Some Words of Cloud Atlas

It’s CARE-VOCABULARY TIME.  (Go ahead and express your excitement. I know you wanna.)

 I am taking notes. (and this is just the first 39 pages!)

Part ONE:  Let’s play MATCH, shall we?  This shouldn’t be too hard for all you erudite friends who all read this blog; I seem to look up these words a lot, over and over and over. The definitions just don’t seem to stick in my brain!  When I look ’em up, I see the meaning and (*slapforehead*) say to myself, “I know that.”

A. DINT                                                     1. dark green, a form of jade

B. HARRIDAN                                        2. a prayer

C. PARVENU                                           3. devoid of hair

D. HUGGER-MUGGER                        4. suitable

E. NEPHRITE                            5. a person new to wealth and without class

F. CONDIGN                                                6.  dung, filth, manure

G. ESCRITOIRE                                          7. head or brain

H. NODDLE                                     8. a strict, bossy, or belligerent old woman

I. ORISON                                                 9. writing desk

J. GLABROUS                                         10.  force; power

K. ORDURE                                             11.  disorder or confusion

I mean, sure. NODDLE was EASY to figure out by its context but it still seemed new and fresh and odd and a varietal of NOODLE. Or a typo. Escritoire and orison are TOTALLY new to me. I am positive I have looked up PARVENU a million times… sigh. Give me a million dollars and I can be a parvenu.

Fun story:  Last week, I got to ‘play’ librarian at the High School. I do not mean to be disrespectful but I had fun, thus ‘play’. I had just started reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell and had encountered hugger-mugger* at the time when a couple of sophomores signed in. I do have a tendency to chat with library patrons and asked one of the nice girls if she would be willing to look up a word for me since she was on the side of the counter that had the BIG DICTIONARY**. She obliged me. In only a few page turns (the girl knew her alphabet), she read aloud the definition and I thought up an example that she might relate to and she assured me she ‘GOT it’.  She promised me she would use it in a sentence that day. I felt convinced she actually meant it. I made a difference in a young student’s life. Or, David Mitchell did and I was the conduit!  Yep, I’m a geek. Wave your hand if you’re a geek, too.

I was very happy and relieved that I didn’t ask the next kid to look up ONANISM.  *EYEPOP*  (yea, pretty sure I’ve looked that one up a time or two. or not.)

PART TWO: the rest of the words…***

p.4 – peregrinations – travels, journey

p.5 – polymath – person of great learning in several fields of study. (noted because I had recently looked it up so I KNEW IT!)

p.6 – circumvallated – a variety I was unaware of for circumnavigated? – surrounded by

p.8 – sheog – CAN’t FIND THIS ONE.  assume ‘grog’, moonshine, … (from context.)  [Just asked Twitterville how to deal with this and got crickets. Twitter can be hit or miss…]

p.8 – obdurate – stubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion or course of action.

p.8 – demotic**** – of common folk, makes sense if you think of democracy which I didn’t until I read the definition.

p.8 – thitherwards – This one is just fun to say. 

p.9 – tatterdemalion – tattered: worn to shreds; or wearing torn or ragged clothing

p.10 – appellate – AS a VERB? – I get it but can’t quite grasp this one with how it was used: “the islanders thus appellate New Zealand”.

p.10 – dint

p.11 – hugger-mugger

p.11 – terraqueous – I just like the imagery of this word

p.11 – parlor – enclosure to raise domestic pigs? “…willfully marooned pigs here to propagate a parlor.”

p.12 – mmmmmmmmmm[this page had no words requiring me to write down. WHA?!]

p.13 – parvenu

p.13 – penurious – stingy, lacking resources. (sigh, I (should) KNOW THIS!)

p.14 – ordure

p.16 – extirpation – to rid completely (why not use exterminate?  I don’t know…)

p.17 – simulcrums – unreal likeness

p.30 – scrofula – lung disease

p.31 – condign

p.32 – mal de mer – French word for seasickness

THUS concludes vocab from the first SECTION:  The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing. 

(Noddle, Glabrous, Escritoire were from the second section but I’m tired of typing. Orison is from the fourth section, I believe and we saw Ordure again on page 202, FYI.)

Highlight the following for the answers to Part ONE:

A – 10, B – 8, C – 5, D – 11, E – 1, F – 4, G – 9, H – 7, I – 2, J – 3, K – 6

Was this fun?  Do you have a favorite word from this list?  Did you learn anything?

Half-Way Point to page 236 of Cloud Atlas Readalong scheduled for March 16, Friday – plenty of time to join in!   Visit Melissa’s signup post for more information.  OH! and don’t let this list intimidate you!  The first part is written hundreds of years ago when they talked funny!!  The second section was delightful (imo) and it’s just a wild ride so far…

* hugger-mugger – fun! I love this phrase. Makes me wonder how exactly it ever came to be. I would have loved to be an linguist. But at the age of 18 when you are looking at majors to major in in college, this did not look very financially appealing. Stupid me.

** The BIG DICTIONARY is the COOLEST thing.

*** All page numbers reference the Tradeback edition, ISBN 978-0-375-50725-0. YOU STILL HAVE TIME! We are reading ~15 pages a day this month of March and will have a HALFWAY-POINT post here at Care’s Online Book Club on Friday March 16. Do know that I will not be checking in that day until late afternoon because I am subbing for my favorite English teacher at the local High School and she is only my favorite because I know her the best. I do like all of the English teachers I have met and chatted with and have seen-in-action. Just sayin’.  

*** demotic – My FAVORITE new word of the book. Doesn’t it sound evil?! and it is not.



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35 thoughts on “Some Words of Cloud Atlas

  1. Awesome. I managed a 9 out of 11 on the quiz, although almost all of the words are ones I’ve had to look up from my own reading. I almost got stumped by “nephrite” – the “-ite” got me to stone/jade eventually, but I don’t normally associate kidneys with dark green. I also love “tatterdemalion” – not a word I have a lot of call to use, but still fun to say!

    (Also, I found an almost identical blog post from someone else reading this book in 2005, so “sheog” has been stumping people for seven years. Maybe Mitchell made it up?)

  2. I didn’t look a single word up (too busy sleeping instead). Am taking the book on my plane ride to Tucson today, so I hopeto get some quality reading time in!

    1. Do have fun in Tucson. When I realized (too late) that you were having a blogger meetup at the bookfest, I asked the Hub if I could go (not that I need his permission but youknow) and he said, ‘Sure, why not?’ but I didn’t have time to plan it appropriately. Maybe next year.

  3. This was fun! I got only 2 right but I read the book twice without that knowledge just fine!

    Sheog is obviously an Irish word. Well, it looks like one. 🙂

    1. Twice! Tell me, did you have a different experience the second time through? Is it a favorite?

      I’m going to need a drink of Sheog before I decide, I think. ha!

      1. I think I understood the book better the second time around. The first time I wasn’t really sure what I was reading, I think. It was a book that people recommended but I didn’t see what was so good about it. The second time I had read one or two other books of Mitchell’s and also maybe I was more into dystopia and SF so it worked better that time.

        A favorite? No, not quite, but I absolutely love the clever way the book is put together, really unique and wonderful.

        1. Oh yes, thank you. I am certainly intrigued as I wonder WHAT is going on and impressed with how well Mitchell seems able to switch voices and settings so well.

          I might have made the mistake of researching study guides for this book so I know more than I might ‘should’. I usually prefer to be totally blind when I approach a new book and yet I don’t think I’ve ruined this one. It’s more that I now know to look for certain things.

          Thank you for coming back and answering my questions.

    2. No it is not “obviously” anything let alone an Irish word. It’s just an infuriating gimmick. As is the entire book.

  4. i immediately thought of Robert Parker’s Spencer when I saw Hugger Mugger :). I must confess, I almost never take note of new-to-me words when I’m reading – I just take it in context as best as I can and then move on. And then I read fun posts like this one and wish I’d remember to at least jot down interesting new words!

    1. I take notes when I hit plenty of words begging to be looked up. So ‘it depends’. But when I get more than 10 words before I get through 10 pages – LOOK OUT. and that I’m cohosting the readalong; have to have my ducks in order, as they might say.

  5. This is fascinating. I got a 5 out of 11 on the quiz, shameful. The first section had such crazy words, but so far the rest of the book is nothing like that. I’ve done the same thing where I look up a word and realize that’s the third time I’v looked it up. Some words just don’t stick.

    1. SO many words in that first section. Yet, I think I actually got a lot out of it anyway. I started to get amused rather than frustrated.

      We’re going to have a lot to talk about!

    1. I know! I do wish I had purchased the e-version! However, I am still not comfortable reviewing ebooks because I like to have and to hold and flip and recheck and I find that very difficult (the flipping through) because I don’t get a reference to WHERE physically something I’m looking for is.

  6. I didn’t look any of the words up. I just kind of tried to get what it was saying by the context of the sentence. Who knows if I caught all the nuance. And hugger-mugger is such a great word.

    I’m still behind, but I’m hoping that I’ll have some reading time this weekend to catch up.

  7. Oh my goodness, I love to learn new words but that’s a lot of words to have to look up in just 39 pages! I almost let Trish talk me into joining you guys; I’m not sure that sticking with Bleak House is that much easier, though!

  8. /Some French might help. At least of escritoire, parvenu, ordure….
    This book is one of my favourites although I didn’t like the middle story.

  9. That’s a great story from ‘playing’ librarian. They should get you back again! I didn’t do your word quiz because I am sitting here drinking my coffee and I am not ready for deep-thinking, but maybe I will come back…

  10. Love the word list! Didn’t actually keep score on how many I knew, but just thinking that you don’t hear (or see) so many “cool” sounding words anymore! ‘Tis a shame!

  11. According to Wikipedia, (, a “hog parlor” is synonymous with “pigsty”. I also think “sheog” is a mistake by the author — it simply doesn’t exist anywhere, unless in some ancient tome that has never been transmuted into electrons as an offering to the Google deity…

  12. a little late to the party, i am. found my way here by googling “sheog”, and yes, i am reading cloud atlas! 🙂
    it was a delightful visit-and i thought sheog was a bodily fluid. what can i say? i have boys. 🙂

  13. Three ways to interpret ‘sheog:’
    1. sheog = shog = shake = milkshake (not very likely);
    2. opposite to ‘obdurate,’ meaning that it was something that did not manage to hit Adam (just any liquid that was in the tankard);
    3. as we have got Adam and an invisible hand, then sheog might be some product which is not able to reach its target as a result of the hidden regulatory actions of Adam Smith’s invisible hand at free market (this is a very silly explanation – just following the rule of threes).

  14. The book is terribly cliched and gimmicky in its prose style. The first part is virtually impenetrable, written by a vocabulary snob. Moreover, in several parts, the grammar is wrong by sticking to the “Henry & I” syntax-gimmick. And what with the tiresome ampersands?

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