Monday, November 2, 2009
Vocabulary Lesson 1: Azoic
Usually when I read, I do not need a dictionary. Nor do I consider the use of uncommon words a necessary feature of creative or imaginative writing. Yet I could not help but be impressed with two writers I encountered this summer whose work sent me to or even beyond my handy Webster’s Collegiate time and time again.
Shirley Hazzard’s The Transit of Venus introduced me to at least two dozen new words. And reading Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy tripled that treat. With almost one hundred new words in my quiver, I thought I’d share a bit.
One at a time.
So, today, I offer an azoic or beginning lesson. That is to say, the word for today is ‘azoic,’ meaning ‘at, in or near the beginning.’
The word ‘azoic’ is an adjective. The ‘a’ in this case carries the meaning of ‘not, without or opposite.’ And ‘zoic’ is related to ‘zoo,’ as in ‘zoology’ – meaning ‘life.’ Thus, ‘azoic’ refers to a period of time without life; geologically, the time before life appeared on earth.
For we living things, the time before life is at, in or near the beginning. Thus, the word ‘azoic’ comes to mean just that – at the beginning.
And I thought that was the perfect place to start.