I’d wonder about the latter’s opinion of the former, but I somehow doubt that he’d even know to whom I was referring.

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