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Wondrous Words Wednesday

March 16, 2011

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading.  If you want to play along, grab the button, write a post and come back and add your link to Mr. Linky!

All of my words this week come from West of Here by Jonathan Evison.

1. thule – “Each day he kneeled upon a thule mat before the altar and configured the candles in a manner that was almost symmetrical.”

This word’s a little bit of a puzzle for me.  According to my dictionary, it should be capitalized and means of, relating to, or being the culture existing in the arctic lands from Alaska to Greenland from about AD 500 to AD 1400.  From the context of the book, I assumed the thule mat was some type of prayer mat, and I guess it could have been made in the Thule culture, but I found this sentence in the part of the story that was set in 1890.  Does anyone know what it means?


2. ziggurat– “The sky was deep blue again, though Mather could hardly see it through the blinding sun as he approached the final stretch, where, just below the crest, the face gave way to a series of natural steps not unlike a ziggurat.”

This is a word I should have known.  Ziggurat is an ancient Mesopotamian temple tower consisting of a lofty pyramidal structure built in successive stages with outside staircases and a shrine at the top; a structure or object of similar form.


3. psoas– “Two miles in, following a stretch of moguls on a downhill course, Franklin felt the cold tug of a rip cord beneath his lower spine, and progress was halted altogether as Timmon ministered for twenty minutes to Franklin’s knotted psoas.”

This wasn’t in my dictionary, so I had to turn to wiktionary to find the answer.  Psoas is either of two muscles, the psoas major or the psoas minor involved in flexion of the trunk.


Have you come across any new words lately?

32 Comments leave one →
  1. March 16, 2011 7:30 am

    I have no idea what the real definition of thule is, and now I am going to have to try to find out! Awesome words today. I love to learn something new!

  2. kaye permalink
    March 16, 2011 7:33 am

    Those are some intriguing words! I’ve never heard of any of them. That book must be interesting. Have a great week and happy reading!

  3. March 16, 2011 8:08 am

    I knew ziggurat, but not psoas. As for thule, I knew the meaning in your dictionary, but it is true that it doesn’t seem to make sense in that context. Checking with Google I found this: Thule mat, where “thule” is a brand name, and a “thule mat” is used to transport kayaks. I imagine it could be used to kneel in front of an altar, too, but I really don’t know if that makes any sense in your context.

  4. March 16, 2011 8:15 am

    Apparently Thule (a brand) makes a mat that’s grippy on one side and slippery on the other which is useful in loading kayaks onto tall vehicles. The way people talk about it, I wouldn’t be surprised by a lowercase usage of this word. Could this be what the book means? (Found via plain old google search.)

  5. March 16, 2011 8:17 am

    Wow! I had never seen these words before. Thank you!

  6. March 16, 2011 8:45 am

    Wow! Those are some big words. Makes me even wonder if I could get through WEST OF HERE!

  7. March 16, 2011 9:12 am

    I agree with the others above. Thule the company makes a mat that has one side of sticky rubber and the other is soft. So you can put the sticky side on top of your car and slide your kayak on the soft side. Lots of kayakers call *anything* even fitting that function a “Thule mat” and it sounds like that could be what is happening here.

  8. March 16, 2011 10:07 am

    All new words to me. I found the same info as everyone else on thule (ain’t the internet grand?). I’m really looking forward to reading this one.

  9. March 16, 2011 10:12 am

    Hmmm, sounds like thule/Thule was probably not a good word choice for the novelist. But the others were really interesting!

  10. March 16, 2011 10:33 am

    I knew that Thule was a company, but I didn’t realize it was like google and no longer needing capitalization!

  11. March 16, 2011 11:23 am

    Haven’t heard of any of those words. Psoas doesn’t even sound good. Have a great day!

    Just Books

  12. March 16, 2011 11:26 am

    I always thought Thule had something to do with the Atlantis legend. Never heard of the company or the mats before – that’s good to know.

    Also never heard “psoas” before. But it sounds like a “knotted psoas” could be pretty painful!

  13. March 16, 2011 12:15 pm

    Always interesting here. New words, all, to me. When I come across words I don’t know, I tend to just skim over them and try to figure them out through context.

  14. March 16, 2011 12:17 pm

    Looks like your new words have caused a little research this morning. Very interesting.

  15. March 16, 2011 12:28 pm

    I knew Ziggurat and the first meaning of Thule, but can’t help you for “thule mat !
    Thank you for psoas !

  16. March 16, 2011 12:43 pm

    Three fascinating words today there Kathy. For some reason, and I have no idea why, I knew the term Ultima Thule, but had no idea what it means, wiki tells me it is from medieval geography and means a distant place beyond the known borders of the world. Have never heard of a Thule/thule mat, but hey we’ve all learned something today. I know the other two. Psoas is actually a fascinating muscle. It is a hip flexor rather than a trunk flexor (so you use it when you lift your leg/bend your hip). It is called fillet steak or tenderloin in beef or sheep. You can occasionally get a psoas abscess, which is a big deal with weeks of antibioitics and often tricky surgical drainage.

  17. March 16, 2011 12:55 pm

    I love learning about the new words, very interesting,thanks!

  18. March 16, 2011 1:11 pm

    Ooooh, good words! Sort of glad I just picked this up…now I’m pumped about reading it. Wheee!

  19. March 16, 2011 1:38 pm

    Great words this week Kathy! My words are here:

  20. March 16, 2011 1:40 pm

    Thule I knew..but it still confuses me in that context. Ziggurat I knew too, since I love history 😀 Finally some words I know

  21. March 16, 2011 1:57 pm

    I’m finding it strange how many words aren’t in my dictionary now. Maybe my version is too old (it is about 12 years old). Still — can the English language have changed that much in 12 years. I thought it was just me, but I see that you have a word or two that your dictionary doesn’t cover (or doesn’t cover well) also.

  22. March 16, 2011 2:09 pm

    Really great words this week, Kathy! Sometimes, it is difficult to get a good definition for a word.

  23. March 16, 2011 2:27 pm

    Great words today, Kathy!
    I have heard both thule and ziggurat, although I didn’t remember what thules meant. I’d love to ask the author where he got the word from/why he used it.
    I love ziggurat, it’s fun to say!
    The vocabulary in West of Here is another reasom I’m intrigued by this book. I cannot wait to read it!

  24. March 16, 2011 3:56 pm

    The only one I knew was ziggurat. I have no idea about thule. But you’re right, the definition you found doesn’t seem to make sense with the context.

  25. March 16, 2011 4:45 pm

    That psosas word is really, really hard. Thanks for making me think.a

  26. March 16, 2011 6:53 pm

    Oooh great batch of words today — I admit, the first one totally stumped me 🙂

  27. March 16, 2011 7:25 pm

    Yowza! Those are terrific words–I’d only heard of “ziggurat” and even then carried the wrong image in my head…You truly provide a public service with this each week. Thank you!

  28. March 16, 2011 7:37 pm

    I knew ziggurat but never would have gotten thule.

  29. March 18, 2011 2:48 pm

    The Oxford English Dictionary gives one of the meanings of “thule”:
    . As the type of the extreme limit of travel and discovery, chiefly (after Latin usage) in the phrase ultima Thule (farthest Thule); hence fig. the highest or uttermost point or degree attained or attainable, the acme, limit; the lowest limit, the nadir.

    So perhaps the mat is the topmost one before the altar?

  30. March 19, 2011 12:47 pm

    Interesting crowd-sourcing for the ‘thule mat’!

    I wonder if Thule (the company) is named for this ‘extreme limit of travel and discovery’ ?

  31. March 20, 2011 8:11 am

    According to the company’s website, “In 1942, Thule was founded by the Thulin family, when Erik Thulin, a true lover of the outdoors, put the Thule name on a Pike Trap that he designed and began to sell to the fisherman of Scandinavia.” Because the company is Swedish, it’s plausible that Erik Thulin did have ultima Thule in mind.

  32. March 20, 2011 12:15 pm

    psoas sounds knotted and painful… ouch.

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