As might be guessed from Monday’s post, I’m reading Dirda’s Classics for Pleasure. There’s much to learn from Dirda as a critic, but also for anyone looking to build vocabulary. Here are 20 words I’ve learned and been reminded of while reading his essays:

  1. antinomianview that Christians are released from the obligation of observing moral law
  2. archaffected playful teasing
  3. argotthe jargon or slang of a particular group or class
  4. bathosanticlimax created by unintentional lapse in mood from the sublime to the ridiculous
  5. bruitspread a report or rumor widely
  6. costiveconstipated
  7. crepuscularrelating to twilight
  8. dithyrambchoral hymn of ancient Greece
  9. encomiuma speech or writing that praises highly
  10. epigrammaticconcise, clever, amusing
  11. etiologythe cause or reason for something
  12. irruptenter forcibly or suddenly
  13. jingoismextreme patriotism, especially in the form of aggressive or warlike foreign policy
  14. lapidaryand elegant and concise statement
  15. lubriciousdisplaying or intending to arouse sexual desire
  16. purlieusareas near or surrounding a place
  17. sanguinecheerfully optimistic
  18. scabrousindecent, salacious
  19. venalmotivated by susceptibility to bribery
  20. venerysexual indulgence

Dirda seems especially fond, given the repetition, of these five words:

acmepoint at which something is at the best, most successful
winsomeattractive or appealing in character
chicanerytrickery to achieve a legal, political, or financial purpose
quicksilvermoves and changes quickly, hard to contain

All definitions from the OED