The Language of Gormenghast

by Purple Wyrm on November 30, 2009

Last week I stopped into the second hand bookstore that’s opened down the road and purchased the copy of Titus Groan that’s been taunting me in the shelf by the window. Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy is something I’ve meant to read for years so I figured that with a copy of the first book so convenient I might as well get on with it.

The somewhat eccentric bookseller (despite being a new establishment the store is doing a very good job of being rambling, cramped and musty with a slightly gnome-like proprietor – the way all bookshops should be!) reminisced about the first time he read the book while looking for my change. He told me not worry about words I couldn’t understand because I should be able to figure out most of them from context.

As such I was somewhat primed to watch for words I didn’t understand, and have kept a list of them as I go. I’m about halfway through and have hit six of them so far, which I think is pretty good going. The list (and the definitions) are as follow…

Recrudescent – My first reaction to this word was that it could mean almost anything. The actual definition is “breaking out again” or “renewing”.

Calid – I guessed that this means ‘clammy’, it actually means ‘hot’. Which makes sense when you think of the words ‘calorie’ and ‘calorific’ or perhaps the Italian ‘caldo’.

Fumid – I assumed this meant ‘full of fumes’, which in fact it does. Excellent!

Garde-Manger – My sketchy knowledge of French, combined with context, led me to assume that a garde-manger is a pantry. It’s actually a cool and well ventilated area of a kitchen used for the preparation of cold foods – although it seems more commonly used to refer to a chef that works in such an area.

Ichadbod – I am of course familiar with the name Ichabod, but in the book it’s used to describe a semi-ruinous section of the castle. I can’t find a definition online supporting this use, but I presume it’s a reference to the Hebrew meaning “the glory is departed”. Nice one Mr Peake!

Malkin – From context it was clear that this means ‘cat’.

Expect an update to this list when I’ve read some more – assuming I run into any other new words that is.

Leave your comment


Required. Not published.

If you have one.