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Sesquipedalian words from Martin Amis’s London Fields and Experience

I’m familiar with most of these words…Okay? I ‘ve looked pretty well all of them up in the dictionary at least once during the past decade…it’s just that I wanted precise definitions fresh in my mind now whilst reading these books…all the better to tear every strip of meaning possible from the bones of these exceptional bodies…Okay?

Amis’s glorious Nabokovian style is ripe with challenging vocabulary, and is great because of it. In fact, encountering unknown, sesquipedalian words in Amis’s pages constitutes a large part of the saturnalia that defines reading him.

Here are the definitions of some choice words found in London Fields:

Propitiated: to gain or regain the favour or goodwill of (somebody); to appease (them)

Crepitation: crackling sound heard from the lungs characteristic of pneumonia. 2. A grating sound produced by the parts of a broken bone moving against each other at the site of the fracture

Avidity: urgently or greedily eager; keen

Divagation: to wander from one place or subject to another; to stray.

etiolation: to bleach and alter the natural development of (a green plant) by excluding sunlight. 2. to make weak, pale, or sickly. 3. to turn to stubble.

Nurine: ?? Couldn’t find a definition…may have written this word down incorrectly :(

priapic: phallic, persistent erection of the penis; licentiousness

dimity: a corded cotton fabric woven with checks and stripes, used for hangings, etc.

russet:reddish to yellowish brown 2 apple of this colour.

rictus: an unnatural gaping grin or grimace. 2. the size of the opening of a bird’s beak or a fish’s mouth

ingress: the act of entering; the right of entrance; a way in; the entering of a celestial body into a particular state. e.g. eclipse.

micturate: to urinate; morbid desire to

nugatory: triffling, inconsequential. 2. said of a law, etc. invalid or inoperative

eschatology: branch of theology or religious belief concerned with the ultimate destiny of the universe or of human kind, esp the Christian doctrine concerning death, judgment heaven and hell.

froward: habitually disobedient or contrary

antebellum: existing before a war, esp the American Civil War

ordure: excrement, dung

baleful: deadly or pernicious in influence 2. gloomily threatening; menacing.


 and here from Experience:

saturnalia: unrestrained merriment; wild party where lots of alcohol is consumed; orgy.

eidolon: a phantom or image 2. an ideal or idealized figure

wraith: an apparition of a living person in their exact likeness seen shortly before or after death. 2. an insubstantial replica or shadow.

proximate: very near, close 2. coming soon, imminent 3. next preceding or following; next in a chain of cause and effect 4. approximate.

calorific: of heat production; relating to the energy producing content of food, fuel, etc.

purulent: full of, containing, discharging pus;

keening: uttering a loud wailing lamentation, esp for the dead.

Skimpole: Harold. In Dickens’s Bleak House, a character (partly drawn from Leigh Hunt) who imposes on his friend’s kindness by affecting a childlike innocence esp. in money matters.

quiddity: that which makes something what it is; essence. 2. a quibble.  

choric: of or being in the style of a chorus esp a Greek chorus


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